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March 21, 1980 - Image 11

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1980-03-21

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Friday, March 21, 1980 11

Peretz's View of Shtetl Women Examined in Volume

By ALLEN WARSEN

The photograph of
Ciechanow, a shtetl once
famous for its piety and
Hasidic rebbes, commences
Ruth Adler's study "Women
of the Shtetl Through the
Eyes of I.L. Peretz" (Far-
leigh Dickinson University
Press).
Dr. Adler, a humanistic
scholar, bases her study, as
its title indicates, on the
works of Isaac Loeb Peretz.
Born in Zamoshch
(Zamosc) in 1852, Peretz,
the father of modern Yid-
dish literature, was influ-
enced by the spiritual and
intellectual milieu of his
native town and Warsaw,
his residence for over a
quarter of a century.
Peretz began his liter-
ary career in Hebrew, but
switched to Yiddish. His
first Yiddish work,
"Monish," a long narra-
tive poem, originally pub-
lished in Sholem
Aleichem's The Yid-
dishe Folksbibliotek," in
1887, was soon followed
by more poems and
stories, some of which
described the shtetl's in-
stitutions, people, includ-
ing the women.
Peretz's interest in the
Jewish woman is mirrored
in the stories "A Woman's
Wrath," "The Mate," "A
Disturbed Sabbath," "In
Basement," and others. In
the story "An Idyllic Home,"
Hayim the porter becomes
perturbed on learning that
"the world-to-come" (oylem
habe) is reserved for "the
scholars, the just and those
who serve the learned."
Angry that women too are
unjustly treated in heaven

Carter, Bush
Favorites of
Jewish Voters



NEW YORK — President
Carter and George Bush are
the favorite candidates
among Jewish voters ac-
cording to a poll conducted
by "Jewish Living maga-
zine. The poll will be pub-
lished in the magazine's
April issue.
According to the poll, the
showing of the six major
candidates still in the race
is as follows: Carter (D) 26.1
percent, Bush (R) 25.2 per-
cent, John Anderson (R)
16.1 percent, Edward Ken-
nedy (D) 14.6 percent,
Ronald Reagan (R) 6.2 per-
cent, Jerry Brown (D) 4.9
percent.

Housing Shortage

JERUSALEM (ZINS) —
Israel's housing shortage is
growing. During the past
eight years, Israel com-
pleted an average 47,000
units each year. In 1979,
only 29,000 units were com-
pleted.
There are now only
17,800 units presently
under construction.
Israel needs approx-
imately 26,000-28,000 new
units each year to house
young couples, and an addi-
tional 26,000-28,000 for
new immigrants.

I.L. PE RETZ

and forced to serve as their
husbands' footstools, he de-
fiantly promises his wife to
share in the paradise his
seat with her, and assures
her that "The Holy One
Blessed Be He will agree
with this."
Peretz's liberalizing atti-
tude toward the aggrieved,
including the women, un-
doubtedly reflected the then
social and cultural
philosophies of the Haskala
(the Jewish cultural move-
ment of the 19th Century)
and Jewish socialism.
To fully understand
Peretz's treatment of the
Jewish woman, the
author devoted separate
chapters to an examina-
tion of the shtetl wife,
mother and daughter.
In Peretz's descriptions of
the wife, three types
emerge: the passive wife,
the shrew and the ideal
mate.
The passive wife is sub-

jected to innumerable injus-
tices, including humilia-
tion, neglect and exploita-
tion.
The shrew is a loud, ill-
tempered and tyrannical
woman. Yet, in the story
"The Messenger," she is
portrayed as a woman with
"a golden heart . . . who is
seemingly hell to her hus-
band."
The idyllic home is
blessed with a kind,
thoughtful wife and a re-
sponsible husband. Both
have mutual regard and
affection for each other,
and both "retain their in-
dividual uniqueness and
separate identities."
Peretz perceives the
mother as a complex and
multifaceted individual,
and his stories about her
portray these types: the
nurturing mother, the over-
solicitous mother, the per-
missive mother, and the
non-nurturing mother.
The nurturing mother is
the child's ally, protector,
advocate and confidant. She
is righteous, tender and
compassionate.
The
oversolicitous
mother reflects the shtetl's
social, religious and ethical
mores. Unlike Philip Roth's
caricatured mother, who is
concerned about her son's
physical well-being,
Peretz's mother worries
about her daughter's joie de
vivre and purity.
The permissive mother
is inept, ineffectual and
is not able "to bring
material or emotional

satisfaction to her chil-
dren."
The
non-nurturing
mother, often the bread-
winner and overburdened
with a multiplicity of tasks,
Peretz viewed with under-
standing and sympathy,
and regarded as a victim of
circumstances.
Peretz's portrayal of the
shtetl daughter reveals an
attitude of ambivalence:
either she is portrayed as a
heroine "treasured for re-
soluteness and resilience,"
or she is "disdained for fick-
leness."
The author concludes as
follows: "Peretz's treatment
of women is in the main a
positive one — compassion-
ate and empathic — but not
without an element of con-
trasting detraction."
"Women of the Shtetl
Through the Eyes of I.L.
Peretz" is a valuable con-
tribution to a better corn-
prehension of Peretz's
shtetl women and their
milieu.
The author, Dr. Adler, is
an assistant professor of

Color

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Hebrew and Yiddish lan-
guage and literature at
Baruch College of CUNY.
She received her PhD de-
gree in Jewish studies from
New York University in
1974, where she was the re-
cipient of various fellow-
ships, including one from
the Memorial Foundation
for Jewish Culture.

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