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April 17, 1981 - Image 80

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1981-04-17

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80 Friday, April 17, 1981


Tsibeles un Ugerkes un Floymn' Provides Paean
of Dignity in WSU Press Yiddish Bilingual Volume

Mis tsibeles, un ugerkes,
un floymn— "Onions and
Cucumbers and Plums" —
this is more than the mere
title of a book. It is a tes-
timonial to the Jewish
authors, the poets who give
substance to Yiddish and
loyally retain a love for the
language, constantly rais-
ing its standards.
This must be judged as
the motivation of the able
translator and editor of the
Yiddish poems appearing in
the Wayne State University
Press volume under the title
"Onions and Cucumbers
and Plums."
As editor and translator,
Sarah Zweig Betsky
emerges as a master of the
Yiddish language and as a
devotee who lends glory to
her labors.
The Betsky-edited vol-
ume first was published
by WSU Press in 1958. It
is one of the volumes
funded by the Morris and
Emma Schaver Publica-
tions Fund for Jewish
"Onions and Cucumbers
and Plums" is the second
portion of this volume and
its title was applied by the
editor-translator. Yiddish
poems by 17 noted Yiddish
poets are included.
Noteworthy, the poems
appear in Yiddish, in trans-
lations by Mrs. Betsky ac-
companied by translitera-
tion in Roman characters.
This is, therefore, a biling-
ual book, with the added
value of transliteration.
The author of "Onions
and Cucumbers and Plums"
is Moyshe Leyb Halpern.
There is an appended list
of biographical sketches of
the 17 participating poets
and Halpern is thus defined:
Halpern, Moyshe Leyb,
1886-1933, born in Zlot-
shev, East Galicia. He re-
ceived a scant education
in Hebrew as well as in
other languages. At the
age of 12 he went to Vie-
nna to learn to be a sign
painter. For 10 years he
lived among Christians
and became a good
swimmer and football
player. He was influ-
enced by Nietzsche,
Lilienkron and Richard
Dehmel, and his first
poetry was written in
German. After his return
home he was guided by
the older Galician Yid-
dish poets and wrote in
Yiddish. In 1908 he came
to America to escape
military service. He was a
member of the Yunge,
edited newspapers and
magazines in New York,
and was a good graphic


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Faranen layt vos kenen efsher zogn
az s'iz nit sheyn, tsu shtupn zikh arum a vogn
mit tsibeles, un ugerkes, un floymn.
Nor az s'iz sheyn in mitn gas zikh nokhshlepn a toytnvogn —
onegton iz shvartsn, un tsu dem nokh klogn,


iz dokh a zind tsu zogn
az s'iz nit sheyn, tsu shtupn zikh arum a vogn
mit tsibeles, un ugerkes, un floymn.

Me darf efsher nisht raysn zikh azoy, un shlogn,
me ken dokh ruik shtupn zikh arum a vogn
mit tsibeles, un ugerkes, un floymn.
Nor az se ken di baytsh afile keynem nisht faryogn,
vayl der tiran fun dem bashefenish oyf dr'erd, der mogn
vil azoy — badarf men shoyn a roshe zayn, tsu zogn
az s'iz nit sheyn tsu shtupn zikh arum a vogn
mit tsibeles, un ugerkes, un floymn.

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Dariber take vel ikh keynmol shoyn nisht zogn
az s'iz nit sheyn tsu shtupn zikh arum a vogn
mit tsibeles, un ugerkes, un floymn.
Vi shtark es zol a-shtupenish aza, mikh matern un plogn,
vel ikh mayn kop arunterboygn, un aribertrogn.
Veynen vel ikh efsher — ober keynmol shoyn vel ikh nit zogn
az s'iz nit sheyn tsu shtupn zikh arum a vogn
-mit tsibeles, un ugerkes; un floymn.

-This impressive work
may not be fully ap-
preciated unless the actual
presentation of the poems,
translation and translitera-
tion are introduced in the
review. Here is the
exemplary form of the
poems in the WSU volume,
with the Halpern poem as
the symbol of this work. The
acutual title of the Halpern
poem is "Never Again Will I

The value of this work is
also in the eminence of the
poets. Included among those
selected by Mrs._ Betsky for
her excellent translation, as
well as her able translitera-
tion, are Avraham
Sutzkever, David Einhorn,
Kadie Molodofsky, Aaron
Zeitlin, Zischa Landau,
Itzik Manger, J. Glatstein,
Mani Leib, A. Almi, H.
Leivick and Chaim Grade.
Because this work was
the editor-translator's mas-
ter's thesis at WSU, the
encouragement the univer-
sity gave her must be recog-
nized with gratitude.
Dr. Bernard Goldman,
as chairman of the Wayne
State University Press,
merits special recogni-
tion for the encourage-
ment he gives to such

Because many names of
Detroiters and WSU faculty
members figure in the mak-
ing of this book, the preface
by Sarah Zweig Betsky to
the 1953 edition merits re-

"Many debts must be ac-
knowledged here, and many
more must remain implicit
in old friendships and influ-
ences. I must thank Wayne
State University and its
Department of English, the
first in this country to
award a degree based on re-
search into Yiddish studies.

"Dr. Harold A Basilius of
Wayne should be held re-
sponsible for urging this
book from start to finish,
and its very completion is a
tribute to his distinguished
teaching ability. The poets
themselves, or their
executors, have kindly
permitted the inclusion of
their poems. The Wayne
English Department has
granted me permission to
include two translations
which they have published
in 'Wayne Writers,' number
1, fall, 1956.

eyes have
helped in the tedious
work of emendation and
correction: Isaac Franck,
A.M. Klein, S. Maltz, John
E. Moore, Bernard
Heringman, Dorothy
McKinnon Brown and
Bernard Goldman. There
is a great debt also to the
Yiddish schools (in my
case, the Arbeiter Ring
Shule of Detroit), which
helped several genera-
tions of American-born
Jews share in the culture
which might otherwise
have been denied them.

"Of my Yiddish teachers,
the late Chaim Raden was


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responsible for my first
interest in Yiddish poetry,
and his premature death
prevented me from thank-
ing him as an adult for that
which he gave freely and
lovingly to a child.

"That Seymour Betsky
has been my most affec-
tionate and critical friend
he knows by my dependence
on his intelligence at all
times. My father's stubborn
and sensitive insistence on

my special kind of education
is equally at fault. This is
his book, really, just as it is
my mother's, both of whose
vanished beauty only the
tenderness of Yiddish can
"My thanks are also due
to Miss Janet Olender, the
librarian of Cong. Shaarey
Zedek, Detroit, and to
Samuel Sigal, city editor,
Jewish Daily Forward, for
assistance in collecting and
typing out authentic Yid-

dish texts, and to Charles E.
Feinberg, for permitting me
to have drawings made of
his collection of Torah poin-
ters (yad) for the illustra-
"Onions and Cucumbers
and Plums" is a distinctly
notable work, to the credit
of the editor and translator
and surely to WSU Press
and the Morris and Emma
Schaver Publication Fund
for Jewish Studies.


There are people who perhaps would say
it is not polite to crowd around a dray
of onions and cucumbers and plums.
But if it is polite to trail after a hearse, in the middle of

the street,
dressed all in black, and moreover weep,
then it is a sin to say
it is not polite to crowd around a dray
of onions and cucumbers and plums.

Maybe we shouldn't scramble so and fight;
we could at least shove quietly around the dray
of onions and cucumbers and plums.
But, since even a whip could chase not one of us away
because the tyrant of this earth's creatures, the stomach,
wants it so — you'd have to be a villain to say
it is not polite to crowd around a dray .
of onions .and cucumbers and plums.

For that very reason I'll never •again say
it is not polite to crowd around a dray
of onions and cucumbers and plums.
However strongly such jostling may torment and trouble
I will bow my head and bear it patiently.
I will weep perhaps — but I'll never again say
it is not polite to crowd around a dray
of onions and cucumbers and plums.

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