Sholem Aleichem is perhaps the most pre-eminent name in Yiddish literature, and among the immediate figures that come to mind in Jewish writing in general. Fiddler on the Roof, based on Sholem Aleichem's endeared Tevye the dairyman and the longest-running performance on Broadway, sealed the Yiddish writer's name in North American pop culture.
Dubbed the Jewish Mark Twain (Mark Twain would respond, calling himself the American Sholem Aleichem) and deemed "a worthy heir to Gogol," the iconic Yiddish author and his influence is explored in a new biography, The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye by Jeremy Dauber.
Sholem Rabinovich was born in 1859 in Ukraine, at a time when the so-called Haskalah, the Jewish enlightenment, was growing and adversely altering the Yiddish-speaking world of Eastern Europe. The young Rabinovich aspired to be a writer, witnessed how a new body of literature and art was emerging in that "jargon" called Yiddish, and adopted the pen name Sholem Aleichem, a traditional greeting meaning "peace be upon you." He could have easily been one of the characters that shape his fiction, having come from an impoverished childhood, married into wealth, and lost everything.
Writing with a notion of "laughter through tears," Sholem Aleichem's works spoke to his Yiddish-speaking brethren, addressing the hardships and discrimination his people often faced in the old country, tales that came with a unique dash of humour, layered in critical thought and gems of wisdom. He was so popular that at one time he was writing simultaneous premieres for two competing Yiddish theatres in New York City. When he died in 1916, his funeral was one of the largest New York had ever seen. But the Sholem Aleichem story doesn't stop there. The biography looks at the amazing afterlife of Sholem Aleichem in English translation, and beyond.
The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem, hailed as the "first comprehensive biography" on the beloved author, is a finely-written work, illuminating a Yiddish-speaking world coloured in a certain joy, of course sorrow, and yet still touches so many Jewish North Americans. The book makes for a wonderful gift on the Hanukkah holiday.
Well-known jazz musician and entertainer Harry Connick Jr. has written a song to help a former Winnipeg family who lost their little girl in the Newtown, Connecticut mass shooting last year.
Love Wins is the name of the song he wrote for six-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene. She was the daughter of Jimmy Greene, a saxophonist and a long-time friend and band member of Harry Connick Jr.
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