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Zeyde of Yiddish Literature

Mendele Moykher-Sforim

The man Sholem Aleichem dubbed “the Grandfather” of Yiddish literature, Sholem-Yankev Abramovitch, also known as Mendele Moykher-Sforim was born on the first day of 1837 (according to the Western, Gregorian calendar) in Kapulye (today Капыль, Belarus).

In his Notes toward my Biography, Mendele writes: “My birthday was recorded nowhere. But my general sense is that I was born in 1836 and my family set the date as the 20th of December [according to the Old Style calendar].

He died on December 8, 1917 in Odessa.

The chief of the “classical writers of modern Yiddish literature”, Mendele is the foremost among the masters of the Yiddish word. He impact on the development of Yiddish literature is immense. Among his classics: דאס קליינע מענטשעלע [The Homunculus]; פישקע דער קרומער [Fishke the Lame]; די קליאטשע [The Nag]; קיצור מסעות בנימין השלישי [The Adventures of Benjamin III].

A clip from 1939’s The Light Ahead, based on פישקע דער קרומער, with Izidor Cashier as Mendele.