3: Excerpt from "Hibru" by Joseph Opatoshu, 1920, (trans. Jessica Kirzane).
Joseph Opatoshu (1886-1954) was a Yiddish novelist and short story writer known for his naturalistic writing. Among his large body of work were many pieces of writing (stories and novels) that depicted the American Jewish experience. His novel Hibru (1919), excerpted below, deals with the problems, contradictions, and hypocrisies of Jewish education in New York. In this excerpt, Friedkin, the Hebrew School (or Talmud-Torah) instructor, meets with his supervisor to discuss problems confronting his school.
Suggested Activities: Have students discuss the following questions: What are some possible reasons why the children in this story do not love Hebrew school? In his writing, Opatoshu often criticizes what he sees as the deficiencies and superficialities of the American Jewish community. Where do you see evidence of this in the excerpt? What is Friedkin’s attitude toward Yiddish? What does he think are the priorities for Jewish education? Do you agree with him? What do you think a student fundamentally needs to know as part of their Jewish education?
Source: Joseph Opatoshu, Hibru. (New York: Maks N. Mayzel Farlag, 1920), pp. 41-43, translated by Jessica Kirzane.