3: Excerpt from Sholem Aleichem, “The Yom Kippur Scandal,” 1902.
This story by the classic Yiddish author Sholem Aleicheim appears in the volume Kleyne mentshelekh mit kleyne hasoges, or Small People with Small Concerns. Its Yiddish title, “Oysgetreyslt” could be translated as “All Shook Out.” You can listen to the entire story read in English here by Jerry Stiller or in Yiddish here by Dr. Paul Glasser. In the story, a Lithuanian Jew arrives in the fictional town of Kasrilevke, in which Sholem Aleichem set many of his stories, on the eve of Yom Kippur and joins the congregation to pray. As the prayer service concludes, the stranger discovers that his money has been stolen. The congregation conducts a search to uncover the missing money, but in the process they expose and humiliate a young scholar who has been eating on Yom Kippur.
Suggested Activities: Have your students discuss the following questions: The translator has titled this story “The Yom Kippur Scandal” – what is the scandal he refers to? Who is more sinful, Reb Yosifl, who allows a question of money to overtake the religious experience of services, or Lazer Yossel who eats on Yom Kippur? How do you think this story fits into a discussion about sacredness and sacrilege? What does Yom Kippur mean in this story, and who violates it? Is there humor in the story, and if so where is it? Who is the butt of the humor? What is the nature of Sholem Aleichem’s criticism about the traditional Jewish community?
Source: Sholem Aleichem, “The Yom Kippur Scandal,” Trans. Julius and Frances Butwin. The Old Country: Collected Stories of Sholem Aleichem. (New York: Crown, 1946), 141-144.
Excerpt from THE OLD COUNTRY by Sholem Aleichem, translated by Frances and Julius Butwin, translation copyright © 1946, 1974 by Penguin Random House LLC. Used by permission of Crown Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. Any third party use of this material, outside of this publication, is prohibited. Interested parties must apply directly to Penguin Random House LLC for permission.