4: Poem excerpt from Y. Y. Shvarts’s "Yunge Yorn," 1952, Yiddish with English translation, and audio excerpt of the poem being read aloud.
Y. Y. Shvarts (1885-1971) was raised in Lithuania in a traditional religious family, and he discovered literature of the Haskole, or Jewish Enlightenment, while he was a student in a yeshiva. He immigrated to America in 1906 and worked as a teacher while writing poetry. Shvarts published Yiddish translations of John Milton, Walt Whitman, William Shakespeare, and Hayyim Nachman Bialik, demonstrating his knowledge of and affinity for English literary traditions as well as his perception that modern Jewish literature was part of the same enterprise. In 1918, he relocated to Kentucky where he worked as a peddler for twelve years. During that time, he wrote Kentoki (Kentucky), a collection including a novel in verse, poems, and poetic fragments that came to be known as a foundational work of American Yiddish literature. He translated the work into Hebrew in 1962. After leaving Kentucky, Shvarts returned to New York and continued to write and translate poetry. Shvarts published his autobiographical book-length poem Yunge Yorn (Young Years) in 1952. In it he describes the traditional Jewish world of his childhood that he left behind.
Suggested Activity: Invite your students to perform a skit based on this scene, inserting their own dialogue that supports their interpretation of the text. Ask them to consider one or more of these questions as they prepare their skits: Do they see the father as playing with the children? Instructing the children? What lessons is the father teaching? What purpose and significance does the Chanukah gelt hold in this passage, and how is it different from, or similar to, the passages in other resources in this kit?
Sources: Y. Y. Shvarts, Yunge Yorn (Mexico: Farlag Tsvi Kesel bay der Kultur Komisiye fun Yidishn Tsentral-Komitet in Meksike, 1952), 139. Unpublished translation by Jessica Kirzane.
Y. Y. Shvarts, "Yunge Yorn," recorded at Montreal's Jewish Public Library in the 1980s or 1990s. Digitized by the Yiddish Book Center as part of its Sami Rohr Library of Recorded Yiddish Books, accessed October 16, 2018. https://www.yiddishbookcenter.org/collections/audio-books/smr-israel-jac....