4: Poem, Yosl dem grinem’s “Pesach Rhymes,” 1956, in Yiddish with English translation.
This poem, “Peysekhdike gramen,” printed in the Yiddish daily newspaper Forverts, envisions Cold War politics as an argument about matzo balls. It was part of a regular column of comic rhyming poems published under the pseudonym Yosl dem Grinem, or “Yosl the Greenhorn.”
Suggested Activity: Ask your students to discuss what makes this poem work as a piece of humor: is it simply that it replaces bombs with matzo balls? Is it because it makes the world conflict domestic and Jewishly ethnic? Does it trivialize the nuclear arms race? Does it mock Jewish culinary arguments, which may get ramped up out of proportion to their actual importance? Or perhaps it does both?
Invite your students to write a comic sketch or poem that rewrites a contemporary public debate to be about matzo balls. Ask students: what associations or ideas does the matzo ball conjure, and how can they make use of these connotations in their comic writing?
Source: Yosl dem grinem (Yosl the Greenhorn), “Peysekhdike gramen” (“Passover Rhymes”) in Forverts (New York: January 4, 1956), digitized by the Historical Jewish Press Project of the National Library of Israel < http://www.jpress.nli.org.il/Olive/APA/NLI/SharedView.Article.aspx?href=FRW%2F1956%2F04%2F01&id=Ar01406&sk=E2CA873C>, accessed March 1, 2018. Translated by Jessica Kirzane.