Isaac Bashevis Singer’s “Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy”

Resource Kit by
Anita Norich

Module Content



Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978. His stories and novels, written in Yiddish, have been translated more widely and into more languages than any other Yiddish text. One of his most famous short stories, “Yentl, the Yeshiva Boy,” is also well-known because of its (loose) film adaptation Yentl, starring, co-written, and co-produced by Barbra Streisand in 1983. The story appeared in English translation in 1962, a year before it was published in the original Yiddish.

The tale of a young woman who dresses as a man in order to study in a yeshiva, “Yentl” explores questions of identity, sexuality, and gender. Singer was controversial and famous—some would say infamous—for such stories of transgression. This resource kit allows teachers and students to understand the differences between the Yiddish story and the English translation, and between Singer’s story and Streisand’s film. The kit discusses religious and personal desires, and invites students to explore the differences between Eastern European and American Jewish cultures.

Cover image: The script cover for the 1974 play adaptation of Yentl the Yeshiva Boy, by Isaac Bashevis Singer and Leah Napolin. Image accessed on Royal Books, March 7, 2019.