Yenta Mash’s “A Seder in the Taiga”

Resource Kit by
Jessica Kirzane

Module Content



Yenta Mash (1922–2013) grew up in the region once known as Bessarabia (present-day Moldova). In 1941, she was exiled to the Siberian gulag, a notorious labor camp for political prisoners, by Soviet forces. She endured seven years of hard labor before leaving the prison camp and making her way to Chisinau, then the capital of the Moldavian Socialist Soviet Republic. In 1977, in her fifties, Mash immigrated to Israel and settled in Haifa, where she began to write and publish. Her short stories were published in Yiddish journals in Israel and the United States, and her work was collected in four volumes published in Israel. She was honored with Israel’s Itsik Manger Prize for outstanding contributions to Yiddish literature in 1999 and with the Dovid Hofshteyn Prize for Yiddish literature in 2002. She died in 2003.

Mash’s story “A Seder in the Taiga” offers students an introduction to a harrowing component of the Jewish experience in the Soviet Union, and this kit provides some background information that will help to contextualize the story within that history. In addition, the story offers commentary on the holiday of Passover and what it means to celebrate Passover during times of great hardship.

Cover image: Illustration of the Angel of Death by El Lissitzky, from Had Gadya: The Only Kid (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2004), n.p., a fascimile of Lissitzky's first 1919 edition. © 2020 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.