The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer...

The Birobidzhan Affair is the autobiography, “a chronicle of heart-rending events” recounting Emiot's eight years at hard labor in various work camps in Siberia. Poignant, remarkably understated in tone, it provides evidence of his travails as a Jewish victim of the bitter bureaucracy that was Stalinist Russia.

viii Introduction now, indeed, relegated to the trashbin of history. The pur-pose of this introductory essay, therefore, is to attempt to weave together three parallel stories: the political history of Birobidzhan, the Jewish Autonomous Region of the USSR; the biography of the Polish Jew Israel Yanovsky- Goldwasser; and the literary creation of the Yiddish poet Israel Emiot. Israel Emiot was the pseudonym of Israel Yanovsky- Goldwasser, who was born in the town of Ostrów Mazow-iecka, near Warsaw, on January 15, 1909, and died in Ro-chester, New York, on March 7, 1978.1 The name “ Emiot” is a composite of the Polish initials of Israel’s father, Melekh Yanovsky; Goldwasser was his mother’s maiden name. The Yanovsky and Goldwasser families were related to some of the leading lights of Polish Hasidism. Melekh Ya-novsky was renowned in Ostrów as a Talmud scholar, but soon after his marriage abandoned the world of tradition for that of enlightenment. In 1919 he left Poland for America, leav-ing his family behind. Although he intended to become a physician, he fell on hard times, became a presser, and died at an early age. His wife and son remained in Ostrów, in the insulated world of Jewish tradition. Israel’s mother was a pious woman who had overlooked her husband’s heresies for the sake of love. After his death, she struggled to raise her son to be a good, learned Jew. Israel studied in a heder and then in a yeshiva until his midteens. Soon he showed signs of precosity, perhaps even of idiosyn-cracy. As a boy he wrote poetry in Hebrew but then turned to Yiddish. In 1926 he published his first verses ( under the name I. Yanovsky) in I. M. Weissenberg’s anthology Our Hope. These were lyrical religious poems, expressing the sensitive Hasidism of the young Israel. After this debut, he became a frequent contributor to the substantial Orthodox press in Poland and a well- known religious poet. 1. For biographical and bibliographical information, see the entry for Israel Emiot in Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, ed. Z. Reysin, vol. 6 ( New York, 1965), pp. 601– 6.   C h a p t e r Home

The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer in Siberia


About Book The Birobidzhan Affair: A Yiddish Writer in Siberia

Front matterCopyright PageAuthor's prefaceIntroductionI go to BirobidzhanThe short-lived revivalIn jailFirst interrogationMy first inquisitorOzirsky of the NKVDMy first cellmateOne Yiddish poet, three Japanese generals, and a Russian thiefThe miracleAwaiting trialMy sentenceOn the road to penal servitudeBarbershop attendantBen SlutskyPenal servitudeProfessor S.How to handle a Jew-baiterI become one of the gangMoishe BrodersonWhen Pinke played Kol NidreiThe investigating commissionAvraham Khayim and the Sephardic JewsThe Jewish daughter from RigaWith the Chinese prisonersRepercussions of the Jewish Doctors' Plot300 women prisoners from MongoliaStalin is deadWe are moved to another campThe secret agent and the banditCelebrating the October RevolutionShot while attempting to escapeA Russian heart with a Jewish sighA Latvian of Jewish originTikhiRebellionMay it get no worseMoishe Broderson and Sholom AleichemOn the eve of liberationFarewell to Moishe BrodersonIn the village of StepanovkaBack to BirobidzhanAmong Jews in BirobidzhanMoscow–Warsaw–New York
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