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Sholom Aleichem- The Fiddler on the roof

Sholom Aleichem
--- Fiddler on the roof ---

Sholom Aleichem, the pseudonym of Sholom Yakov Rabinowitz, whose name is actually a conventional Yiddish greeting meaning “Peace be with you”, was born in the Ukraine to a wealthy father who was a religious scholar. At age 12 Sholom Aleichem’s family met with hard times and a reversal of fortune, shortly after which his mother died of cholera. He began his writing career in the early 1880s when Jews in western Russia were coming increasingly under attack and the hateful word “pogrom” (an oftentimes governmentally dictated persecution or even massacre) became more and common. As a result of the increasingly frequent pogroms and the restrictive laws associated with them, Jews in Western Europe became increasingly dislocated.

The dislocation, which was meant to fragment and destroy Jewish culture, miraculously had the opposite effect. Dislocation caused an increased cultural awakening. As a result, a movement to establish a body of literature in Yiddish, the everyday language of the Western European Jews, gained steam. Yiddish, which derives from Middle High German but draws its vocabulary from Hebrew, Russian, Polish, and English (among a few others), had been, up to this point, considered an inappropriate language for literature. Sholom Aleichem became one of the premier Yiddish writers and as Jewish life became more and more fragmented through displacement, he helped unify people through his stories.

As a child, Aleichem wrote, encouraged by his father, even during times of his family hardship. Despite the family set- back at age 12, eventually his father’s fortunes changed and at that point Sholom Aleichem pursued his secondary education. He never attended a university, however. Instead, he joined the Army and upon being discharged, worked as a rabineer (or government rabbi) for three years.

As a child, and even into his early adult years, Aleichem wrote in Hebrew and Russian, the acceptable langu...

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