Sholem Aleichem’s Birthday

SHOLEMSholem Aleichem was born in Pereyaslav, Ukraine (1859). He is one of the world’s most prolific and widely read Yiddish-language writers. He was the son of a lumber merchant. His given name was Solomon Rabinowitz, but he adopted a pen name because many of his friends and relatives disapproved of his decision to write in Yiddish, the colloquial language of Eastern European Jews, rather than in Hebrew, the language of intellectuals and liturgy. So he chose the name Sholem Aleichem, which comes from a Hebrew greeting meaning “peace be with you.”

His family members were fairly successful merchants, but their fortunes took a turn for the worse, and his parents opened up an inn to make some money. Young Sholem Aleichem loved hanging around the inn, and he found a great wealth of material in the characters and situations there.

He got married, and he and his wife moved to Kiev. He tried his hand at the stock market and started a Yiddish literary journal. But both ventures failed, and he went bankrupt and fled the country. One of his most famous characters is an itinerant stockbroker. Another is Tevye the milkman. Sholem Aleichem wrote many stories about Tevye, and they were the inspiration for the 1964 musical Fiddler on the Roof.

He and his wife had six children, and he had to write constantly in order to make ends meet for his family. He toured all over Europe and America giving lectures. He lived in Germany, in Denmark, and finally in the United States. He died at the age of 57, in New York City. One hundred thousand mourners lined the streets on the day of his funeral.
He said, “Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.” And, “No matter how bad things get, you got to go on living, even if it kills you.”


About Bruce Louis Dodson

Bruce Louis Dodson is an American expat now living in Borlänge, Sweden with his wife, cat and dog. He is an artist and world traveler who writes fiction and poetry and practices photography in his less than copious free time. His work has appeared in: Barely South Review - Boundaries Issue, Blue Collar Review, Pulsar Poetry (UK), Foliate Oak, Breadline Press West Coast Anthology . The E-buffet, Qarrtsiluni, Struggle Magazine, Pearl Literary Magazine, Contemporary Literature Review: India, 3rd Wednesday, Sleeping Cat Books - Trip of a Lifetime Anthology, Northern Liberties Review, Authors Abroad - Foreign & and Far Away Anthology, The Path, Page & Spine, The Crucible, Sleeping Cat Books -Trips of a Lifetime, Vine Leaves, Pirene's Fountain,Tic Toc Anthology - Kind of a Hurricane Press, Cordite Poetry Review, Buffalo Almanac and mgv2.
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2 Responses to Sholem Aleichem’s Birthday

  1. ShimonZ says:

    How nice of you to mark his birthday. He’s best when read in Yiddish. For me, he has the class of Mark Twain. A wonderful writer.

  2. Great story. Thanks for celebrating his birthday with that terrific quote.

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