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Elberg, Yehuda


ELBERG, YEHUDA (1912–2003), Yiddish journalist and novelist. Born in Zgierz, Poland, Elberg came from a rabbinical family and was ordained as a rabbi. He was a distant cousin of the literary *Singer family. He began publishing stories and journalistic articles in Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers in 1932. His wartime activity involved smuggling people through safe houses, and he himself avoided identification and deportation; he also took part in the Warsaw ghetto uprising. After the war he wrote as a correspondent for Israeli and American newspapers, and for the European Yiddish press.

Immigrating to New York via Paris, he began a lifelong friendship with Chaim *Grade. In 1948 he arrived in New York and became active in Zionist causes. Shortly after the death of his first wife in 1955 he moved to Montreal, where he remained until his death.

Although he wrote belles lettres from the beginning of his career and published a book of short stories, Unter Kuperne Himlen ("Under Copper Skies"), in 1951, his greatest literary works came later in life. The novel Afn Shpits fun a Mast (Ship of the Hunted) appeared in 1974, followed in quick succession by five more novels and two collections of short stories between 1976 and 1987. His masterwork was the 1983 Kalman Kalikes Imperye (The Empire of Kalman the Cripple). In the 1990s he turned his attention to translating his work, publishing both Ship of the Hunted and The Empire of Kalman the Cripple in 1997. His short story "837" was made into a play and is frequently anthologized. These three works constitute his most important contributions to Yiddish literature. They have appeared in Spanish, Hebrew, French, and German as well as English. During the 1980s he won the Manger Prize and Israel's Prime Minister's Award for literature.


B.E. Galli, "Yehuda Elberg's Wounded Words Unfolding: Uttering the Holocaust's Unutterability," in: Literature and Theology, 15:4 (2001), 396f; lnyl, 6, 587f; C.L. Fuks, 100 Yor Yidishe un Hebreishe Literatur in Kanade (1980), 191f; Forward (Oct. 31, 2003).

[Faith Jones (2nd ed.)]

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