Rosenfarb, Chava

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ROSENFARB, CHAVA (1923– ), Yiddish writer. Born in Lodz, Rosenfarb began writing at age eight and was educated at the Medem school and then at a Polish high school. In the Lodz ghetto, her poetry brought her to the attention of Simkha-Bunim *Shayevitsh, author of the epic poem "Lekh Lekho," who became her mentor and introduced her to the writers' group in the ghetto. Upon liquidation of the ghetto (August 1944), Rosenfarb was deported to Auschwitz, and thence to Sasel and Bergen-Belsen, where she was liberated. In 1950, she immigrated to Montreal. Her literary output after 1947 was prodigious, including four volumes of poetry: Di Balade fun Nekhtikn Vald ("The Ballad of Yesterday's Forest," 1947); Dos Lid fun Yidishn Kelner Avrom ("The Song of the Jewish Waiter Avrom," 1948); Geto un Andere Lider ("Ghetto and Other Poems," 1950), and Aroys fun Gan-Eydn ("Out of Paradise," 1965). Her play Der Foygl fun Geto ("The Bird of the Ghetto"), about the final days of Vilna Ghetto leader Isaac *Wittenberg, was performed in Hebrew in Israel by Habimah in 1966. Dissatisfied with both poetry and drama as means of expression for Holocaust experience, Rosenfarb turned to fiction, publishing the trilogy Der Boym fun Lebn (1972; The Tree of Life, 1985), chronicling the destruction of Jewish Lodz in 1939–44; it won the Manger Prize in 1979. It remains one of the very few novels – as opposed to memoirs or diaries – written about the Holocaust by an actual survivor. While Rosenfarb's next novel, Botshani (1982), is a prequel to Der Boym fun Lebn, the shadow of the Holocaust hovers proleptically over the novel, as is the case in all of Rosenfarb's work (Eng. tr. in 2 vols., Bociany and Of Lodz and Love, 2000). Rosenfarb's novel Briv tsu Abrashn ("Letters to Abrasha," 1992) describes the horrors of the concentration camps. Most of Rosenfarb's essays and stories appeared in Di Goldene Keyt; some of the stories appeared in a translated collection, Survivors: Seven Short Stories (2004). Rosenfarb also published non-fiction in English, notably "Feminism and Yiddish Literature: A Personal Approach," which problematizes the double marginalization of a woman writer who is also a Yiddish writer. In 1994, she published a pamphlet called Yiddish Poets in Canada. Rosenfarb was one of the foremost Yiddish writers of the second half of the 20th century.


N. Ravvin, in: A House of Words (1997), 85–98. J. Sharlett, in: Pakn Treger (1997), 50–65; E. Naves, Putting Down Roots: Montreal's Immigrant Writers (1998); G. Morgentaler, in: Holocaust Literature (2003), with bibliography.

[Goldie Morgentaler (2nd ed.)]

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Rosenfarb, Chava

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