Shalom Aleichem

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SHALOM ALEICHEM (Sholem Aleykhem ; narrative persona and subsequent pseudonym of Sholem Rabinovitsh (Rabinovitz ); 1859–1916), Yiddish prose writer and humorist born on February 18, 1859 (old style; March 2, new style), in Pereyaslav (today: Pereyaslav-Khmelnitski) on the left bank of the Dnieper (Dnipro), downstream from Kiev, as the third child of Menakhem-Nokhem Rabinovitsh, a wealthy timber and grain merchant and Khave-Ester, née Zeldin. Together with Sholem Yankev *Abramovitsh (often misidentified as his fictional narrator, Mendele Moykher Sforim) and I.L. *Peretz, Shalom Aleichem is regarded as one of the three major classical writers of Yiddish literature. He rapidly achieved widespread popularity with the reading public, though it took him longer to achieve lasting critical acclaim. By canonizing Abramovitsh as the "grandfather" of Yiddish literature and castigating the facile and highly popular pulp-fiction of *Shomer, he brought aesthetic criteria to bear on Yiddish literature and became the first to see himself as occupying a position within a Yiddish literary tradition. In fact, he was barely 24 years younger than Abramovitsh, but this difference was crucial, since the political turmoil and the pogroms of the 1880s had discredited the *Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment movement, making for an altogether more resigned, milder, and less didactic tone in Shalom Aleichem's work. He was distrustful of all ideology and could offer only aesthetic solutions to the problems of Jewish existence. It is true that he manifested considerable enthusiasm for the Zionist cause, but he does not seem to have been very sanguine about its chances of success. He promoted his vision of Yiddish writing capable of standing comparison with other literatures in the two volumes of his lavishly produced Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek ("The Jewish Popular Library," 1888–89) in which inter alia he published works by Abramovitsh, Peretz, and Isaac Joel *Linetsky as well as early versions of his own novels, Stempenyu (1889; Stempenyu, 1948) and Yosele Solovey (1890; "The Nightingale: Or the Saga of Yosele Solovey the Cantor," 1913). These novels are both restrained, tragic love stories in which self-fulfillment is sacrificed to traditional concepts of modesty; the author was not entirely successful in reconciling form and content. The Folksbibliotek-project was abandoned in 1890 when Shalom Aleichem lost his fortune on the stock exchange. However, his reputation owes less to his novels than to his epistolary satire,Menakhem-Mendl (begun in 1892; "Menakhem Mendel and Sheyne Sheyndl," 1948) and his loosely structured series of monologues, Tevye der Milkhiker (begun in 1895; Tevye the Dairyman, 1987). It was in these series that Shalom Aleichem found the style most suited to his genius, and he continued working on them almost up to the time of his death, creating personae whose voices enabled him to express his ironic view of a traditional society in crisis.

Most of his fiction, which also included the stories he wrote for Jewish holidays and his many children's stories, appeared in the first instance as feuilletons in various newspapers, being collected in book-form usually at a much later date. The ability that Shalom Aleichem had shown in these tales to capture scenes from a child's perspective found its most virtuoso expression in Motl Peyse dem Khazns (serialized between 1907 and 1916; The Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son, 1953). In this cycle of stories he created a brilliantly ironic account of the misfortunes of a widow and her children and their later peregrinations from the Ukrainian market town to New York, as seen through the eyes of the youngest carefree son, Motl. Shalom Aleichem also wrote critical reviews and poems and tried writing for the stage, but without great success. In the theatre, it was dramatizations of his stories by other hands that achieved lasting fame, most notably the Tevye stories which eventually became the well-known musical drama, Fiddler on the Roof (1964). Shalom Aleichem was still at work on his lightly fictionalized autobiography, Funem Yarid (1916–17; From the Fair: The Autobiography of Sholom Aleichem, 1985) and the continuation of Motl Peyse at the time of his death. His multifarious oeuvre constitutes a Jewish comédie humaine, portraying the transition from the old order of traditional life to modern times. Through it runs the recurrent theme of unrealizable aspiration, followed by catastrophe and renewed hope, epitomizing courage in adversity and survival against all odds both in the Old World and the New. The tragic is constantly interwoven with the comic, while his characters and perspectives embody powers of regeneration in the face of adversity.

In 1861 his family had moved to Voronkov (Voronka), somewhat closer to Kiev, where he attended ḥeder. Voronkov was later to be satirized in his works as the archetypal shtetl, Kasrilevke. However, 10 years later Menakhem-Nokhem Rabinovitsh was defrauded and the family returned to Pereyaslav where the 12-year-old boy helped his father run a modest inn. The following year his mother died of cholera, and his father remarried. The death of his mother had a particularly traumatic effect on the young Rabinovitsh which is indirectly, almost unconsciously, reflected in a number of his works. In 1873–36, he attended the Russian secondary school (gymnasium) in Pereyaslav on a scholarship. It was during these years that he composed his first literary creation in the form of a glossary of his stepmother's curses (unpublished), thus early revealing his ability to face adversity with humor. He also began writing Hebrew biblical romances in the manner of Abraham *Mapu, his father's favorite author. After graduating with distinction from the gymnasium Rabinovitsh became a private tutor in Russian, Hebrew, and other subjects in and around Pereyaslav. The following year, as the result of a stroke of good fortune, he was offered the position of private tutor to the daughter of the wealthy merchant, Elimelech Loyev. Rabinovitsh and his teenage pupil, Olga/Hodl read Hebrew and European literature together and fell in love. Some two to three years later, becoming aware of the tender feelings between tutor and pupil, Loyev dismissed Rabinovitsh. It was at about this time that his earliest Hebrew pieces were published in the popular maskilic Warsaw newspaper, Ha-Ẓefirah.

Rabinovitsh now secured the office of obshchestvenny ravvin or government rabbi in Lubny. During the years in Lubny he contributed further pieces in Hebrew not only to Ha-Ẓefirah but also to Ha-Meliẓ on social and educational issues. In 1883 Olga came across an article by Rabinovitsh and was able to locate him through the publisher. On May 12 (old style; Lag ba-Omer) of the same year, their marriage took place in Kiev against her father's wishes. However, Loyev was soon reconciled, insisted that Rabinovitsh give up the post of ravvin, and invited him back to the estate at Sofiyevka, where he was able to pursue his literary activities free from financial worries.

With the appearance from 1881 onwards of Alexander *Zederbaum's (Tsederboym) St. Petersburg weekly Dos Yidishe Folksblat, at that time still the only Yiddish periodical, Rabinovitsh felt encouraged to pursue his enthusiasm for Yiddish literature and wrote his first Yiddish story, "Tsvey Shteyner" ("Two Stones," 1883) which was serialized in this periodical. This piece was dedicated to O[lga]-E[limelekhovna Loyeva]. The action is a tragic version of the romance between himself and Olga/Hodl in which the heroine commits suicide and the hero becomes deranged (thus anticipating the underlying themes of Yosele Solovey). Rabinovitsh later became dissatisfied with this story, hence its omission from collected volumes throughout his lifetime.

A further story, "Di Vibores" (1883; "The Election," 1994) was published in Dos Yidishe Folksblat and was signed for the first time "Shalom Aleichem." Rabinovitsh resorted to a pseudonym since this satire attacks the affluent leaders of a Jewish community, named in the story as Fintsternish ("darkness"), though clearly Lubny was meant. The nom de plume, initially intended as a temporary stratagem, became a narrative persona. Feeling that his talents lay primarily in the realm of Yiddish humor, he adopted the name permanently, and, indeed, it was eventually destined to become the appellation by which he was universally known. In Funem Yarid he also explains that the pseudonym was in part adopted for the sake of his family who shared the prejudices against Yiddish at that time prevalent in intellectual circles. Like "Tsvey Shteyner," this story was never reprinted in Shalom Aleichem's lifetime.

In November 1883 the young couple moved to Belaya Tserkov (Bila Tserkva), south of Kiev, where Shalom Aleichem at first worked as inspector of sugar estates for the Kiev Jewish millionaire, Israel *Brodsky, whose name together with that of *Rothschild was to become emblematic of fabulous wealth in Shalom Aleichem's fiction. After leaving Brodski's employ, Shalom Aleichem and Olga remained in Belaya Tserkov, financially supported by Loyev. In the early 1880s Shalom Aleichem published a number of further slight sketches, epistolary skits, and stories in Dos Yidishe Folksblat. Whereas in these years Shalom Aleichem's aspirations lay in the direction of the novel and he attached little importance to his feuilletonistic work, it was in these short pieces that he developed his abilities as a writer of monologues and epistolary sketches, and it was these skills that were later to avail him in the masterpieces, Menakhem-Mendl, Tevye, and Motl Peyse. As time went by, he further honed the feuilleton style which he learnt inter alia from Gogol and which became his real forte. It was precisely these monologues and sketches that earned him his popularity and in which he was able to give free rein to his ironic fantasies.

During these years in Belaya Tserkov, Shalom Aleichem and Olga began spending the summer months in a dacha in the village of Boyarka not far from Kiev, as they continued to do until he left Russia in 1905. This village later served as the model for the fictional village of Boyberik in the Tevye stories and other works. In 1884 their daughter Ernestine/Khaya-Ester was born, the first of six children (four daughters and two sons). In 1885 Loyev died. Shalom Aleichem inherited a very considerable fortune and ventured into business speculations in Kiev.

In 1886 the first of his stock exchange stories was published in Dos Yidishe Folksblat adumbrating the virtuosity of the Menakhem-Mendl letters. In this same year appeared Di Veltrayze ("Journey round the World," 1886), his first independent publication, while over the winter 1886–87 further feuilleton sketches were serialized in Dos Yidishe Folksblat anticipating the Kasrilevke stories.

A major landmark in Shalom Aleichem's literary career was the appearance in 1887 of "Dos Meserl" (1886; "The Pocket-Knife," 1920). This story attracted a particularly favorable review by Simon *Dubnow in the influential St. Petersburg Russian-Jewish journal Voskhod, which represented the beginning of critical acclaim for Shalom Aleichem, but it was not until considerably later that his genius was widely appreciated. The story relates the terror of a young boy unable to resist the temptation to steal a penknife from an amiable maskil or freethinker who lodges with his parents. The story concludes on an edifying note attributable to the waning influence of the Haskalah on Shalom Aleichem's early career. "Dos Meserl" epitomizes the style of Shalom Aleichem's many children's and holiday tales which revolve around minor domestic problems and their resolution seen through the eyes of child protagonists or deal with crises in the preparation for a Jewish festival that have a happy outcome. These stories were some of Shalom Aleichem's most popular works, appearing in the holiday issues of periodicals and widely enjoyed in the family circle, making Shalom Aleichem's name truly a household word. "Dos Meserl" and "Tsvey Shteyner" were translated into Russian and came to the favorable attention of Leo Tolstoy and Maxim Gorki.

That same year Shalom Aleichem wrote "Legboymer" ("Lag ba-Omer," 1887) in memory of that festival in 1883 when it fell on May 12, i.e., his wedding day. The story relates how a group of kheyder lads escape their rebbe's birch for a day and sally forth into the countryside on Lag ba-Omer only to be assailed by a gang of Ukrainian youths and so badly beaten that their leader, Zyame, altogether eludes any further flogging by the rebbe, since after three weeks in bed he dies. This was also the year in which Shalom Aleichem moved with his family to Kiev, the model for his fictional Yehupets, to deal on the stock exchange.

In 1888 Shalom Aleichem began his life-long campaign for higher standards in Yiddish literature with two publications. Shomers Mishpet ("The Trial of Shomer," 1888) constituted a savage attack on pulp-fiction, especially that of Nokhem-Meyer Shaykevitsh, known as Shomer, at the time by far the most popular of Yiddish authors, a prolific writer of sentimental pulp fiction whose plots were usually lifted from the works of Charles Paul de Kock, Alexandre Dumas père, or their like. Shalom Aleichem accuses Shomer of corrupting the Jewish people with escapist and morally dubious fantasies which bear no relation to the realities of Jewish life. In "Der Yidisher Dales in di Beste Verk fun Undzere Folks-Shriftshteler" ("Jewish Poverty in the Best Works of Our National Writers," 1888) he distinguished between such trashy romantic shund and realistic works such as Fishke der Krumer (1869; Fishke the Lame, 1920) by Abramovitsh, whom he dubs the zeyde ("grandfather") of Yiddish literature. A number of other writers are similarly singled out for praise on account of the realism of their works including Isaac Meir *Dik, Linetsky, Abraham *Goldfaden, and Mordecai *Spector. It is Shalom Aleichem's view that events portrayed in serious literature must be realistic and plausible within the framework of Jewish society. His novel, published the same year, Sender Blank un Zayn Gezindl ("Sender Blank and His Household," 1887) with its flights into the world of pure fantasy is a parody of the shund-novel, but at the same time it is severely critical of the vulgar insensitivities of the Jewish plutocracy, thus anticipating a theme which was to reappear frequently in his works.

However, by far his most significant achievement at this time was his editing of Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek. The publication of this annual or anthology of the best of earlier and contemporary writing in Yiddish was made possible by the considerable financial resources which Shalom Aleichem had inherited from his father-in-law. Before its collapse, Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek appeared in two volumes published in Kiev in 1888–89. The first volume comprised items by authors such as Linetsky and Abramovitsh, as well as pseudonymous pieces by himself, including "Lider funem Kheyder: Vinter" (1888; "Song of the Kheyder," 1994), signed Shlumiel. "Grandfather" Mendele (Abramovitsh) was encouraged to return to writing in Yiddish and was represented by the revised and expanded prologue and first part of his "Dos Vintshfingerl" (1888; TheWishing Ring, 2003). In addition, Shalom Aleichem had persuaded Peretz, who had previously published only in Hebrew and Polish, to contribute his extraordinary narrative poem "Monish" (1888; "Monish," 1939) for which Shalom Aleichem paid him the unprecedented fee of 300 rubles. It is interesting to observe that in the process of editing Peretz's text, Shalom Aleichem found it necessary to remove the author's frequent Polonisms in the interest of a wider readership. Peretz resented Shalom Aleichem's having done so without consultation, and for a number of years relations between the two men were soured. There were also contributions from David *Frishman and Simon Samuel *Frug, who had hitherto written exclusively in Hebrew and Russian respectively and who had both had their Yiddish literary debuts only a few months earlier in Dos Yidishe Folksblat. The first volume concludes with a short essay, "Etlekhe Verter vegn Zhargon Oysleyg" ("A Few Words concerning Yiddish Spelling," 1888) in which Shalom Aleichem calls for a standard orthography and a grammar of the Yiddish language, while advocating that homophones should be differentiated by their spelling and that the orthography of words from the Germanic component should be approximated to the German spelling. In the baylage ("supplement") appeared Shalom Aleichem's novel Stem-penyu. Though in some ways resembling Sender Blank, this was Shalom Aleichem's first consciously Jewish romance, and it appeared with a prefatory letter to zeyde Mendele whose counsels had inspired it.

When his father died in that same year, Shalom Aleichem gave literary expression to his mourning in A Bintl Blumen ("A Bouquet of Flowers," 1888), a literary bouquet laid on his father's grave, subsequently shortened and revised as "Blumen" ("Flowers," 1903). This pamphlet comprised 18 stories, including "Koysl Marovi" ("The Western Wall"). His father had been a lover of Hebrew literature and had nurtured ambitions for his son in this direction. The death of his father did have the incidental effect of relieving Shalom Aleichem from the pretense of not being a Yiddish writer.

The second volume of Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek comprised Shalom Aleichem's comedy "Di Asife" ("The Assembly," 1889), signed Shulamis, whose protagonist is a ravvin, as until recently he had been himself, and "A Briv tsu a Gutn Fraynd" ("A Letter to a Good Friend," 1889) in which he replies to criticism that had been made of "Stempenyu": "It is necessary to observe," he writes, "that a young Jewish woman is unlike other women in the world." Gentile heroism may well consist in giving free reign to the passions; Jewish heroism consists in controlling one's feelings. Furthermore, fictional characters must be figures with whom the common people can identify. Formerly authors had protagonists who were either angels or demons, but modern readers demand characters whom are closer to psychological reality. This volume contains the second part of Abramovitsh's "Dos Vintshfingerl," further items by Peretz and Linetsky as well as contributions by Frug, Abraham Ber *Gottlober, Goldfaden, *Ben-Ami and Mikhl *Gordon.

In a supplement to the second volume of Di Yidishe Folks-bibliotek, the novel Yosele Solovey appeared. As in the case of Stempenyu, this is a restrained, unconsummated Jewish love story in which self-fulfillment is sacrificed to customary concepts of modesty, and the traditional Jewish woman pines for her outsider hero, in this case a highly talented itinerant cantor. It ends with the death of the heroine and the madness of the hero. There are some thematic similarities with his "Tsvey Shteyner." At the same time a host of caricatured figures provide comic relief. The judicious fusion of comedy and pathos is in some ways reminiscent of Dickens. It is instructive to compare Shalom Aleichem's delicacy and apprehensions concerning the credibility of a Jewish love story with the uninhibited sexuality of the play Yankl der Shmid ("Yankl the Blacksmith," performed 1906) written less than 20 years later by David *Pinski.

The consistently high quality of the Folksbibliotek aroused considerable interest, and it was recognized by many as representing a turning point in the development of Yiddish literature. But the reactions were far from universally favorable. In 1889 Judah Leib *Gordon wrote in Russian to Shalom Aleichem, sharply censoring his intention to raise the status of zhargon-literature. At most, Gordon claimed, Yiddish might be tolerated as means of enlightening the ignorant masses, but otherwise he regarded it as the curse of the Diaspora.

In October of 1890 Shalom Aleichem was preparing to edit a third volume of Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek when the stock market crashed and he lost his entire fortune. He moved his family to Odessa and traveled to Czernowitz, Vienna, and Paris to escape his creditors, while his mother-in-law attempted to pay off his debts. In 1891 he returned to Russia and, with help from his mother-in-law, once again began trading on the stock exchange. The collapse of the Folksbibliotek in the same year as that in which Dos Yidishe Folksblat ceased publication deprived Shalom Aleichem of publishing outlets for Yiddish works, and in consequence he wrote nothing in Yiddish throughout 1891 and returned for a while to writing in Russian. It was during this period, inspired very largely by Nikolai Gogol's oral-style or skaz-monologues (as they are called by Bakhtin and the Russian Formalists), that Shalom Aleichem found the style most suited to his genius.

In 1892 Shalom Aleichem made further preparations for a third volume of the Folksbibliotek but lacked the financial means to bring this project to fruition. Instead he contented himself by putting everything he published in Yiddish that year into his Kol Mevaser tsu der Yidisher Folksbibliotek ("Advertiser for the Jewish Popular Library"), this time without contributions by others, though in a number of cases he again signed his own pieces with pseudonyms (such as Shulamis and Dr. Solomonis Rabinus). Here he published "London," an earlier version of "London" (1909), the first series of his Menakhem-Mendl letters, concerning the comic vicissitudes of an archetypal luftmentsh and unsuccessful speculator. Shalom Aleichem continued to extend his epistolary Menakhem-Mendl series until 1913. Kol Mevaser… also included the "folksong" "Shlof, Mayn Kind" ("Sleep My Child"), which soon became so popular that when in 1901 the major Yiddish song collection by Saul *Ginzburg and Pesach [Piotr] *Marek appeared in St. Petersburg, "Shlof, Mayn Kind" was listed as being anonymous.

The mid 1890s were a period of comparative literary inactivity. In May 1893 Shalom Aleichem and his family moved to Kiev, where he continued to speculate on the stock exchange and attempted to act as a commodity broker. Meanwhile he and his family continued to spend their summers in the dacha at Boyarka, and in the summer of 1894 a chance encounter with a vivacious dairyman delivering butter and cheese to families vacationing in the vicinity became a formative experience, since this figure would serve as the model for the series of Tevye stories which he soon began to write and on which he continued working sporadically for most of the rest of his life. Later that year he wrote Yakneho"z, oder dos Groyse Berznshpil ("Hocus-Pocus: Or the Great Stock-Exchange Gamble"). This was his first complete play, a satire in the style of Pushkin on the life of the speculators and nouveaux riches of Kiev in which he had been so deeply involved.

In August 1897 Shalom Aleichem attended the First Zionist Congress in Basel recording his impressions in Der Yidisher Kongres in Bazl (1897; "The Jewish Congress in Basel," 1984). In fact, Shalom Aleichem's interest in the Zionist cause had already begun in 1888 when he had joined the Ḥovevei Zion movement and the following year he had invited one of their most prominent leaders, Abraham Menahem Mendel *Ussishkin, to report on the welfare of the colonists in Palestine in the second volume of the Folksbibliotek. He turned these interests to literary account in "Oyf Yishev Erts-Yisroel: Zelik Mekhanik" (1890; "Selig Mechanic," 1984), a story with a propagandistic Zionist message. Immediately after attending the Basel conference, he wrote the essay "Oyf Vos Badarfn Yidn a Land" (1898; "Why Do the Jews Need a Land of Their Own?" 1984). It is a popular but cogently argued statement of the Zionist case: antisemitism will only be overcome when Jews have a state in Palestine. The same year, while living in Berdichev, he incorporated some of these ideas into Meshiekhs Tsaytn: A Tsienistisher Roman ("Messianic Times: A Zionist Novel," 1890).

In 1900 Shalom Aleichem wrote "Der Zeyger" (1900; "The Clock That Struck Thirteen," 1900), one of his "stories for Jewish children," a slight monologue told by an anonymous narrator and inhabitant of Kasrilevke about his grandfather's pendulum clock that had been in the family for generations and was his pride and joy. It served the whole town as its time-piece, despite the maskil's hair-splitting attempts to prove it a minute or two fast, until, that is, the day it struck thirteen. More and more hopeless attempts are made to repair the clock, but finally, just in the middle of an exciting story, it collapses under the weight of the heavy objects that have been attached to the pendulum to try and keep it going. Everybody was understandably distressed, and the narrator, still a child, had nightmares about the clock. The prevailing atmosphere is one of melancholy recognition of the obsolescence of tradition. It has even been asserted that the story embodies a subliminal reference to the death of his mother when the young Rabinovitsh was still only 13.

That same year Shalom Aleichem wrote his famous satire Der Farkishefter Shnayder (1900; "The Haunted Tailor," 1979). This, the most Gogolian of Shalom Aleichem's stories is typical of his genre of fantastic tales. The narration is in the macaronic style of an old pinkes or chronicle and tells the story of a henpecked yet opinionated and self-important tailor, Shimen-Elye Shma Koleynu, who is persuaded by his wife to go to the neighboring shtetl to buy a goat so that his numerous hungry children may have an ample supply of milk. Halfway between the two villages he stops at an inn belonging to his cousin Dodi to whose lack of learning he tactlessly alludes. Returning with the goat he has purchased he spends the night at the inn. When he arrives home the next day, the goat is unmilkable. Yet, when he attempts to return the goat, the melamed's wife, from whom he bought it, milks it in front of the rabbi's court. Back at home the story repeats itself and the tailor is taken ill, accepting the innkeeper's story that the goat is bewitched. It is left to the reader to draw the conclusion that the innkeeper took his revenge by switching the female goat with a male goat (and vice versa) each time the tailor passed through. The characterization is largely achieved through the formulaic words of the characters. In addition to the humor that arises from Shimen-Elye's solecisms and his conflations of Aramaic and Ukrainian, an element of irony is introduced in that the theme of duplicitous substitution is suggested to the mind of the reader by the references to Rachel and Laban.

In the early years of the new century Shalom Aleichem was already supporting himself and his large family almost entirely by writing, especially for the St. Petersburg and Warsaw daily papers. By 1903, in fact, he felt able to abandon business activities altogether. It was during this period that he wrote many of the stories in his Kasrilevke series, including among others "Kasrilevker Tramvay," "Kasrilevker Hoteln," "Kasrilevker Restoranen," "Kasrilevker Vayn un Kasrilevker Shikirim," "Kasrilevker Teater," "Kasrilevker Sreyfes," and "Kasrilevker Banditn" (1901; "Transportation," "Hotels," "Restaurants," "Liquor," "Theater," "Fires," "Bandits," collected in English as A Guide to Kasrilevke, 1973). Most of the Kasrilevke stories satirize shetl life in Voronkov and Berdichev. Over the years, while revising his works, Shalom Aleichem gradually brought more stories into this cycle by inserting the name Kasrilevke where previously he had written Berditshev, Mazepevke, or some other toponym. The ethos of these stories may be exemplified by "Dreyfus in Kasrilevke" (1902; "Dreyfus in Kasrilevke," 1979). Zeydl is the only person in Kasrilevke who subscribes to a newspaper, and it is through him that the inhabitants of Kasrilevke anxiously follow the second Dreyfus trial, which took place in 1899. When once more a guilty verdict is pronounced, they simply cannot believe it. "Se kon nit zayn!" ("It is impossible") shout the outraged inhabitants of Kasrilevke, and it is not the judges or false witnesses in Paris whom they blame but Zeydl. "Idiots," replies Zeydl and thrusts the newspaper into their faces, but they just refuse to understand. "Who was right?" asks the narrator in conclusion. The well-known story "Ven Ikh Bin Roytshild" (1902; "If I Were Rothschild," 1979) was also written in 1902 and also belongs to the same cycle. This is the monologue of a Kasrilevke melamed whose wife is pestering him for money for the coming Sabbath. If he were rich, he muses, not only would he make sure that his wife had enough so that he could pursue his teaching in peace, he would not only provide for the sick and the poor in Kasrilevke, but he would endow yeshivot and ensure that even the Gentiles had no need to go to war. In fact, he might even abolish money altogether which is surely the root of every evil inclination, but then how would he provide for the Sabbath right now? The story combines realistic observation of the crushing poverty of the shtetl with a touching portrayal of the unworldly aspirations of many of its inhabitants. A further Kasrilevke story written at this time was "Oysgetreyselt" (1902; "A Yom Kippur Scandal," 1979) which was subsequently included in the "Kleyne Mentshelekh mit Kleyne Hasoges" series. This famous tale takes the form of an anonymous narration of the scandal that was reported to have arisen when a Litvak visitor was apparently robbed of 1,800 rubles in the Kasrilevke synagogue during the Yom Kippur service. The rabbi immediately ordered the doors to be locked and for everyone's pockets to be turned out. All comply with the exception of Leyzer-Yosl, the much-lauded son-in-law of the local magnate, who makes all manner of excuses to avoid being searched. When finally his pockets are examined, gnawed chicken bones are found, to his own shame and to the mortification of the rabbi, but to the huge amusement of the townsfolk. "'Well,' we all asked with one voice, 'and what about the money?' – 'What money?' asked the man innocently, watching the smoke he had exhaled. – 'What do you mean – what money? The 1,800 rubles!' – 'Oh,' he drawled. 'The 1,800. They were gone.' – 'Gone?' – 'Gone for ever.'" There is masterly irony in the laconic pacing of this dénouement.

At this time Shalom Aleichem also revised four volumes of his works which the Folksbildung publishing house in Warsaw issued as Ale Verk fun Shalom Aleichem ("The Complete Works of Shalom Aleichem," 1903). This was the first of several collected works published during his lifetime and subsequently, and was an important milestone in his literary career. This title was, however, a misnomer. Neither this collected works edition nor any of its successors was ever even remotely comprehensive. Then in August 1904, Shalom Aleichem edited Hilf: a Zaml-Bukh fir Literatur un Kunst ("Help: An Anthology for Literature and Art") and himself translated three stories submitted by Tolstoy as well as contributions by other prominent Russian writers in aid of the victims of the Kishinev pogrom.

In 1904 Shalom Aleichem was still living with his family in Kiev in a degree of comfort and tranquility that he had seldom experienced before and was at work on feuilletons, monologues, Kasrilevke and Tevye stories for Der Fraynd (St. Petersburg), Der Veg (Warsaw) and other papers, but this comparative calm was soon to be shattered by political events. An adumbration of the turmoil to come is to be found in Shalom Aleichem's story "Yoysef" (1905; "Joseph," 2004) which appeared in Der Veg. This is the monologue of a conceited but not altogether despicable young fop who confesses "in confidence" to the writer how he is besotted by a girl who waits at table in her mother's restaurant. She, however, adores Yoysef, a Bundist conspirator, so the narrator ingratiates himself with the Bundists, talks about Karl Marx and August Bebel and attends a clandestine meeting in the forest at which Yoysef speaks. He observes that the earnest young men at the meeting are dressed in Gorki-style black blouses (a style that Shalom Aleichem himself affected from time to time). When the dzhentlmen, as the conspirators call him, finally asks Yoysef for his advice, he simply recommends speaking to the girl directly, since he has no time for such trifles. The conspiracy is discovered and Yoysef is arrested. Returning from a business trip the dzhentlmen finds that the restaurant has disappeared.

Literary reflections of political ferment were soon followed by all too real historical events. In October Shalom Aleichem and his family lived through the three days of the Kiev pogrom associated with the failed 1905 revolution. As angry mobs surged through the streets, the family sought refuge in the Hotel Imperial. After these experiences Shalom Aleichem resolved to leave and moved via Radziłłow and Brody to Lemberg (today: Lvov) in Austrian Galicia. Whereas others had lost faith in Russian liberalism two years earlier in the aftermath of the Kishinev pogrom, for Shalom Aleichem 1905 was the turning point. A further motive for leaving Russia may have been his apprehension that his political satires could have unpleasant consequences. What little financial security there had been in the Kiev years disappeared and, although he was by now the most famous of Yiddish writers, whose works were enjoyed by a vast readership, he was now cut off from his publishers. He began a reading tour that took him to many points in Galicia and Romania. Leaving his family in Geneva, where Abramovitsh was at the time, he continued his reading tour to Paris and London. From this time on Shalom Aleichem became increasingly dependent financially on enervating but hugely successful lecture tours, and it was only on such tours that he ever again returned to Russia.

In 1906 Shalom Aleichem made his first visit to the United States, arriving on October 20 in New York, where he was given an exhilarating welcome in both the Yiddish and English-language press. Two plays were commissioned from him, and the Hearst Press offered him a lucrative contract. Shalom Aleichem remained in the Bronx for some months and on February 8, 1907, a dramatization of Stempenyu, produced by Boris Tomashevski, was staged at the People's Theater, while on the same night "Der Oysvorf: oder Shmuel Pasternak" ("The Outcast: Or Shmuel Pasternak"), a version of Yakneho"z which Shalom Aleichem had specially adapted for Jacob Adler, was performed at the Grand Theater. Both plays were excessively sentimentalized for the New York theater audience, and both were box-office disasters. Meanwhile Hearst's Jewish American collapsed and Shalom Aleichem was unable to interest the Yiddish press in his Motl. In the early summer he returned to Geneva via The Hague, a disappointed man.

In August Shalom Aleichem attended the 8th Zionist Congress in The Hague as the delegate of New York Federation of American Zionists. It was here that he met Ḥayyim-Naḥman *Bialik for the first time and formed a close friendship with him. His impressions of this event are recorded in "Ayndrukn fun Tsionistishn Kongres" (1907; "Impressions from a Zionist Congress," 1984). In the early autumn he went on holiday in the Alps near Geneva and invited Bialik to visit him there. They were joined by Abramovitsh and Ben-Ami as well. It was at this time that the four of them posed in a photographer's studio for the famous comic portrait showing them in a boat with Shalom Aleichem standing behind holding an upright oar. He describes this meeting in "Fir Zenen Mir Gezesn" (1908; "Once There Were Four," 1979). It was at this time that Shalom Aleichem was diagnosed with tuberculosis.

Shalom Aleichem's continued preoccupation with the Kiev pogroms of 1905 and their aftermath were reflected in his novel Der Mabl ("The Flood") which was serialized 1907–8 in Vorhayt. In 1918 the novel appeared in book-form under the title In Shturem (In the Storm, 1984). This novel reflects the reactions of progressive Jewish youth to the pogroms to which Shalom Aleichem and his family had come all too close. Embodied in the lives of the protagonists, we see the tensions that existed between universal and national solutions to Jewish social problems. The original title implied that a "flood" would sweep away cruelty and violence. The change in title indicates a subsequently less sanguine view of social progress.

In 1908 Shalom Aleichem was once again compelled by financial constraints to undertake a reading tour in Russia. He had by now become famous for his recitations, and the tour went well until in early August in Baranovichi, some distance north of Pinsk, he suffered a severe recurrence of tuberculosis and was diagnosed as having open pulmonary tuberculosis. After two months of rest in Baranovichi itself, he moved to the resort of Nervi on the Ligurian coast for further recuperation. This setback was to some extent offset by the celebration of his 50th birthday and 25 years of literary creativity in 1909. A committee of authors secured the rights to his works and returned them to him, thus ensuring him a permanent income. During this period some of Shalom Aleichem's works began to appear in Russian translation and met with much critical acclaim.

In Nervi, perhaps realizing that his health prognosis was not very favorable, Shalom Aleichem made a first start on his autobiography Funem Yarid. However, he soon set it aside in order to work on other projects including his Ayznban-Geshikhtn (Railroad Stories, Engl. 1987), which were written and published over a period stretching from 1902 to 1911, although of the 20 stories that eventually constituted this series, as many as nine were written in various sanatoria during this period of convalescence in 1909. In these stories Shalom Aleichem skillfully exploits a situational framework of fleeting encounters, such as he must often have experienced when traveling between venues on his frequent and grueling reading tours and paints a picaresque composite picture of the precarious economic circumstances of Jews living in those western parts of the Russian Empire in which they were permitted to reside. Dan Miron shrewdly observes that it is a token of the increasing modernity of Shalom Aleichem's work that his narrators become progressively less severe in their critique of social reality. The traveling salesman is a "caricature of the maskilic 'watchman' or the Mendelean sarcastic commentator" [Image, p. 334].

Two of these Railroad Stories, both written in 1909, may serve to characterize this important cycle in Shalom Aleichem's oeuvre. "Stantsye Baranovitsh" (1909; "Station Baranovich," 1979) is named after the very station at which Shalom Aleichem himself had almost died the year before. The narrator heard the story from his father who had it from his own father. It happened in the days of Nikolai I. Kive, a Jew who had permitted himself a number of injudicious remarks, was condemned to run the gauntlet. Reb Nisl, the narrator's grandfather arranges a simulated funeral and then slips Kive over the border into Austrian Galicia. From then on Kive sends begging letters, threatening to return and confess. Finally he threatens to send Reb Nisl's letters to the police. At that point the train arrives in Baranovichi. The narrator hurriedly alights and the story is never finished. "May Station Baranovichi burn to the ground!" This is almost a shaggy-dog story in which much of the ironic humor lies in the ploys with which the narrator plays his audience much as Shalom Aleichem does his. What, after all, would the devoted readers of Shalom Aleichem's Ayznban-Geshikhtn have done had Shalom Aleichem really died? "A Khasene on Klezmer" (1909; "The Wedding That Came without Its Band," 1979) is a story told to the narrator one hot afternoon in a railway compartment by a merchant with a penchant for euphemistic irony who relates the humorous side of the 1905 pogroms. On this occasion the arrival of the drunken pogromists was delayed just long enough by the blessed inefficiency of the railway for the Cossacks summoned by the police superintendent to arrive and establish order. That salvation should take the form of a regiment of mounted Cossacks is in itself highly ironic.

Shalom Aleichem's unhappy experiences with the New York Yiddish theater found expression in the serialization between 1909 and 1911 of Blondzhende Shtern (Wandering Star (sic), 1952). The themes bear comparison with those of Stem-penyu and Yosele Solovey, and the novel takes the form of a complex and picaresque story in which two Jewish artists make their way from the shtetl to Second Avenue. The hero is a brilliant star on the Yiddish stage who degenerates both as artist and human being in the New World, unlike the heroine, a singer, who ventures outside the narrowly Jewish world and preserves her integrity. The affinity with Charles Dickens, who was much admired by Shalom Aleichem, is particularly clear in the Whitechapel scenes.

Between 1909 and 1913 Shalom Aleichem and his family moved between health resorts in Nervi and the French Riviera, in the winter, and Switzerland and St. Blasien in the Black Forest, in the summer. Despite ill health and feverish literary activity, this was once more a relatively tranquil and secure interlude in Shalom Aleichem's life. This was also the period in which the "Jubilee" edition of his works in 16 volumes Ale Verk: Yubileum Oysgabe ("Complete Works, Jubilee Edition," 1909–15) was prepared for publication. This edition, which was interrupted owing to difficulties during World War i, did much to establish Shalom Aleichem's literary reputation which had earlier been belittled in some quarters.

The fourth volume of the Yubileum Oysgabe (1910) comprises Menakhem-Mendl (1910; The Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl, 2002). This is the so-called "canonized version" of the Menakhem-Mendl letters that were further, but somewhat unsatisfactorily, expanded as Menakhem-Mendl: Nyu-York-Varshe-Vin-Yehupets (1913; The Further Adventures of Menachem-Mendl: New YorkWarsawViennaYehupetz, 2001). Taken together these series of letters somewhat loosely constitute an epistolary novel, in part inspired by Abramovitsh's Kitser Masoes Binyomin Hashlishi (1878; The Travels and Adventures of Benjamin the Third, 1949). The textual history is somewhat complex, but the 1910 version is the most artistically cohesive. To some extent a self-portrait, though Shalom Aleichem sought to minimize this perception in his introduction to this second edition, Menakhem-Mendl travels from place to place naïvely confident in the imminence of prosperity, meanwhile corresponding with his down-to-earth and skeptical wife, Sheyne-Sheyndl. She urges him to forget his harebrained schemes and hurry home. Her attitude, which is initially somewhat credulous, becomes increasingly skeptical and eventually downright contemptuous, though in the revised versions her tone becomes less abrasive and her common sense is more sympathetically portrayed. Menakhem-Mendl is the quintessence of the luftmentsh trying his hand at all manner of activities, including the stock exchange and the commodity market. He acts as insurance agent, marriage broker, and journalist and eventually goes to New York, though this last episode was dropped in the final version. In the interaction between husband and wife, as Ruth Wisse has shrewdly observed, we see transferred into two characters Tevye's ironic alternation between optimism and tragic resignation. Miron refers to Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza-like archetypes. Marxist critics such as Max Erik have sought to stress Shalom Aleichem's presentation of the hopelessness of Menakhem-Mendl's schemes as an implied critique of capitalism. It would be more accurate to say that Menakhem-Mendl's misfortunes are symptomatic of the arbitrary restrictions placed by the czarist regime on Jewish enterprise, but this is too narrow a perspective. Menakhem-Mendl's willingness to believe that at any moment he will make his fortune and finally free himself and his family from material worries is an ironic reflection of the theme of utopian and eschatological hope that runs through much of Jewish literature.

The fifth volume of the Yubileum Oysgabe comprises Motl Peyse dem Khazns (1911; The Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son, 1953). Shalom Aleichem was at work on Motl Peyse from 1907 right up to a few days before his death. It is a fragmentary novel whose first-person narrator is initially almost nine years-old and may be about 11 by the end of the second part, though his putative age has been the subject of some controversy. After the death of his father and the forced sale of the family's household goods, Motl immigrates with his mother to the U.S. in what Seth Wolitz perceptively describes as a carnivalesque Exodus or secular burlesque of the Haggadah, with the flight from the slavery under the czar across the European wilderness and the Atlantic to the promised city. The critical irony results from the discrepancy between Motl's carefree perception of what are for him wonderful adventures and the perils endured by his mother and indeed the whole community of Russian Jews constantly threatened by pogroms. Meanwhile Motl, rather like Huckleberry Finn, is preoccupied with his blithe pranks or with helping his elder brother in comically vain efforts to make money by selling ink or kvas. The omission of chapters 5 and 16 from volume 5 was occasioned by the publisher's wish to promote the volume as being suitable for children. For the complete text see either vols. 18 & 19 of the Folksfond edition of Ale Verk fun Shalom Aleichem ("Complete Works of Shalom Aleichem," 1920) or Khone Shmeruk's exemplary edition which follows the 1913 Progres text.

The seventh volume of the Yubileum Oysgabe (1911) comprises the Tevye der Milkhiker cycle which by this point was almost complete. The full cycle consists of the following episodes: 1. "Kotoynti" (1903; "I Am Not Worthy," 1994), which had been included in 1895, is omitted from the Yubileum Oysgabe and was advisedly not reprinted until after the author's death. In this prefatory letter, the reader is introduced to the eponymous hero for the first time. Tevye is overawed by Shalom Aleichem's condescending to put him "in a book" and is ashamed of his supposed lack of learning. However, "Kotoynti" and "Vakhalaklakoys" (1918; "Tevye Reads the Psalms," 1969), far from adding anything, detract somewhat from the poignancy of the stories concerning Tevye's daughters; 2. "Dos Groyse Gevins" (1903; the revised version of the story originally entitled "Tevye der Milkhiker," 1895; "Tevye Strikes It Rich," 1979) and relates how Tevye, a country Jew, who struggles to improve his knowledge of scripture, became a dairyman as a result of the generosity of two Yehupets ladies to whom he had given a lift after they had lost their way in the forest; 3. The sequel is "A Boydem" (1899; "The Bubble Bursts," 1949) which relates how Tevye entrusts his savings to his distant relative, Menakhem-Mendl, who loses everything on the Yehupets stock-exchange; 4. In "Hayntike Kinder" (1899; "Modern Children," 1949) it is related how Tevye's eldest daughter, Tseytl, chooses to marry the sickly young tailor, Motl Kamzoyl, rather than the rich elderly butcher, Leyzer-Volf; 5. "Hodl" (1904; "Hodel," 1946) was written just one year before the outbreak of the 1905 revolution. Tevye is offered a financially attractive match for Hodl, his second daughter, but it transpires that she is secretly betrothed to Pertshik, a revolutionary whom Tevye had invited to tutor his daughters, an ironic allusion perhaps to Shalom Aleichem's own romance with Olga/Hodl some quarter of a century earlier. After a hasty wedding, Pertshik departs on a secret mission, is arrested and exiled. As Hodl leaves to join her husband in Siberia, Tevye, who prides himself on his manly stoicism, weeps bitter tears; 6. "Khave" (1906: "Chaveh," 1948) is the story of Tevye's third daughter who elopes with an autodidact Ukrainian clerk whom she regards as a "second Gorki." Tevye attempts to intervene with the village priest but is rebuffed. In accordance with halakhic requirement and despite the promptings of his heart, Tevye performs ritual mourning for his daughter as though she were dead and rejects her when she accosts him in the forest. There is considerable irony in the fact that the threat of assimilation is associated with the name of Gorki, a writer much admired by Shalom Aleichem; 7. "Shprintse" (1907; "Shprintze," 1995) relates how, after the political upheavals of 1905, many wealthy Jews fled from the cities to the countryside, and Tevye had good business delivering diary products to their dachas. The feckless son of a rich widow woos Shprintse, Tevye's fourth daughter. At first Tevye is apprehensive but gradually warms to the idea, beginning once again to dream of the acts of charity he would be able to perform as the father of a millionairess. Suddenly, however, Tevye is summoned by the widow's brother who treats Tevye as a wily schemer and offers him money as compensation for breach of promise. Tevye is so shocked that he simply turns on his heels. Shprintse drowns herself; 8. In "Tevye Fort keyn Erts-Yisroel" (1909; "Tevye Goes to Palestine," 1995), Shalom Aleichem meets a well-dressed Tevye traveling on a train. In the meantime his wife, Golde, has died and his youngest daughter, Beylke, in order to ease her father's misfortunes, has married the proverbially rich Pedahtsur, a parvenu who had made a fortune during the Russo-Japanese war. By now Tevye realizes that even Hodl had done better with her exiled revolutionary idealist. In Pedahtsur's ostentatious mansion, Tevye is a silent witness to his daughter's misery. Embarrassed by Tevye's humble profession, Pedahtsur is ready to pay for him to go to Palestine. Tevye, who has always dreamed of visiting Rachel's tomb and the Western Wall, accepts the offer, expecting never to see his children again. In 1911 Shalom Aleichem saw Tevye's departure for Palestine as the culmination of the cycle. However, three years later, he added one more story together with an epilogue; 9. In "Lekh-Lekho" (1914; "Get Thee Out," 1949) after an interval of many years Shalom Aleichem encounters Tevye once more. The planned journey to the Holy Land had been abandoned when Pedahtsur had gone bankrupt and Motl Kamzoyl had died leaving Tevye responsible for his daughter, Tseytl, and her children. In 1905 pogroms had begun in the large towns and became widespread. The peasants, with whom Tevye had lived in the village in peace for decades, come to his house explaining that, though they have nothing against him personally, they have no choice but at the very least to break a window or two. But this is nothing compared to what happens at the time of the trial of Menahem Nendel *Beilis, when he is driven out of his village. At the moment of departure, Khave returns to share her family's misfortunes. Tevye asks Shalom Aleichem whether he was right to be forgiving, but Tevye, whose grandchildren are waiting, has to leave before Shalom Aleichem has time to answer.

"Vakhalaklakoys" is the sequel to "Lekh-Lekho." It was first published posthumously at the time of the editing of the Folksfond edition. Shalom Aleichem once again meets Tevye on a train and Tevye takes the opportunity to elaborate further on how it was back in 1905, when the hromada or rural assembly had decreed that the Jews be made to feel the wrath of the general community. Tevye had quick-wittedly devised a test to determine whether God truly wanted him to suffer or not, in which the peasants had to attempt to repeat tongue-twisters such as "vakhalaklakoys" and "memaymakim." The choice of these words is, of course, not determined solely by their refractory phonetic qualities, but represents yet another level of Tevye's (and the author's) irony: "Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt… Let their way be dark and slippery: and let the angel of the Lord persecute them" (Ps. 35:4–6); "Out of the depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord. Lord hear my voice: let thine ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications" (Ps.130:1–2). It is sometimes held that Tevye has a shaky grasp of scripture and that his supposedly clumsy misquotations are an element in Shalom Aleichem's humor. Roback for example speaks of "malapropisms" and much the same view is taken by Butwin. More accurate assessments are offered by Michael Stern, Hillel Halkin, and Joseph Sherman: the truth is that Tevye is always in control of his quotations, and whether he cites literally, in modified form or, as he occasionally does when addressing a Pedahtsur or a Leyzer-Volf, in deliberate doggerel, it is always to appropriate ironic effect. When considering Tevye and his quotations – which serve also to anchor the narrative within the context on Jewish literary tradition – it is well to bear in mind that they represent a kind of mythopoeia, a use of language to transcend an unsatisfactory environment, and as such Tevye is a correlative of Shalom Aleichem, and of the artist in general.

The peasants meanwhile not surprisingly fail Tevye's test and in recognition of the fact that Tevye has lived peaceably among them for so many decades and that he is "a Jew, certainly, but not a bad man," they allow him to break a couple of his own windows pro forma. Tevye concludes by bemoaning the insecurity of the Diaspora, but emphasizes by contrast the naturally superior intelligence of Jews which imposes upon them higher moral obligations. Tevye's final word is that should the Messiah not come in the meantime, then perhaps he and Shalom Aleichem may meet again in Yehupets, Odessa, Warsaw, or even America, but in the meantime Shalom Aleichem should give his greetings to the Jews he meets, tell them not to worry and say that "our ancient God lives." Although supposedly related, Menakhem-Mendl and Tevye are very different characters, but they have in common that each episode takes them to a new crisis or catastrophe from which they "bounce back," as Miron puts it, by the power of their fortitude.

The figure of Tevye was based in part on the real-life model encountered in Boyarka but was at the same time inspired by Abramovitsh's itinerant hero, Mendele, a fact to which Shalom Aleichem makes a veiled allusion, as Ken Frieden has noted, in "Hayntike Kinder." Tevye sees himself as a modern Job and alternates between restrained altercations with the inscrutable deity and total resignation. Though he loses his home, his wife, and his daughters, his outlook remains one of self-ironizing good humor. In the revised versions, the narration is entirely in Tevye's voice, enlivened by polyphonic embedding of the disparate voices that Tevye constantly cites. Indeed, it may be said that one of Shalom Aleichem's most characteristic strengths is his ear for distinctive, idiosyncratic discourse, as is also seen clearly in the monologues and the railroad stories.

Though Shalom Aleichem gently mocks would-be social reformers, social tensions nevertheless form an important part of the thematic structure of his Tevye-cycle and of his works in general. An important theme is the contrast between grinding rural penury and the affluence of Jewish urban bourgeoisie of Yehupets (i.e., Kiev). Inequalities of wealth, generational conflict and the contrast between the genders are seen as a microcosm of the strains in Jewish social life in late 19th-century Russia. The political disillusionment that sets in after the collapse of the 1905 revolution is echoed in the contrast between Hodl's idealism and Beylke's resigned pragmatism. Also much in evidence is the dichotomy between Tevye's frequently asserted faith that God will provide and the acerbic skepticism that he applies to the dilemmas of daily life.

The celebration of the beauty of nature in the Ukrainian landscape re-echoes similar passages in Abramovitsh, while the topic of animal welfare is reflected in the story "Tsar-Balekhayim" ("Pity for Living Creatures," 1968) and elsewhere.

In 1914 Shalom Aleichem wrote four film screenplays in Russian that were never produced or published, but which included an adaptation of Tevye which was utilized in part by Charles Davenport in 1919 when he directed his silent film Khave. In 1915 Shalom Aleichem also wrote a dramatized version of the Tevye stories "Khave" and "Lekh-lekho," entitled "Tevye der Milkhiker: A Familyen-Bild in Fir Aktn" ("Tevye the Dairyman: A Family Portrait in Four Acts," 1923), which the famous actor and director Maurice *Shwartz staged in Vienna in 1924. In 1939 Shwartz filmed Tevye der Milkhiker which became one of the most successful of all Yiddish movies. In 1925 Menakhem-Mendl was adapted for the cinema under the direction of Alexander *Granovsky as Yidishe Glikn ("Jewish Luck") with inter-titles by Isaak *Babel and with Solomon *Mikhoels in the role of Menakhem-Mendl. The most celebrated transformation of Shalom Aleichem's Tevye stories was the musical, Fiddler on the Roof (1964), with a score by Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock.

The 12th volume of the Yubileum-Oysgabe (1912) comprises "Marienbad" (1911; Marienbad, 1982), an epistolary novel. Shalom Aleichem returns here to social milieux comparable to those depicted in Yakneho"z, creating a comedy of manners in which the vain pretensions of the superficial nouveau-riche Jewish bourgeoisie of Warsaw is exposed to biting satire, tempered by Shalom Aleichem's compassionate understanding of the all-too-human folly which drives their actions. The work consists of a polyphony of epistolary voices exemplifying a wide range of Yiddish registers from the Galitsyaner to the Litvak, from the Russified speech of Odessa to the semi-illiterate writing of the lottery winner, or to the pretentious Hebrew of pompous fools. Equally interesting from the socio-linguistic point of view is the high status accorded to German, which various characters attempt to employ with varying degrees of accuracy. The complex plot of Marienbad involves numerous wealthy Jews and their wives mainly from Nalewki Street in Warsaw, but also from Kishinev, Bialystok, Odessa, etc., whose spouses are in Marienbad nominally in order to take the waters, but who are in reality more concerned with flirting, playing cards, or securing matches for their daughters. "The world has changed," as the main female protagonist, Beltshi Kurlender, writes to her husband in Warsaw, and these characters, whose ancestors had for centuries lived the traditional life of the shtetl, have seen their world transformed by wealth and are themselves often amazed at the changes their lives have undergone. Not so far, perhaps as to permit anything particularly reprehensible to occur, but through misunderstandings, gossip, and the malice born of blind jealousy, severe matrimonial strife and at least one divorce result. Bourgeois Jewish Warsaw and Tevye are, of course, worlds apart, but the Yamaytshikhe and Tevye have in common the problem of finding matches for numerous daughters. The action is datable to the summer of 1911 on account of the mention of the visit of the shadkhn, Svirski, to the 10th Zionist Conference, which Shalom Aleichem himself attended in Basel in August. Note also the irony with which Khayim Soroker, for example, laments his failings as a writer, while his wife, Ester, compares his letters to a feuilleton.

In 1911 Shalom Aleichem's works began to appear in the Hebrew translation of his son-in-law, the Yiddish and Hebrew writer Y.D. Berkovitz, Kitvei Shalom-Aleikhem ("Works of Shalom-Aleichem," 3 vols., Warsaw, 1911–13). In fact, Shalom Aleichem had been participating in the preparation of this edition from 1905 onwards. The relationship of Shalom Aleichem's Russian and Hebrew works to his Yiddish oeuvre has still to be adequately investigated, but it may be said that, in a manner which is similar to the gestation of many of Mendele's works and anticipates the relationship between the Yiddish and English versions of the works of Isaac *Bashevis Singer, Shalom Aleichem worked together with Berkovitsh and made changes to the text, especially the endings, during the process of translation, and these emendations were in turn adopted in subsequent Yiddish editions.

The 16th volume of the Yubileum-Oysgabe (1915) comprises an incomplete version of the novel Blutiker Shpas (the complete text is only to be found in the 1923 two-volume edition; The Bloody Hoax, 1991). This novel was later dramatized and popularized as Shver tsu Zayn a Yid ("It's Hard to Be a Jew," 1948). It explores the complexities of Jewish-gentile relations and narrates the romantic complications arising in the household of Dovid Shapiro as the result of the exchange of identities between the talented Jewish student, Hershl Shneyerson, who lacks a pravozhitelʹstvo or residency permit and is unable to secure a university place, and his friend, Ivan Ivanov, the privileged son of a Russian general.

In 1913 Shalom Aleichem commenced work on a truly comprehensive edition of his works that was planned to comprise 40 volumes. In fact, only 28 volumes appeared posthumously (1917–23).

In the spring of 1914 he set out on a reading tour of Russia which was to take him to 20 cities including Warsaw, where he visited Peretz (see: "A Vokh mit Y.L. Perets" ("A Week with I.L. Peretz," 1915). At the beginning of World War i, Shalom Aleichem was taking a holiday on the Baltic coast of Germany following the conclusion of his Russian tour. As an "enemy alien" he was obliged to leave Germany and managed to reach Copenhagen, where he remained for several months in ill health and without financial support until he was able to embark for the U.S., where he arrived with his family (except for his eldest son, Misha) in December. In New York he was once again given an enthusiastic welcome and a reception was organized for him in Carnegie Hall, but serious support was not forthcoming. Cut off from his income in Europe, he was obliged to undertake further reading tours and wrote for the New York Yiddish press. He was diagnosed as having incipient diabetes, but was not in a financial position to spend the winter in the south as his doctors advised.

In 1915 Shalom Aleichem's autobiography, Funem Yarid, was serialized in Der Tog. In the past he had made several attempts to begin this work, but it was not until 1913, while living in Switzerland, that he began writing Funem Yarid in earnest. He lived to write two and a half of the projected 10 parts. In its incomplete form, the story covers the author's childhood and his romance with Olga Loyeva up to the moment at which they are about to be parted. It is noticeable that the cyclical structure of this work is comparable to that of Tevye, Menakhem-Mendl and other works with their ever recurring peripeteiai of the stroke of luck followed by catastrophe.

On September 19, 1915, while living in Lenox Avenue in Harlem, Shalom Aleichem was deeply shocked to hear of the death of Misha, from tuberculosis in a sanatorium in Copenhagen. On receiving this shattering news, Shalom Aleichem decided to rewrite his "Tsavoe" (1923; "The Last Will and Testament of Shalom Aleichem," 1994).

Despite failing health, financial difficulties compelled him to undertake yet another reading tour in 1916. One of his last stories, "A Mayse mit a Grinhorn" (1916; "Business with a Greenhorn," 2004), was published in Di Vorhayt in January. This monologue is told directly to the reader, without the need for Shalom Aleichem to act as addressee, in the voice of Mr. Baraban, a Jewish-American businessman, full of complacent contempt for the "greenhorn," potentiated by ugly sexual jealousy. This is a portrait of sheer meanness in the ruthless commercial atmosphere of New York City and is further evidence of Shalom Aleichem's growing disillusionment with the purported advantages of the New World. The story is so interlarded with Anglicisms that Berkovitz found it necessary to append a glossary, and it is evidence of Shalom Aleichem's uncannily accurate ear for language that after a comparatively brief acquaintance with the U.S. he was able to make virtuoso, satirical use of this register. In this context it is interesting to note that in a high proportion of the surviving portraits of Shalom Aleichem, he is depicted with his pocket notebook in his hand and it was undoubtedly to his habit of constantly noting down the turns of phrase that he heard around him that much of the accuracy of his narrative voices may be attributed.

On May 13, 1916, shortly after moving to Kelly Street in the Bronx and while still at work on the last unfinished chapter of Motl Peyse dem Khazns, Shalom Aleichem died of tuberculosis. Vast crowds attended his funeral, and he was mourned throughout the Jewish world. He was buried in the "Honor Row" of the Arbeter Ring section of the Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens, New York.

After his death his popularity continued to increase not only with the Yiddish readership, but also in translation, especially in Russian, English, and Hebrew. In the 1920s and 1930s Shalom Aleichem's reputation grew steadily as the result of positive evaluation by such critics as *Baal-Makhshoves, M. *Wiener, Maks *Erik, Elye Spivak and I.J. *Trunk.

Works and Correspondence

The most complete edition of Shalom Aleichem's works to date is the Folksfond edition in 28 vols., 1917–25, reprinted several times. Valuable for its critical introductions is the 16–vol. edition of the Oysgeveylte Verk ("Selected Works," Moscow, 1935–41). In 1948 a critical edition of Shalom Aleichem's collected works was initiated in Moscow by N. Oyslender and A. Frumkin. Only the first three volumes (of a projected 20) appeared. These include the complete Yiddish belletristic writings of the years 1883–90, most of which are unavailable elsewhere. The editorial work of Oyslender and Frumkin together with Kh. Shmeruk's editing of Dos Meserl (1983) and Motl Peyse (1997) serve as models for a complete critical edition of Shalom Aleichem's works, which remains an as yet unrealized desideratum.

Much of Shalom Aleichem's correspondence remains unpublished. Selections are to be found in Y.D. Berkowitz (ed.), Dos Shalom Aleichem Bukh (1926, 1958); Oysgeveylte Verk 16 (1941); A. Lis (ed.), Briv fun Shalom Aleichem, 18791916 (1995). For a list of published letters to individuals see U. Weinreich, in: Field of Yiddish (1954), 280–1.

Selective List of Works in English Translation

Stempenyu, tr. H. Berman (1913); Inside Kasrilevke, tr. I. Gold-stick (1945, 1973); The Old Country, tr. J. & F. Butwin (1946, 1973); Sholom Aleichem Panorama, ed. M.W. Grafstein, 1948; Tevye's Daughters, tr. F. Butwin (1949, 1999); Wandering Star, tr. F. Butwin (1952); The Adventures of Mottel, the Cantor's Son, tr. T. Kahana (1953, 1999); The Bewitched Tailor, tr. B. Isaacs (1956, 1999); Selected Stories, ed. A. Kazin (1956); Stories and Satires, tr. C. Leviant (1959, 1999); The Tevye Stories and Others, tr. J. & F. Butwin (1965); Old Country Tales, tr. C. Leviant (1966, 1999); Some Laughter, Some Tears, tr. C. Leviant (1968, 1979); The Adventures of Menahem Mendl, tr. T. Kahana (1969, 1999); Holiday Tales of Sholom Aleichem, tr. A. Shevrin (1979, 1985); The Best of Sholom Aleichem, ed. I. Howe & R. Wisse (1979, 1982); Marienbad, tr. A. Shevrin (1982); Why Do the Jews Need a Land of Their Own? tr. J. Leftwich & M. Chertoff (1984); In the Storm, tr. A Shevrin (1984); From the Fair: The Autobiography of Sholom Aleichem, tr. C. Leviant (1985, 1986); The Nightingale: Or the Saga of Yosele Solovey the Cantor, tr. A Shevrin (1985, 1987); Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories, tr. H. Halkin (1987); Tevye the Dairyman and Other Stories, tr. M. Katz (1988); The Jackpot, tr. K. Weitzner & B. Zumoff (1989); The Bloody Hoax, tr. A. Shevrin (1991); Selected Works of Shalom Aleichem, ed. M.S. Zuckerman & M. Herbst (1995); Song of Songs, tr. Curt Leviant (1996); A Treasury of Sholom Aleichem Children's Stories, tr. A. Shevrin (1996); Nineteen to the Dozen: Monologues and Bits and Bobs of Other Things, tr. T. Gorelick (1998); The Further Adventures of Menachem-Mendl, tr. A. Shevrin (2001); The Letters of Menakhem-Mendl & Sheyne-Sheyndl and Motl, the Cantor's Son, tr. H. Halkin (2002). Many further translations have been published in anthologies, journals and collections including Classic Yiddish Stories of S.Y. Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, and I.L. Peretz, ed. K. Frieden (2004).


No critical biography of Shalom Aleichem has yet been written, but there is a rich memoir literature: Y.D. Berkovitsh, Ha-Rishonim ki-Vnei Adam: Sippurei Zikhronot al Shalom-Aleikhem uVnei-Doro (1938–43, 1959, 19763), tr. as Undzere Rishoynim (1966); Y.D. Berkovitsh, "Memories of Sholem Aleichem," tr. K. Frieden (from Dos Shalom Aleichem Bukh), in K. Frieden (ed.), Classic Yiddish Stories (2004), 207–40; V. Rabinovitsh, Mayn Bruder, Shalom Aleichem: Zikhroynes (1939); M. Waife-Goldberg, My Father, Sholom Aleichem (1968, 1971). Attempts at objective biography are to be found in U. Finkl, Shalom Aleichem, 18591939 (1939); U. Finkl, Shalom Aleichem: Monografye (1959).


B. Borokhov, "Di Bibliografye fun Shalom Aleichem," in: Shprakhforshung un Literatur-Geshikhte (1966), 218–67; L. Fridhandler, "Guide to English Translations of Sholom Aleichem," in: Jewish Book Annual, 45 (1987–88), 121–42; D.N. Miller, "Sholem-Aleichem in English: The Most Accessible Translations," in: Yiddish, 2/4 (1977), 61–70; U. Weinreich, "Principal Research Sources" and "Guide to English Translations of Sholom Aleichem," in: The Field of Yiddish (1954), 278–84, 285–91; Y. Yeshurin, in: Tevye der Milkhiker (1966), 256–84. research: Many thousands of articles and reviews have been written on Shalom Aleichem's works. The following selection is of necessity very limited: Z. Rejzen, in: Leksikon, 4 (1929), 673–736; Z. Zilbercweig, in: Leksikon fun Yidishn Teater, 4 (1963), 3309–578; lnyl, 8 (1981), 677–720; A. Aharoni, Shalom-Aleikhem be-Or Ḥadash (2002); Bal-Makhshoves, "Shalom Aleichem," in: Geklibene Shriftn, 1 (1929), 91–100; Y. Dobrushin, "Shalom Aleichems Dramaturgye," in: Tsaytshrift, 2–3 (Minsk, 1928), 405–24; I. Druker, Shalom Aleichem: Kritishe Shtudyen (1939); M. Erik, "Oyf di Shpurn fun Menakhem-Mendlen," in: Bikhervelt, 1 (1928), 3–10; 2 (1928), 13–17; K. Frieden, "Sholem Aleichem: Monologues of Mastery," in: Modern Language Studies, 19 (1989), 25–37; idem, Classic Yiddish Fiction, Abramovitsh, Sholem-Aleichem, and Peretz (1995), 95–224; Y. Glatshteyn, "Menakhem-Mendl," in: In Tokh Genumen (1947), 469–84; J. Hadda, Passionate Women, Passive Men (1988), 43–55; H. Halkin, introductions to Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories (1987), ix–xli, and The Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl and Motl, the Cantor's Son (2002), vii–xxix; R. Keenoy, "Sholem Aleichem," in: Jewish Writers of the Twentieth Century (2003), 530–3; S. Liptzin, The Flowering of Yiddish Literature (1963), 88–97; C.A. Madison, Yiddish Literature: Its Scope and Major Writers (19712), 61–98; D.B. Malkin, Ha-Universali be-Shalom-Aleikhem (1970); N. Mayzl, Undzer Shalom Aleichem (1959); D. Miron, The Image of the Shtetl and Other Studies (2000), 128–334; S. Niger, Shalom Aleichem: Zayne Vikhtikste Verk, Zayn Humor un Zayn Ort in der Yidisher Literatur (1928); A. Norich, "Portraits of the Artist in Three Novels by Sholem Aleichem," in: Prooftexts, 4:3 (1984), 237–51; N. Oyslender, "Der Yunger Shalom Aleichem un Zayn Roman Stempenyu," in: Shriftn fun der Katedre, 1 (1928), 5–72; L. Prager, "Shalom Aleichem's First Feuilleton Series," in: Jewish Book Annual, 44 (1986–7), 120–31; D.G. Roskies, Against the Apocalypse (1984), 163–95; D. Sadan, "Sar ha-Humor," in: Avnei Miftan 1, (1961), 26–56; M. Samuel, The World of Sholom Aleichem (1973); N. Sandrow, Vagabond Stars: A World History of Yiddish Theater (1996), 179–83; Kh. Shmeruk, Ayarot u-Khrakhim: Perakim bi-Yẓirato shel Shalom-Aleikhem (2000); E. Spivak, Sholem Aleykhems Shprakh un Stil (1940); Y.Y. Trunk, Shalom Aleichem, Zayn Vezn un Zayne Verk (1937); idem, Tevye un Menakhem-Mendl in Yidishn Velt-Goyrl (1944); S. Werses, "Shalom-Aleikhem: ha-Arakhot ve-Gilguleihen ba-Aspaklaryah shel Ḥamishim Shenot Bikoret," in: Molad, 133–34 (1959), 404–21; M. Viner, Tsu der Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Literatur in 19tn Yorhundert, 2 (19462), 235–378; M. Waxman, A History of Jewish Literature, 4:1 (19602), 507–21; J. Weitzner, Sholem Aleichem in the Theatre (1994); R.R. Wisse, The Schlemiel As Modern Hero (1971), 41–57; idem, The Modern Jewish Canon (2000), 31–64; idem, Sholem Aleichem and the Art of Communication (1980).

[Hugh Denman (2nd ed.)]