Friday, February 18, 2011

Sholem Aleichem (February 18, 1859)

Sholem Aleichem may be one of the best-known Yiddish writers from Eastern Europe. His character Tevye the milkman became the hero of the American musical "Fiddler on the Roof," which among other things periodically gives high school drama students in Middle America an opportunity to imitate a Yiddish accent in their Senior Class Performance. (Please spare me.)

For many readers, Sholem Aleichem's stories define life in the Russian or Polish Shtetls where their ancestors came from; since his perspective is secular even though his characters are nearly always religious in some way, he's an important source of identity information to both secular and religious Jews.

Sholem Aleichem was born before the Russians adopted the current calendar, so his birthdate is also given as March 2. Of course his name actually means "Hello" or "Peace" -- his real name was Sholem Rabinowitz.

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