Glimmer of Hope for Soviet Yiddish Culture, Says Yivo Director

There are “fledgling signs that a dismal picture” of Jewish culture in the Soviet Union are getting better, says Samuel Norich, executive director of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Norich was addressing a commemorative ceremony Wednesday evening at the Workmen’s Circle here for the 24 Yiddish poets murdered Aug. 12, 1952 in Moscow’s Lubianka Prison.

Norich said that since the 1960′s, books by the murdered writers have been published sporadically, albeit with no biographies underneath the authors’ photographs. Publication of these writers’ works indicates “exoneration without rehabilitation,” Norich told JTA.

He spoke of publication of Yiddish papers in the USSR as a positive sign, signalling the Sovietische Heimland, published in Moscow, and the Birobidjaner Shtern, published several times a week in the Soviet Jewish autonomous region of Birobidjan. Whereas Heimland publishes book and theater reviews, commentaries and Yiddish translations of declarations by the Communist Party, said Norich, “the Jewish content of the Birobidjaner Shtern is even more interesting,” Norich said.

He also referred to a claim by the Heimland editor that a Russian-Yiddish dictionary was being published. This assertion was made in a New York Times interview in 1984. Although publication of Yiddish books now pales in comparison to what it used to be through the 1940′s and ending in 1948, Norich is cautiously optimistic. “I expect that what has happened (with glasnost) in other fields of Soviet life will happen in Yiddish life, as well.”

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