Women & Yiddish

Shifra Whiteman

Since the premier issue in 1976, Lilith has been involved in the retrieval of women’s writing in Yiddish–from the bilingual Yiddish/English poetry of Irena Klepfisz to original translations of the work of Esther Singer Kreitman, the forgotten sister of I.B. and I.J. Singer. (Sidenote: their mother insisted that Esther burn many of her manuscripts, claiming that writing would render her unmarriageable.)

Thanks to the generosity of Elaine Reuben, Lilith has been able to create this online anthology from our archives: translations, essays and culture reporting, all with Yiddish at their core.




Discovering Lost Jewish Songs from World War II

Summer 2018 

University of Toronto professor of Yiddish Anna Shternshis was visiting Kiev during the early 2000s when she made an extraordinary discovery.


Women Sing of Family Violence 

Spring 2011
by Adrienne Cooper with Sarah Mina Gordon
Taking up the tradition of truth-telling in Yiddish music, we hear the dark stories in those familiar tunes.

Gender Rebellion in Yiddish Film (It’s More Than Victor/Victoria!)
Winter 1995-1996
by Eve Sicular
“Trouser roles” aren’t just the property of Marlene Deitrich and Julie Andrews. Read here about Molly Picon’s popular crossdressing—-and what the droll, surprisingly subversive world of Yiddish film reveals. What’s gender anxiety got to do with Jewish anxiety? Lots.

Esther Singer Kreitman: The Trammeled Talent of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Neglected Sister
Spring 1991
by Clive Sinclair
An uncommon glimpse into sibling politics and the hidden dynamics of Eastern Europe’s famous literary family. Why don’t we know about the sister?

The New World
Spring 1991
by Esther Singer Kreitman, translated by Barbara Harshav
An eerily autobiographical short story about a newborn daughter—an infant whose realities fail to live up to her own prenatal expectations.

God of Vengeance
Spring 1988
by Kaier Curtin
The Roaring 20’s lesbian play that rocked Broadway came from the pen of Yiddish writer Sholom Asch.

Mother Nature and Human Nature: the Poetry of Malka Heifetz Tussman
Fall 1987
by Marcia Falk
One of the many gifted women of her generation writing in Yiddish, Tussman—who died recently at 91—is remembered here by a younger poet. An added attraction: Falk’s translation of Tussman’s poetry.

A Woman’s Wrath
Fall 1976
by I.L. Peretz, translated by Zora Zagrabelna
A truer picture than “Fiddler on the Roof” of what shtetl life was like for women – a new translation from the work of the great Yiddish storyteller.