Secular "Yiddishkait:" Left Politics, Culture, and Community

Ester Reiter
2002 Labour (Halifax)  
Shnel loyfh di reder Vild klapn mahshinen In shop is shmutzik un heys Di kop vert fartumlt In oygn vert finster Finster fun trern un shveys Loyft um der mayster A chaye, a vilde Er traybt tsu der sh'chite di shof O, vi lang vet ir vartn Vi lang vet ir duldn Arbeter brider vacht oyf Wheels turning so swiftly Wildly pounding machinery The shop is dirty and hot My head how its aching My eyes see the darkness Darkness from tears and sweat All around runs the foreman A beast, a wild one He drives to
more » ... the slaughter, the sheep Oh, how long will you wait How long to be patient? Wake up, working brother, wake up! THE WELL KNOWN YIDDISH POET, David Edelstadt, came to the United States in 1881, worked in sweatshops where he contracted tuberculosis, and died in 1892 at the age of 26. The song called "Sweatshop" eloquently expresses why Jews found left politics so compelling. For many of my parents' generation who arrived in the new world after the turn of the 20th century, first hand experience with the bloody pogroms in eastern Europe and the contemptuous treatment meted out to "greenhorns" in the new world taught them that to be a Jew, to be a Jew with dignity and with hope, meant to be a socialist, a communist -someone who had the courage From Jerry Silverman, The Yiddish Song Booo (New York 1983), ,68. Note: the English translation is not a literal one, but provides a sense of the mood Edelstadt conveys in Yiddish. Thus, e.g. "Shnel loyfn di reder" is translated as "wheels turning so swiftly" rather than "wheels running quickly." It is not clear whether Silverman himself did the translation. Ester Reiter, "Secular Yiddishkait: Left tolitics, Culture, ,nd Community," Labour/I^ Travail, 49 (Sprrng 2002)) ,21146.
doi:10.2307/25149216 fatcat:bbk3me6g4zafppp36up4m3pbym