Warsaw as a Center of Yiddish Culture


Aaron Zeitlin . In addition to engaging in polemics against the former group in various forums , these writers also sought to offer an artistic alternative to De Khalyastre . That group disbanded within about a year , and the excitement it aroused died down . This was matched by a considerable decrease in the number of literary journals in ( and outside ) Warsaw , leaving a sense of a literary vacuum . Following the appearance of a Polish periodical on literary and cultural affairs , a number of writers – veterans of De Khalyastre – along with the energetic cultural figure Nachman Meisel , began to publish a similar journal , Literarische Bleter ( Literary Pages ) . Under Meisel’s editorship , the journal appeared weekly , from April 1924 to July 1939 . This was the most important Yiddish periodical on literature and cultural affairs to be published in Poland . Not only did it offer its readership literary works ( including those in translation ) , it also included literary and theatrical criticism , and news from the realm of Yiddish literature in Poland and abroad , along with reports on world literatures . The young authors who wrote in Yiddish in Warsaw in the middle of the 1920 s aimed to present modern Yiddish literature to the world at large and gain recognition for it . Upon the joint initiative of Nachman Meisel in Warsaw and critic Leo Koenig in London , Jewish literature ( in Yiddish and in Hebrew ) was accepted in 1927 as an equal member in the international writers ’ organization PEN . The PEN club of Yiddish writers had three branches : Warsaw , Vilna , and New York , and its honorary president was Sholem Asch , who was a constant visitor within Jewish writers ’ circles in Warsaw . The representatives of Yiddish literature were always in attendance at the yearly meetings of the international organization . Aside from presenting Yiddish works to the world , from the early 1930 s , they also made efforts to publicize the persecution of Jewish and other writers and intellectuals in Nazi Germany , and warned of growing Polish anti-Semitism . Jewish literary life in Warsaw revolved around the Writers ’ and Journalists ’ Association at 13 Tlomackie Street . In addition to ensuring proper working conditions and the literary rights of its members ( areas in which its achievements were meager ) , it also served as a gathering place for its members and for all who held Yiddish culture dear . Every visitor from abroad felt obligated to stop in there , and usually to speak at the Association as well . Trenchant debates over the character and future of Yiddish literature were conducted in the Association’s hall . This was where young writers challenged the conservative establishment , and was also the venue for diverse cultural activity for the benefit of the public at large . For many years the Association maintained its nonpartisan image , which found expression in the composition of its elected executive committees . However , in the Jewish political reality in Poland in those years , such a phenomenon could not endure for long , and during the 1930 s the Association’s hall became an arena for political jousting , before a group of writers from the radical left came to dominate the executive , thereby impairing the Association’s unique character . Warsaw’s senior standing , in comparison to the other centers of Jewish literature in Moscow and New York , was unquestioned . While the Soviet center became increasingly subject to external dictates , and while complaints were frequently heard in the New York center about the declining demand for works in Yiddish , Warsaw was a community in which Yiddish still set the tone ( despite the constant shift to the use of Polish ) . The community of Yiddish writers in Warsaw ( and in all of Poland ) was the largest and most prolific , and the publishers in the city continued to print books by local authors , as well as those sent to them from abroad . Despite all this , and notwithstanding the fact that the number of Yiddish books exceeded that of books in any of the minority languages in Poland , the Yiddish book market faced a crisis , whose

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