Among the dwindling ranks of Yiddishists, Isaac Bashevis Singer is not the superstar your Hebrew School teacher would have had you believe. “I. B. Singer wasn’t half as good a writer as I. J. Singer—I. B.’s older brother, Israel Joshua—who had died in 1944,” the experts kvetch, according to a 2004 New Yorker article by Nextbook Press editor Jonathan Rosen. “In their view, Bashevis—as I. B. Singer was known to his Yiddish readers—wasn’t really a Yiddish writer at all, just an Anglicizing panderer who, through cunning and longevity, had snookered an ignorant American readership into believing that his concocted shtetl stories were the real thing.” The elder Singer, on the other hand, won the favor of Abraham Cahan, founder of the Yiddish Forward, with his journalism and fiction, and there is at least one other place the near-forgotten scribe has found popularity: his Facebook fan page (of course Bashevis has a couple too, but those were probably built into the site’s original software). While some argue that the Holocaust buoyed the reputation of I.B., maybe social networking will be the unlikely catalyst to a revival of I.J.
Israel Joshua Singer Appreciation Society [Facebook]