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Death of a Yiddish Giant

Remembering I.L. Peretz, who died 100 years ago this week

by
Eddy Portnoy
April 02, 2015

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the death of I.L. Peretz, perhaps the most important cultural figure in the history of modern Jewish literature. One of the three major writers of the first generation of Yiddish literature together with Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Moykher-Sforim, Peretz developed a distinctly Yiddish form of humanism that was strongly secular although very much grounded in traditional, religious sources. A proponent of Yiddish cultural autonomy, he felt that the culture of Yiddish could carry the Jewish people into modernity, serving as the main vehicle for their national culture, as Polish did for Poles. Essentially the founder of a school of Yiddish ethical humanism, his work not only reveals the tenuous world of Yiddish-speaking Jewry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but contains themes that are still relevant today. Using rare images from the archives of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, we take a look at the life of a Jewish literary giant.

☛ Click on the link to the left to launch the slideshow with explanatory text. 

Eddy Portnoy, a contributing editor for Tablet Magazine, is the Academic Advisor and Exhibitions Curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. He is also the author of Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press.

Eddy Portnoy, the Academic Adviser and Exhibitions Curator at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, is the author of Bad Rabbi and Other Strange but True Stories from the Yiddish Press.

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