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Did Inna Grade Leave a Will?

Yiddish writer’s papers may wind up in Jerusalem

Ari M. Brostoff
May 25, 2010
Inna Grade.(Jack Manning/The New York Times/Redux)
Inna Grade.(Jack Manning/The New York Times/Redux)

The New York Times (a daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture) has published the latest in its series of items on Inna Grade, who died two weeks ago. (The Times broke the news of her death. Oh, no, sorry, that was us, though you wouldn’t know it from the NYT—not to be peevish or anything.)

Inna Grade was the 85-year-old widow of the Yiddish writer Chaim Grade. She was best known in Yiddish literary circles as a somewhat miserable person who spent three decades after her husband’s death blocking scholars and translators from coming anywhere near his work. Many of those scholars and translators started chomping at the bit when Grade died earlier this month, seemingly without a will—and thus no clear inheritor of Chaim’s literary estate.

But a New York attorney is now claiming that Grade composed a will, back in 1992, and that he has a copy. The lawyer told the Times that Grade wanted her husband’s papers to go to a Hebrew University professor of Yiddish named Yehiel Szeintuch and his wife. If valid, the will is a blow to organizations like the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which has reportedly expressed interest in acquiring Chaim Grade’s papers. Additionally, the Times reports that two septuagenarians who say they are Inna Grade’s first cousins have come forward as well, but have not expressed interest in her husband’s estate.

One thing is for sure: There’s a great sultry jazz number missing from Fiddler on the Roof. “If Inna’s got a will, baby, Inna’s got a way.”

Ari M. Brostoff is Culture Editor at Jewish Currents.