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The Yeshiva, Chaim Grade (1968)

A work of genius by one who was passed over

by
Yair Rosenberg
September 17, 2013

Remember the 1978 Nobel Prize in Literature they gave to Isaac Bashevis Singer? In the opinion of more than a few, its rightful owner was actually a man named Chaim Grade. Reputed to be one the last secular Yiddish authors reared in a European yeshiva, Grade was raised in Vilna, a place renowned for its religious and cultural dynamism. Many see his fiction, which vividly evokes this environment of his youth, as the most realistic and authentic reconstruction of that time and place. Perhaps Grade’s best portrait of that life, The Yeshiva tells the story of Tzemakh Atlas, a young rabbi of the Mussar movement who wrestles with his spiritual demons while building several yeshivot in Polish Lithuania. An immersive portrayal of prewar European religious life, Grade’s opus offers a rare window into a world that tragically no longer exists.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

Yair Rosenberg is a senior writer at Tablet. Subscribe to his newsletter, listen to his music, and follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

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