Argu­ing with the Storm: Sto­ries by Yid­dish Women Writers

Rhea Trege­bov, ed.; Kathryn Heller­stein, intro.
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

Dis­cov­ery of a file of unknown man­u­scripts holds spe­cial appeal for booklovers. A com­bi­na­tion of librar­i­ans, a Yid­dish read­ing cir­cle, and the Win­nipeg Jew­ish Pub­lic Library have pre­sent­ed us with a gem — four­teen short sto­ries, many pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished, all writ­ten by Jew­ish women, but hith­er­to untrans­lat­ed from the Yid­dish. Storm’s” nine trans­la­tors, four from the Win­nipeg Yid­dish Women’s Read­ing Cir­cle, and five oth­ers, are all duly cred­it­ed, in Tregebov’s preface. 

Adding to her sub­stan­tial intro­duc­tion, Kathryn Heller­stein recaps bio­graph­i­cal and crit­i­cal details on every author/​story, pre­ced­ing each work with indi­vid­ual assess­ments — and occa­sion­al­ly intrud­ing on their affect because her gloss­es are exces­sive. Pho­tographs of the eight writ­ers enhance the collection. 

Each sto­ry shines. Rela­tions with par­ents, sib­lings, lovers, the envi­rons, the soci­ety, are all explored. They vary from Rus­sia in 1875 to post-Holo­caust, in Europe, Israel, Cana­da, and the Unit­ed States. With extreme brevi­ty, most con­vey a time, place, and emo­tion skill­ful­ly. Curi­ous­ly, all reach some­what the same lev­el of read­er involvement. 

Author Rochel Broches, how­ev­er, jolts the read­er with her Lit­tle Abra­hams.” The longest of the four­teen sto­ries, her top­ic and unsen­ti­men­tal terse­ness cap­ture the read­er. Broches’ pre­sen­ta­tion of the ghast­li­ness of Czarist Rus­sia and adjust­ments to it made by Jews chok­ing on pover­ty lingers, over­rid­ing innu­mer­able por­tray­als of shtetl soci­ety read before. This col­lec­tion has con­sid­er­able appeal. 

This vol­ume is part of the Reuben/​Rifkin Jew­ish Women Writ­ers Series, a joint project of the Hadas­sah-Bran­deis Insti­tute at Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty and the Fem­i­nist Press at CUNY. Acknowl­edge­ments, bib­li­o­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion, bib­li­o­graph­i­cal infor­ma­tion in Yid­dish, glos­sary, intro­duc­tion, preface.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

Discussion Questions