Yes­ter­day, Nora Gold wrote about Leah Gold­berg, poet­ry, and the title for her newest book, Fields of Exile. She has been blog­ging here all week for Jew­ish Book Coun­cil and MyJew­ish­Learn­ing.

A few days ago my nov­el, Fields of Exile, was pub­lished in the USA, and this month marks exact­ly four years since I start­ed the free online lit­er­ary jour­nal that I cre­at­ed and edit, Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net. The con­ver­gence of these two events has got me think­ing about soli­tari­ness and com­mu­ni­ty in the lives of writers.

I feel very for­tu­nate to be both a writer and the edi­tor of Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net. Writ­ing is a soli­tary activ­i­ty, and this jour­nal pro­vides me with a kind of com­mu­ni­ty since pro­duc­ing it occurs in com­mu­nal, social space. In our first four years, Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net has pub­lished 186 first-rate works of fic­tion (sto­ries or nov­el excerpts) that had nev­er pre­vi­ous­ly been pub­lished in Eng­lish, and that were orig­i­nal­ly writ­ten in eleven lan­guages and on five con­ti­nents. We’re hon­oured to have pub­lished some of the most well-known Jew­ish writ­ers liv­ing today, as well as many fine writ­ers who are not yet well-known.

I’m often asked why I start­ed Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net, and the answer is that — in light of the cri­sis in the pub­lish­ing indus­try — I was con­cerned that a lot of the great Jew­ish fic­tion being writ­ten now around the world would get lost. Recent­ly, though, reflect­ing on the upcom­ing fourth birth­day of Jew­ish Fic​tion​.net, I rec­og­nized anoth­er, sub­tler antecedent to the birth of this journal.

My pater­nal grand­moth­er, Leah Shtein­man Gold, strong­ly believed that she (and every­one else) had an oblig­a­tion to sup­port Jew­ish writ­ers and artists. I heard her say more than once, We have to feed our poets.” She meant this not only fig­u­ra­tive­ly — she was gen­er­ous in her encour­age­ment and appre­ci­a­tion for their work — but also lit­er­al­ly. In the world she lived in, Yid­dish-speak­ing Mon­tréal, her home was a haven for strug­gling poets, writ­ers, and intel­lec­tu­als, and she often fed them actu­al meals. Some of my less char­i­ta­ble rel­a­tives referred to these peo­ple as shnor­rers,” but my grand­moth­er stout­ly reject­ed this char­ac­ter­i­za­tion. They are our writ­ers,” she’d say. We have to sup­port them. They’re the future of our culture.”

She also helped these writ­ers by always try­ing to find work for them. One result of this was that my father learned his bar mitz­vah por­tion from the great poet Yud Yud Segal, and one of my broth­ers and I got week­ly lessons in Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture from Sholem Shtern, anoth­er fine poet. I remem­ber how, when­ev­er Lerer (Teacher) Shtern came to our home for a les­son, first of all he’d receive a cup of cof­fee cof­fee and a bagel. For me, there­fore, food and lit­er­a­ture became inti­mate­ly inter­twined. One fed a Yid­dish poet and he fed you Yid­dish poetry.

As I rem­i­nisce about this now, per­haps it’s not sur­pris­ing that I start­ed a jour­nal to help Jew­ish writ­ers. Maybe this impulse runs in my blood. But here’s what’s sur­pris­ing about it. In giv­ing Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net to the inter­na­tion­al Jew­ish lit­er­ary com­mu­ni­ty, I got some­thing back. In feed­ing oth­er writ­ers, I’ve been fed, too. Through bring­ing togeth­er writ­ers from around the world and intro­duc­ing them to each oth­er, and intro­duc­ing all these writ­ers to our journal’s large read­er­ship, I’ve met many inter­est­ing, delight­ful writ­ers from Aus­tralia, Ser­bia, Argenti­na, Israel, Rus­sia, Roma­nia, Spain, Poland, France, Croa­t­ia, Iraq, the UK, and of course North America.

What I have been giv­en — what I have received — from Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net is some­thing incom­pa­ra­bly pre­cious: a lit­er­ary com­mu­ni­ty, maybe even a lit­er­ary home. And what greater gift could there be to any writer, strug­gling alone in soli­tari­ness, than to know that one’s work is being — even if invis­i­bly — sup­port­ed, cher­ished, and appre­ci­at­ed, and that in our soli­tary writ­ing lives, we are not alone?

Nora Gold’s book, Fields of Exile, is the first nov­el about anti-Israelism on cam­pus. Gold is also the author of the acclaimed Mar­row and Oth­er Sto­ries, the cre­ator and edi­tor of the pres­ti­gious online lit­er­ary jour­nal Jew​ish​Fic​tion​.net, a blog­ger for The Jew­ish Thinker” at Haaretz, the Writer-in-Res­i­dence and an Asso­ciate Schol­ar at CSWE/​OISE/​University of Toron­to, the orga­niz­er of the Won­der­ful Women Writ­ers Series, and a com­mu­ni­ty activist. Gold can be con­tact­ed through her web­site here.

Relat­ed Content:

Dr. Nora Gold is a prize-win­ning author and the edi­tor of the online lit­er­ary jour­nal Jew­ish­Fic­tion .net. Her nov­el Fields of Exile won the 2015 Cana­di­an Jew­ish Lit­er­ary Award, and was praised by Cyn­thia Ozick. Her Mar­row and Oth­er Sto­ries won a Cana­di­an Jew­ish Book Award, and Alice Munro, after read­ing the title sto­ry, wrote Gold: Bra­vo!” Gold is the Writer-in-Res­i­dence and an Asso­ciate Schol­ar at the Cen­tre for Women’s Stud­ies in Edu­ca­tion, OISE/​University of Toronto.Dr. Nora Gold is avail­able to be booked for speak­ing engage­ments through Read On. Click here for more information.