Plain Jewish Laborers

The Times titled its story “Aleichem Begs to Lie with Poor: Will of Noted Writer Says His Ambition Is to Rest Among Plain Jewish Laborers,” struck, apparently, by the will’s first clause, which reads, in full: “Wherever I die I want to be placed not among aristocrats, or among the powerful, but among plain Jewish laborers, among the people itself, so that the gravestone that is to be placed upon my grave should illumine the simple graves about me, and these simple graves should adorn my gravestone, even as the plain, good people during my lifetime illumined their Folkschreiber.” The editorial, by contrast, singled out the will’s tenth and final clause for praise, in which Sholem Aleichem begged his children and successors “to protect mamma, to beautify her old age, to make her bitter life sweet, to heal her broken heart; not to weep after me, on the contrary, to think of me with joy; and the main thing—to live together in peace, to bear no hatred for one another, to help one another in bad times, to remember one another upon occasion in the family, to have pity on a poor man, and when circumstances permit, to pay my debts, should I have any. Children! Carry with honor my hard-earned Jewish name, and may God in heaven come to your help. Amen!”

–Excerpted from The Worlds of Sholem Aleichem by Jeremy Dauber