Ten Works You Should Read

Recommended by Professor Jeremy Dauber, Columbia University

Click on the ‘Read in Yiddish!’ buttons below to read these recommended Sholem Aleichem works in Yiddish, courtesy of The Yiddish Book Center’s Steven Spielberg Digital Yiddish Library.

Since 2009, The Yiddish Book Center has made over 11,000 titles from their collection available online. The comprehensive collection includes works of fiction, memoirs, poetry, plays, short stories, science manuals, cookbooks, primers, and more, by the most renowned Yiddish authors and lesser-known writers alike.

Bibliographical information about these Sholem Aleichem book covers, all of which have been kindly provided by The Yiddish Book Center. Left to right beginning at the top rowMotl Peysi dem hazns. New York: Matones, 1970, Menakhem-Mendl. Berlin: Menorah, 1948, Tevye der milkhiker. Melbourne: Hershl and Anke Bachrach, 1973, Oysgeveylte verk. Warsaw: Yidish-bukh, 1952, Motl Peysi dem hazns. Moscow: Der Emes, 1947, Motl Peysi dem hazns. Warsaw: Yidish-bukh, 1953,  Finf un zibetsik toyznt. Moscow: Der Emes, 1947, Fun Kasrikevke. Warsaw: Yidish-bukh, 1959, Kleyne mentshelekh mit kleyne hasoges. Berlin: Menorah, 1948, Dos meserl. New York: Kinderring, 1947.

1.  “Chava.”

The finest of the Tevye stories, which are the finest stories of Sholem Aleichem’s whole oeuvre.

Read “Chava” along with seven other tales of Tevye the Dairyman in Hillel Halkin’s supple and intelligent English translation: “Tevye the Dairyman and The Railroad Stories” Schocken; Revised edition (1996).

Read Chava on pages: 91-108

2. “The Enchanted Tailor.”

It’s not a folk tale; it’s not a ghost story; but it’s not not those things, either.

An English translation of this story can be found in Francis and Julius Butwin’s Favorite Tales of Sholem Aleichem, available at your local library.

3.  “Londons.”

Our first encounter with Menakhem-Mendl, the notoriously optimistic (and inexpert) businessman, and one of Sholem Aleichem’s most famous creations. His wife Sheyne-Sheyndl has equally good lines, if not better.

Hillel Halkin’s English translation of The Letters of Menakhem-Mendl and Sheyne-Sheyndl beautifully captures the wit of their exchanges.

Read Londons on pages: 7-33

4.  “Dreyfus in Kasrilevke.”

How do Jews talk politics? This is one way.

An English translation of this story can be found in Francis and Julius Butwin’s Favorite Tales of Sholem Aleichem, available at your local library.

Read Dreyfus in Kasrilevke on pages: 61-68

5.  “From the Fair.”

Sholem Aleichem never completed his autobiography; but what we do have is a now-largely hidden treasure (which is, not entirely coincidentally, a leading motif in lots of his works, including this one).

Curt Leviant’s English translation (and excellent introduction) are worth a read.

6.  “The Guest.”

A holiday story and a story about children – two of Sholem Aleichem’s specialties – wrapped in one. A third specialty: the twist ending.

Read a full English translation at UNZ.org.

Read The Guest on pages: 105-115

7. “On Account of a Hat.”

One of Sholem Aleichem’s finest stories. It’s a brilliant tale, born of an old joke and transformed, through authorial artistry, into a meditation on the underlying uncertainties of modern Jewish life.

Listen to the story below, read by Peter Riegert and recorded by the Yiddish Book Center, and read a full English translation here.

Read On Account of a Hat on pages: 243-254

8.  “The Man from Buenos Aires.”

A nasty little encounter on a railroad with a man who is not who he seems to be…or maybe he is.

Read a full English translation at UNZ.org.

Read The Man from Buenos Aires on pages: 71-88

9.  “A Tale of a Thousand and One Nights.”

Set not in some fantasy land, but in Jewish Eastern Europe in the throes of World War I, the tales of survival the story’s Scheherazade relates chill to the bone. Listen to the story below:

Read A Tale of a Thousand and One Nights on pages: 137-232

10.  “Haman and Mordechai.”

A bizarre little effort about what happens when the two Biblical characters – the real ones – appear in Yiddishland.

Read Saul Hankin’s new English translation exclusively on the Yiddish Book Center website.

Read Homen un Mordkhe on page 166