Yiddish literature entered its modern era in the 1860s, when Jewish writers began using the Germanic-Jewish language to compose stories and poems. Many of the early writers of this era are still famous, such as Shalom Aleichem Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (1859-1916) and Isaac Leib (I.L.) Peretz (1852-1915).

Among those who made their mark in Yiddish literature was Yente Raybman Serdatzky. Born on September 15, 1877, in Lithuania, Serdatzky was the daughter of a scholar who supported his family by selling used furniture. Yente Serdatzky was given both a Jewish and a secular education, and was raised in a home that was a gathering place for Kovno’s Yiddish writers.

After spending a few years in Warsaw, Serdatzky emigrated to America (leaving behind, it should be noted, a husband and three children). She went first to Chicago and then settled in New York, supporting herself running soup kitchens as she worked on her writing.

Serdatzky published stories, sketches and one-act plays in a variety of Yiddish periodicals. After a fight with Abraham Cahan, the editor of The Forward in 1922, Serdatzky stopped writing for 27 years. Eventually, she began publishing again in the 1950s, mainly in Nyu Yorker Vokhnblat.

Serdatzky’s work often focused on immigrant women with similar backgrounds to her own. The lives of the women Serdatzky portrayed were not easy. The ideal world they sought to build was unattainable, they were often exploited by the men in their lives and alienated by the male activist with whom they sought to partner in action.

Yente Serdatzky passed away on May 1, 1962.

This Treat was originally posted on September 15, 2014.

Copyright © 2020 NJOP. All rights reserved.