Dec 12, 2015
Tayere leyeners, Dear readers:
We’re feeling reflective as the year comes to an end, so with four months of publishing under our belts, we thought we would take the opportunity to share some of what we’ve learned and loved in the journal’s first quarter along with some of our dreams for the future. Of course, that future involves you, readers and contributors! We’d love to hear your thoughts about what you’ve seen here so far, what you want to see, and best of all, we love to receive your submissions.
By the Numbers
By far the most rewarding experience of the last four months has been watching the readership of In geveb grow. On the day we launched, almost 1000 people visited the site. Since then, the number of unique visitors has surpassed 9,000 people from over 40 countries (In geveb is well on its way to ale lender). That’s around 80 people a day reading the newest scholarship on Yiddish, new translations into English, listening to interviews with Yiddish musicians, and checking out the hottest fashions of the Yiddish literati.
We have been fascinated to see what readers are most interested in out of the more than fifty pieces that we have published to date. Here are our top seven posts in order of popularity, leading up to our (unsurprising) top post:
- Bialik’s Shoes by Sholem Aleichem, translated with an introduction by Daniel Kennedy. If Ḥayyim Naḥman Bialik had left his slippers in your house, would you give them back? Sholem Aleichem handled this problem with his typical playfulness.
- Slavery or Serfdom by Isaac Meir dik, translated and with an introduction and annotation by Eli Rosenblatt. This is Dik’s foreword to his own 1868 translation/adaptation of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Though Dik was one of the most popular Yiddish writers of the 19th century, very little of his work is available in English translation. This piece offers a fascinating picture of Jewish concepts of race in the immediate aftermath of the emancipation of slaves in the US and serfs in the Russian Empire.
- Here Dwells the Jewish People by David G. Roskies, a review of Avraham Novershtern’s new book, Kan gar ha’am hayehudi: sifrut yidish be’artsot habrit (Here Dwells the Jewish People: A Century of American Yiddish Literature). Roskies offers English audiences an overview of Novershtern’s important commentary on American Yiddish literature, asking: was Yiddish literature in America a cultural enterprise that was doomed from the start or one that generated multiple beginnings?
- Best Dressed Male Yiddish Cultural Figures by Saul Noam Zaritt. Are listicles really befitting the dignity of our Editor-in-Chief and future Harvard professor? You the readers say unequivocally: yes! Now the question is, can the Best Dressed Women catch up?
- Mikvah and Mitzvah: Melancholia and the Spiritual Life by Reb Aaron of Karlin, translated by Ariel Evan Mayse and Daniel Reiser. Now, this one kind of surprised us. But it turns out In geveb’s readers are fascinated by an eighteenth century Hasidic homily on the spiritual danger of depression.
- Ironic Inversions: Rare Soviet Yiddish Songs of WWII, an interview with Psoy Korolenko and Anna Shternshis by Hannah Pollin-Galay. Combine one charismatic and provocative performer, one leading expert on the Soviet Jewish experience, and rare Yiddish music from World War Two, and you get a fascinating cultural-academic performance. The only thing better will be when Korolenko and Shternshis join Jewlia Eisenberg and David Shneer at the AJS this year!
And the most popular thing we’ve posted:
- Smitten in Yiddish: Taytsh and your Love Life by Sandra Fox. This piece was by far the most popular article we posted on In geveb. Sex sells, even (or apparently, especially) for Yiddishists. And then you add love into the equation, and that’s when things really get complicated: “One respondent wasn’t a Yiddishist before meeting her partner, but through him teaching her the language, she ‘fell in love with the Yiddishist cause.’” The best thing you can do is just click the link above to read more.
Beyond the numbers, there is so much that we are proud of in our first four months of publishing (and so many more embarrassing lessons that we’ve had to learn, but let’s try to stay positive).
In addition to publishing new translations of Yiddish literature, like Avrom Sutzkever’s complete poetic cycle about his childhood in Siberia and the opening chapter of Dovid Bergelson’s novel Harsh Judgment, we are offering a rare venue for translations of historical, anthropological, and political interest. These include a memoir of a Jewish Anarchist in Philadelphia, previously unpublished essays by Isaac Bashevis Singer, and a Purim play from contemporary Bobover Hasidim. Every translation we publish undergoes a rigorous review process: our editors check word-by-word for the accuracy of the translation against the original text, and every original is made available as orthographically standardized and searchable text. (As in the translation of Dik, this has led to some difficult editorial choices about which we still want to hear your opinion!) All of this is motivated by our desire to provide scholars, students, and lovers of Yiddish (in the original or in translation) with high quality, usable, and well-vetted sources.
Behind the scenes, we’re excited about the collaborative work we did with the developers and designers at Familiar Studio. So much humanities scholarship is done solo—sleuthing in the archives, toiling away at one’s desk—and it was refreshing to work collectively. It was invigorating to participate in crafting the beautiful visual language Familiar developed for us. We learned so much in the process—even though we keep saying “font” instead of “typeface.”
And finally, we feel that one of the most important aspects of this work is our commitment to supporting and promoting Yiddish scholarship. In a time when cultural and scholarly labor is often underfunded or not funded at all, our goal has been to compensate the work of editors, bloggers, and translators to the best of our ability, especially early-career academics, contingent faculty, and independent scholars. We are grateful to the individual donors and charitable foundations that make this possible.
And this is just the start. Stay tuned in the upcoming months for announcements of exciting new projects. In the meantime, the editors of In geveb anxiously await your next submission. Don’t file away that conference paper from Warsaw, Jerusalem, or AJS, send us your abstract! Our pedagogy section is looking for your favorite Yiddish songs to teach, and your syllabi from any and all types of courses involving Yiddish. Don’t cry about your painstaking translation of an obscure newspaper article being consigned to obscurity in a footnote: send us the translation! And our blog is always looking for interesting, popularly oriented discoveries, opinions, and interviews to bring Yiddish to new audiences.
Thank you for being our first audience. For reading and critiquing, sending links to your friends, and connecting to us, online and in person. We’re so excited to have readers who care this much. We look forward to the coming months and years of In geveb, and to the new questions and challenges we haven’t even imagined yet. Thank you for reading, and we look forward to seeing you “in geveb.”