Pedagogy

Compendium to Found Treasures

Julie Sharff

INTRODUCTION

In con­junc­tion with this com­pendi­um, the author inter­viewed Frie­da Johles For­man. That inter­view can be found here.

Positioning Found Treasures

Found Treasures: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers (1994) made an undeniable impact on the study of Yiddish literature. A collection of stories translated from Yiddish to English, it was the first anthology of Yiddish women’s prose writing in any language (including Yiddish). The closest comparable anthology is Ezra Korman’s 1928 collection yidishe dikhterins—clear from its name, yidishe dikhterins’ mission was to highlight poetry by women writers. Yidishe dikhterins stood alone for 66 years as the sole publication in the Yiddish literary world dedicated exclusively to women’s writing. Found Treasures reinvigorated the impulse to highlight Yiddish women writers’ literary voices. Two subsequent anthologies carried forward the spirit of Found Treasures as feminist interventions that seek to bring together exclusively the voices of Yiddish women writers: Arguing with the Storm: Stories by Yiddish Women Writers (2008) and The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers (2013). All three projects, Found Treasures, Arguing with the Storm and The Exile Book are Canadian projects that came out of collaborative translation practices.

In some cases, Found Treasures reintroduces authors from yidishe dikhterins as prose writers, such as Fradel Schtok, Celia Dropkin, and Rokhl Korn, among others. In addition, the prose anthology includes writers who were not yet on the literary scene at the time of Korman’s 1928 publication, such as Blume Lempel and Chava Rosenfarb. Found Treasures dispels several commonly held myths about women’s relationship to Yiddish literature: First, when women wrote in Yiddish, they only wrote poetry. Second, even if women writers tried their hand at prose, they were not good. Found Treasures is evidence against these two charges, and all the while focuses on narratives that put women’s experiences first. For more on the systemic and ethos-based suppression of Yiddish women’s writing, Faith Jones’s piece “How to Suppress Yiddish Women’s Writing” illuminates in detail the active and passive forms of discrimination that Yiddish women’s writing has been subject to.

Since the publication of Found Treasures, now in at least its third print run, there has been a significant increase in the translation of Yiddish women’s writing in both prose and poetry and a certain amount of legitimacy has been afforded to the study of their writing. This is not solely because of Found Treasures, but as a pioneering publication, it laid the groundwork for these current trends in translation and academic writing, as well as bringing Yiddish writing by women to a wider English-reading audience. Now, almost thirty years since the publication of Found Treasures, a growing interest in Yiddish women writers in translation has led in turn to a new need for bilingual resources for Yiddish teachers and students: Yiddish in translation has a tendency to turn English-readers back toward the original. Anita Norich so eloquently describes this return to the source language from translation in her monograph Writing in Tongues (2013). That is where this pedagogy guide comes in. So, for those who encounter Found Treasures and wish to see or teach with these oytsres, this guide is for you.

Introduction to the Guide

While many of the short stories and novel excerpts from Found Treasures are available online through the Yiddish Book Center’s digitized collection, finding the Yiddish titles and page numbers, and organizing the stories, is time-consuming work. An additional obstacle to reading Yiddish originals for the collection is that two stories in Found Treasures come from Yiddish journals that are not digitized. This guide then comes to you as an alternative digitization, in which the sources from Found Treasures meet again, are collected, and are ready to read in Yiddish. I’ve described this zamler’s task as my “compendium to Found Treasures.

The aim of this compendium is two-fold: first, to make the resources available online to anyone who wants to use Found Treasures bilingually in the classroom or for their own edification; and second, to preserve some of the materiality, if imperfectly, of the editor’s task of collecting these short stories before our current era of Yiddish digitization. My second aim of imperfect preservation was not an aesthetic choice but a political one, drawn from my experience collecting and working with one of the original editors of Found Treasures, Frieda Johles Forman. In line with the original feminist project that is Found Treasures, collecting these sources is about dignity—dignity for the authors whose work deserves a lasting readership and for those who laid the groundwork in Yiddish studies when its resources were not a click away. I hope that by making accessible the original stories of Yiddish women writers, the stories may speak for themselves, adding to the resources available for thinking through questions of Yiddish literature with attention to gender, sexuality, class, and ability, among other nuanced approaches to Jewish life and the human condition. Additionally, I hope this guide may re-enchant the archive for individuals who may not yet know how multiplicitous the Yiddish archive is and how meaningful the material dimensions of the archive are in understanding the past, and present, of Yiddish Studies.

A Note on Method

When I first floated the idea of this compendium to my summer shmues krayzl in Toronto, one friend, in particular, asked me, do you know Frieda Forman? You know, she lives here? Since I responded in the negative, she insisted then that she would introduce us. So, thank you to Miriam Borden for making that connection which enabled this work. It is a connection for which I will forever remain grateful. Since meeting Frieda, Freydl af yidish, the contours of this project altered.

First, Frieda clarified early on that she still had scans of the stories from when she originally started going through archives, such as YIVO, and Jewish libraries here in Toronto. So, before I went about my digital work, we should see what she had kept. Through many meetings with Frieda in her home, after a chat and a nosh, we would ascend the stairs of her Toronto home, lined with Yiddish women’s paraphernalia. Going through her boxes, her personal archive, it became clear by the number of photocopies of stories and printed-out lectures that Frieda also taught Found Treasures bilingually. At times we discussed the selection process and how some writing spilled over into The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers. In short, I decided to share scans of what Frieda has shared with me after hours of looking through boxes with her, not only because of the generosity of her time but because of what I described before as a desire to re-enchant the archive: this compendium stands not only a collection of the original writings but an acknowledgment of Frieda’s work in collecting and sharing these writings. Finally, out of a desire to share some of the joy I experienced when talking with Frieda, I interviewed her as a capstone after we relocated all the scans necessary to make this guide.

Vos iz do

In this guide, you will find links to each short story in Yiddish. In the English column, you will find the title of the story as it appears in its English translation in Found Treasures. In the Yiddish column, you will find the title of the text in Yiddish and, where relevant, links to the full text from which the translation was excerpted. The extended bibliography can be accessed through the hyperlink Bilingual Bibliography. The resources are listed in the order that they appear in the volume. Additionally, I transcribed an interview with Frieda Johels Forman that I conducted on December 14, 2022. I linked a Wexler Oral History project interview that Frieda gave in 2016. While it is not included here, I recommend that this guide be taught in tandem with Found Treasures, especially Irena Klepfisz’s introduction, “Queens of Contradictions: A Feminist Introduction to Yiddish Women Writers.” This introduction grounds the anthology and Yiddish women’s writing historically and its position from the margins of the Yiddish literary “canon.”


Click here to download the compendium.

MLA STYLE
Sharff, Julie. “Compendium to Found Treasures.” In geveb, June 2023: https://ingeveb.org/pedagogy/compendium-to-found-treasures.
CHICAGO STYLE
Sharff, Julie. “Compendium to Found Treasures.” In geveb (June 2023): Accessed Apr 13, 2024.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Julie Sharff

Julie Sharff is a PhD student in the Department for the Study of Religion and the Centre for Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto.