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SHOLOM ALEICHEM (1859-1916).

Pen name of the Yiddish writer and humorist Sholom Rabinowitz. Born in a small town in Ukraine, he displayed in his early childhood a remarkable talent for mimicry and caricature. Young Sholom was also endowed with keen sensitivity and an imaginative mind. While he liked best to play pranks on his elders, he nevertheless excelled in his studies. He was especially attracted to the Bible, most of which he learned by heart. Later, he attended a government high school, and at seventeen, he accepted a job as a private tutor. For some time he even served as a rabbinical functionary, and also engaged in business until he lost all his money.

He then dedicated himself entirely to writing, to the great enrichment of Yiddish literature. In his hundreds of stories, novels, and plays, Sholom Aleichem mirrored Jewish life of the small towns in Eastern Europe. He reflected in his tales the wisdom and wit of his people and became their favorite writer. Universally admired, he was given rousing receptions on his visits to the Jewish centers in Russia. He came to America twice, the last time shortly before World War I broke out. It is said that a half million people came to his funeral when he died in New York in 1916.

Sholom Aleichem created unforgettable types: Tevyeh, the milkman, Menachem Mendel, the luckless broker, and Motel, the cantor’s son, whose escapades are especially endearing to young readers. He has been compared to Charles Dickens and Mark Twain. Much of his work has been translated into English; Maurice Samuel‘s World of Sholom Aleichem has distilled the flavor of the great humorist into one volume.

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