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PERETZ, ISAAC LEIB (1852-1915).

Yiddish and Hebrew writer. He is considered one of the founding fathers of both modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature. He was also one of the first major Jewish writers to find beauty, moral strength, and a new, happier approach to life in Hasidism. Peretz was influenced early by the Haskalah, or Enlightenment movement, and turned to secular studies. For some time he practiced law. In his sympathy with the plight of the poor suffering masses, he was attracted to socialist ideals. His sensitivity to injustice and the social evils of the world eventually found expression in his creative writing. His short stories brought Peretz lasting fame. They came to be considered among the classics of Yiddish literature. His tales of Hasidism and of the common people are gems of poetry and humor. In them, he glorified the heroism of humble folk and the unbounded faith of rich and poor, exalting the life of the righteous. Among the first to point a finger at social injustice, Peretz wrote Bontche the Silent, a folk tale of great delicacy and compassion. For sheer beauty, delicate humor, and forcefulness, Peretz’s stories, such as The Wondermaker, The Zaddik of Nemirov, The Treasure, and The Three Gifts, have few equals. Many of his stories have been translated into English. Maurice Samuel’s Prince of the Ghetto is a fascinating study of Peretz and his work.

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