Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Want To Fall Like This

David Ben Gurion said that Yiddish could never be the language of the Jewish state.  Only Hebrew, which sprang from the Holy Land, could catch its cadences, and fully express the stridency of a people returning to their home, reborn.  How could Yiddish, a language of exile, express the desires and landscapes and dreams the New Jews in the Holy Land?

I Want To Fall Like This,the selected poems of Rukhl Fishman, illustrates just how.  Fishman was born in America, wrote in Yiddish, and came from a Bundist, socialist background.  Despite this, she joined the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair, The Youth Guard movement, and lived in an Israeli kibbutz beginning in 1954. 

So, she is an odd hybrid.  In a new state adopting Hebrew as its native tongue, and rapidly shedding its diaspora languages and customs, her choice of Yiddish as a poetic medium set her at odds with her contemporaries (although later in life, she did publish bi-lingual, Yiddish / Hebrew poems).

Yet in content her work is strongly oriented toward the “land of Israel.”  Her Zionism, in Yiddish, is of the decidedly Romantic type.  Her God is the land, and the land her muse; most of the poems speak of this dedicated connection to the dry landscapes which seem, at first blush, unsuited for Yiddish. 

But she proves everyone wrong.  Her Yiddish is strident and clear and NATIVE, a perfect medium for the creation of a new person in a new land.

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