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What Time is it on the Jewish Clock?

Reflections on a Yiddish Journalist:
Commentaries and selected works of S. L. Shneiderman

Shortly after the death of the renowned Yiddish journalist S. L. Shneiderman, his wife Eileen (Hala Szymin-Shneiderman) began writing a book devoted to his life and work.   The book, titled What Time is it on the Jewish Clock? (Vi Shpet iz itst oifn Yidishn Zeiger?), published by the I. L. Peretz Publishing House in Tel Aviv in March 2000.  The 300-page book is one of the first Yiddish books of the 21st century, containing 18 personal photos and 6 art reproductions.

 Most remembrance books about writers are limited to presenting a biography, a bibliography, and reflections by colleagues, but in this book Eileen also included a selected anthology of S. L. Shneiderman's work.  These include poems, prose, reports from his travels, chapters from his books, and essays about writers that were close to him. 

The book opens with an essay explaining the metaphoric title of the book.  It is followed by Eileen's personal account of their sixty-year collaboration.  She describes how the larger serialized articles, with up to 40 installments, came about, only some of which appeared in book form.  Throughout their 60-year collaboration, Eileen assembled their extensive archives containing his poems, notebooks, manuscripts, background materials, and historical documents.  These archives are preserved and available for researchers at Tel Aviv University's Institute for Research of the Diaspora, which adjoins the world famous museum of the Diaspora, Beth Hatefutsoth.

Of particular interest is S. L. Shneiderman's never before published notes for an autobiography, "My life journey as a Yiddish writer." It provides illuminating insights to European Jewish culture over the past century.  His work began with poems about his beloved home town, the shtetl of Kazimierz on the Vistula, that the Jews called Kuzmir.  In 1925 he moved to Warsaw, just two hours away, which was the center of a flourishing Jewish cultural life. He participated in the third generation of Yiddish writers following luminaries of modern Yiddish literature such as Mendele, Sholem Aleichem, I. L Peretz, and Sholem Asch. 

In 1933, he married Eileen and they moved to Paris where Shneiderman was a syndicated correspondent for several Yiddish and Polish language daily papers in Poland. During the Spanish Civil War from 1936-38, Shneiderman's reports established him as the leading journalist in the Jewish press. He planned to become editor of the Johannesburg Yiddish paper but the outbreak of World War II prevented him from accepting this position.  He fled to New York with Eileen and their two year out daughter in February 1940.

During the next fifty years in New York he rose to prominence with his Yiddish and English publications on the Holocaust, descriptions of Jewish life around the world, and book-length portraits of key figures such as artist Arthur Szyk and journalist Ilya Ehrenburg.  He was founding member of the United Nations Correspondents Association and actively reported on events, such as the founding of the State of Israel in 1948.  In his role as President of the Yiddish P. E. N. Center in New York, Shneiderman nominated his colleague, Isaac Bashevis Singer, for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Shneiderman's English books dealt with post-war Poland, such as Between Fear and Hope (1947) the Warsaw Heresy (1959), and The River Remembers (1978).  He edited Mary Berg's Diary of the Warsaw Ghetto (1945) which was the first authentic document on ghetto life.  A pioneering effort, in 1965, was the full-length documentary film "The Last Chapter" covering the thousand-year history of Polish Jewry.  In 1974 he edited a collection of Yiddish writings from contemporary authors in Israel and other countries under the title Tzusamen (Together).

In the last years of his life, when he could no longer travel and describe Jewish communities, Shneiderman and his wife moved to Ramat Aviv to be  close to their daughter and family.  Their Yiddish books were donated in 1996 to the University of Maryland Libraries, where an extensive web site describes their literary accomplishments and catalogs the 400 books (http://www.lib.umd.edu/UMCP/SLSES).

The S. L. Shneiderman book, created by Eileen Shneiderman, captures his combination of a broad historical knowledge, with a literary sensitivity and a concern for the drama of daily life. He had a remarkable sixth sense for untangling the twisted problems of Jewish life. His personal and emotional style generated an international and responsive readership throughout the Jewish world.

The book is available in Israel from the I. L. Peretz Publishing House, 14 Brener Street, Tel Aviv and in New York at the Arbeiter Ring bookstore in the Forwards Building, 45 East 33rd Street, New York, NY 10016.

Table of Contents

S. L. Shneiderman / What Time is it on the Jewish Clock?
Hala Szymin-Shneiderman / Decades Together
  Digest of the larger reportage-series published in installments
  Project summaries:
     The film "The Last Chapter"
     "Tzusamen" A collection of original writings by Yiddish writers
S. L. Shneiderman / My life journey as a Yiddish writer
  (Notes for an autobiography)

Chapters from books by S. L. Shneiderman
From:   The Spanish Civil War - The Legend of Duruti
            The River Remembers - After the Flood
            Ilya Ehrenburg - How did you survive?
            Arthur Szyk - The Lemberger Hagada

In Israel
            Safed, 1938
            First Yom Kipur at the liberated Wailing Wall, 1967
            Tchernobil in Safed, 1989
            From Eretz Israel to the State of Israel

American Themes
            A day at the United Nations, 1954
            The Funeral of Albert Einstein, 1955
            Wildfield in North Carolina - a Center for Yiddish, 1983

Under the Sign of the Hammer and Sickle
            Is there a Jewish address in the Soviet Union?
            What the Russian Jews expect from their American brothers
            At the Red Square in Moscow

Essays about Yiddish Writers
            Chaim Grade
            Jacob Glatstein
            Meir Sticker
            Elieser Grinberg
            A. Almi
            Israel Stern
            Julian Tuwim
            Emil Vearharen

Poems by S. L. Shneiderman

Yiddish Writers on S. L. Shneiderman
           Avrom Sutzkever
            Mordechai Zanin
            Shalom Rosenfeld
            Dr. Heshil Klepfish
            Issachar Fater
            David Sfard
            Mordechai Strigler
            Abraham Lis
            Itche Goldberg
            Shimon Weber
            Hanna and Yosef Mlotek
            David Shtockfish
            Yitshak Luden
            Haim Landau