Stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer
Rumor has it that when Isaac Bashevis Singer was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1978, the only Yiddish writer to receive this honor, some Yiddish writers were jealous of his success. A group of such disgruntled writers, meeting at a public library, questioned why Singer was chosen when so many other fine Yiddish writers never gained a following in translation. "What about Y. L. Peretz?" they complained, going through the list of Yiddish greats. To quiet them down, the librarian explained that the Nobel Prize is only awarded to living authors. "Antisemites," one man grumbled.*
The fact is that I. B. Singer's fiction works in any language because it deals with essential facets of human nature--the search for faith, for love, and for home in a crumbling world. Growing up in Warsaw, the son of a Chasidic rabbi, Singer first became fascinated with people's stories at his father's rabbinical court. (His memoir, In My Father's Court, gathers these vignettes.) He followed his older brother, Israel Joshua Singer, to New York in 1935.
Singer is best known for his short stories, which are set both in the Old World and in America. His imaginative tales bring opposite worlds together--natural and supernatural; religious and secular; lustful and pious--as his characters negotiate a world filled with forces beyond their control.
*Anecdote recounted by Janet Hadda in Isaac Bashevis Singer: A Life (Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 174.
The Journey Home:
Discovering the Deep Spiritual Wisdom of Jewish Tradition
In 1976, a Catholic student at Notre Dame asked Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman "what is Jewish spirituality?" It seemed to him an odd expression, like talking about Judaism in Christian terms. Over the years, however, Hoffman, a professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, has become increasingly drawn to this topic because many Jews are asking the same question.
In these essays, Hoffman attempts to define a uniquely Jewish approach to spirituality, taking a close look at Jewish prayer, Torah study, Jewish responses to suffering, and the spiritual significance of the land of Israel. "Religious spirituality cannot come through shortcuts," he maintains. "It is reached only by serious engagement with ancient texts that can be made to translate into spiritual answers for modern dilemmas."
Copyright © 2002, Union of American Hebrew Congregations