cover art for "On The Landing," “The Glatstein Chronicles” and “In the Land of the Postscript”
"On The Landing," "The Glatstein Chronicles" and "In the Land of the Postscript" will be part of the "Stories of Exile" program at a San Francisco Public Library branch.

SFPL branch offers program highlighting works by Yiddish authors, Elana Dykewomon

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A San Francisco Public Library branch is participating in a national reading program highlighting works of literature originally written in Yiddish, as well as a novel by the late Jewish, Bay Area writer Elana Dykewomon.

The Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial branch is the only library west of Texas that is offering “Stories of Exile,” a free program of the Yiddish Book Center for teens and adults to reflect on themes of displacement and diaspora. The first in the six-book series, “On the Landing: Stories by Yenta Mash,” will be discussed this Sunday at the library branch, located in San Francisco’s Castro district, and on Zoom.

Mash (1922–2013) was born in a shtetl in ​​Bessarabia, modern-day Moldova, and immigrated to Israel in the 1970s. The 16 autobiographical stories in “On the Landing” are set in different locales, from Siberia to Israel, between the 1940s and the early 21st century. “Mash’s characters are often in transit, arriving from somewhere or departing to somewhere, embarking or disembarking — forever ‘on the landing,’” according  to the Yiddish Book Center. “Available now for the first time in English, her work is urgently relevant today as displaced people seek refuge across the globe.”

The other Yiddish books selected for the program are “The Glatstein Chronicles” by Jacob Glatstein (1896-1971) and “In the Land of the Postscript” by Chava Rosenfarb (1923-2011).

Elana Dykewomon (Photo/Jane Tyska)
Elana Dykewomon (Photo/Jane Tyska)

SFPL librarian Janine deManda, the person responsible for bringing the “Stories of Exile” program to San Francisco, decided to pair the three Yiddish books with works by California LGBTQ authors. They are “Beyond the Pale,” Dykewomon’s award-winning 1997 novel about Jewish lesbians from Moldova, and two story collections by non-Jewish authors, “Afterparties: Stories” by Anthony Veasna So and “Cantoras” by Carolina de Robertis. Dykewomon, a celebrated queer novelist and activist who lived in Oakland, died last year.

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All of the books can be checked out from the library. Digital copies of the Yiddish books in their original language can be downloaded for free from the Yiddish Book Center website. Reading group discussions will be led by SFPL librarians and will take place at the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Memorial branch, and in some instances on Zoom as well, through April 2024.

In an interview, deManda said she applied to the Yiddish Book Center to participate in the program because of the “intersection of Jewishness and queerness” in the Castro.

“Congregation Sha’ar Zahav is just down the street, and it seemed like a great program for our library branch and the communities we serve,” said deManda, who belongs to Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont and has worked at SFPL since 2018.

“Stories of Exile” is the second reading group program organized by the Yiddish Book Center. In 2020, San Jose Public Library participated in the first, which featured works by Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Bashevis Singer and Kadya Molodovsky.

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is the culture editor of J. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter @esensten.