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Candles of Song: “My Father’s Letters from America” by Rajzel Zychlinksy

Yiddish poems about mothers, in memory of my mother, Miriam Pearlman Zucker, 1914-2012.

Photo of Rajzel Zychlinski

Rajzel Zychlinksy (1910-2001) was born in Gombin, Poland in 1910. Her first book of poems, Lider (Poems), published in 1936, included a very laudatory foreword by the celebrated poet Itsik Manger. She and her husband, the psychiatrist and author, Dr. Isaac Kanter, left their home in Warsaw during the Second World War and took refuge in Russia where their son Marek was born.

In 1951, Zychlinksy emigrated to New York. She lived there until the last few years of her life, when she moved to Berkeley, California, to join her son. She published several volumes of poetry in Yiddish, among them, Tsu loytere bregn (To clear shores), 1948, Shvaygndike tirn, (Silent doors), 1962), Di November-zun (The November sun), 1977 and Naye lider (New Poems), 1993. In 1975 she was awarded the prestigious Manger Prize for Yiddish Poetry. The Holocaust is a major theme in her work.

A fine selection of her poems has been published in English in the book God Hid His Face: Selected Poems of Rajzel Zychlinsky, translated by Barnett Zumoff, Aaron Kramer, and Zychlinsky’s son, Marek Kanter.

Here, Mayn Tatns Briv Fun Amerike, by Rajzel Zychlinksy, read by Sheva Zucker: