Candles of Song: Yiddish Poems about Mothers Kadya Molodowsky

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

Photo of Kadya Molodowsky

Kadya Molodowsky (1894-1975) was born in Bereze Kartuskaya, White Russia in 1894. Although a girl, she studied Khumesh (Pentateuch) with her father, a melamed, a teacher, and later both Gemore and Russian with private tutors. In the 1920’s she settled in Warsaw and worked by day as a teacher in a socialist Yiddishist Tsisho school, and in the evenings in a Hebraist community school. Herself a fervent Zionist, she married a Communist, the historian and literary critic Simkhe Lev, and they lived, from 1935 on, for the most part, in America, with a three year interval in Israel. The couple had no children.

Generally considered the foremost female writer in modern Yiddish literature, and a first-rate and prolific poet by any standard, she published eight volumes of poetry, a collection of short stories, several novels, and also edited a literary journal Svive in New York.

Molodowsky’s work reveals a woman striving to reconcile the opposing forces of religion and modernity, a realist and a skeptic who longed for miracles, a philosophic thinker who tempered deepest tragedy with irony and humor, and a spiritual seeker who despaired in  God and humanity. Paper Bridges (1999), translated and edited by Kathryn Hellerstein, offers a comprehensive selection of her best poetic work in English and was voted one of the 100 best Jewish books by a panel at the National Jewish Book Center.

Here, Froyen-Lider I and Froyen-Lider VIII by Kadya Molodowsky, read by Sheva Zucker: