Nahomovitz Rabinovich (Sholem Alechem)

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Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich

Hebrew: שלום עליכם Rabinovich
Also Known As: "Sholem Aleichem", "Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich", "Salomon", "Scholem Alejchem.Shalom Yakov Rabinowitsch"
Birthdate: (57)
Birthplace: Pereyaslav-Khmel'nyts'kyi, Kyivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Death: Died in New York, NY, USA
Place of Burial: New York, Queens, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Menachem Nukhem Rabinovich and Chaye Esther Rabinovich
Husband of Olga Rabinovich
Father of Ernestine Berkowitz; Sara Lala Lela Kaufman; Emma Feigenberg; Michael Rabinovich; Marie Waife and 2 others
Brother of Volv Rabinovich; Shloyme Rabinowiz; Smal Rabinowitz; Beryl Rabinovitch; Ida Rabinovich and 9 others

Occupation: Yiddish writer, Writer, Famous Yiddish writer. Had several sisters, one of whom may be Semion's grandmother:
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Nahomovitz Rabinovich (Sholem Alechem)

Sholem Aleichem (Yiddish: שלום־עליכם, Russian and Ukrainian: Шолом-Алейхем) (March 2, 1859 — May 13, 1916) was the pen name of Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, a leading Yiddish author and playwright. The musical Fiddler on the Roof, based on his stories about Tevye the Milkman, was the first commercially successful English-language stage production about Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich (Salomon Nochem Vevik) was born in 1859 into a Hasidic family in Pereyaslav and grew up in the nearby shtetl (small town with a large Jewish population) of Voronko, in the Poltava Governorate of the Russian Empire (now in the Kiev Oblast of central Ukraine).

His father, Menachem-Nukhem Rabinovich, was a rich merchant at that time. However, a failed business affair plunged the family into poverty and Sholem Aleichem subsequently grew up in reduced circumstances. When he was 13-years old, the family moved back to Pereiaslav, where his mother, Chaye-Esther, died in a cholera epidemic.

His first venture into writing was an alphabetic glossary of the epithets used by his stepmother. At the age of fifteen, inspired by Robinson Crusoe, he composed a Jewish version of the novel. He adopted the pseudonym Sholem Aleichem, a Yiddish variant of the Hebrew expression shalom aleichem, meaning "peace be with you" or "hello".

In 1876, after graduating from school in Pereyaslav, he spent three years tutoring a wealthy landowner's daughter, Olga (Golde) Loev (1865 – 1942). On May 12, 1883, they married, against the wishes of her father. They had six children. Their son, Norman Raeben, became a painter and an influential art teacher and their daughter Lyalya (Lili) Kaufman, became a Yiddish writer. Lyalya's daughter Bel Kaufman, also a writer, was the author of Up the Down Staircase, which was made into a successful film.

In 1905, as pogroms swept through southern Russia, he resettled in New York City. His family set up house in Geneva, Switzerland, but when he saw he could not afford to maintain two households, he joined them in Geneva. Despite his great popularity, he was forced to take up an exhausting schedule of lecturing to make ends meet. In 1914, the family moved to the Lower East Side, Manhattan. His son Misha, ill with tuberculosis, was inadmissible under United States immigration laws. He remained in Switzerland with his sister Emma and died in 1915.

At first, Sholem Aleichem wrote in Russian and Hebrew. From 1883 on, he produced over forty volumes in Yiddish, thereby becoming a central figure in Yiddish literature by 1890. Most writing for Russian Jews at the time was in Hebrew, the liturgical language used largely by learned Jews. Yiddish, however, was the vernacular language of nearly all literate East European Jews. It was often derogatorily called "jargon", but Sholem Aleichem used this term in an entirely non-pejorative sense.

Apart from his own literary output, Sholem Aleichem used his personal fortune to encourage other Yiddish writers. In 1888-1889, he put out two issues of an almanac, Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek ("The Yiddish Popular Library") which gave important exposure to young Yiddish writers. In 1890, Sholem Aleichem lost his entire fortune in a stock speculation, and could not afford to print the almanac's third issue, which had been edited but was subsequently never printed. Over the next few years, while continuing to write in Yiddish, he also wrote in Russian for an Odessa newspaper and for Voskhod, the leading Russian Jewish publication of the time, as well as in Hebrew for Ha-melitz, and for an anthology edited by Y.H. Ravnitzky. It was during this period that Sholem Aleichem first contracted tuberculosis. Sholem Aleichem monument in Kiev. His name is in Ukrainian and Yiddish.

In August 1904, Sholem Aleichem edited Hilf: a Zaml-Bukh fir Literatur un Kunst ("Help: An Anthology for Literature and Art"; Warsaw, 1904) and himself translated three stories submitted by Tolstoy (Esarhaddon, King of Assyria; Work, Death and Sickness; Three Questions) as well as contributions by other prominent Russian writers, including Chekhov, in aid of the victims of the Kishinev pogrom.

In July 1908, during a reading tour in Russia, Sholem Aleichem collapsed on a train going through Baranowicze. He was diagnosed with a relapse of acute hemorrhagic tuberculosis and spent two months convalescing in the town's hospital. He later described the incident as "meeting his majesty, the Angel of Death, face to face", and claimed it as the catalyst for writing his autobiography, Funem yarid [From the Fair]. He thus missed the First Conference for the Yiddish Language, held in 1908 in Czernovitz; his colleague and fellow Yiddish activist Nathan Birnbaum went in his place. Sholem Aleichem spent the next four years living as a semi-invalid. During this period the family was largely supported by donations from friends and admirers.

Sholem Aleichem's narratives were notable for the naturalness of his characters' speech and the accuracy of his descriptions of shtetl life. Early critics focused on the cheerfulness of the characters, interpreted as a way of coping with adversity. Later critics saw a tragic side in his writing.

Sholem Aleichem was an impassioned advocate of Yiddish as a national Jewish language, one which should be accorded the same status and respect as other modern European languages. He did not stop with what came to be called "Yiddishism", but devoted himself to the cause of Zionism as well. Many of his writings present the Zionist case. In 1888, he became a member of Hovevei Zion. In 1907, he served as an American delegate to the Eighth Zionist Congress held in The Hague.

Sholem Aleichem was often referred to as the "Jewish Mark Twain" because of the two authors' similar writing styles and use of pen names. Both authors wrote for both adults and children, and lectured extensively in Europe and the United States. When Twain heard the writer called "the Jewish Mark Twain," he replied "please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem."

Sholem Aleichem had a mortal fear of the number 13. His manuscripts never have a page 13; he numbered the thirteenth pages of his manuscripts as 12a and his headstone carries the date of his death as "May 12a, 1916"

Sholem Aleichem died in New York in 1916, aged 57, while working on his last novel, Motl, Peysi the Cantor's Son, and was laid to rest at Old Mount Carmel cemetery in Queens. At the time, his funeral was one of the largest in New York City history, with an estimated 100,000 mourners. The next day, his will was printed in the New York Times and was read into the Congressional Record of the United States

Sholem Aleichem's will contained detailed instructions to family and friends with regard to burial arrangements and marking his yartzheit. He told his friends and family to gather, "read my will, and also select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you." "Let my name be recalled with laughter," he added, "or not at all." The celebrations continue to the present-day, and, in recent years, have been held at at the Brotherhood Synagogue on Gramercy Park South in New York City, where they are open to the public.

In 1997, a monument dedicated to Sholem Aleichem was erected in Kiev; another was erected in 2001 in Moscow.

The main street of Birobidzhan is named after Sholem Aleichem; streets were named after him also in other cities in the Soviet Union, among them Kiev, Odessa, Vinnytsya, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Mykolaiv. In 1996, a stretch of East 33rd Street in New York City between Park and Madison Avenue was renamed "Sholem Aleichem Place". Many streets in Israel are named after him.

Postage stamps of Sholem Aleichem were issued by Israel (Scott #154, 1959); the Soviet Union (Scott #2164, 1959); Romania (Scott #1268, 1959); and Ukraine (Scott #758, 2009).

An impact crater on the planet Mercury also bears his name.

On March 2, 2009 (150 years after his birth) the National Bank of Ukraine issued an anniversary coin celebrating Aleichem with his face depicted on it.

In Melbourne, Australia a small yiddish school is named after him. Several Jewish schools in Argentina were also named after him.

Sholem's granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, was featured in the NYTimes regarding her own amazing life.

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Nahomovitz Rabinovich (Sholem Alechem)'s Timeline

March 2, 1859
Pereyaslav-Khmel'nyts'kyi, Kyivs'ka oblast, Ukraine
Age 25
Age 27
Age 28
Age 29
October 29, 1892
Age 33
Age 41
May 13, 1916
Age 57
New York, NY, USA
May 1916
Age 57
New York, Queens, New York, United States