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‎20 Av 5782 | ‎17/08/2022

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“Ver Vet Blaybn?” Award-winning Film about Yiddish Writer Avrom Sutzkever

“Ver Vet Blaybn?” Award-winning Film about Yiddish Writer Avrom Sutzkever

ENGLISH CORNER, CON LINDA JIMÉNEZ – This week’s trivia question:  What is the name of the Yiddish literary journal that Avrom Sutzkever founded in Israel in 1949 and edited until 1995?

Avrom Sutzkever was an acclaimed Yiddish poet. The New York Times wrote that he was «the greatest poet of the Holocaust”. However, even though his poetry has been translated into 30 languages, including English, Swedish, French, Hebrew and Polish, among others,  his work is not as well-known among the general public as other Yiddish writers, such as Sholem Aleichem and Isaac Bashevis Singer. Nevertheless, his biography is fascinating and his contribution to Yiddish literature is so important that in 1985 he became the first Yiddish writer to receive the Israel Prize.

Sutzkever was born in 1913 and spent his childhood in Siberia, but later relocated to Vilna, where he was active in the ghetto’s resistance to the Nazis during World War II.  He was a witness at the Nuremburg trials in 1946 and the following year moved to Tel Aviv with his family.  There, he continued to write in Yiddish.  Sutzkever died in Tel Aviv in 2010.

The Yiddish Book Center, located in Amherst, Massachusetts, is a nonprofit organization working to recover, celebrate, and regenerate Yiddish and modern Jewish literature and culture.  One of their programs is the Wexler Oral History Project, which collects in-depth video interviews about Yiddish language and culture.  Christa Whitney, the project’s Director, and film director and editor Emily Felder recently co-directed a feature-length documentary   about Avrom Sutzkever’s life and work.  The film shows the journey of Hadas Kalderon, an Israeli actress and Sutzkever’s granddaughter, as she traces her grandfather’s life from Siberia to Vilna to Israel.  The film, Ver Vet Blaybn (“Who Will Remain?”), contains family home videos, newly recorded interviews, and archival recordings, including Sutzkever’s testimony at the Nuremberg Trial.  It has been shown at numerous film festivals and won many international awards, including Best Documentary Film Editing for a Featurette at the Madrid International Independent Film Festival (FICIMAD).

This week Christa and Emily are speaking with us about Sutzkever’s life and work, and the film.

MORE LINKS OF INTEREST:

Justin Cammy’s translations of Sutzkever: 

From the Vilna Ghetto to Nuremberg: Memoir and Testimony

The Full Pomegranate: Poems of Avrom Sutzkever

To schedule a screening of the film, write to:  tellyourstory@yiddishbookcenter.org