Anatoly Kaplan: The Enchanted Artist

Tales for Jewish Children

Color‭ Lithograph

Sholem Aleichem was the inventor of Yiddish children’s literature and one of the great writers for and about children in world literature. His Tales for Jewish Children, written between 1900 and the year of his death, usually appeared in holiday supplements in the Yiddish press, as they reflect the entire Jewish holiday cycle as experienced by children in the old Country, Tsarist Russia. All the stories are bittersweet; even when the holiday is celebrated without a glitch, there is always the morning after when the King for the Day must return to the grind of everyday life. More often than not, however, something happens to disrupt the joy and great anticipation: the Sukkot citron is spoiled, the Simhat Torah flag is burned, the Passover guest from the ten Lost tribes runs off with all the family silver.

So successful were these stories that Sholem Aleichem created the character of Motl, the Cantor’s Son, a close cousin of Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer, to narrate the saga of the mass immigration to America.