Today in Women’s issues we are discussing one of the most prominent Montreal poets of her time. Ida Maza was a key figure in the Canadian Culture movement.
According to Rebecca Margolis, the Yiddish language prospered in Europe for a millennium and when Jews migrated to Canada and other parts of the world, Ashkenazim culture came with them. The rise of the Yiddish culture in the 19th and 20th century brought with it the arts, media press, educational institutions, and cultural movements within the community. Because of the language barrier most Canadians and were not aware of this vibrant community.
Nevertheless, Yiddish writing became an important form of modern expression. Speaking, reading, and writing became important factors in what it meant to be a Jew. In Montreal, the Ashkenazim community was robustly publishing their work in Yiddish newspapers. They promoted many causes such as education and charities. It was a big family oriented culture.
The group of published individuals was primarily writers of all kinds. Montreal was the hub of activity between the two world wars for East European Jews; Ida Maza was one of the most dynamic writers of her time.
Ida’s beginning and later accomplishments
Ida Zhukovsky (1893-1962) was born in Ogli, a small town in Tsarist Belorus and came to Montreal when she was 14 years old. She began her career in writing with a poem called Ray of Sun when she was in her thirties. She wrote of nature and beauty and family that can be a very personal moment to a universal theme.
The poem in its original form with english translated is printed below.
veynen kinder durkh Children cry through
di nekht, the nights,
un shlofn in sleeping in the
frimorgn; morning’s sun;
vakhn mames mothers keep vigil during
lange nekht, long nights,
shlofn nit un zorgn. unsleeping, their worry
Maza continued writing five more books of poetry and prose. She also wrote for children and young adults. Ida Maza (now married) was also an activist. She headed Montreal’s Literary Salon in the 1930s. The family home was open to anyone seeking help in the Yiddish community.
“To these artists, most of them middle-aged and impecunious, and all of them immigrants, Mrs. Maza was the eternal mother-the food giver and nourisher, the listener and solacer (sic), the mediator between them and the world.”
She was also active in rescuing Jews from the holocaust and providing then with shelter