Previously published in Examiner
The topic for women’s issues we have been following is the history of Yiddish culture in Montreal. The legacy spans a century and today though the culture is dying in North America, it still is holding on post Holocaust era.
Rosenfarb and others have had to translate their Yiddish works into English because very few people speak Yiddish in Montreal and the rest of North America today. Writer/poet Sholem Shtern is the pioneer of Canadian Yiddish translations. He came to Montreal as an immigrant in 1920 and writes about Yiddish immigration in Canada. By the mid-1980s all of his novels were translated into English and French.
Yehuda Elbert, a polish writer who came to Montreal after the holocaust in 1956 has his work translated into Canada’s official languages. Québecois scholar, Pierre Anctil actually did the French translation.
Furthermore, Simcha Simchovitch, “the last Yiddish poet in Canada, “has his work translated in English as well.
By the 1970s a Montreal group of poets and writers dedicated to translating Yiddish works into English emerged. Since the 1990s the venture to translate Yiddish works has flourished. Pierre Anctil has translated Yiddish works into French and Vivian Felsen and others have translated Yiddish works into English.
This endeavor has opened up the Yiddish Jewish experience to people who would not have known about the culture by any other means. Canada is a leader in this area.
“The translation of a Yiddish memoir by Winnipeger Martin Green has been called “the most unusual and semiotically provocative permutation of Yiddish translation in the post vernacular mode” (Shandler 2006,123). Green’s translation of Falk Zolf’s 1945 memoir, Oyf fremder erd (On Foreign Soil) gradually introduces glossed and transliterated Yiddish terms into the English text until the text turns to Yiddish,” all in English characters (Zolf 2000).
The texts are translated so well that the reader can experience the wonders of the Yiddish culture and traditions. Translation of Yiddish into English is a focal point for the Jewish community in Montreal as witnessed by the 2004 conference titled “Traduire le Montreal Yiddish/New Readings of Yiddish Montreal/taytshn un obertaytshn yidish in montreol.” The event brought readers, writers, and translators together regardless of their roots and Yiddish culture.
Chava Rosenfarb opened her keynote speech: “I consider myself a makhateneste (son/daughter-in-law’s mother) at every gathering where Yiddish is being celebrated. Despite the fact that so many years ago I was torn out of my Yiddish-speaking world, my heart and mind are still rooted in it. Yiddish is still the language of my daily life. It is the medium through which I come in contact with my surroundings, and through which I try to harness my life’s experiences and recreate them into literature” (2004, 11).