«Jewish Observer»
December 2002
5763 Tevet

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Patriarch of the Yiddish literature misses his native place. Voiced and fruity Yiddish speech resounded about once green shadowed streets of Kishinev. The town, in effect, was rather Jewish. But by and by a 1000-year-old German dialect with borrowings from everywhere (i.e. Yiddish) was subsiding, falling out of use. In some places it is considered a "dead" one. But this is not true. The Moldavian capital is home to a Bessarabian Jewish writer, patriarch of the literature in Yiddish in Europe, 90-year-old Ikhil Schreibman. He astonishes the surrounding people with his life power: fresh as a cucumber, writes and publishes his books, receives international prizes and for 10 years heads the "Yiddish - center" he created at the Manger library.

He was born and grew up in Vadul-Rashkov (a settlement like Sholom-Aleikhem's Kasrilovka). For all his life he has been erecting a literary monument to his motherland with his prose and verses.

In his concluding 23rd book "Creations and love" the author again appears before the reader as a resident of Rashkov. An eternal child Ikhilenka Schreibman has never spiritually left his settlement. The collection entitled "Pentateuch" includes 7 borrowed from Old Testament fatal, "tormenting"subjects adapted to Rashkov. The book contains 50 miniatures (purely Schreibman's genre) - such tiny diamonds. They are very poetic, sadly humouristic and permeated with a typically Jewish local philosophy.

They adore marking his jubilees, inviting him to all kinds of events to admire his personality. Pronouncing toasts, they invariably call him "guard" of Yiddish (mame-loshn).

Ikhil Isaacovich has never been ashamed of speaking and composing in it. He didn't change his first and last name, took no pseudonyms for career's sake in the Soviet times. Meeting his famous fellows-countrymen - Marshak, Svetlov, Matusovsky, Slutsky, Baltsan - he tried to refresh their memory about a neat, aphoristic "mame-loshn" of theirs. German fascists "shut mouth" to many of its speakers: 4 of 6 million exterminated Jews spoke Yiddish.

In the times of a notorious Pale of settlement in Russia the Yiddish literature richly flourished. Beside this country, wealthy writers' crops were yielded in Poland, both Americas (North and South), Romania. Classics of Yiddish came to life - three whales of Yiddish literature: Mendele Moikher Sforim, Sholom-Aleikhem and Itzhok Leibush Perets. Nowadays, during his educational trips (about Germany, for instance), "the last of the Mohicans" Schreibman (but, according to his words, far from a rear) was pleasantly surprised to meet quite a few Germans, students in particular, speaking this Jewish language. They were urged on learning it, as they confess, by a genetic feeling of guilt for atrocities of their ancestors.

Muse Maria, or a kiss on an elbow's bend.

Jews of Moldova speak of Schreibman: our wise man and "elder" is that creatively prolific and tidy because his Russian wife Marina has created ideal conditions for him. They are not worried about their "national treasure".

Marina Schreibman is known as a clever, prompt, fiery woman. She takes a great care about her husband following his every step. She is tender and witty. But most important is that she has learnt Yiddish and has a perfect command of it. In case of necessity she synchronously translates into Russian. She has even trained her poodle to understand orders in her husband's language. Yiddishkait (Jewishness) has become part of her nature. She even wanted to take giyur, but the rabbi didn't allow that. The woman feels: a certain grace (shkhina) extends over her for living next to a Jew. She comes from the Ural Cossacks, her maiden name being Pankova. Her family professed no anti-Semitism. But when the girl read the book by Natan Rybak and dreamt aloud she would give the author's name to her future son, her mother responded, "You've gone mad! He is a Jew!"

...Having graduated from the conservatory, Marina began teaching at a musical school in the town of Kurgan. She once went to a resort in Gagry to have a rest. One day she traveled by ship rented by "Litfond" (House of art"). A neighbour of young Marina appeared a smiling, with graying dark hair Schreibman (a widower by that time).

It is not known how Marina won Schreibman's heart: with her round atlas knees and peachy cheeks or with her charm and risibility. During the entire journey Ikhil excelled in wittiness, cracked jokes. Marina was guffawing like a madman. Even the neighbours cried, "Schreibman, you will turn the ship upside!" His wit won over her. When they were descending down the ladder he kissed her on an elbow's end. For three subsequent days that place was burning... Ikhil asked, "Do you know who I am by nationality?" "A Moldavian? - she began enumerating. - Uzbek? Georgian? You can't be a Jew, - she laughed. - They have no language". "Frankly speaking, I am a Jew. Moreover, I am a Jewish writer". A writer for a Russian is a celestial being communicating with God. The girl kept going hot and cold, got ashamed... "Don't be that excited. You said we have no language - but this is out of ignorance. We often deny what we don't know..."

They later wrote 500 letters to each other... The Kishinev Jews were, at first, very much against their union ("Whom do you take - this "shiksa"("alien")? She is too young! (difference - 27 years).

Husband became for Marina an educator, teacher and father. His word was a law to her. In her turn her love and devotion added fuel to his creative burner. Lazar Lagin (the author of "Old man Khottabych") said about them, "A purele fun Got" ("a couple from God"). Now, already Ikhilenka became her child. The Kishinev Jews admire this couple, thank Marina for the "people's property" she cares about.


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