Picture from; www.fh-augsburg.de/.../MenkeKatz/men_intr.html
Menke Katz was born in Michaliszki/ Michalishuck , Vilna region, in
for information about Michaliszki;
From ; www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/svencionys/sve0080
"Katz emigrated to the United States with his family in 1920, after
losing a beloved brother who had been imprisoned in a German labor
camp during World War I. Accomplished in Yiddish and English, Katz
wrote poetry in both languages and edited an international poetry
journal, Bitterroot, in Spring Glen, New York. Two of Katz's favorite
forms for poetry were the sonnet and the triangle. During his
lifetime, eighteen books by Menke Katz (nine in Yiddish, nine in
English) were published, and Katz was a Pulitzer Prize nominee and
winner of the Stephen Vincent Benet award. All of Menke Katz's books,
translations, and essays, as well as the periodicals he edited, are
listed at the Web site belonging to his son, Dovid Katz
(http://www.dovidkatz.net). To see a rundown of what this prolific
writer was involved in, go to:
Menke Katz poetry about Svintsyan is in the yizkor book,
Sefer zikaron le-esrim ve-shalosh kehilot she-nehrevu be-ezor
Svintsian. Below is some other representative poetry and additional
information about Menke Katz, whose nine Yiddish books have now
finally been translated into English by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav
of Yale University"
Menke Katz (1906-1991) was the only Yiddish poet this century who
became a major poet in English as well. The Smith, his primary
publisher in English, now has begun publishing his Yiddish works.
MENKE SONNETS is a hardcover book that contains his last poems and
collects all his Yiddish sonnets. A few months before his death, he
had completed his eighteenth book (nine are in Yiddish, nine in
English). Then, his mother Badonna came to him in a dream, in his
forest house in Spring Glen, New York. Standing by the bank of the
Viliya River, which surrounds her native village, Michalishek, she
told him to write only in Yiddish from that day onward. Of course he
obeyed, and the results now appear in this, Menke Katz's last book of
Inventor of many unique poetic forms, one of his most beloved is his
"Menke Sonnet," which goes from two to fifteen syllables, or fifteen
to two. They are informally known as "Menke triangles" because of
MENKE SONNETS comprises the sections: "Against Lock and Rhyme" (Menke
fought rhyme in both languages); "Yiddish, Michalishek, Svintsyan" (on
the language he loved most and the poor villages of his youth in
Lithuania); "New York"; "Israel." In the final chapter, "The Will,"
the poet confronts death. The last sonnet, "Night in night out," is
incomplete, as if waiting for the Messiah to come and finish it, as
Menke might well have said. It was written in the early hours of the
day of his death, April 24, 1991.
The Smith's publication of this lovely Yiddish volume is not an end
but a beginning. Publisher Harry Smith announced that he has
fortunately secured the services of leading translators Benjamin and
Barbara Harshav to translate all of Menke Katz's Yiddish books into
English. The result will be a giant bilingual edition to be published
in late 1996.
ISBN: 0-912292-96, 264 pp., cloth, $15.95
Other titles by Menke Katz available from The Smith:
A CHAIR FOR ELIJAH, "Internationally acclaimed visions of a lifetime."
$6.95 paper, $9.95 cloth, 96 pp. (poetry)
BURNING VILLAGE, "World War I equivalent of Guernica"
$10.00 cloth, 136 pp. (poetry)
NEARBY EDEN "Personal and mystic, prophetic and earthy."
$10.95 paper, $18.95 cloth, 128 pp. (poetry)
FOREVER AND EVER AND A WEDNESDAY "'True legends' of time-lost village."
$10.00 cloth, $6.00 paper, 80 pp. (fiction)
TWO FRIENDS II, Menke Katz and Harry Smith. "Poet-pals face off again
in sequel to their earlier poetic adventure Two Friends." Published by
Birch Brook Press, but available through The Smith.
$11.95 paper, $20.00 cloth, 112 pp. (poetry)
Menke Katz, 85, Poet Appreciated For His Lyrical Style
*. April 26, 1991, Friday
By RICHARD F. SHEPARD (NYT); Obituary
Late Edition - Final, Section D, Page 18, Column 6,
Menke Katz, a poet who gained note for his personal lyrical style in
both English and Yiddish, died on Wednesday at his home in Spring
Glen, N.Y. He was 85 years old and was the author of 18 books of
poetry, 9 in each of the two languages
For poems and more information go to;
The Vilna Mentsh (Dovid Katz, son of poet Menke Katz)
Darius James Ross
Dovid Katz, scion of a Jewish family with deep roots in Lithuania, has
one abiding passion in life: preventing his mother
being forgotten as its last speakers, a few thousand Holocaust
survivors, die out.
The 49 year-old Brooklyn-born scholar, one of the founders of Yiddish
Studies at Oxford, is the spiritus movens behind Vilnius University's
one-of-a-kind Yiddish Institute, which brings scholars to Lithuania
and trains local experts to study and teach the language in what Katz
calls the "heartland of the pre-war natural territory of Yiddish."
"We're not about Yiddish, we're in Yiddish," he says emphatically.
Katz is known in Vilnius as an irrepressibly joyful man. He stands out
with his long beard and hair–which lend him the countenance of an Old
Testament prophet–set atop his customarily baggy suits. He is often
seen ambling along the streets of Old Town, lost in thought, swinging
his heavily-laden lawyer's briefcase as he walks.
"We're training masters to learn the language the long, slow, hard way
to become tomorrow's teachers. We have no illusions, but we have a
feeling we're making a little dent, and we do have a certain historic
mission to keep alive small modest islands of secular Yiddish."
Yiddish, Katz explains, has a long history in Lithuania, arriving in
the days of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (which encompassed an
area much wider than the present-day state) during the late Middle
Ages, with Jewish immigrants who found refuge from religious
persecution in the patchwork of medieval Germanic states, and who had
answered the Grand Dukes' calls for settlers and promises of land
rights and protection.
The language is a fusion of Germanic, Hebrew and Aramaic, with some
Slavic elements, and is written using the Hebrew script.
Why keep Yiddish going? And why, of all places, in a country that saw
nearly all of its Jewish population, most of whom spoke Yiddish,
massacred in the 1940s? Katz, who has argued his case forcefully in
Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish (Basic Books: New York,
2004) says the world shouldn't forsake a language with a 1000-year
history that is rich in subtle humor, satire, irony and a literature
that competes with the best of other cultures, and that was the
vernacular of European Jews for several centuries.
His father, acclaimed Yiddish and English-language poet Menke Katz,
emigrated to the U.S. prior to World War II. He raised his son
exclusively in Yiddish, imprinting on him a love for the language as
it faced a steep decline, being replaced by American English as Jewish
émigrés assimilated and by Modern Hebrew in Israel
"There are some Jewish people in the West who resent us being here.
Period. They think of Israeli Hebrew as the only legitimate Jewish
language for the future," says Katz. "Our attitude is to try to escape
polemics by simply saying we are here only for those who want to study
and learn the language."
To Katz's great astonishment–he expected to find nothing remaining of
Lithuania's Jewish past–his first visit in 1990 yielded a linguist's
greatest prize: remnants of the language's taproot in the form of
scattered pockets of octogenarian and nonagenarian Litvaks (Lithuanian
Jews) living in tiny communities in Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus, and
still speaking dialects of Yiddish.
"Our significant treasure is the older speakers of Yiddish with all
its pre-war wealth, their memories, and what they can show us of their
historic homes. These are people who speak a kind of Yiddish that
would not be possible in the West for a host of sociological reasons."
The institute has found a home in the History of Culture department of
Vilnius University, for which, during the academic year, it provides
courses on everything from Ashkenazic (i.e. Central and East European)
Jewish civilization, to Yiddish culture, language and folklore, mostly
for local Lithuanian students interested in the country's Jewish
"If a young Lithuanian student walks through that door to take my
course, it means he or she has a damn serious interest in it. On an
academic level, we are completely color-blind, gender-blind and
religion-blind. We just want good students."
Some, Katz says brimming with pride, have gone on to earn doctorates
in the field at foreign universities, including Sarunas Liekis, the
institute's director, who studied at Brandeis University.
"To understand the literature, you need to see the habitat, the
architecture, the forests, the surroundings. You need to see a shtetl
[little town] and what the wooden houses would have looked like,
everything that was described in the great works of Yiddish
The institute's main financial backers are a closely-knit group of
Yiddish enthusiasts from around the world, headed by a Santa
Monica-based descendant of the famous Vilna Gaon [Genius of Vilnius],
Rabbi Eliyahu, a great eighteenth century Talmudic sage, who remains a
towering figure among Jewish religious scholars.
Katz has written a massive tome entitled Lithuanian Jewish Culture
(Baltos lankos: Vilnius, 2004) covers a gamut of topics in Lithuanian
Jewish history and lore. He stated that the Gaon, who relegated all
earthly things to be alone with his books, wrote many brilliant
treatises on the Kabbalah. The ancient Jewish mystical tradition has
become all the rage in certain Hollywood quarters thanks to spin by
pop stars such as Madonna and Britney Spears.
Katz has toyed with the idea of translating some of the great texts by
Lithuanian Kabbalah scholars, but winces at the amount of time the
task would consume. Asked what view the great sage Eliyahu might take
of the contemporary Kabbalah-for-dummies approach to mysticism, Katz
pulls no punches: "Furious. He would be furious about it, that it's
being misrepresented and sold as a method to achieve."
And what is the motivation of modern students of Yiddish, those who
enroll in Katz's courses? "I've never asked a student why he or she
wants to study Yiddish," says Katz. "I mean the wife, friends,
girlfriend are all wondering why, so the last thing they need to hear
is the teacher ask them why they want to learn Yiddish when they walk
into class. If you're here, you're here."
'Somehow Yiddish still lives'
By Rebecca Schlam Lutto | Published 06/29/2006 | Community |
Rebecca Schlam Lutto
View all articles by Rebecca Schlam Lutto Iroim Katz Handler will
present a program on "Yiddish Theater From Purim to Broadway" at the
convention of the International Association of Yiddish Clubs in
Teaneck on Saturday, July 8. A native of Passaic and a Yiddish scholar
on three continents, she's often back in the metropolitan area, in
person or in print.
The IAYC conference will be Handler's eighth. Each time she's been
asked to make a presentation, and her subjects are diverse. For
example, she's tackled "Judaism and Sex" and "How Jewish Was Sholem
Asch?," (who wrote "The Nazarene").
Handler has been the IAYC's educational director for five years.
"Three times a year I send out materials to the 90 clubs in the
association," she said. "I keep my eyes and ears open for resources
they can use to help plan programs." (See related stories.)
Handler's father was the renowned Yiddish poet Menke Katz. ("Menke;
the complete Yiddish poems of Menke Katz," was published in 2005. The
hefty volume was prepared by two Yale linguistics professors, Barbara
and Benjamin Harshav.)
In addition to the Yiddish she heard and read at home, young Troim
(Troim means "dream of hope" in Yiddish) learned to type and take
shorthand in Yiddish at her first job after high school. She was
secretary to Itche Goldberg, who, at age 102 is still struggling to
find backing for his "Yidishe Kultur" journal.
"He was my university of one," she recalls. "I learned Yiddish grammar
from him. In those days there was no white-out. One error and the page
had to be done over. I learned not to make any errors!" She still uses
her two manual Yiddish typewriters; one each in her central New Jersey
home and West Palm Beach condo.
Thirty years of teaching English and journalism at secondary schools
on Long Island separated her two Yiddish "lives" — one as a teenager
and the second as a retiree.
"I was extremely depressed and couldn't bear retirement," she said.
"Not until I happened upon a Hadassah Yiddish club did I find a new
life." Since then she has presented dozens of programs a year and
become a Yiddish writer, teacher, entertainer, and all-round resource
at Elderhostels, synagogues, and myriad Jewish groups. Some programs
are shared with her husband Frank, who repeats her Yiddish lines in
English. He also conducts Jewish history programs.
Troim Katz Handler, the bard of Jewish love in the electronic age,
never wrote a word of poetry until April 24, 1991, the night of her
father's funeral. The love poems she began on that fateful night in
1991 now number more than 500.
Amazingly, her brother Dovid Katz had a similar epiphany that night,
and began writing Yiddish fiction. His latest book in English is
"Words on Fire: The Unfinished Story of Yiddish" (2004). He is
professor of Yiddish Language and Literature at Vilnius University in
Lithuania. His Website is www.judaicvilnius.com.
"Simkhe" is the title and the name of the hero of Troim's volume of 73
love poems, the first ever published by the IAYC. It was launched at
the group's seventh conference in Milwaukee. Simkhe and his beloved
are separated by great distance and conduct their love affair by
letter and telephone