Lost & Found

Chaim Grade: A Testimony

In his deeply personal introduction to Saul Lieberman (1898–1983), Talmudic Scholar and Classicist, a rich memorial collection of essays about the great Jewish Theological Seminary scholar by students, family, and friends, Eli Wiesel recalled flying to Israel with Lieberman for the funeral of his wife, Judith:

This article is locked

Subscribe now for immediate and unlimited access to Web + Print + App + Archive
  • Already a subscriber? Log in to continue reading.
  • Not quite ready to subscribe? Register now for your choice of 3 FREE articles per quarter.
  • Already a registered user? Log in here.

About the Author

Allan Nadler is professor of comparative religion and director of the Program in Jewish Studies at Drew University. 


Michael Silber on March 28, 2017 at 11:11 am
Thanks Allan for once again recalling Chaim Grade's legacy. On the spur of the moment, I turned to Book Depository and then Amazon to order all his books in English translation only to discover that almost all are out of print. It would be a mitzva to undertake to have his works reissued.
gwhepner on March 29, 2017 at 2:24 pm

The details of the Talmud often are fantastic,
and sexual passages may be explicit.
Though Singer's prose to it is paraphrastic,
he made what it condemned appear quite licit.

His characters live close to yenne velt,
where goblins, imps and devils set their traps,
resembling billiard balls that roll on felt,
regarding all the pockets as mishaps.

Asmodeus, Lilith, Machalath,
are dreaded by them far more than a wife,
yenne yenta who attacks with wrath,
with threats like: “Choose this world, or loose your life!”

Chaim Grade interestingly evaded
the strong stench of this Singer's cheap perfumes.
Although some passages of the Talmud are X-graded,
he fumigated all its sexual fumes.

[email protected]
ynew23 on April 14, 2017 at 5:00 pm
Saul Lieberman delivered the following tribute to Chaim Grade in 1970, in Israel, at the last session of the Eighth International Convention of the World Council of Synagogues.

The following is the full text of the tribute.

"I do not pretend to be a literary critic, but I do pretend to be a great reader, so I will present Mr. Grade to you as I, a reader, see him.

Mr. Grade began his literary career as a poet, and has written a great deal of poetry. I have read only a part of his poetry, for a very simple reason. When you begin to read his poetry, you become so excited sometimes that your heart comes to a standstill. So I have stopped reading poetry! On the other hand, I have read almost all his prose works.

Here again, I can only talk as a reader. The American Academy for Jewish Research, which is not a wealthy institution, gave Grade an award of $6,000, the largest grant given to a Yiddish writer. This Academy, according to its statutes, cannot give awards to writers of belles lettres, but they found that Grade's books have immense historical value. He writes about the past—not the far-removed past, but about the past that many of us still remember.

When you begin to read Grade's works, it is hard to stop. You feel that you are reading a masterpiece of genius. At the same time, it is so true and correct; it is a genuine picture of life in Eastern Europe. He describes almost all the layers of Jewish society: the underworld, the people's struggles, their relationship to the clergy—the importance of the rabbis, the people's complaints against and at the same time their reverence toward the rabbis.

Unfortunately, only people who know Yiddish well can appreciate the flavor of his language and through it savor the period of which he writes. While I do not pretend to be a prophet, I venture to predict that there will be a time when people will study Yiddish only for the purpose of reading Chaim Grade's works."

Want to post a comment? Please register or log in.
Copyright © 2018 Jewish Review of Books. All Rights Reserved. | Site by W&B