Thursday was the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights. There are rich, fascinating stories related to the holiday written in Yiddish early in the 20th century. Professor Miriam Udel teaches English language and culture at Emory University.
She joined “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes to share a few of these stories and other holiday season traditions.
One such story Udel talks about is “The Dreydl,” by Sholem Aleichem, which tells the story of an orphan and his dealings with a bully named Benny.
“Sholem Aleichem is remembered as a humorist and as a comic writer, and he absolutely is. But it is, as he put it, ‘laughter through tears.’ And one of the things that really brought him to tears was contemplating the economic inequality that was baked into the world then and now,” Udel said about the story. “He tried to really raise consciousness about the unfairness of how things worked so that one kid has a trick dreydl and can beat everybody else and take everything that they’ve got. That’s at the micro-level, and at the macro level, he felt that the whole economic arrangement of modernity with the stock markets and exchanges was just a version of that rigged dreydl writ large.”