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Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl

Yiddish Letter Manuals from Russia and America

Alice Nakhimovsky and Roberta Newman

Publication Year: 2014

At the turn of the 20th century, Jewish families scattered by migration could stay in touch only through letters. Jews in the Russian Empire and America wrote business letters, romantic letters, and emotionally intense family letters. But for many Jews who were unaccustomed to communicating their public and private thoughts in writing, correspondence was a challenge. How could they make sure their spelling was correct and they were organizing their thoughts properly? A popular solution was to consult brivnshtelers, Yiddish-language books of model letters. Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl translates selections from these model-letter books and includes essays and annotations that illuminate their role as guides to a past culture.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xvi

In 1913, Sonia Lubelski, a young woman living in the Lithuanian shtetl of Baltrumants, wrote a letter to her fiancé in America. The two young people were trying to negotiate a present and a future through the mail, and Sonia was still uncertain about whether to join Morris—the former...

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pp. xvii-xx

The fragile books we have explored here were not written with longevity in mind. That any of them survived is testimony to the dedicated work of libraries around the world, especially the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, the Jewish Theological Seminary, the New York Public Library...

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Translation and Romanization

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pp. xxi-xxiv

Letters in brivnshtelers have their own peculiar challenges for the translator. These are texts written in a variety of styles, sometimes graceful and heartfelt and sometimes awkward and stilted, even by letter-manual standards. Written across a century, the letters reflect stylistic changes in...

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1. The World of the Brivnshteler

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pp. 1-65

The age of the brivnshteler was an age of modernization, which some Russian Jews pursued, some resisted, and most accommodated to one degree or another. The brivnshteler served as an agent of change, guiding Jewish readers in their adaption of new social, cultural, and economic...

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2. From the Pages of Brivnshtelers

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pp. 66-191

The twin themes of mobility and modernity are ubiquitous in brivnshtelers published at the turn of the twentieth century. Young men and some young women travel to the big city for education or work, encounter its temptations, and suffer from loneliness and homesickness for their...

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3. Beyond Letters

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pp. 192-200

While model letters are the heart and soul of brivnshtelers, almost all manuals include other information that might come in handy for their readers. It is standard for the letters sections to be preceded by lists and guides, such as alphabetical lists of men’s and women’s names, common...


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pp. 201-212


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pp. 213-222

About the Authors

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E-ISBN-13: 9780253012074
E-ISBN-10: 0253012074
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253011992

Page Count: 248
Illustrations: 6 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2014