Sholem Aleichem was a well-known novelist, essayist, and playwright who wrote in Yiddish. He is thought to have been one of the most well-known Yiddish writers in the late 1800s and early 1900s. As a famous journalist, playwright, novelist, and editor, he was one of the founding fathers of modern Yiddish literature. He wrote under the pen name Sholem Aleichem, which means “peace be upon you” in Yiddish. Before he switched to Yiddish, he wrote stories in Hebrew and Russian. He was actually the first person to write stories for children in Yiddish. During his nearly 30-year writing career, he wrote more than 40 books of novels, short stories, and plays. He put his works into four categories: monologues, stories about holidays, stories for children, and stories from Kasrilevke. Of these, monologues were his best work. At the end of the 19th century, he made Tevye and Menakhem Mendl. These two characters became the main characters in most of his books. In fact, his story “Tevya the Dairyman” was the basis for the famous musical “Fiddler on the Roof,” which was then turned into a movie. Because of how important his works of literature were, his name is written on an impact crater on the planet Mercury.
Early years and childhood
Sholem Aleichem was born Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich on February 18, 1859, in Pereyaslav, which is now in Ukraine. His parents, Menachem-Nukhem Rabinovich and Chaye-Esther were wealthy timber merchants.
When he was young, his family moved to the nearby Jewish town of Voronkovx. A failed business deal forced them to move back to Pereyaslav, though.
His childhood was cut short even more when his mother died of cholera when he was only 13. At age 15, he wrote a Jewish version of “Robinson Crusoe,” which was his first book.
In 1876, he graduated from a local Russian high school with honors. For the next three years, he worked as a private tutor for Olga (Hodel) Loev.
Sholem Aleichem’s Career
In 1879, he got a job as a local reporter for the Hebrew weekly Ha-Tsefirah. In 1881 and 1882, he put out articles in the Haskalah-related magazine “Ha-Melts” about Jewish education.
Even though he wanted to write in Russian or Hebrew, he switched to Yiddish when he realized it was easier for most Jews to understand.
“Tsvey shteyner” (Two Gravestones), his first Yiddish book, came out in 1883 under the pen name “Sholem Aleichem,” which is a Hebrew greeting that means “peace be upon you” in Yiddish.
In 1883 and 1884, he wrote: “Di ibergekhapte briv af der post” (Letters Intercepted at the Post Office), which was his first feuilleton. It was made up of a series of documents.
In the years that followed, he wrote more feuilleton-style stories, such as “An ibershraybung tsvishn tsvey alte chaverim” (1884) and “Kontor gesheft” (Office Business; 1885).
Between 1884 and 1889, he wrote six full-length works of fiction, such as “Natashe” (1884, later renamed “Table”), “Sender Blank and His Family” (1888), and “Yosele Solovey” (Yosele the Nightingale, 1889).
In 1888 and 1889, he put together two issues of an almanac called “Di Yidishe Folksbibliotek” (The Yiddish Popular Library) to help young Yiddish writers get ideas. The third issue couldn’t be put out because he lost all of his money betting on stocks.
During the 1890s, he wrote less because he didn’t have enough money. He only wrote one short novel, “Meshiekhs tsaytn” (The Days of the Redeemer), in 1898.
He didn’t start making money from writing until 1899 when the Yiddish magazine “Der Yud” came out. Some of his most famous works were monologues, holiday stories, children’s stories, and stories about Kasrilevke.
He wrote stories for children that were told by an adult in the voice of a child. Some examples are “Der zeyger” (The Clock, 1900), “Di fon” (The Banner, 1900), “Afn fidl” (The Violin, 1902) and “Der esreg” (The Citron, 1902).
His monologues included “Gendz” (1902), “Funem priziv” (1902), “Gimenazye” (1902), “Finf un zibetsik toyzent” (1902), and “A nisref” (1903), among others.
His holiday stories were based on traditional Jewish holidays and were often published right before the holidays. One of these touching works was “Af Peysekh ahem,” which came out in 1903.
He stopped writing stories set in small towns and hamlets and started writing about Kasrilevke. In “Ven ikh bin Roytshild,” for example, he wrote about misery, poverty, and miracles (If I Were Rothschild, 1902).
He turned to theater to try to make money. In 1903, in Warsaw, Poland, he put on his first play, “Tsezeyt un tseshpreyt” (Scattered and Dispersed).
During the Russian Revolution of 1905, he left Russia and went to Lemberg. In 1906, he moved to London via Geneva and then settled in New York City.
He went back to Geneva in 1908, and for the next three months, he did his one-man act all over Ukraine and Belorussia. After that, he got acute hemorrhagic tuberculosis and had to stay in the hospital for two months.
Even though he was still poor, he got better and got help from his fans and friends. During this time, he wrote long books like “The Deluge,” “Wandering Stars,” and “The Blue Rider” (The Bloody Hoax).
Works of note
“Stempenyu,” which he wrote in 1888, is considered one of his best literary works. It tells the story of a musician and a religious woman who fall in love.
At the end of the 19th century, he made Menachem Mendl and Tevye, two characters who were the main characters in many of his stories.
In 1901, he wrote the monologue “Dos tepl” (The Pot), which became his signature work and led to a series of monologues that perfectly mixed comedy and tragedy.
Personal History and Legacies
In 1883, he married Olga Loev, who was the daughter of a wealthy landowner and moved to Belaia Tserkov.
After Olga’s father died in 1885, she and her husband got the land estate and moved to Kyiv in 1887. But in 1890, he lost all of his money on the stock market and went broke.
The couple had six children: a girl named Ernestina in 1884, a girl named Lyala in 1887, a girl named Emma in 1888, a boy named Elimelech in 1889, a girl named Marusi in 1892, and a boy named Nochum in 1894. (1901).
His family moved to New York City in 1914, but his sick son Elimelech and his sister Emma stayed in Switzerland, where Elimelech died in 1915.
He got tuberculosis and diabetes, and he died in New York on May 13, 1916.
About 100,000 people went to his funeral, making it one of the biggest in New York City’s history. He was buried at Old Mount Carmel Cemetery in Queens two days after his death.
In the 1960s, his Tevye stories were turned into plays that were put on in the US, Israel, and Soviet Russia.
In his honor, one monument has been built in Kiev and one in Moscow.
This famous author was honored with postage stamps from Israel, the Soviet Union, Romania, and Ukraine.
Estimated Net worth
Sholem is one of the wealthiest authors and is on the list of the most popular authors. Based on what we found on Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider, Sholem Aleichem is worth about $1.5 million.
He also knew how to write in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Russian. He was also fluent in other languages, such as Ukrainian and Polish.
When he moved to New York City in 1906, Yiddish and American-English journalists called him “Jewish Mark Twain.”