Fun Facts Friday: Sholem Aleichem

February 18, 2022

Sholem Aleichem (18 February, 1859 – 13 May, 1916) was a famous Jewish author and playwright who wrote in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian. He is known for his play Fiddler on the Roof (originally titled Tevye the Dairyman), as well as many other stories.

Fun Facts Friday: Sholem Aleichem
Books by Sholem Aleichem*

Fun Facts about Sholem Aleichem:

  1. Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich was born in Pereiaslav, Russia. Pereiaslav is a city in, what is now, central Ukraine. However, at the time it was part of the Russian Empire.
  2. As a young man, Sholem wrote a glossary of terms used by his step-mother. His mother, Chaye-Esther died of cholera. At age 15, he wrote a Jewish version of Robinson Crusoe.
  3. At around that time, he adopted his nom de plume of Sholem Aleichem (שלום עליכם), a traditional Jewish greeting which means “peace be with you”.
  4. After graduating from school, Sholem started tutoring Olga Loev, a daughter of a wealth landowner. After a few years, in 1883 Olga and Sholem tied the knot against her father’s wishes.
    Nevertheless, the couple eventually inherited the estate, and Sholem promptly lost all the money in the stock market.
  5. By 1890, Sholem Aleichem was a famous figure in Yiddish literature.
  6. Using the money he earned as a writer, which was considerable, Sholem put out two almanacs to allow other Yiddish writers to get published.
    Not being good with money, he lost his fortune before being able to publish a third.
  7. In 1908, Sholem, Olga, and their five children immigrated to Geneva, Switzerland for fear of the pogroms happening throughout Russia. Pogroms are government sanctioned violent riots targeting a specific ethnic or religious group (usually Jews).
  8. Being diagnosed with tuberculosis, Sholem lived as a semi-invalid for a few years. The family relied on donations from friends and fans.
  9. The work of Sholom Aleichem has been admired for its accuracy of depicting life in small Jewish towns (shtetl). Some saw the humor of his characters as a coping mechanism, while later on critics started seeing the tragic side of his plays.
  10. Sholem Aleichem was often called “The Jewish Mark Twain”. Both authors used pen names, had similar sense of humor, writing styles, wrote for adults and children, as well as using their fame to lecture in Europe and the United States.
    When Mark Twain heard the nickname, he replied “please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem.”

Books by Sholem Aleichem*

Zohar — Man of la Book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Fun Facts Friday: Sholem Aleichem
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Fun Facts Friday: Sholem Aleichem
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Sholem Aleichem (18 February, 1859 – 13 May, 1916) was a famous Jewish author and playwright who wrote in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Russian. He is known for his play Fiddler on the Roof, as well as many other stories.
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Man of la Book - A Bookish Blog
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