Item 075_vilnius_lithuania_005 - Vilnius Lithuania, "The Sholem Aleichem class"

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Vilnius Lithuania, "The Sholem Aleichem class"

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  • Photographic material

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  • 1926 (Creation)
    Photographer unknown

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Photograph of the "Mavfitsi" Haskalah school children and teachers. All students and teachers are male, and are aged from early adolescence to manhood.

Haskalah refers to the Jewish Enlightenment, which was an intellectual movement that arose in the late 18th century in central and eastern europe. Those who ascribe to Haskalah are called maskilim, and characteristically intended to integrate Jews into modern society, while simultaneously maintaining and nurturing a Jewish uniqueness. This means that even though some acculturation was encouraged, Haskalah as a movement advocated for preserving the continued existence of Jewish society as a distinct entity and worked towards promoting a spiritual and cultural renewal of Jewish society. [Source:].

This class was called Sholem Aleichem class, referring to a famous and leading playwright and author who used this as his pen name. Sholem Aleichem wrote stories about 'Tevye the Dairyman' about Jewish life in Eastern Europe, which were later translated into the widely successful musical in 1964, 'Fiddler on the Roof'. This was the first English and largescale commercial production depicting Jewish life in Eastern Europe. The author wrote many short stories and plays, and did a fair amount of lecturing and political activism via representation means while living in America. He advocated strongly for Zionism, the use of Yiddish as a national Jewish language, and was purposeful in all his writing to communicate these ideals. The author in question was born as Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich, but used a slight variation of a common Hebrew and Yiddish greeting - "Shalom Aleichem" - as a pen name. This greeting means "peace to you" or "may peace be upon you". [Source:]. This author's portrait is being held by two young boys in the centre of the front row of the photograph. A suspected relative of Sholem Aleichem, Mr I. Rabinowitz (alternative spelling of the author's given surname, Rabinovich) is photographed in the back row, third from the left.

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Donated by The South African Jewish Board of Deputies Archive


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Unless otherwise stated the copyright of all material on the Jewish Digital Archive Project resides with the South African Jewish Museum.

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