This Week in JPL History: Sholom Alecheim visits!

In early days of its existence the Jewish Public Library was fortunate to host one the greatest of Yiddish literary figures, Sholem Aleichem. In June 1915 Aleichem visited Montreal during what was to be his last tour and gave a reading-concert to a jam-packed crowd at the Princess Theatre. He also met with members of the Library’s Board at the home of Reuben Brainin.

Sholem Alecheim is seated at the middle of the high table, this picture was taken during his visit to Montreal

Born Solomon Naumovich Rabinovich on March 2, 1859 in Pereyaslav, Ukraine, Sholem Aleichem was the author of numerous plays and stories. The play Fiddler on the Roof is based on his works. He is often described as being the “Jewish Mark Twain.” Reportedly, Twain’s reaction to hearing this was to say “please tell him that I am the American Sholem Aleichem.”

Aleichem’s visit had a huge impact on the Library: that the heavyweight of Yiddish literature would give a reading sponsored by the JPL gave much weight to the young institution. The visit, along with a tag day held that same year, helped to ensure the Library’s survival.
The Library continues to honour the memory of this Yiddish literary figure through a yearly Yiddish Café, where one of his humorous works is read aloud.

The This Week in Jewish Public Library History blog series was made possible through the generous support of the Peter and Ellen Jacobs Virtual Archives Fund

Leave a Comment