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This week, we feature a new collection of stories by Abraham Karpinowitz, Vilna My Vilna. Host Marcela Sulak reads an excerpt from “Chana-Merka, the Fishwife,” which follows the beginnings of the Max Weinreich Yiddish Institute, today called YIVO and housed in New York. Then in Vilna, Chana-Merka would meet with Dr. Weinreich to hand over lists of “Yiddish pearls” – Yiddish phrases and expressions to be recorded for posterity. Here are some of the Vilna curses Chana-Merka submits to Weinreich:

“May you get a piece of straw in your eye and a splinter in your ear and not know which one to pull out first.

How long do you think she’ll be sick? If she’s going to lie in bed with a fever for another month, let the month last five weeks.

May a fish ball get stuck in your throat.

They should call a doctor for you in an emergency and when he arrives, they should tell him he’s no longer needed.

Karpinowitz was born in 1913 in Vilna, Lithuania, a city long considered the cultural and intellectual center of Jewish Europe. He arrived at the new state of Israel from a Cypriot displaced persons camp in 1949, and for the next three decades he was the manager of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. He died in 2004.

Vilna My Vilna by Abraham Karpinowitz. Translated by Helen Mintz. Syracuse University Press, 2015.

Anonymous – Mein Shtetl Belz, 1928
Nigel Kennedy and the Kroke Band – Kazimierz
Nigel Kennedy and the Kroke Band – Jovano Jovanake

Producer: Laragh Widdess
Technical producer: Alex Benish

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