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Chaim Grade

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

Chaim Grade was one of the leading Yiddish writers of the 20th century. He was born on April 4, 1910 in Vilna (then in the Russian Empire) as a son of Shlomo Mordecai Grade, a Hebrew teacher, and Vella Grade Rosenthal, a rabbi’s daughter. The boy received both profound Jewish religious and secular education. In 1932, Chaim began publishing stories and poems in local Yiddish newspapers, and was among the founders of the "Young Vilna" experimental group of artists and writers. His first poetic book, “Yo” (“Yes”), was issued in 1936. He sometimes used a pen-name Vilner. He fled the Nazi invasion and sought refuge in the Soviet Union. In the Holocaust he lost his first wife and his mother. Just after the war, he lived briefly in Poland and France before relocating to the Bronx, New York City, in 1948. Chaim Grade's poem "Ikh veyn af aykh mit ale oysyes fun dem alef-beys" ("I weep for you with all the letters of the alphabet") is an elegy for the Soviet Yiddish writers executed under Stalin's regime. His most famous novels, “The Agunah” (“The Abandoned Wife”, 1961) and “The Yeshiva” (2 volumes, 1967–68), deal with philosophical and ethical dilemmas of Jewish life in prewar Lithuania. Grade's typical short story, "My Quarrel with Hersh Rasseyner," describes a chance meeting of a Holocaust survivor with an old friend from the yeshiva. The narrator has lost his faith, while his friend has continued to lead a pious and devoted religious life. In 1970 Chaim Grade won the Itzik Manger Prize for contributions to Yiddish literature. He died on July 2, 1982 in New York. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery, Saddle Brook, New Jersey.

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