Let it Remind You

An excerpt from Roberts Ventures (Robert’s Adventures):
“I shook myself. I woke up. Heniah was not sleeping. She said quietly to me:
‘Look, brother. It’s only the beginning of May and our boss’s house is already locked up. He has taken his whole family and gone away, by our very home shtetl, to his vacation house in Sosnovan Forest. Momma supplies his family with bagels every day. We work here and he pays Momma with our money, with our labor. Boruch, I wish with all my might that I was home.’
She cried quietly. I consoled her:
‘Sha, sister. There will come a time when we will take over the factory, and we’ll work for everyone, not only to satisfy the appetites of the rich. We will send sick workers on vacation so they get well. All the summer places and parks will be ours. Everything that we build and create will be for those who work.’
My sister answered quietly:
‘I will not live to see it brother. Maybe you will. So remember, when the time comes that there is a holiday, and the people march through the streets carrying flags, songs on their lips and joy in their hearts, let it remind you of your sister Heniah, who died young, and spat out her lungs in the factory.’
‘Don’t talk nonsense, sister,’ I answered. Your cough is not that dangerous. It will get better.’
‘Don’t comfort me with lies, Boruch. I know where I stand.’
“And in fact, she did not live long.”
— from ‘Robert’s Adventures’. 1938, By Solomon Simon
Happy May Day.

translator’s note:

Though Solomon Simon was viewed as on the ‘right’ for his generation, the ‘right’ among American Jews in the late 30s was mostly made up of socialists by temperament who were unaffiliated with any revolutionary party, of Social Democrats, and, at what would be seen as the real ‘right wing’, of progressive Democrats who believed that Roosevelt would get most of the results that the left had been pressing for. Another post makes it clear that he grew at least somewhat more politically conservative over time. But there is no reason to suspect that his sympathies for working people fundamentally changed.

He also knew his audience. Writing for the children in the Yiddish schools meant writing not only for his own group, the Sholem Aleichem Folk Schools, but also for the parents and children of the Workmen’s Circle schools, who were more frankly socialist, and for the parents and children of the Farband (labor Zionist) schools, and the Communist schools run by “the Ordn”.


3 thoughts on “Let it Remind You

  1. Wonderful post David. I think his feelings for workers stems directly from his love for his father particularly. He admired his father’s integrity and was proud of his own working class origins. It never seemed to me that he would have wished his father was a scholar.


  2. Interesting to read about the political spectrum, left to right, of Yiddish-speaking workers in the ’30s. Also, to think of Roosevelt as coming from the same upper crust as Trump, yet committed to establishing Social Security and other bedrocks (or so we thought) of a progressive society.


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