“Explore[s] the Jewish past via letters that reflect connections and collisions between old and new worlds.” —Jewish Book Council
At the turn of the 20th century, Jewish families scattered by migration could stay in touch only through letters. Jews in the Russian Empire and America wrote business letters, romantic letters, and emotionally intense family letters. But for many Jews who were unaccustomed to communicating their public and private thoughts in writing, correspondence was a challenge. How could they make sure their spelling was correct and they were organizing their thoughts properly? A popular solution was to consult brivnshtelers, Yiddish-language books of model letters. Dear Mendl, Dear Reyzl translates selections from these model-letter books and includes essays and annotations that illuminate their role as guides to a past culture.
“Covers a neglected aspect of Jewish popular culture and deserves a wide readership. For all serious readers of Yiddish and immigrant Jewish culture and customs.” —Library Journal
“Delivers more than one would expect because it goes beyond a linguistic study of letter-writing manuals and explicates their genre and social function.” —Slavic Review
“Reproductions of brivnshtelers form the core of the book and comprise the majority of the text, providing a ground-level window into a largely obscured past.” —Publishers Weekly
“The real delight of the book is in reading the letters themselves . . . Highly recommended.” —AJL Reviews