Honey on the Page

Wonder how best to pass down and preserve your Jewish identity in an increasingly secularized culture.

Miriam Udel, a rabbi, mother, professor of Yiddish language and Literature at Emory University, and the winner of the 2017 National Jewish Book Award, introduces modern-day families to translated versions of the cherished fairy tales, fables, folklore, and poems originally written in Yiddish over a century ago.

In HONEY ON THE PAGE: A Treasury of Yiddish Children’s Literature (NYU Press), Miriam Udel presents an unprecedented collection of nearly 50 traditional Yiddish stories and rhymes for youngsters translated into English. As Udel shares, she became interested in reclaiming this largely lost body of literature through the convergence of two pathways: her work as a Yiddish language teacher and her vocation as a mother. Combing through hundreds of anthologies and free-standing storybooks, as well as several years’ worth of periodicals, she sought authentic pieces of Yiddish prose and verse that would at once represent their times and places of origin and engage and resonate with today’s young readers.

“Yiddish children’s literature, deeply preoccupied as it is with themes of identity, narrow escapes, fortuitous twists of fate, and the exercise of power, seems more relevant now than ever,” Udel reflects. “These artifacts of the twentieth century speak eloquently into the twenty-first less because of their surface-level political commitments than because of something deeper. Collectively, these unquiet and disquieting stories and poems furnish an account of children reckoning with the world as it is, witnessing and comprehending its unfairness, and grappling with their own contribution towards its amendment.”

Celebrating a wide-ranging literary tradition that has been widely overlooked in the scholarly study of children’s literature, HONEY ON THE PAGE is, above all, a book meant to be read and shared with children by Jewish parents and educators. With a commitment to bringing gems of Yiddish folklore, fables, allegories, poems, and fairy tales back into contemporary conversation, Miriam Udel is eager to discuss:

  • What Yiddish stories can teach children about how to counter unfairness and cruelty through acts of giving and “radical kindness”—a powerful form of social intervention that young people can initiate on their own.
  • How Yiddish children’s literature reinforces the ideal of social justice and can help older children sort through political rhetoric and partisanship to discern how different systems and ideologies affect society and humanity.
  • How to use Yiddish fables and folklore to teach children about Jewish history and heroes through a modern lens and reinforce the significance of Jewish cultural and religious traditions and rituals, including the Passover Seder.
  • How Yiddish children’s stories offer insights into honoring friendships, navigating family dynamics, the value of hard work and generosity, and the meaning of peace and happiness from a Jewish perspective.
  • The significance of the collection’s title, “Honey on the Page,” and the fascinating lives of the authors behind these stories, including both well-known Jewish writers and lesser known names…and more.

Learn more about Miriam on her website: www.miriamudel.com

Listen to Miriam and Mark here:

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