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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Exhibit of the month

Published: 2022-07-29

Jehoash, A tfile (Prayer), manuscript, Yiddish language, acc. No. VŽM 4669
The below song by Jehoash was performed at the Vilna Ghetto Youth Club. The children and youth club in the Vilna Ghetto was established in January 1943 in a house located at Dysnos St. 4 which was renovated by the children themselves. Actually, club work with children in the ghetto began back in the summer of 1942.
The handwritten text of A tfile by Jehoash from the Vilna Ghetto bearing an inscription underneath indicating that this song was performed in the Vilna Ghetto Youth Club is currently stored at the Museum.
Oh, dearest God, life is
An open sea of tears.
We have no idea what precipice
Or what other place we will be taken to...
We're pulling through darkness and troubles –
Be our star.
A man is like a reed – his heart is weak,
And easily distracted by desires.
One wrong move – and he is already
On the way to hell –
Protect him in the evil hour and help
Avoid getting caught in the net...
Worlds are deceptive like dew
And generations are like dust,
We are walking through a cemetery,
And death suddenly appears staring at us –
Oh, Lord, tear open the veil of darkness,
Bestow light and faith...
Show life in death,
Birth in rotting,
And eternity now for a moment,
A seed in the cemetery,
And in blind devastation
Let your steps be heard...
Jehoash is the literary pseudonym of one of the most talented poets and translators of the end of the 19th – the beginning of the 20th century Shlomo Blumgarten (1872–1927), who was born in Virbalis (Vilkaviškis District, Lithuania).  Since 1890 Blumgarten lived in the United States of America. His first works were published even before the poet left for the United States. Jehoash enriched Yiddish poetry with many significant works, however currently he is mainly known as the translator of the Tanakh into Yiddish.
On 6 April 1943, Avraham Sutzkever, another famous poet who created in Yiddish and was imprisoned in the Vilna Ghetto, wrote a poem titled Jehoash to commemorate poet Blumgarten. The Jehoash by Sutzkever was published in 1946 in New York, in the April issue of The Yidishe Kultur magazinewhen Sutzkeverwas still living in Moscow. This poem by Sutzkever was also published in Sutzkever's collection of verses Lider fun ghetto (The Songs from the Ghetto, 1946) and in the collection of his works Poetishe verk (Tel Aviv, 1963, vol. 1).
Prepared and translated from Yiddish into Lithuanian by Ilona Murauskaitė, curator-researcher of written holdings at VGMJH
© Photograph courtesy of Paulius Račiūnas
© From the holdings of VGMJH




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