Sholem Aleichem Biography, Life, Interesting Facts
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Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich, better known as Sholem Aleichem, was born on February 18, 1859, in Pereyaslav, Russia (now part of Ukraine). His parents were Chaye-Ester and Menachem Nukhem Rabinovich. Sadly, Chaye-Ester died when Sholem was only a teenager. His father quickly remarried, and so Sholem was raised by his father and step-mother throughout his teenage years.
After finishing his education, Sholem Aleichem worked as a tutor. One of his students was Olga Loev, who he would later end up marrying.
In 1880, Sholem Aleichem began working as a crown rabbi. He did this until 1883.
Writing Career And Publications
He started to use the pen name Sholem Aleichem, which would be the name he would be best known by once he became famous, and after his death. One thing that was special about this story, and some of Aleichem’s early works, is that it was published in Yiddish, a language often used by Jews (Yiddish is closely related to Hebrew). Throughout the decade, he published many stories in this language.
Also in the late 1880’s, Sholem Aleichem had begun writing short plays, mostly one-act comedies. Some of his earliest plays include The Doctor, The Divorce, and The Assembly.
Even though Aleichem was publishing many stories, he was not making enough money to live a healthy life. In 1890, he went bankrupt. For the next few years, he focused on earning more money by publishing more stories. In 1894, he published his most famous story, Tevye the Dairyman. However, this story did not become extremely popular when it was first published. During this decade, he also published the play Yaknez.
It was also in the late-1890’s that Aleichem began publishing stories in Russian. Many of these stories were published in magazines and newspapers, rather than books.
In the 1900’s, Sholem Aleichem also began working as an editor. One of the most popular books that he ever edited was Help: An Anthology for Literature and Art. He also worked on translating other writer’s stories, like Tolstoy’s, into English from the native language (mostly Russia) they were written in. He also wrote the novel, Stempenyu, in 1905.
In the mid-1900’s, Sholem Aleichem moved from Europe to the United States to escape religious persecution in Russia. He would live in the United States (New York) for the rest of his life. While living in New York, he wrote the play Agents. Many of his books were re-released in anthologies and collections after his death.
Some of Aleichem’s most famous stories, novels, and plays are listed below.
Mottel the Cantor’s Son
In the Storm
The Bloody Hoax
The Bewitched Tailor
The Big Lottery
Tevye the Milkman
Sholem Aleichem married Olga Loev in 1883. This couple had six children together: Ernestia, Lyalya, Emma, Elimelech, Marusi, and Nochum. This couple remained married until Sholem’s death. Aleichem also has a granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, who grew up to be a writer.
He was 57 years old when he passed away.
The famous musical, Fiddler on the Roof, was based on Aleichem's stories about one of his characters, Tevye the Dairyman.
There are several buildings all around the world that have been named after Aleichem. Some of these include the Sholem Aleichem College, The Shalom Aleichem Houses, and the Biblioteca Sholem Aleichem. He also has his monument in Moscow, Russia.
The National Bank of Ukraine issues coins with his face on it in 2009.