Happy Birthday to Sholem Aleichem (a.k.a. Sholem Naumovich Rabinovich)! It was March 2, 1859, 150 years ago, that this popular writer of funny and poignant Yiddish stories and plays was born east of Kiev, in what is now the Ukraine. Perhaps you know him best as the author of “Tevye the Milkman” (you know, the same Tevye that was popularized on stage as “Fiddler on the Roof.”). Other works include “Tevye’s Daughters,” “Mottel the Cantor’s Son,” and “The Adventures of Menahem-Mendl.” When he died in 1916, at the age of 57, hundreds of thousands mourned and it was reported that 100,000 people attended his funeral. He is buried in Queens, NY.

Just like so many Jewish leaders and even Elie Wiesel in 2008, Sholem Aleichem, in 1890, lost all his money in a stock market crash. He continued to write and edit, and moved to New York City (while his wife and kids stayed in Switzerland). New York City was expensive even then, so he moved back to Switzerland to reduce expenses, because so many Yiddish writers only generated income after their deaths. .
Two of his famous quotes: “No matter how bad things get, you’ve got to go on living, even if it kills you.” and “The rich swell with pride, and the poor from hunger.”

How should we celebrate” Sing a chorus of “If I Were a Rich Man?” Say something in Yiddish? Read the “Forward?” Hmmm… how about memorizing something in Yiddish.


Speaking of birthdays, let’s give a birthday shout out to the Barbie doll. The Barbie doll turns fifty years old this week. It is estimated that in the past 50 years, over 1 billion fashions were created and purchased for Barbie dolls.

Invented by Ruth Handler, the daughter of Polish Jewish immigrants to America, the Barbie doll is the number one doll in the United States and the World as we know it. Except in Saudi Arabia, where it is not number one, at least not officially. The Barbie was banned in Saudi Arabia in 2003. Were they banned because they objectify women and give young girls the wrong idea about body shape? No, of course not. They were banned because they were deemed a “Jewish” toy and offensive to Islam.

Ruth and Elliot Handler with their Barbie

Ruth and Elliot Handler with their Barbie

So, happy birthday Barbie (named for Barbara Handler), and good luck with Ken (named for Ken Handler in 1961)

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1 Comment

  • The Orthodox Jews of Clifton have banned Barbie’s because naked one’s laying around the house could offend the holy books or cause the boys and men to have impure thought and they could stimulate the young girls to want non-tznius clothing. Too bad these people can’t see how much they have in common with fundamentalist Muslims.