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Zipper, Yaacov.

Oakville (Ont.), Mosaic Press. c1985. l0lpp, paper. ISBN 0-88962-288-4 (cloth) $15.95, 0-88962-287-6 (paper) $8.95. CIP

Grades 11 and up
Reviewed by Warner Winter

Volume 14 Number 5
1986 September

Yaacov Zipper's publications appeared in his lifetime in Yiddish and Hebrew, the languages in which they were written. Since Zipper's death in 1983, Ode Garfinkle, his daughter, and Mervin Butovsky, a Montreal English professor, have selected some of his stories for translation into an English edition, The Far Side of the River. It is fortunate for all of us that they have done so, since Yiddish is a language rather limited in use, and it has not succeeded in becoming a strong influence amongst the children of immigrant Jews. It is important that these stories be retained as part of our immigrant heritage.

Zipper immigrated to Canada from Poland in 1925, much influenced by his Chassidic background in myth and mysticism, but rebelling against the intellectual restrictions of traditional beliefs. Fashioning himself as a secular teacher, he sought to give students an awareness of the political and scientific world and instill in them a sense of Jewish national dignity and assertiveness through Socialist-Zionism.

His narrative method utilizes an omniscient voice, acquainted with Jewish village life in East Europe, with its folklore and religious traditions, but now viewed from a distance created by time and emigration. His stories display Zipper's faith in tolerance, sympathy, and learning as a bulwark against all forms of darkness. And they are about the splendour of God gleaming in men and women and through the veils and darkness that creation has brought. They deal with ironies, and like the stories of Joyce, in which the autobiography is endowed with universal significance, they deal with epiphanies.

The book opens with "At Home Again," which serves as an excellent introduction to the other stories, and concludes with a translator's afterword, a glossary of Yiddish and Hebrew terms, and biographical notes. It is highly recommended for schools promoting multi-culturalism or the immigrant experience, and naturally, also for Jewish parochial schools or schools with large Jewish populations.

Warner Winter, Emery C.I., New York, Ont.
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