Friends of Yiddish

  • DATE

    8 September 2022

  • TIME

    7:00 pm to 9:00 pm

  • AGES

    All ages welcome

  • PRICE

    £7 / 6 (concessions)

Join us for an evening of poetry, film and conversation, organised by Manchester Poetry Library, Manchester Metropolitan University Writing School and Manchester Jewish Museum. During this event we will be exploring one of Britain’s foremost but now largely forgotten Yiddish poets, Avram Nachum Stencl (1897 – 1983).

Stencl was a Polish, Yiddish poet, known for living a bohemian life and travelling to many places in Europe. In 1936 he arrived in London as a stateless refugee and settled in the heart of the Yiddish speaking Jewish quarter of Whitechapel, which he affectionately called his ‘Jerusalem of Britain’. His poems were strongly inspired by observing the busy life in the Jewish cafes and markets, and the vibrant street life of Whitechapel.

With the help of Dora Diamant, Kafka’s lover, Stencl established the Sabbath afternoon Literary meetings, known as the Friends of Yiddish. The gatherings were packed out and noisy and they attracted people from different backgrounds and communities. Guest writers came from abroad to read, others performed the great Yiddish classic writers, sung songs or discussed politics. As the community died or moved away, the meetings got smaller and smaller but Stencl never gave up, and even if only one person came he kept the group going until he died in 1983.

The event will be hosted by Dr Rachel Lichtenstein, whose grandparents were Polish Jews and who, like Stencl, settled in East London in the 1930s after escaping Nazi persecution.

There will also be a screening of a short film and radio documentary about Stencl, readings of his poetry in English by the poet, editor and translator Stephen Watts, as well as in Yiddish by Vivi Lachs, author of London’s Yiddishtown and a talented musician. Rachel will also interview Miriam Becker, Stencl’s great niece from Manchester to discover her experience of living in the city and memories of Stencl.

You don’t have to speak or understand Yiddish to participate (although you might pick up some during the event!), it will be in English with some of the poems recited in both, English and Yiddish.