This article addresses some of the ways that Eastern European Jews in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries accessed the Bible. It argues that reading the Hebrew Scripture itself was just one of many ways that common Jews became acquainted with biblical stories, and suggests that historians place greater scholarly attention on the extra-canonical sources Jews commonly used to access biblical narratives. Jewish audiences also heard biblical stories through interpretations, popular retellings, and dramatic performances. The article discusses the most popular Yiddish interpretive retelling, the sixteenth-century Tsene-rene, and demonstrates how some of its variances from the canonical text may have influenced Jewish notions of time and redemption. The article concludes with a discussion of some Purimshpils (plays performed during the holiday of Purim) and how they reinforced the ideas of the Tsene-rene.
This article explores the concept of the public as imagined by two prominent Yiddish cultural critics, Shmuel Niger and Mikhl Weichert. The article argues that both were heavily influenced by the Russian critical tradition, and were intimately engaged with the question of the relationship between culture and the public. Both adopted scholarly modes of discourse in their works, while seeking to use their criticism to bring together a Yiddish public that was conscious of itself as a public. Both saw an intimate relationship between culture, scholarship and the public.