Writing Jewish Women’s Lives Seminar: "The 'Real' Yentl: The Letters of Esther Kreitman"

Part of the Vera Fine-Grodzinski Programme for Writing Jewish Women’s Lives

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf created an imaginary sister for Shakespeare to ask what life would have been like for an equally talented woman. When considering the Yiddish literary landscape, there’s no need to invent a fictional female – Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer’s sister Esther Kreitman was also a novelist and short story writer; the probable role model for his depiction of Yentl, a woman desperate to learn. A recently discovered cache of letters from Esther to Bashevis has been translated by David Stromberg, the editor of the IBS estate, and published by Jewish Renaissance as a world exclusive, revealing how her gender, mental health and family relationships impacted her publication opportunities.

Dr Aviva Dautch is the Executive Director of Jewish Renaissance, the UK’s Jewish arts and culture quarterly. She lectures on modern Jewish literature at the London School of Jewish Studies and JW3 and contributes to programmes on BBC Radio 4. She is also an award-winning poet whose residencies and commissions have included The British Museum, The National Gallery and Bradford and Hay Literature Festivals.