KADYE MOLODOVSKI (KADIA MOLODOWSKY) (May 10, 1894-March 23, 1975)
A poetess, novelist, playwright and critic, she was born in Kartuz-Bereze (Kartuz-Bereza), Poland. She studied the Bible and Talmud with her father, a school teacher, together with his pupils. She graduated from a Hebrew teachers’ seminary in Warsaw. In the early 1920s she lived for several years in Kiev, in the environment of the local Yiddish writers’ group. From there she moved to Warsaw and became a teacher in the Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) schools. In 1935 she immigrated to New York. She lived in Israel, 1950-1952. She debuted in print with a series of poems in the Kiev anthology Eygns (One’s own) II (1920). Among other serials, she published in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) and Dos kind (The child) in Warsaw, In shpan (In line) in Berlin, and Opatoshu and Leivick’s Zamlbikher (Collections) in New York. She wrote stories and a novel which appeared in Forverts (Forward) in New York. She published and edited Svive (Environs), “a bimonthly journal for literature and criticism” which appeared irregularly (fourteen issues between 1960 and 1974), and Lider fun khurbn, t”sh-tsh”h (Poetry from the Holocaust, 1939-1945) (Tel Aviv, 1962). While in Israel, she edited the Histadrut journal Heym (Home) in Tel Aviv. The New Yiddish Theater on Broadway, led by Zigmunt Turkov (Zygmunt Turkow), produced in 1953 her drama A hoyz af grend strit (A house on Grand Street). The Ohel Theater in Tel Aviv in 1956 staged her play Nokhn got fun midber (After the God of the wilderness). She wrote numerous children’s poems, ballads, and children’s stories, which became popular in the Jewish schools around the world, as well as literary essays. She was awarded a literary prize from the American Jewish Book Council (1965), the Tsvi Kessel Prize (1967), and the Manger Prize (1971), and the Leivick Prize from the Jewish Culture Congress. Her books include: Khezhvndike nekht (Ḥeshvan night), poetry (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1927), 96 pp.; Mayselekh (Stories) (Warsaw: Jewish School Organization in Poland, 1931), 108 pp.; Dzhike gas, lider (Dzika Street, poetry) (Warsaw: Literary Fund for Authors’ Association and Literarishe bleter, 1933), 96 pp.; Freydke, poeme (Freydke, a poem) (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1935), 94 pp.; In land fun mayn gebeyn (In the country of my remains), poetry (Chicago: L. M. Shteyn, 1937), 91 pp.; Afn barg (In the mountains), a poem (New York: Young People’s Library, Cooperative Publishers of the Jewish People’s Order, 1938), 72 pp.; Ale fenster tsu der zun (All windows to the sun), a play in eleven scenes (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1938), 66 pp.; Fun lublin biz nyu-york, togbukh fun rivke zilberg (From Lublin to New York, the diary of Rivke Zilberg) (New York: Paper Bridges, 1942), 280 pp.; Yidishe kinder, mayselekh (Jewish children, stories) (New York: Central Committee of the Jewish Folk Schools in the United States and Canada, 1945 , 92 pp., Hebrew translation entitled Pitḥu et hashaar, shire yeladim (Open the gate, children’s poetry) (Tel Aviv: Hakibuts hameuḥad, 1950/1951), 85 pp.; Der meylekh dovid aleyn iz geblibn (Only King David remained) (New York: Paper Bridges, 1946), 156 pp.; Nokhn got fun midber, drame fun idishn lebn in 16tn yorhundert (After the God of the wilderness, a play of Jewish life in the sixteenth century) (New York: Paper Bridges, 1949), 79 pp.; In yerusholaim kumen malokhim, lider (Angels descend on Jerusalem, poems) (New York: Paper Bridges, 1952), 32 pp.; A shtub mit zibn fenster (An apartment with seven windows) (New York: Matones, 1957), 288 pp.; Af di vegn fun tsien (On the roads from Zion) (New York: P. Gingold, 1957), 364 pp.; Likht fun dornboym, lider (Light from hawthorn trees, poems) (Buenos Aires: Kiem, 1965), 204 pp.; Baym toyer, roman (At the gate, a novel) (New York: Tsiko, 1967), 412 pp.; Martsepanes, mayselekh un lider far kinder un yugnt (Marzipan, stories for children and youth) (New York: Educational Committee of Workmen’s Circle, 1970), 158 pp.; Shire yerushalayim (Poems of Jerusalem), trans. M. Sever (Tel Aviv, 1971), 96 pp.; Olke mit der bloyer parasolke (Olke with the blue parasol), a poem in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English (Montreal, 1976), 52 pp.
“In her poems,” notes Meylekh Ravitsh, “all the Jewish masses weep, beginning with the Matriarchs, each with her own special maternal-female pain—and the mothers weep for the Jewish revolutionaries, and the impoverished girls who spent the years of their youth in prison.” “Kadia Molodowsky is a poetess,” wrote Yankev Glatshteyn, “who needs a theme that she can discipline, or a childlike, carefree chatter that she can undress from all its poetic inhibitions. Her childlike dance and her adult seriousness in putting a theme together were her best writing conditions. The lyrical poem was not for her. When she had to become the theme herself, she loses her bearings a bit and distrusts herself. She follows on her own footsteps, because she is quite afraid that she will trouble us with something that is too intimate. She is terribly afraid to be happy, because she knows that this often leads to meaningless album-poetry…. She was always in possession of a rare, vital vigilance and a youthful curiosity to seek out the social fabric behind every landscape…. Suddenly she encountered unhappiness […and she began to write] serious poems which ‘Jewish’ time had depressed and plundered of their past charm…. [But even then,] as quickly as she spotted a child, even when the child was a ghetto child,…there comes to life the shining quality of childlike chatter, and she plays with the poem in the immensity of her pain…. [She had Holocaust] poems that will not be erased from our agonizing record book.” “Molodowsky’s poetic creative works,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “[are] written in unmeasured verses. And, it appear to as that sometimes a long line of poetry and sometimes a short one, sometimes a rigid one and another time a precarious one fit together very well for her non-routine poetic disposition. There is always within her something in conflict, a wavering between faith and heresy, between yes and no to embracing the world, between blessing it and cursing it…. Fitting indeed that the rhythm of her poetic speech as well should not be certain, that it should be like having and not having any gauge. Her manner of expressing herself, the very art of her lyrical-reflective word, whose mother is lyrical emotion, while its father is thought, does not have the rigidity in itself, the strength that should make both possible and necessary the stiffness and the hard-breathing intensiveness of rigorously tied-up verses…. [Molodowsky’s] dirges, laments over a new Holocaust [have a] difference in her tone [compared to other Yiddish Holocaust poets, which] consists primarily…of the new sharpness of her irony…. There are [Holocaust] poets who do not smile like Mephistopheles, but they write, curse, demand their due, [and] argue with the world and its enemies…. Kadia Molodowsky is not storming at either God’s or the devil’s throne. She speaks quietly. You will be easily persuaded by her that she should give a smile, but her smile is barbed, bitterly ironic. To be sure, not when she is dealing with children. Then she smiles in earnest…. It is a joy to read her new, as well as her older, poetry and stories for children. They are incomparable. Kadia Molodowsky becomes another person (and another sort of poet) when she ‘hears the little steps of children.’ A new energy flows into her verse, a new ease gives flight to her ‘muse,’ and she herself becomes lighter and brighter…. Kadia Molodowsky knows how one can with a single word, with a sound, change the tone of a poem, how one can with a single drop repaint and make something brighter. And, perhaps the entire internal art (the art of the mood) of Kadia Molodowsky’s new poems consist in that the brighter drop appears at just the right moment for her. If it failed to flare up at the proper minute, there would be too much malice in her poetic lines, and too much malice is, just as too much goodness, no virtue in poetry…. Poetry for Kadia Molodowski is, before everything else, a means of representing the bitterness of life. She writes so that she need not scream, just as she laughs so that she will not cry.” “Kadia fills her poems,” noted A. Oyerbakh, “with fantasy—deeply thought out fantasy—and in this sense she is one of the great masters of our poetry. Kadia composed a truly wonderful poem called ‘Bloy un vays’ (Blue and white). Of course, such a poem cannot dispense with quibbling. However, in her own way Kadia blurted out the quibbles: ‘The blue is from the sea which God split,’ and what is white?—‘The white is glaring, the light of prophecy.’ She gets more profound with the poem, for in several stanzas she marks a fantastically painful, heroic image of our path in history…. Kadia is a marvelously blooming branch on the rich tree of Yiddish poetry.” “What is most essential,” asked Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, “in her creative personality? What takes precedence in her creative writings? I would say that it is her poetry…and that one should look in her poems for the key to her entire literary multifacetedness and artistic breadth. Everything that Kadia Molodowsky writes has on it the seal of distinctiveness, but this very distinctiveness is most marked in expression in her poetry. Aside from this there is in her poetry everything that is characteristic of her talent, while in [other] genres she expresses certain other traits of her talent. If there is in her prose an observational strength and prudence to understand and fashion people through their actions; if there is in her essays the wisdom of those who float with their imagination over the noise of life and perceive the vanities of vanities of the tumult and the greatness of that which human thought is unable to conceive—if there is this in her poetry, and something else, it would be: the perception of the world and life in their profound, mysterious connection, a sensibility that is higher than every effort at reasonable understanding and a consequence of that disclosure, the likes of which only the prophet and the poet are worthy of seeing…. Kadia Molodowsky looks through the world, and she always finds her place, her connection with the world. These are questions befitting Job and Ecclesiastes, which the poetess asks and attempts to answer with her Song of Songs, with her poetic song, in which the works create the melody, but the melody itself surpasses the words and makes you feel as though the words themselves could never imply.” She died in New York.
Sources: Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); Ravitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (March 28, 1968); Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence) (New York, 1947), pp. 85-91; Glatshteyn, Af greyte temes (On ready themes) (New York: CYCO, 1967), pp. 271-77; Shmuel Rozhanski, Di froy in der yidisher poezye (Women in Yiddish poetry) (Buenos Aires, 1966); Sh. Margoshes, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 2, 1967); Y. Emyot, in Forverts (New York) (October 29, 1967); A. Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (December 19, 1967); Oyerbakh, Af der vogshol (On the scale) (Tel Aviv, 1975), pp. 247-51; Y. Kh. Biletski, in Goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 64 (1968); Sh. Gutman, in Veker (New York) (July-August 1968); Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, Penemer un nemen (Faces and names), vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, 1971), pp. 210-13, vol. 2, pp. 180-89; K. molodovski-almanakh (K[adia] Molodowsky almanac) (Paris, 1972); Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert (Yiddish writers of the twentieth century), vol. 2 (New York, 1973), pp. 194-210.
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 355-60.