Rajzel Zychlinsky, great Yiddish poet, winner of Itzik Manger's Price, granted at Tel Aviv on 9 June 1975. Rajzel Zychlinsky was born in Gombin, Poland.
The photograph was dedicated by her to my aunt, Rachel Gostinska and is part of my father, Meir Holtzman' Album. Rajzel is photographed in the woods of Gombin 1934.
by Marek Kanter, Son
Rajzel Zychlinksy z"l, a Yiddishe Poet
July 27th, 1910 Gombin, Poland - June 13th, 2001 , Concord, U.S.A.
Rajzel Zychlinsky, the famous Yiddish poet, passed away on June 13, 2001 in Concord, California, after a long struggle with pneumonia.
She would have been 91 on July 27, 2001. She was well known for her holocaust poetry and received the Manger prize in 1975 in Israel. One of relatively few living Yiddish poets, the widely published Zychlinsky has been writing since the 1920's. Between 1939 and 1993 she published seven books of poetry in Yiddish. A collection of poems, "God Hid His face", was translated to English and published in 1997. She has been extensively translated and anthologized. She was included in Aaron Kramer's well known anthology: "A Century of Yiddish Poetry."
For the last two years she resided in a nursing home in Walnut Creek, California, where her son Marek Kanter paid her weekly visits. On these occasions she enjoyed being read poems from her book "God Hid His Face."
One of her favorite poems was about a neighbor across the street where she lived in Brooklyn. It was performed by the Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco as part of their 1998-99 production "Diamonds in the Rough."
The Undarkened Window
In the daytime, I see him in the street
in a dark suit,
wearing a tie -
at night the light shines in his window
across from my window.
of Hitler's gas chambers,
he sails at night around
his undarkened window -
a wandering ship
on oceans of darkness,
and no port
allows it to enter,
so it may anchor
Only in the mornings
does it go out,
the sickly yellow light
in his window.
An article about Rajzel Zychlinsky appeared in the January 29, 1999 issue of the Northern California Jewish Bulletin, which contained the remainder of Zychlinsky's poems performed by the Traveling Jewish Theater.
Rajzel Zychlinzky was born in Gombin, Poland. She emigrated to the United States in 1950, with her husband and son, having survived the holocaust by fleeing to Russia. She continued to suggest changes and corrections to her poems up till four months before her death. The last revisions she made were to her poem about a walk in a park in Warsaw, shortly before she fled to Russia.
It was a day
I was alone in a park.
The benches were empty and abandoned,
as if they knew
that never again
would anyone sit on them.
Slowly the leaves were falling,
counting the autumns on the earth.
Silence was all around,
as before a storm.
In what country was that?
In what city?
It was a temple
without a God
and without worshipers.
And how did I rise up from there
and save myself?
Most visits to the nursing home ended with the recital of one of the most powerful of her poems.
All the roads led to death,
all the roads.
All the winds breathed betrayal,
all the winds.
At all the doorways angry dogs barked,
at all the doorways.
All the waters laughed at us,
all the waters.
All the nights fattened on our dread,
all the nights.
And the heavens were bare and empty,
all the heavens.
God hid his face.
As she requested, she will be cremated and her ashes will be scattered in the ocean. A poem from her book, "God Hid His Face", will be read at the ceremony. She is survived by her son, Marek Kanter.
The Poet Rajzel Zychlinsky z"l in the film "Back to Gombin" filmed shortly before her death: "Like we hear the water flow, GOD must exist somewhere..."
Who calls me here in the meadow?
Who still knows my name?
A thorn bush burns in the field--
a child cries from the flames.
I take off my shoes and approach
the little son of my neighbor;
his little hands are charcoal,
but his eyes are open still.
am leaving you, shtetl,
your roads are blue as before.
You will celebrate autumns and fairs,
and the river will flow through the valley.
Last Updated December 2nd, 2003