Tune in! The Yiddish Book Center’s Podcast
Hosted by Aaron Lansky
Yiddish Book Center founder and president Aaron Lansky visits with Scott Davis, publisher of the recently released “Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers,” an edition of newly translated stories by Yiddish writer Jacob Dinezon.
“Raleigh publisher rescues important Yiddish tales”
By Glenn McDonald
October 18, 2014
RALEIGH — The path of literary history can occasionally take a weird turn. For instance, if it weren’t for a class of rowdy ninth-graders at a Raleigh synagogue, an important Yiddish writer might have been lost to history.
That’s just part of the intriguing story behind the new book “Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers,” an anthology of short stories by 19th century writer Jacob Dinezon. A contemporary of famous Eastern European writers like Sholem Aleichem (“Fiddler on the Roof”), Dinezon was a best-selling writer and a central figure in Yiddish literature — but his writings were never translated into English.
That’s where Scott Hilton Davis comes in. A longtime Raleigh resident, Davis got interested in the traditions of Jewish storytelling toward the end of his career as an award-winning producer for North Carolina public television. And he has some unruly teens to thank for that. . . .
“Recovering an almost forgotten Yiddish writer”
By Charles Munitz
Some years ago, Scott Davis, then a public television producer based in Raleigh, N.C., was teaching an unruly and inattentive class of children at his synagogue – a “class from hell, from Gehenna” as he describes it – and was hard put to figure out how to get their attention. Having grown up in the Los Angeles area deeply steeped in Yiddish culture and strongly influenced by its literature, one day he decided to read them a Yiddish story. He pulled one from out of the collections he had retained from his own Yiddish shule experience as a child.
After a few minutes, the class got very quiet and Davis despaired that “they were asleep already” but looked up and was startled to see them transfixed. A few weeks later he brought in a Sholem Aleichem story and got the same reaction. This outward confirmation of the visceral appeal of such tales led Davis to adapt several Yiddish stories for a staged production which was later mounted in North Carolina, and then to create more widely distributable adaptations for storytelling.
While doing background research on I. L. Peretz, Sholem Aleichem, and Sholem Abramovitsh, Davis encountered the name “Jacob Dinezon” repeatedly and began to wonder who he was, and why, if he were so central to Yiddish literature, he seemed to be relatively unknown. The pursuit led Davis, as well as Davis’ sister, Robin, and her husband, Jim Evans, to begin recovering Dinezon’s stories, and, eventually, to make them available in English for the first time.
In 2014, thanks to Davis and the Evanses, an English translation of Jacob Dinezon’s “Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers” was published. They had enlisted Tina Lunson ten years before to do the translation. After several unsuccessful attempts to publish it through other channels, they took the bull by the horns and established their own imprint, Jewish Storyteller Press, to realize its publication. . . .
“Unearthing the ‘Uncle’ of Yiddish Literature”
By Hady Mawajdeh and Frank Stasio
Scott Davis, the founder of Jewish Storyteller Press, reflects on the work of Yiddish writer Jacob Dinezon.
More than 100 years ago, writer Jacob Dinezon was one of the most well-known Yiddish authors. But after his death in 1919, Dinezon was almost forgotten.
Now, the publisher Jewish Storyteller Press is trying to claim Dinezon’s rightful place on the bookshelf and in the hearts of readers. Host Frank Stasio talks with the founder of Jewish Storyteller Press, Scott Davis, about his 10-year journey to revive Dinezon’s works.
With Estelle Deutsch Abraham
WUST-AM, Washington, DC
Host Estelle Deutsch Abraham interviews Scott Davis about the publication of Jacob Dinezon’s Memories and Scenes: Shtetl, Childhood, Writers.