I have spent the majority of my life immersed in Yiddish and Jewish themed literature, through my own writing and publications, as well as through the study of great Yiddish and Hebrew writers and poets before me, and my hope is to ensure that others benefit from the richness of this literary genre.
And so, in celebration of my ninetieth birthday, I have established the Simcha and Freda Simchovitch Fund, in support of Yiddish education and culture, through the Jewish Foundation.
The fund will enable others to study and celebrate the uniqueness of Yiddish literature and culture and will prolong an appreciation for what it offers.
My late wife Freda and I were victims of one of modern history’s worst atrocities. We survived the Holocaust but lost our entire families and were forced to rebuild our lives anew. I chose to translate that experience into much of my writing — so as to document what happened — but also, as a cathartic method of releasing some of my anguish.
The result is 16 publications of poetry and prose and four translations, with the most personal and poignant being Stepchild on the Vistula, my autobiographical novel. It is a tribute to my hometown of Otwock, Poland, 28 kilometres south of Warsaw. In it, I tried to capture what life was like before the Nazis invaded, to memorialize my city and its 12,000 Jewish inhabitants who perished in Treblinka or by mass executions. Most important, it was translated into Polish several years ago and is now read by students and adults all over Poland.
Yiddish and Jewish are so intricately connected because its literary cannon defines an era in Jewish history that was nearly obliterated by Hitler. My own work serves not only as a creative outlet but is charged with political and social themes such as the Holocaust, Israel, Canada and the striving for social justice and peace.
And this is why I am hopeful that the great Yiddish writers will continue to be studied and that my gift will support that endeavour.