Rivka Basman Ben-Haim

Rivka Basman  was born in 1925 in Wilkomir, Lithuania. During World War II, she was first in the Vilna Ghetto, then in a forced labor camp for women. In 1947, she became a member of kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil, and she fought in Israel’s War of Independence. She graduated from the Teachers’ Seminary in Tel Aviv, and served as a teacher on kibbutz Ha-Ma’apil. Later she studied literature at Columbia University in New York. From 1963-1965, she worked as a teacher in the diplomatic corps of the Israeli Embassy in Moscow, where her husband, the late Mula Ben-Haim, an artist, served as a cultural attaché. She was among the founders of “Yung Yisroel”, the Yiddish writers of the early State of Israel. She has won many prizes, among them, the prestigious Itsik Manger prize. Her poetry has been translated into Hebrew, English, French, Polish, Flemish, and German.

Zelda Kahan Newman (translator) was born and educated in New York. She received her BA in philosophy from Brooklyn College, and her MA and PhD in linguistics from the University of Michigan. She lived in Israel for thirty years where she helped found MASLAN, the Women’s Center for victims of violence in the Negev. She received certification as a(n) “halakhic advisor” from the Jerusalem Institute for Women’s Studies: Nishmat and she was elected to the Academy for Awarding Theater Prizes in Israel. While in Israel, she met and got to know Rivka Basman Ben-Haim. She feels honored to be able to find a wider audience for this fine poet. Now back in New York, she holds the post of Hebraic and Judaic Studies at Lehman College/CUNY. She is working on a biography of the prolific Yiddish writer, Kadya Molodowsky.


Doves Speak Yiddish

Doves speak Yiddish
I myself heard it.
They send their words
To the earth
Looking for grain–
They coo– like poets– a Yiddish word
To a dawn somewhere.
I spoke with them
And with a Yiddish word
I stroked their flight into the air.



Ben-Haim Poem

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