Chidusz 8/2022: In Polish Woods [a serialised novel]

In Polish Woods is possibly the most beautiful novel about Polish-Jewish relations. We hope that this trilogy by Joseph Opatoshu, published in instalments from this issue on, will make for a comfort read in the coming autumn evenings. 


Ninth Birthday of Chidusz

Serialising prose is our new tradition now. In this issue, we present to you the last episode of Kate Bornstein’s life story. How is it possible that Queer and Pleasant Danger has not yet been bought by Netflix and turned into a TV show? Publishing this unique, and at times painful story came at a price. Although no one expressed it directly, we are convinced our subsidy from the Ministry of Interior was halved exactly for this reason. This is where we say that it was all worth it and we do not regret our decision to make it available to a Polish-speaking reader – because it was and we don’t. Yet it remains the case that because of it the future existence of Chidusz is at stake. But wasn’t this the whole point of reducing our grant?

We published the very first issue of Chidusz in October 2013. For our ninth birthday, we invite you to join us on another wondrous adventure into the woodlands of Poland – the literary world of the exceptional Yiddish writer Joseph Opatoshu. For the first time since the Interwar period, his most famous novel, the trilogy In Polish Woods translated by Saul Wagman will be published in Polish. In the words of the Yiddish translator and Jewish historian Piotr Nazaruk: The is no other such excellent novel about Jews and Poles in which the intertwined stories of two nations are depicted with such grace. In Polish Woods – the first volume of Joseph Opatoshu’s great trilogy set in the second half of the XIX century – is a forgotten literary treasure.

Saul Wagman was killed in the Holocaust. Opatoshu managed to emigrate to the USA years before the second world war. We would like to thank his grandson Dan Opatoshu who agreed to publish the novel in Chidusz. In the next issue, we will publish an exhaustive interview with Dan about his grandfather’s life and work.



Magdalena Pelc, who created the cover, said she ‘wished to show the influence of previous generations and their beliefs on the life of the main character’. That is why in the centre of the graphic we see a family tree. From the old photographs, the hands of ancestors are trying to cling to the young lovers, the protagonists Rachel and Mordche, in order to “save” the family from a mesalliance. Behind the tree, we see the tombstone of Berk Joselewicz foreshadowing Mordche’s future – his departure to Kock.


Jewish Theology in Feminist Perspective

‘It is often claimed that theology is not Jewish or that Jewish theology does not exist’ – writes in her next essay from the collection The Coming of Lilith the great Jewish thinker and feminist theologian Judith Plaskow.


The Jewish God is not simply the God of the patriarchs and rabbis, but the God of the matriarchs, the tkhines, and women who interpret and create Torah today. Any attempt to articulate a Jewish understanding of God must take account of all these sources, exploring the concepts and images of God in women’s Torah as part of the heritage that a contemporary theology reworks or transforms. The same must be said of any theological concept. It must be grounded in a history and present that is wholly Jewish, one that represents the Jewishness of the whole community rather than the religious experience of a male elite.

Translated into Polish by Jola Różyło


Chaim Grade’s Di agune (Aguna) in Polish

Part IX of the Polish translation of Chaim Grade’s novel. 

In this episode of the outstanding Yiddish novel Di agune, we will find out how the sentence of the rabbinical court passed on David Zelver will affect the fate of the Vilnius Jewish community and the eponymous aguna.

Translated into Polish by Magdalena Wójcik


A Queer and Pleasant Danger 

The True Story of a Nice Jewish Boy Who Joins the Church of Scientology and Leaves Twelve Years Later to Become the Lovely Lady She Is Today 

In the last chapter of her memoir, Kate Bornstein talks about trying to get her daughter back; spending her inheritance money on shoes for her girlfriends; and how a comedy about two blondes saved her from committing suicide. 


The Thing About Sophia by Shelly Oria

The Thing About Sophia is a short story by Israeli-American author Shelly Oria from her debut collection New York 1, Tel Aviv 0. In her prose, the young writer covers a whole range of issues, from addiction and polyamory to parenthood and emigration. The recurring themes of Oria’s intimate stories told with honesty and simplicity are the cultural differences between Israelis and Americans, dissatisfaction with living in your homeland, but also the hardships of finding your place in a different country. In this short story, translated from English by Anna Halbersztat, we are introduced to a beautiful and enigmatic Sophia, who always gets what and who she wants. Everyone probably met a Sophia at least once in their lives. 



Monday was Sophia’s Errands Day. Sophia’s definition for errands is Anything you hate to do, and her theory is it should all be compressed to one day or you end up believing your life sucks. So, for example, grocery shopping is not an errand, but calling her aunt Zelda is. If Sophia has a toothache and the receptionist says Thursday one week from today, Sophia will say Give me the next available Monday, because going to the dentist is an errand, and errands are done on Mon­days. And if you tell her it doesn’t make sense to suffer tooth pain longer than you have to, she’ll make a face like she just swallowed something sour and say, Clearly, you don’t know much about artists.

It was a Monday before Sophia meant anything to me, five, maybe six p.m., and I was standing at the door with the suitcases and everything. A while later, when I learned about Sophia’s week, I realized I must have been one of her er­rands that Monday. Interview Lydia’s cousin. The thing about Sophia, she opens the door, you see right away how beauti­ful she is; you see right away it’s the kind of beauty every­one wants to share. I was funny to her then—first thing she did was laugh. I laughed too, because her laughter made me happy, even though I knew it was directed at me and didn’t know why, which is usually unpleasant. Finally she said, Lydia couldn’t have been more right. Lydia is a relative of mine, second-cousin-once-removed sort of relative, and she was the one to say, You go ahead and move to the city and you’ll see things will just work out. She gave me Sophia’s number, and on the phone Sophia gave me the address and said, See you then, so I assumed I was moving in. I didn’t know then that in New York people interview other people to be roommates; I thought you usually went on interviews when you wanted other people to hire you, pay you, not when you wanted to pay them. I packed everything I had—which wasn’t much, because the man I was leaving was the kind who sues if you take stuff— in two suitcases and one huge handbag. I took a cab from Penn Station and told myself the stuff  was simply too heavy, but really I was just afraid of the subway. Then: Sophia, laughing, and I knew right away, though it still took some time to figure out.


In Brief

In a couple of dozens of short articles, among other topics, we write about the Polish report on war repatriations owned by the Germans; Hebrew inscriptions in the Głogów Hunger Tower; a new, confusing custom at the Jewish cemetery in Kazimierz Dolny; and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum. In the world news report, we write about Alla Pugacheva publicly condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine; the promising new Israeli IVF research; and new evidence confirming a medieval pogrom in Norwich, England. 


Click here to read about this issue in Polish.