Remembering Bel Kaufman, author of influential city schools novel and diplomat-at-large for the iconic Sholem Aleichem.
Bel Kaufman published her first poem, a paean to spring, as a 7-year-old in Odessa. It was four lines long, signed Belochka Koifman, in a Russian children’s magazine. When she was 11, she began a drama, and wrote 60 pages describing the characters in a notebook that she carried with her when the family moved to New York later that year, and which she kept through her life. Everyone in her family wrote: her mother Lyalya published stories; her father, a physician, was a poet and translator; and her grandfather, who wrote many letters to her, was the great Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.
Jerome Robbins first discovered the shtetl when he was six years old. He was born on the Lower East Side, home of immigrants from Eastern Europe. His father took him to Poland to see where his Rabinowitz family came from.