Molodowsky, Kadya (1894–1975) By Legutko, Agnieszka
Known as ‘the first lady of Yiddish literature,’ Kadya Molodowsky published continuously between 1927 and 1974. Molodowsky earned renown as a prolific poet, prose writer, playwright, essayist, and as the co-founder and editor of such Yiddish literary magazines as Svive [Milieu] (one of the first apolitical Yiddish periodicals), and Heym [Home].
Born in Bereza Kartuska, Belarus, Molodowsky made her literary debut after surviving the Kiev Pogrom in 1920. Her first book of poetry, Kheshvendike nekht, featured ‘Froyen-lider’ (‘Women-Poems’), her most famous sequence of poems addressing the modernist struggle between the newly acquired sense of female subjectivity, and the religious and societal constraints imposed on Jewish women. Kheshvendike nekht, along with her other early volumes of poetry, Mayselekh, Dzhike Gas, and Freydke, despairingly evoked the poverty and desperate situation of the Jews in Eastern Europe. Before she emigrated to New York in 1935, she developed poetry for and about children. In 1946 she published a volume of poetry, Der melekh Dovid aleyn iz geblibn (widely considered her finest work), dealing indirectly yet profoundly with the loss of European Jewry in the Holocaust. Throughout her oeuvre, Molodowsky explored the issues surrounding the reconciliation of the Jewish identity with modernity.