Nachman Obzinger commenced writing Beginning, a journal of poems and sketches in Yiddish, in December 1924, nearly a year before he left Lublin, Poland, to sail to New York. He entered the last poem in May 1926, several months after he had arrived in New York on October 17, 1925. Beginning is a record of the inner life of a young man between 17 and 18 years old crossing over, sharing the experience so common to immigrants making the dif­ficult break from the old country to the new, his journey parallel­ing the lives of the large numbers of Eastern European Jews that began flowing to the New World in the 1880s.

Beginning is a powerful document of immigrant departure and ar­rival, but the poems are also literary marvels. The poems, in neat Yiddish cursive script, are powerfully moving in their directness, with vivid metaphors and a narrator’s voice and outlook often shaped around imagined scenes and characters.  He writes poems of aching farewells to his loves, ironic commentaries on world and local events, moral tales, cries of the heart coming from his sense of loss and loneliness, expres­sions of how much he misses his mother, and of how much he fears getting swallowed up in a sea of anonymity or over­whelmed by “[t]he great, omnipotent / Dol­lar, / Look at it, / See how it grows” (from “In the New Land”).

—From the Introduction by Hilton Obenzinger

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Beginning: The Immigration Poems,
1924-1926, of Nachman Obzinger

Translated from Yiddish by Benjamin Weiner
Edited by Hilton Obenzinger

(Omerta, 2014) 27 pages $16.50

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