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Social Science Jewish Studies

The Vale of Tears

by (author) Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung

translated by Vivian Felsen

The Azrieli Foundation
Initial publish date
Nov 2016
Jewish Studies, Historical, 20th Century, Adolescence, History
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2016
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Age: 14 to 18
  • Grade: 9 to 12


An epic journey across borders, The Vale of Tears chronicles close to two years in the life of Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung as he seeks an escape route from Nazi-occupied Europe. In this rare, near day-byday account, Rabbi Hirschprung illuminates what life was like for an Orthodox rabbi fleeing persecution, finding inspiration and hope in Jewish scripture and psalms as he navigates the darkness of wartime to a safe harbour in Kobe, Japan.

About the authors

Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung was born in Dukla, Poland, in 1912. In 1941, he managed to escape Europe for Japan, immigrating to Montreal nine months later. A world-renowned Torah and Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Hirschprung became the chief rabbi of Montreal in 1969 and led its Jewish community until his death in 1998. Rabbi Hirschprung’s Yiddish-language memoir was published in 1944 and translated into Hebrew in 1948; The Vale of Tears is its first English translation.

Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung's profile page

With a background in modern history, modern languages and literature (French, Russian) and law, Vivian Felsen is a long-time translator of both French and Yiddish into English. Her published translations include books on Canadian Jewish history, Holocaust memoirs, and Yiddish short stories by women writers. Her involvement in Canadian Jewish Studies began with the translation of two books by her grandfather, Montreal Yiddish journalist Israel Medres. For the first translation, Montreal of Yesterday: Jewish Life in Montreal, 1900–1920, she won a Canadian Jewish Book Award in 2001 for Yiddish translation, and for the second, Between the Wars: Canadian Jews in Transition, she was the recipient of a J. I. Segal Award for the best translation of a book on a Jewish theme (in 2004). For her most recently published translation, J. I. Segal (1896–1954): A Montreal Yiddish Poet and His Milieu (2017) she has just been named a Finalist for the 2018 Governor General’s Award in Translation (French into English). Some of the many poems by Segal, which she translated from Yiddish into English for that book, will appear in the forthcoming issue of the journal Canadian Jewish Studies. Among the several Holocaust memoirs which she has translated is Le Soleil voilé, Auschwitz 1942–1945 by Paul Schaffer. Her English version, published in 2015 as The Veiled Sun: From Auschwitz to New Beginning, includes a uniquely personal introduction to the original French edition by the late Simone Veil. The Veil of Tears (2016), her translation of the 1944 memoir Fun natsishen yomertol by Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung, won a gold medal in the autobiography/memoir category of the 2018 Independent Publisher Book Awards, and has just earned her the 2018 J. I. Segal Award for translation of a book on a Jewish theme. Vivian Felsen’s translations from the Yiddish of short stories by women writers have appeared in print, most notably in The Exile Book of Yiddish Women Writers (ed. Frieda Johles Forman), which received a Canadian Jewish Book Award in 2014. Over the years, she has made presentations related to Yiddish and Yiddish translation to various groups and organizations, as well as at academic conferences in Canada, the U.S., and Poland. She was a contributor to New Readings of Yiddish Montreal — Traduire le Montréal yiddish (eds. Pierre Anctil, Norman Ravvin, Sherry Simon; 2007), and her essay on Canadian Yiddish literature will be published in Kanade, di Goldene Medine? Perspectives on Canadian-Jewish Literature and Culture / Perspectives sur la littérature et la culture juives canadiennes (eds: Krzysztof Majer, Justyna Fruzinska, Józef Kwaterko and Norman Ravvin), scheduled to appear in November of 2018. Vivian Felsen is also a visual artist who has regularly exhibited her paintings in Toronto for over forty years.

Vivian Felsen's profile page

Other titles by Vivian Felsen