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At the Sewing Machine (from Songs of the Ghetto)

Poem by Morris Rosenfeld (1862-1923) with translation from Yiddish by Berthold Feiwel (1875-1937). Illustration by Ephraim Moses Lilien (1874-1925). 

Berlin, Benjamin Harz Verlag ca. 1902.

Collection of Yeshiva University Museum (1996.023). Gift of Michael Cohn.


A haunting image from the famed and groundbreaking Zionist artist Ephraim Moses Lilien sits next to a poem about what it was like for workers in one of the most common occupations for Jews at the end of the 19th and into the early 20th century: sewing. Work at the sewing machine, “Day after day,” and “Year after year” was indeed an occupation, but certainly not a healthy one, as poet Morris Rosenfeld and Lilien seem to argue. Rather, it was a way of working that ultimately robbed the body of its spirit, its vim and its vigor! This piece appeared in the intensely beautiful book, Lieder des Ghetto (Songs of the Ghetto), a poetic and graphic piece of from a Zionist point of view against what they saw as the spiritually and physically impoverished state of Jews in the Diaspora. 

This book is currently displayed in YU Museum’s exhibition here at the Center, Trail of the Magic Bullet: The Jewish Encounter with Modern Medicine, 1860 – 1960, on view through August 2012. Click here to find out more about the show.

Submitted by Zachary Levine, Yeshiva University Museum.

  1. conspiracytheorist79 reblogged this from 16thstreet and added:
    RT 16thstreet: Ephraim Moses Lilien’s 1914 illustration At the Sewing Machine a vivid interpretation of the sweating...
  2. nickigreenbean reblogged this from 16thstreet
  3. gotochelm reblogged this from marxistswithattitude and added:
    really beautiful artwork
  4. amp-ers-and reblogged this from yumuseum
  5. lioragilad reblogged this from yumuseum
  6. leavesofcomposition reblogged this from yumuseum
  7. drafinholdt reblogged this from yumuseum
  8. cavesofaltamira reblogged this from manonquinn
  9. marxistswithattitude reblogged this from yumuseum and added:
    Ah, very nice. I’ve seen the same art in conjuction with “Mein Rue Platz,” by the sweatshop poet Morris Rosenfeld.
  10. manonquinn reblogged this from yumuseum
  11. yumuseum reblogged this from 16thstreet and added:
    DOES WORK EVER FEEL LIKE IT’S SUCKING YOUR LIFE AWAY? Day after day, night after night, sometimes work can grind you...
  12. 16thstreet posted this