Bel Kaufman, the granddaughter of Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem and the author of the 1965 bestselling novel Up the Down Staircase, died in New York on July 25, 2014 at age 103.
Born in Berlin in 1911, Kaufman spent much of her childhood in Odessa and Kiev, where she experienced the Russian Revolution. She emigrated to the U.S. in 1923. Her novel was based on her own experiences as a teacher in New York City public schools. Her obituary in the LA Times notes that she was still teaching at the age of 99, presiding over a course on Jewish humor at Hunter College (City University of New York).
In the early 2000s, YIVO hosted public programs for the Sholem Aleichem Foundation, which were organized by Kaufman’s husband, Sidney Gluck. Her New York Times obituary requests, in lieu of flowers, donations to YIVO, Hunter College, and the Folksbiene.
Excerpts of interviews with Kaufman appear in the recent documentary on Sholem Aleichem by Joseph Dorman, Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness.
Read more about Bel Kaufman in the Encyclopedia of the Jewish Women’s Archive.
Read about Sholem Aleichem in the YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. YIVO has many books and artifacts related to Sholem Aleichem in its library and archives, including manuscripts and letters.