This excerpt from "Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness" depicts the various ways Jewish communities responded to economic and social changes.
Sholem Aleichem created an extraordinary output of stories and novels, fueled not only by his imagination, but the need to support his large family. He managed to produce a new story every week for the Yiddish press, and sometimes more than one. And he did it for more than 25 years.
He wrote in Yiddish, but at home, Russian was the spoken language. And in fact, the only spoken language, to the extent that his own children didn't know any Yiddish. At the peak of modern Yiddish literature, the tragedy of being a great writer and your children cannot read your own writings in the original.
Here he was, growing as a writer day by day. Here he was, bringing Yiddish literature to its finest point of flowering at the very moment when the younger generation was moving away from Yiddish and would not return to it.
Sholem Aleichem's family, what he called his republic, was central to his life. But his four daughters and two sons were growing up in the cosmopolitan city of Kiev, a world far removed from his own shtetl childhood.