When an anonymous letter arrived at the Forward Newspaper in January, 1906, the paper’s editor, Abraham Cahan, felt that he’d found exactly what he’d been looking for. He published the letter the next day under the heading “A Bintel Brief” (a bundle of letters). Over the next half-century, the letters to the editor segment became a defining feature of the eminent Yiddish newspaper.
Now artist Liana Finck’s has adapted the advice column into a graphic novel, translated from the Yiddish by Jordan Kutzik. Abraham Cahan had this to say about the letter in his introduction to the column: “This is a letter from a woman to her neighbor. Upon reading it we thought that the writer wanted only to lash out at her neighbor through the pages of the Forward. But it became clear that she didn’t have such thoughts in mind. She
doesn’t want to do her neighbor any harm. It is not impossible that the neighbor is suspected without reason. The woman is punished by her bad situation and it can be that she has no grounds upon which to accuse her neighbor. But in any case we can remark at what a picture of the wretchedness of the worker’s lot is to be found in this letter! Which artist with his talent for imagining would be able to portray such suffering, to mold such a story, which would have a reason to be so thoroughly rooted in the conditions of the regular worker as what these lines express?”
Finck is an emerging graphic novelist. After attending Cooper Union College, she was awarded a Fulbright fellowship to Belgium. Her graphic novel based on the Bintel Brief is supported by a grant from the Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, a partnership of Avoda Arts, JDub Records and the Foundation for Jewish Culture, and made possible with major funding from UJA-Federation of New York. These pages originally appeared in the Forward on January 6, 2012.