Cobble Hill

‘A Bintel Brief’ brings to life popular advice column from early 20th century

Author to speak in Cobble Hill

April 17, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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“A Bintel Brief” (Yiddish for “A Bundle of Letters”) was the name of the enormously popular advice column The Forward newspaper began running in 1906. Written by a diverse community of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, these letters spoke to the daily heartbreaks and comedies of their new lives, capturing the hope, isolation, and confusion of assimilation.

Drawn from a sampling of these letters—selected and adapted by Liana Finck and brought to life in her poignant illustrations—“A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York” (Ecco Trade Paperback Original) is a hilarious and heartbreaking glimpse of the lives of immigrants on the Lower East Side of New York at the start of the 20th century. Finck will speak about her book in Brooklyn on Friday, April 18 at BookCourt in Cobble Hill.

From family politics to judgmental neighbors, crises of faith, unrequited love, runaway husbands, soul crushing poverty and the difficulty of building an entirely new life from scratch, “A Bintel Brief” is an enlightening look at a segment of America’s rich cultural past that offers fresh insights for our own lives. 

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Finck said, “What drew me to these letters was the balance they strike between heaviness and lightness; they are silly, and funny, imaginative in the most sophisticated way, and full of wonder. They were portals to people who are like me.” In an original and charming frame story, Finck explores the origins of the letters and the impact of their legacy by conjuring a dialogue with Abraham Cahan, the legendary editor of The Forward, who conceived the Bintel Brief and answered each of the letters himself. With Cahan, Finck tours the landscape of Yiddish New York as they engage in a bittersweet dialogue that explores the pleasures and perils of nostalgia. 

Liana Finck studied fine art and graphic design at Cooper Union College. A former Fulbright Fellow and recipient of a Six Points Fellowship for Emerging Jewish Artists, her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Forward, and Tablet, among other publications. She lives in New York City.

The April 18 event will begin at 7 p.m. BookCourt is located at 163 Court St. in Cobble Hill.

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