The Vale of Tears

An epic journey across wartime borders, The Vale of Tears chronicles two years in the life of Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung as he seeks an escape route from Nazi-occupied Europe. In this rare, near day-by-day account, Rabbi Hirschprung illuminates what life was like for an Orthodox rabbi fleeing persecution, finding inspiration and hope in Jewish scripture and psalms as he navigates the darkness to a safe harbour in Kobe, Japan. Written in Yiddish in 1944, this translation offers a unique perspective into the man who would become the world-renowned Chief Rabbi of Montreal for almost thirty years.

Introduction by Zale Newman and Arielle Berger

At a Glance
Poland; Soviet Union; Lithuania; Japan
Forced labour
Written in 1943–1944; first published in Yiddish in 1944
Quotes from Jewish scripture and liturgy
Arrived in Canada in 1941
Chief Rabbi of Montreal, 1969–1998

368 pages, including index

2018 Independent Publisher Gold Medal

2018 J.I. Segal Translation Award

Recommended Ages

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Photo of Pinchas Hirschprung

About the author

Rabbi Pinchas Hirschprung was born in Dukla, Poland, in 1912. In 1941, he managed to escape Europe for Japan, immigrating to Montreal nine months later. A world-renowned Torah and Talmudic scholar, Rabbi Hirschprung became the chief rabbi of Montreal in 1969 and led its Jewish community until his death in 1998. Rabbi Hirschprung’s Yiddish-language memoir was published in 1944 and translated into Hebrew in 1948; The Vale of Tears is its first English translation.

My tears, like the words of the prayer, fell like fresh dew: pure, delicate, unadulterated, honest words, and pure, delicate, unadulterated, honest tears.