Famed Yiddish Writer Resting in Anything But Peace

The first nine paragraphs of today’s “Column One” by Hector Becerra are expertly constructed.

Taken as a whole, they perfectly illustrate (in a feature reporting kind of way) the old AP “inverted pyramid” lede principle. That is to say, the reporter sets the scene, draws the reader in and then, thunderously, delivers a wallop.

Becerra describes a recent Sunday visit paid by Robert Adler-Peckerar to Mount Zion, a Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of downtown L.A. The gate was locked; a caretaker next door needed to be summoned. Once inside the dilapidated resting place, the searcher found the sadly fallen marker of the life he was investigating:

“This is what happened to one of the greatest Yiddish writers in LA,” said Adler-Peckerar, executive director of Yiddishkayt, an organization dedicated to preserving the Yiddish language and culture. “I’d never seen a cemetery like this in America.”

He had gone looking for the grave of a man who had become “unbalanced” by the end of his days. He ended up finding a place the writer might have understood. Both, in their own way, had been left behind.

The late writer in question is Lamed Shapiro, who died penniless in Los Angeles in 1948 after writing celebrated stories about East Europe’s pogroms. The broader issue brought up by Becerra’s column is the desperate need for funds to redress the “shameful” current state of Mount Zion cemetery. Perhaps this article will help spark a new round of donations.