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The Macksey Journal

Abstract

Although famous for traditional Yiddish folktales like "Gimpel the Fool" and "Yentl the Yeshiva Boy" Singer's career also included publishing stories in Playboy during the late 1960s through the 80s. These stories, while intended for an American audience in a secular publication, are nearly indistinguishable from Singer's folktales. Both Singer's traditional Yiddish folktales and his Playboy stories present a variety of messages regarding non-normative sexuality and gender expressions. These messages are often based on responsibility and recognition, halakhah and tradition, and the evocation of sympathy. He does this by focusing on common elements of the supernatural, barren couples, kabbalah and the gendered soul, and explicitly "queer" couples. The similarity in the style and elements of Singer's Playboy stories to his folktales corroborates Singer's belief that his folktales are not for exclusively Jewish readers, despite being written in Yiddish, because the themes of responsibility, tradition, and sympathy are universal. By analyzing five folktales and four Playboy stories, the Jewish questions that Singer confronts on queer, Jewish gender and non-normative sexuality prove to be universal, which allows Singer to publish Yiddish folktales in Playboy.

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