Jewish Short Stories

These short stories were all written by Jewish authors or feature Jewish characters.

Jewish Stories

“The King” by Isaac Babel

The wedding ceremony is over. The cooks and hired help are preparing for the feast. A young stranger enters the premises. He’s looking for Benya Krik, known as the King, because he runs Moldavanka. He has an important message from Aunt Hannah about a new police chief.

This story can be read in the preview of Odessa Stories(49% in) This whole collection is about Benya Krik.

“Armistice” by Bernard Malamud

Morris Lieberman owns a small store in Brooklyn. He listens to the news everyday about the Nazis and the battles between the German and French armies. He has terrible memories from his youth of Jewish persecution. His son worries about the effect all the bad news has on him. One of his suppliers, Gus, always takes jabs at Morris.

This story can be read in the preview of The Complete Stories (14% in), along with several others.

“Wants” by Grace Paley

A woman runs into her ex husband outside a library where she is returning books that are eighteen years late. They gently argue about their life together and what made things go wrong.

This story can be read in the preview of Enormous Changes at the Last Minute: Stories.

“The Spinoza of Market Street” by Isaac Bashevis Singer

Dr. Fichelson, a philosopher, lives by the rationalist teachings of Spinoza. He lives on a small income after being fired from his post as librarian at a synagogue, due to his views, which contradict Jewish doctrine.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of The Spinoza of Market Street and Other Stories.

“O! Little Town of Bedlam” by Toni Brill

Russo and Midge are out walking in the cold at 4AM. They’re looking for Angie, a fifteen-year-old. It seems she found the new bike for her under the Christmas tree and took it outside. There’s shouting from up ahead and flashlight beams point to the canal. They rush to join the group. Angie’s face can be seen just below the surface of the water. Midge notices something.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Mystery Midrash: An Anthology of Jewish Mystery and Detective Fiction(37% in)

“The Banality of Evil” by Terence Ball

Abe, a private eye, gets a call from his brother Joel, a rabbi. Someone has spray-painted swastikas on the temple walls. Abe is reluctant, but he agrees to check it out. Some reporters are on the scene, and the police have already been there. The temple has been getting some calls where the person doesn’t say anything. There’s also a message from Ruth. Her son, Danny, who has Down Syndrome, didn’t come home last night.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Criminal Kabbalah: An Intriguing of Jewish Mystery & Detective Fiction(38% in)

“Hasidic Noir” by Pearl Abraham

While taking mikvah, a Jewish detective hears some gossip about a high-profile murder in the Hasidic community. The victim was one of the two men in line to inherit the Grand Rabbinic Throne. There had been a long-standing rivalry between the two congregations. Although he hasn’t been officially hired on the case, the detective finds it hard to resist. It’s rare for violence to erupt in this community and they like to keep things quiet. He’ll have to be careful.

Some of this story can be read in the preview of Brooklyn Noir(63% in)

“If Not Higher” by I. L. Peretz

Rabbi Nemirov disappears every Friday morning, causing concern and curiosity among his followers. One of them decides to find out what the rabbi is doing by hiding in his room and then following him.

“My First Goose” by Isaac Babel

During the Russian civil war in 1918, the narrator, a Jewish man, is assigned as the Propaganda Officer to a Cossack Division of the Red Army. He is weak, educated, and wears glasses. He is treated with little respect.

“The Conversion of the Jews” by Philip Roth

Ozzie, a teenage Jewish boy, argues with his Rabbi about God. This has happened before, and his mother has been called to see the Rabbi, as she has been in this case. One of their arguments escalates beyond words, leading to a standoff.

“Hodel” by Sholom Aleichem

Tevye’s daughter, Hodel, becomes acquainted with Feferel. When they get engaged, Tevye is upset; he wanted his daughter to marry an educated, wealthy man.

Read here

“Bontsha the Silent” by I. L. Peretz

Bontsha’s death makes no impression on anyone. He was not cared for, suffered many injustices, and lived in loneliness. He never protested his lot in life. While his death goes unnoticed on earth, it has the opposite effect on heaven.

Read “Bontsha the Silent”

“The Son from America” by Isaac Bashevis Singer

A Jewish man who went to America when he was fifteen returns to his home village in Poland forty years later. He has become a millionaire and plans on helping his parents and the village.

Read “The Son from America”

“The Royal Game” (“Chess Story”) by Stefan Zweig

Two friends are sailing from New York to Buenos Aires. Among the passengers is Mirko Czentovik, the world chess champion. His only ability lies in chess; he’s intellectually stunted in every other area. Czentovik is proud of his chess powers. He limits his conversation to avoid saying anything stupid. One of the men wants to talk to him during the voyage but can’t find an opportunity. He finds another man, McConnor, to play chess with. When Czentovik’s presence is brought to McConnor’s attention, he wants to play a game with the champion.

“The Royal Game” is a novella-length story. If you enjoy chess, it’s well worth the time.