A Jewish Prairie Poet: Rebecca Fusfeld

The Spring 2022 issue of South Dakota History (Vol. 52, No. 1), provides an illuminating article about a poet of our past who was completely unknown to me: Rebecca Fusfeld, a Sioux Falls resident who wrote poetry from the 1930s to the 1960s.

Her work, says the article’s author, Anna Amundson, a history professor at Augustana University (Sioux Falls, SD), is one example of how Jewish people in South Dakota took part in a national movement to educate their Christian friends and neighbors about their religious beliefs and lives. Fusfeld (also spelled Fusfield) shared her perspectives on Judaism, her experiences as an immigrant, and her observations of nature in South Dakota. She also argued against the isolationist perspective held by many Americans before World War II.

The Fusfelds arrived here when the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) organizers were openly recruiting members throughout the state, opposing African Americans, Catholics, Jews, non-English-speaking immigrants, and labor union members.

The temperance movement was also important at this time. Many states made exceptions in their alcohol bans to allow observant Jews to use wine in the home—but not South Dakota.  

While many of Fusfeld’s poems were published in Pasque Petals (the official literary magazine of the South Dakota State Poetry Society, which began publication in 1926), I could find no evidence that a book of her work is available today.

I’d welcome any information about her work and how modern readers might find it, since this is surely a segment of South Dakota writing history that is little known to many residents.

Linda M. Hasselstrom
Windbreak House
Hermosa, South Dakota

© 2022, Linda M. Hasselstrom

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