Two authors who were among the fathers of Haskalah literature in Yiddish, Avraham Ber Gottlober (1811–1899) and Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (Mendele Moykher-Sforim; 1835–1917), wrote about the ways in which Jews of Eastern Europe at the time of the reforms of Tsar Alexander II looked upon their non-Jewish neighbors. Gottlober wrote in Yiddish about the “goy”: “The balalaika is his fiddle / girls are his song / vodka is his wine / slabs of pork, his food” (from Der yid in Kiev; ca. 1860s–1870s).
Abramovitsh, by contrast, recounts in Hebrew how the first proponents of the Enlightenment regarded non-Jews: “In their thought burned love for all who dwell on earth; all human beings are brethren, whether or not they are members of the covenant” (Be-‘Emek ha-bakha’ [In the Vale of Tears]; published in installments between 1897 and 1909).
Daniel Leibel, one of the few writers who dealt with the representation of non-Jews in Yiddish literature, was well aware of the decisive influence of ethnic and ideological stereotypes on the literary depiction of the figure of the goy. In 1932 he wrote: “The ‘Goy’ is the Jew’s fate; he is a mass without individual outlines, his image is lit by the burning flame of war, revolution, pogroms, in flames of ancient fear that have not yet died down” (Leibel, 1932, p. 15).”