Sholem Aleichem died in New York in 1916, aged 57, while still working on his last novel, Motl, Peysi the Cantor’s Son, and was laid to rest at Mount Carmel cemetery in Queens. At the time, his funeral was one of the largest in New York City history, with an estimated 100,000 mourners. The next day, his will was printed in the New York Times and was read into the Congressional Record of the United States.
The will contained detailed instructions to his family and friends; both in regards to immediate burial arrangements as well as to how Sholem Aleichem wished to be commemorated and remembered on his annual yartzheit. He told his friends and family to gather, “read my will, and also select one of my stories, one of the very merry ones, and recite it in whatever language is most intelligible to you.” “Let my name be recalled with laughter,” he added, “or not at all”. The gatherings continue to the present-day, and in recent years have become open to the public.