Wednesday, 21 August 2019


NOKHUM SHTIF (September 29, 1879-April 7, 1933)
            A philologist, literary historian, and journalist, he was born in Rovno, Volhynia.  He was well known by the pen name: Bal-Dimyen (Visionary).  Until his bar mitzvah, he studied was a variety of itinerant schoolteachers.  In 1894 he entered the third class in senior high school, but continued reading Hebrew, organizing a group called “Safa berura” (Chosen language), and studying Talmud (for scholarly ends).  After the first Zionist congress in Basel (1897), he became a Zionist.  In 1899 he studied for a year at the Kiev polytechnical institute.  He was a cofounder in 1902 of the radical Zionist student group, “Molodoy Izrail” (Young Israel).  Together with A. Ben-Adir and V. Fabrikant, in 1903 he organized the founding conference of “Vozrozhdenie” (Renaissance).  Shtif “actually [provided] the first extended justification for the ideology that later became characteristic of the Zionist socialists.” (Yivo-bleter [Pages from YIVO] 5 [1935], p. 197)  After the Kishinev pogrom, he was among the leaders of self-defense in Kiev.  His first published piece appeared in 1904, and over the years, 1905-1908, he was active the Sejmist party in Kiev, Vilna, Vitebsk, and Simforopol (after a year in Switzerland whence he fled from arrest).  In this time period, he penned literary critical articles for Evreiskaia zhizn’ (Jewish life) in St. Petersburg and ideological-political articles for the party publications: Di folks-shtime (The people’s voice) and Di shtime (The voice).  In his literary pieces, he stressed the influence of the environment on a writer’s works, the social character of literature, and the aesthetic moment in a work.  From this point of view, he sought to revise the estimation of Sholem Asch, Morris Rozenfeld, Avrom Reyzen, and others.
            Over the years 1910-1914, he lived in Rovno.  He graduated from the Jaroslavl Law School in 1913 and received his doctoral degree for a dissertation on criminal rights according to the Torah of Moses and the Talmud.  At the same time, he took up serious research into Yiddish.  His first published work in this field appeared in Pinkes (Records) in Vilna (1912/1913).  From the middle of 1914 he was living in Vilna where he worked as manager of the Kletskin publishing house and served as editor of Di vokh (The week).  These years, 1910-1914, he published a series of articles in the Yiddish and Russian Jewish press, in which he formulated his ideas about a Jewish land and about the concept of “goles” (H. galut) or diaspora.  He spent the years 1915-1918 in St. Petersburg, working for the relief organization “Yekopo” (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”), and editing its journal Pomoshch’ (Relief).  He was active in “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of Enlightenment) and assisted in introducing Yiddish as a language of instruction in Jewish schools.  At a conference for the Society in 1916, a major discussion about this issue took place between Shtif and Ḥaim Naḥman Bialik.
            After the February Revolution (1917), Shtif became one of the founders of the Folks-partey (People’s party), and together with Yisroel Efroykin, he edited its organ Yidishes folksblat (Jewish daily newspaper) and brought out a pamphlet on the social and political ideas of the party.  He was appointed to the Petrograd Jewish community council and participated in the meeting of the Jewish community council in Moscow (1918).  That year he moved to Kiev and worked for Yekopo.  Following the Bolshevik occupation of Kiev in October 1920, Shtif left Russia and reached Kovno in 1921 where he worked as a lecturer in a Jewish teachers’ course of study, and in early 1922 he settled in Berlin.  There he devoted himself primarily to researching the Yiddish language and literature.
            Shtif was the principal initiator of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in Vilna.  In his pamphlet, Di organizatsye fun der yidisher visnshaft (The organization of Yiddish scholarship) (Vilna, 1925), he formulated the principles of Yiddish scholarly activities.  He was invited in 1926 to administer the Yiddish department of the Ukrainian Academy of Science in Kiev.  There he developed a broad scholarship agenda.  He was editor of Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language) (1926-1930), of the department’s Byuleten (Bulletin) (February 1929), and of Afn shprakhfront (On the language front) (1931-1933).  He was attacked in the Soviet Union for his “petit-bourgeois Yiddishist attitude” and was compelled to publish an article entitled “Mayne felers” (My mistakes), in which he wrote: “Since I have become aware of my mistakes, I have sought to correct them, but I have not been able to steadily persist.” (Proletarishe fon [Proletarian banner] in Kiev [April 23, 1932])  He had not demonstrated any “corrections,” and then a year later he was found dead at his writing desk.  Aside from the aforementioned periodicals, he wrote journalistic, literary critical articles and linguistic research pieces in: Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people) in Vilna (1908), Di yudishe velt (The Jewish world) in Vilna (1914), Di royte velt (The red world) in Kharkov, Teater-bukh (Theater book) in Kiev (1927), Haynt (Today) in Warsaw, Filologishe shriftn (Philological writings) and Landoy-bukh (Landau book) from YIVO; Yidishe shtime (Jewish voice) and Nayes (News) in Kovno; Tsukunft (Future), Dos naye leben (The new life), and Morgn-tsaytung (Morning newspaper) in New York; and a in a series of publications in Berlin; among other serials.  He wrote 339 works in the fields of linguistics, literary history, literary criticism, and journalism.  He died in Kiev.
His longer works include: “Teritoryalizm, emigratsye un di yudishe virklekhkeyt” (Territorialism, emigration, and Jewish reality), Di shtime (Vilna) 2 (1908), pp. 141-60; “Di fon” (The banner), in Y. l. perets, zamlung tsu zayn 7tn yortsayt (Y. L. Perets, anthology for the seventh anniversary of his death) (Minsk: Kultur-lige, 1922), pp. 13-25; “Der nekhtn (tsvantsik yor ash)” (Yesterday, twenty years of [Sholem] Asch), Milgroym (Pomegranate) (Berlin) 2 (1922), pp. 23-28; a bibliographic survey of Yiddish literature in Russia, 1917-1921, in Tsukunft (1923); fragments of a philological work, in Tsukunft 2, 9 (1924); “Literatur-historishe legendes” (Literary historical legends), in Di royte velt 7-8. 10 (1926); “A geshribene yidishe biblyotek in a yidish hoyz in venetsye in mitn dem zekhtsentn yorhundert” (A written Yiddish library in a Jewish house in Venice in the middle of the sixteenth century), in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) (Minsk) 1 (1926), pp. 141-50, 2-3 (1926), pp. 525-44; “Naye materyaln tsu elye haleyvis hamavdl-lid” (New materials on Eliyahu Halevy’s Hamavdil song), in Shriftn (Writings) (Kiev) 1 (1928), pp. 148-79; “Y. m. lifshits der leksikograf” (Y. M. Lifshits the lexicographer), in Di yidishe shprakh (Kiev) 4-5 (1928), pp. 3-23; “Di sotsyale diferentsyatsye in yidish, di hebreishe elementn in der shprakh” (The social differentiation in Yiddish, the Hebrew elements in the language), in Di yidishe shprakh 4-5 (1929), pp. 1-22; and the like.
Books and pamphlets include: Mayse fun dem frumen rabi khanine, tray ibergegeben durkh bal-dimyen (Tale of the devout Rabbi Ḥananiah, faithfully conveyed by Bal-Dimyen) (Moscow: Kletskin, 1917), 20 pp.; Iden un idish oder ver zaynen “idishishten” un vos vilen zey? (Jews and Yiddish or who are Yiddishists and what do they want?) (Kiev: Onhoyb, 1919), 103 pp., second printing (Warsaw, 1920); Humanizm in der elterer yidisher literatur, a kapitl literatur geshikhte (Humanism in older Yiddish literature, a chapter in literary history) (Kiev: Kultur-life, 1920), 64 pp. (on the title page, “Bal-Dimyen”), second printing (Berlin, 1922); Yidish un yidishe kultur (Yiddish and Jewish culture) (Kovno: Likht, 1922), 24 pp.; An entfer di kegner fun yidish (A reply to the opponents of Yiddish) (Czernowitz, 1922); Pogromen in ukraine (Pogroms in Ukraine) (Berlin: Vostok, 1923), 111 pp., in 1922 a Russian edition was published; Di eltere yidishe literatur, literarishe khrestomatye mit an araynfir un derklerungen tsu yedn shrayber (The old Yiddish literature, a literary reader with an introduction and explanation for each writer) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1929), 284 pp.; Yidishe stilistik, ershte serye (Yiddish stylistics, first series) (Moscow: Central Publ., Ukrainian Academy of Science, 1930), 172 pp.
His translations include: Z. Brunin, Privat-handl un gebroykh-kooperatsye (Private business and cooperatives of use) (Kiev, 1919); Moritz Güdemann, Idishe kultur-geshikhte in mitlalter, idn in daytshland dos xiv un xv yorhundert (Jewish cultural history in the Middle Ages, Jews in Germany in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries [original: Geschichte des Erziehungswesens und der Cultur der Juden in Deutschland während des XIV. und XV. Jahrhunderts]) (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1922), 250 pp.; Aron Isak, Avtobyografye (Autobiography) (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1922), 117 pp.; Shimon Dubnow, Di nayste geshikhte fun yidishn folk (The more recent history of the Jewish people), vol. 1 (Berlin, 1923), vols. 2-3 (Warsaw, 1926), second edition (1928); Friedrich Engels, Di antviklung funem sotsyalizm fun utopye tsu visnshaft (The development of socialism from utopia to science [original: Die Entwicklung des Sozialismus von der Utopie zur Wissenschaft]).  Other pen names used: Metshtatel, N. Rovenski, N. Yonin, and A Biblyograf.
Shtif “acquired his reputation,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “as one of our finest and most thorough Yiddish researchers….  In all of his works, original and translated, he wrote to keep alive Jewishness in style, protecting it from all foreign forms.”

Sources: Sh. Genrikh, in Kultur un bildung (Moscow) 2-3 (1920); Moyshe Zilberfarb, in Royter pinkes (Warsaw) (1921), pp. 113-30; Yitskhok Shiper, in Bikher-velt (Warsaw) (1922), p. 44, and 6 (1923); H. Zak, in Nayes (Kovno) 29 (31) (1923); Dov-Ber Slutski, in Di yidishe shprakh (Kiev) 3-4 (1927); Slutski, in Afn shprakhfront (Kiev) 2 (1935), pp. 69-89; Maks Erik, in Di yidishe shprakh 5-6 (1927); Erik, in Shtern (Minsk) 1 (1930), pp. 84-89; Moyshe Khayimski, in Emes (Moscow) (June 29, 1929); Dovid Matsi, in Ratnbildurng (Kiev) 2 (1930); Nekhemye Pereferkovits, in Frimorgn (Riga) (May 20, 1930); Pereferkovits, in Lodzher togblat (Lodz) (July 11, 1930); Max Weinreich, in Tsukunft (New York) 3, 12 (1931), 6 (1933); F. Hurvits, Ruvn Lerner, and Moyshe Maydanski, in Afn shprakhfront 4 (1932), pp. 43-50; Ayzik Zaretski, in Afn shprakhfront 4 (1932), pp. 48-52; A. Gitlin, in Ratnbildung (Kiev) 3-4 (1932); Yudl Anikovitsh, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 5 (1933), pp. 226-46, a bibliography; Yisroel-Ber Beylin, in Signal (New York) 3 (1933); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 33, 34 (1933), autobiography; Moyshe Shalit, in Literarishe bleter 26, 27, 31, 32 (1933), 14-16 (1934); Shloyme Suskovitsh, in Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) 177-78 (1933); Moyshe Kamenshteyn and Nokhum Oyslender, in Shtern (Kharkov) (April 9, 1933); Kalmen Marmor, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (April 11, 1933); Zev-Volf Latski-Bertoldi, in Frimorgn (April 13, 1933); Ben-Tsien Goldberg, in Tog (New York) April 13, 1933); A. Mukdoni, in Morgn zhurnal (New York) (April 14, 1933); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (April 23, 1933); Niger, Yidishe shrayber fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert (Yiddish writers of the twentieth century) (New York, 1958), pp. 173-74; Nakhmen Mayzil, in Haynt (Warsaw) (April 28, 1933); Urye Katsenelenbogen, in Folksblat (Kovno) (May 5, 1933); Menakhem Kadishevitsh, in Shtern (June 9, 1933); Ben-Tsien Kats, in Idishe shtime (Kovno) (June 26, 1933); Nokhum Oyslender, in Shtern (July 15, 1933); D. Nusinov, in Afn shprakhfront 2 (1935), pp. 91-96; Yivo-bleter 5 (1935), bibliography; Yudel Mark, in Davke (Buenos Aires) 3 (1952), pp. 93-101; Ber Borokhov, Shprakh-forshung un literatur-geshikhte (Language research and literary history) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1966), pp. 401-6, 418; Michael Astour, Geshikhte fun der frayland-lige un funem teritoryalistishn gedank (History of the Freeland League and of the territorialist idea) (New York, 1967), see index; Khayim Loytsker, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 12 (1969); Nisn Rozental (A. Ben-Dov), Yidish lebn in ratnfarband (Jewish life in the Soviet Union) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1971), pp. 251-62; Ester Rozental-Shnayderman, Af vegn un umveg, zikhroynes, geshenishn, perzenlekhkeytn (Along ways and byways, memoirs, events, personalities) (Tel Aviv, 1978), see index.
Leyzer Podryatshik

[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 384-85.]


AVROM SHTILMAN (SZTYLMAN) (b. February 5, 1903)
            He was born in Novo-Ushitsa (Novo-Ushytsya), Podolia, descended from a Hassidic family.  He attended religious elementary school and yeshiva, and he went on to graduate from a Russian high school in Kishinev.  In 1925 he moved to Montreal, where in 1931 he completed his medical degree.  He began writing poetry that year for Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal.  He published a regular medical column there as well until 1965.  In a jubilee volume of the newspaper, he published research on the state of the health of Jews in Montreal over a period of fifty years (1907-1957), and inter alia on Jewish doctors there.  In book form: Layb un lebn, geshprekhn fun a doktor iber layblekh-noente inyonim (The body and life, conversations with a doctor on personal matters), popular medical articles (Warsaw, 1932), 298 pp.  He also published for four volumes of stories in English.

Sources: Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 27, 1927); Tsemekh Shabad, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 52 (1932); Yisroel Rabinovitsh, in Keneder odler (December 28, 1959).
Khayim Leyb Fuks


            The author of poetry and stories, he was born in Melits (Mielec), Galicia.  He was a scholar and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment.  He was a leader in the Warsaw Ghetto of a school for orphans which was in fact an illegal educational institution, in which they taught Torah and Judaism.  He was one of the group of Orthodox poets in Poland.  He was a regular contributor to Dos yudishe togblat (The Jewish daily newspaper) and Ortodoksishe yugend bleter (Orthodox youth pages) in Warsaw.  He was for a time co-editor of Darkenu (Our path) in Warsaw.  He also wrote feuilletons.  His writings include: Mentshn fun’m dor (People of the generation), stories and poetry (Lodz: Beys Yankev, 1936/1937), 116 pp.; Besht simfonye (Symphony for the Baal Shem Tov) (Warsaw).  His work also appeared in Moyshe Prager, Di antologye fun religyeze lider un dertseylungen (The anthology of religious poetry and stories) (New York, 1955).  His pen name: Elitsur Hasofer.  He died in a concentration camp near Dębica.

Source: Moyshe Prager, Di antologye fun religyeze lider un dertseylungen (The anthology of religious poetry and stories) (New York, 1955).
Berl Cohen


MORITZ STEINSCHNEIDER (March 30, 1816-January 24, 1907)
            He was the greatest of Hebrew bibliographers.  His Jewish given name was Moshe.  Although his attitude toward “zhargon” [Yiddish] was one of enmity and contempt, nonetheless his bibliographic work with Yiddish literature was such that a Yiddish bibliographer or philologist cannot do without it.  He described 385 published Yiddish books before 1740 (in Serapeum [1848-1849]).  Fifteen years later he provided a description of sixty-four manuscripts in Yiddish (Serapeum 1-12 [1866]); and he wrote about the Mayse-bukh (Story book), about the old Germanicized Yiddish translations of the Pentateuch and Yiddish translations of Tanakh generally; and a series of articles on Yiddish religious texts, thirty-one publications of Purim plays, and the like.  He died in Berlin.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Encyclopaedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1972).
Berl Cohen

Tuesday, 20 August 2019


            He was the author of Di geshikhte fun a falsher teorye (The history of a false theory), concerning Trotskyism (Buenos Aires: Akualitet, 1937), 62 pp.

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 525.


            He was a journalist and playwright, born in Bialystok.  He studied with itinerant primary schoolteachers in Rajgród, later in yeshivas in Bialystok, Slonim, and Lide (Lida).  He was active in Labor Zionism, and due to his party work he fled in 1907 to Holland and from there to New York, where he published several items in Kundes (Prankster).  In 1911 he returned to Bialystok, and together with others he published the first Yiddish weekly newspaper in the city, Hayntike tsayt (Contemporary times).  He later contributed feuilletons, monologues, and articles on current events to Byalistoker togblat (Bialystok daily newspaper).  He edited a Tseire Tsiyon (Young Zionist) weekly, Frayhayt (Freedom) which came out for two month, and Byalistoker folksblat (Bialystok people’s newspaper) which came out for six months.  In late 1924 he was a co-publisher of Di byalistoker shtime (The voice of Bialystok); in early 1925 he contributed to Byalistoker kuryer (Bialystok courier) (112 issues), and in 1926 published the daily newspaper Der idisher kuryer (The Jewish courier).  He later became a regular contributor to Dos naye lebn (The new life) and in it wrote articles, notices, and feature pieces, also using the pen names: G. Gaystfraynd, Unklus, Mefisto, A. Z. Dor, and Akhikim, among others.  A longer work by Shteynsapir was entitled “Der vide fun gevezenem misyoner leybele tikotski” (The confession of the former missionary Leybele Tikotski), which ran for six weeks in 1926 in Haynt (Today) and Tog (Day).  He also wrote several plays and one-act comedies.  He edited Byalistoker frimorgn (Bialystok morning) (February 1933-December 1, 1935) and the weekly Lodzer lebn (Lodz life) (nine issues in 1934).  He died in Bialystok.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Khayim Finkelshteyn, Haynt, a tsaytung bay yidn, 1908-1939 (Haynt [Today], a newspaper for Jews, 1908-1939) (Tel Aviv, 1978), pp. 209-10; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Berl Cohen


LEYZER SHTEYNMAN (ELIEZER STEINMAN) (Shevat [= February] 1892-August 7, 1970)
            He was a Hebrew and Yiddish author, novelist, essayist, and anthologist of Hassidism, born in Obodevke (Obodivka), Podolia.  He was a rabbi’s son, and at age seventeen he received ordination into the rabbinate.  In 1912 he moved to Warsaw.  He lived in Odessa, Moscow, and from 1920 again in Warsaw.  He was virtually the only Hebrew writer in Russia who in 1919 accepted Communism with joy and even published a leaflet entitled Hakomunist haiviri (The Jewish Communist).  From 1924 he was living in Tel Aviv.  He then turned all of his writing capacities to Hebrew.  He published some forty books in Hebrew.  He did not, though, write little in Yiddish.  He placed his first Yiddish story in Fraynd (Friend) 36 (1912).  He went on to write stories, sketches, and essays in: Gut-morgen (Good morning) in Odessa, Der shtrahl (The beam [of light]) in Warsaw (1910-1911), Nisn (Nisan) in Warsaw (1911/1912), Tsaytigs (Mature) in Odessa (1912), Fayerlekh (Solemn) in Warsaw (1912/1913), the anthology Yugend-kraft (Youthful vigor) (Warsaw, 1912/1913), and Untervegs (Pathways) in Odessa (1917), among others.  He wrote a preface for Mayselekh far kinder (Stories for children) (Odessa, 1919) and an article in the collection Tsum ondenk fun y. l. perets, tsu zayn finf-yorikn yortsayt (To the memory of Y. L. Perets, on the fifth anniversary of his death) (Odessa, 1920).  From 1920 he was a regular contributor to Moment (Moment) in Warsaw.  His ties to Yiddish remained in place until 1924, although a little time thereafter he spent writing correspondence pieces for Moment, and in his last years he wrote for Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) and Almanakh (Almanac) (Tel Aviv, 1967); he even published a book in Yiddish.  His work appeared in Mordekhai alamish, Mikan umikarov, antologya shel sipure yidish beerets yisrael (From near and from far away, anthology of stories in Yiddish in Israel) (Meravya, 1966).  His books in Yiddish include: Tsu mensh un folk (To man and people) (Warsaw: Drokhim, 1921/1922), 156 pp.; Ukraine veynt, novelen (Ukraine weeps, stories) (Warsaw: Alt-yung, 1923), 172 pp.; Intim mit der velt (Intimate with the world) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1971), 328 pp.  He died in Tel Aviv.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Meravya, 1967); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958); Abe Gordin, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 36 (1960); Moyshe Gros-Tsimerman, in Di goldene keyt 50 (1964); Yekhiel Hofer, Mit yenem un mit zikh, literarishe eseyen (With another and with oneself, literary essays), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1964), pp. 264-78; Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (December 7, 1965); Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 14, 1967); Froym Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (April 17, 1967); Dov Sadan, Avne miftan, masot al sofre yidish (Milestones, essays on Yiddish writers), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1972), pp. 164, 351; Yediot genazim (Tel Aviv) 72 (Tishre [= October] 1970); Avraham Shaanan, Milon hasifrut haadasha haivrit vehakelalit (Dictionary of modern Hebrew and general literature) (Tel Aviv, 1959).
Berl Cohen