Sunday, 24 June 2018


BOREKH-MORTKHE ERLIKH (September 5, 1902-March 6, 1979)
            He was born in Khelm (Chełm), Poland.  From 1919 he was living in Warsaw and from 1929 in Lodz.  He lived through the Lodz ghetto and concentration camps.  In 1949 he made aliya to the state of Israel.  He was active among the left Labor Zionists.  He wrote articles, primarily on the Holocaust, for the Yiddish press.  In book form, he published: Tsum eybikn zikorn (To eternal memory) (Tel Aviv, 1975), 264 pp.; and Khelemer dertseylungen (Chełm stories) (Tel Aviv, 1977), 196 pp.  He died in Tel Aviv.
Ruvn Goldberg

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 420.


            He was born in Stashev (Staszów), Poland.  Until WWII he was active in the pioneer youth movement.  Over the years 1940-1945, he was confined in ghettos and in the concentration camps of Buchenwald and Theresienstadt.  Thereafter he lived for a time in Warsaw and in survivor camps, and from 1949 in Israel.  He was editor of Seyfer stashev (Volume on Staszów) (Tel Aviv, 1962), 525 pp. in Hebrew and Yiddish, and 35 pp. in English.  In this work may be found his writings on Jewish community life in Staszów until 1939 and on the destruction of Staszów.  He was last living in Givatayim, Israel.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


ARN ERLIKH (1903-October 1942)
            He was born in Gline (Glina), eastern Galicia.  He was a pupil of Rabbi Meir Shapiro at Yeshivat akhme Lublin (Chachmei Lublin Yeshiva).  Later he studied humanities and literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.  In 1934 he returned to Poland and attended the Warsaw rabbinical seminary, while at the same time becoming active in Tseire Mizrai (Mizrachi youth).  He was a member of the center “Tora veavoda” (Torah and belief) in Poland.  From 1922 he was publishing poems, articles, and essays on literature and art in: Ortodoksishe yugnt bleter (Orthodox youth sheets), Yudishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice), and Hamizrai (The Mizrachi)—in Warsaw; Der morgen (The morning), Yavne (Yavne), Hasolel (The paver), Mizrai (Mizrachi), Alim (Leaves), and Ahalnu (Our tent)—in Lemberg; Idishe arbeter-shtime (Voice of Jewish labor), Der idishe arbayter (The Jewish worker), and Beys yankev zhurnal (Beys-Yankev journal); among others.  When the Nazis occupied Lemberg, he was arrested.  He was later confined in the Lemberg ghetto and there he died.

Sources: Khanekh Halpern, Megiles gline (The book of Glina) (New York, 1950); Entsiklopedya shel hatsiyonut hadatit (Encyclopedia of religious Zionism), vol. A-D (Jerusalem: Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1959), pp. 189-90.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


            According to all conjectures, this was a pseudonym used by a Yiddish writer.  He signed his name in this manner on a number of Yiddish books, translated from world literature.  Apparently, the translations were not done from the original works (English and French), but from translations others did for him into Polish, Russian, and German.  Upton Sinclair’s novel Petroleum (original: Oil!) appears to have been translated not from English but from German.  Not only are Germanisms spread throughout the lexicon of the translation, but the syntax is not infrequently Germanic as well.  The translations in book form include: Romain Rolland, Tolstoy (original: La Vie de Tolstoï) (Warsaw: Sh. Goldfarb, 1926), 256 pp.; Sinclair, Petroleum (Warsaw: Sh. Goldfarb, 1928), 523 pp., a highly abridged version; and Émile Zola, Zherminal (original: Germinal), 2 vols.

Source: Y. Rapaport, “Bikher-velt” (Book world), Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (October 12, 1928).


MAKS (MAX) ERIK (November 17, 1898-October 17, 1937)
            The adopted name of Zalmen Merkin and the younger brother of Moyshe Merkin, he was born in Sosnovits (Sosnowiec), Zaglembye (Zagłębie), Poland, into a well-to-do family.  His father was a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment from Shlov (Szkłów).  His mother was a sister of Yitskhok Peysakhzon, one of the founders of the Bund.  She was murdered by the Germans during WWII.  Until he was twelve, he studied in religious elementary school and with private tutors.  He went on to study in a Russian senior high school.  In 1918 he graduated from a Polish high school.  Over the years 1919-1921, he served in the Polish army and completed officers’ school.  In the period 1921-1924, with interruptions, he studied law at Cracow University.  The school years of 1922-1923 and 1925-1926, he worked as a teacher of Yiddish and Polish literature in the Vilna Jewish middle school.  In his last classes of high school, he became interested in Yiddish literature and aspired to engage in his own writing work.  He debuted in print with an essay on Hugo Zuckermann in Di yidishe zamlbikher (The Yiddish anthologies), edited by Y. M. Vaysenberg 5 (1918).  He went to publish essays and critical treatments in: Ringen (Links), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), and Bikher velt (Book world) in Warsaw, and Vilner tog (Vilna day).  In Vilna, he and Zalmen Reyzen compiled a reader of Old Yiddish literature, but they did not publish it, and the manuscript was apparently lost.  For a long period of time, he worked on Old Yiddish texts in the municipal library of Danzig.  In 1926 he traveled to England and France, and he worked on Old Yiddish literature at the British Museum, in Oxford University’s library, and at the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris.  Erik was an extraordinarily gifted and productive writer, literary historian, and critic.  In the twenty years of his creative activity, he wrote countless essays, studies, and substantial work.  In 1923 he published in Bikher velt 3-4 (Warsaw) an essay on the construction of Perets’s “Goldene keyt” (Golden chain), in which he analyzed the various texts of the drama.  This piece was included in his first book, Konstruktsye-shtudyen (Construction studies) (Warsaw: Arbeter-heym, 1924), 66 pp.  Also included in this collection was an essay entitled “Batrakhtungen vegn patos” (Thoughts about pathos).  His second book was Vegn altyidishn roman un novele, fertsnter-zekhtsnter yorhundert (On the Old Yiddish novel and novella, fourteenth-sixteenth centuries) (Warsaw-Kovle, 1926), 247 pp.  He analyzed a series of foundational works of the oldest Yiddish literature, such as the Bovo-bukh (Bovo book), Artur-romanen (Arthurian tales), Mayse-bukh (Story book), Mayse briyo vezimro (A story of Beria and Zimra), Til oylnshpign (Till Eulenspiegel), and Ben hameylekh vehanazir (The prince and the monk), and he comes to general, synthesized conclusions.  Erik develops in this book his theory of the troubadour (shpilman) era in Yiddish literature.  He argued that Yiddish poets from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries would do as modern Yiddish poets do, namely sing them and read them aloud.  Erik considered Elye Bokher (Elijah Levita) the last Yiddish troubadour.  As demonstrated by Yankev Shatski, this theory was already stated earlier by Eliezer Shulman in Hebrew-language volume on Yiddish literature: Sefat yehudit-ashkenazit vesifruta, mikets hamea ha-15 ad kets shenot hamea ha-18 (Yiddish language and literature, from the end of fifteenth century to the last years of the eighteenth century) (Riga, 1913).  Erik, however, was the first scholar to substantiate this theory.  That same year (1926), he published a monograph on Brantshpigl (Burning mirror) and Elye Bokher’s poem on the fire in Venice—in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) 1 in Minsk.  In the same journal he also published a major work “Inventar fun der yidisher shpilman-dikhtung” (Inventor of Yiddish troubadour poetry), Tsaytshrift 2-3 (1928), and “Vegn sotsyaln mehus fun aksnfelds shafung” (On the social essence of Aksenfeld’s work) 5 (1928).  In the revived Yidish velt (Jewish world) 2 (May 1928), he published an assessment of the Minsk-based Tsaytshrift, and on the American Pinkes (Records) for Filologishe shriftn (Philological writings) 2-3.  In Landoy bukh (Volume for [Alfred] Landau) (Vilna, 1926), he contributed “Vegn mayse briyo vezimro” (On the story of Beria and Zimra), and in the third number of YIVO’s Filologishe shriftn (Vilna, 1929), he wrote a piece on the first Yiddish comedy by Itsik Aykhl, Reb henokh.  In 1926 his pamphlet Iberblik iber der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur (Overview of the history of Yiddish literature) was published in London.  This was a synopsis of a series of lectures that he gave in London from October 31 to November 9, 1926.  The pamphlet (24 pp.) was published by the central education committee at the Y. L. Perets Institute of the Workmen’s Circle.  He also published a number of works and reviews in the Kiev journal Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language) (1927-1929), and he participated in a discussion of the Mayse-bukh with Dr. Shiper, Dr. Tsinberg, and Perferkovitsh in Literarishe bleter (1926-1927).  Somewhat earlier, in 1924, he published in the Warsaw journal Ringen: “Tsu der kharakteristik fun der nayster poylisher dikhtung” (On the character of the latest Polish poetry), and he penned a piece as well on humor which remains in manuscript.  Also valuable are his essays on Dovid Bergelson (in Literarishe bleter, April 24 and May 8, 1925), on Moyshe Kulbak (in Literarishe bleter, September 10, September 22, and October 8, 1926), “Vegn aynflusn in der literatur” (On influences in literature), “Der bukh un di literarishe-geshikhtlekhe situatsye” (The book and the literary-history situation) (in Literarishe bleter, November-December 1924), and “Yoysef opatoshus trilogye” (Yoysef Opatoshu’s trilogy) (Yidishe velt, August 1928).  Erik’s crowning achievement was: Di geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur fun di eltste tsaytn biz der haskole-tekufe, fertsnter-akhtsnter yorhundert (The history of Yiddish literature from oldest times until the Enlightenment era, fourteenth-eighteenth centuries) (Warsaw, 1928), 450 pp.  The appearance of this book was a major event in Yiddish literature.  There grew up around this book, as noted by Yankev Shatski, an important academic discussion, the first discussion of the way in which Yiddish literature generally developed.  Shmuel Niger, Yisroel Tsinberg, and Yitskhok Shiper all wrote about this book.  “The entire work,” wrote Yankev Shatski, “is written with a broad scope, with finely painted historical background, and with a dizzying measure and weight for the literary, social, and artistic-aesthetic value of the works and authors with whom he engages….  Erik expresses his views of the Yiddish literary past and possesses the intellectual strength to defend and motivate his views.  This is not simply a book with images drawn from Yiddish literature, but Yiddish literature in magnificent images.”  In September 1929 Erik settled in the Soviet Union.  Until 1932 he lived in Minsk and thereafter, until his arrest, in Kiev.  He was a professor of Yiddish literature in Jewish senior high schools and teachers’ seminaries (in Minsk and Kiev), and he was in charge of the section for literature and criticism at the Institute for Jewish Proletarian Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Science.  In the six years that he was active in the Soviet Union, he was highly productive.  He contributed to most journals and scholarly anthologies.  He faithfully held to the Party line in the volume Fashizirter yidishizm un zayn visnshaft (Fascist Yiddishism and its scholarship) (Minsk, 1930), in which appeared his “A bintl briv vegn der eltster yidisher literatur” (A batch of letter on oldest Yiddish literature) which conformed ideologically.  He published such studies as: “Kasrilevke” (Kasrilevske), Farmest (Challenge) 5-6 (1936) in Kiev; “Menakhem-mendl” (Menakhem-Mendl), Shtern (Star) 5-6 (August 1935), in Minsk; and “Tevye der milkhiker” (Tevye the milkman), Farmest 11 (1935).  He contributed to the editorial work for the Academy’s publications of Dovid Edelshtadt, Yoysef Bovshover, and Morris Winchevsky.  In the Soviet Union, he published the following works: Sholem ash, 1900-1930 (Sholem Asch, 1900-1930) (Minsk, 1931), 125 pp.; Di komedyes fun der berliner oyfklerung (Comedies of the Berlin Enlightenment) (Kiev: State Publ., 1933), 187 pp.; editor of Shloyme Ettinger, Geklibene verk (Selected works) (Kiev, 1935), 387 pp.; editor with A. Rozentsvayg, Di yidishe literatur in XIX yorhundert, ershter bukh, 1800-1881 (Yiddish literature in the nineteenth century, vol. 1: 1800-1881) (Kiev, 1935).  Together with B. Beznosik and R. Rubin, he edited Antireligyezer literarisher zamlbukh (Anti-religious literary anthology) (1930).  His book, Fun der literarishe yerushe (From the literary heritage), contained treatments of Levenzon, Aksenfeld, Ettinger, Gotlober, Winchevsky, Perets, and Sholem Aleichem; it was ready for publication but never published.  Also very valuable were: his introduction to Sholem Aleichem’s “Ksovim fun a komivoyazher” (Writings of a traveling salesman), Visnshaft un revolutsye (Science and revolution) 3-4 (1935); “Perets af der tshernovitser konferents” (Perets at the Czernowitz Conference), Visnshaft un revolutsye 8 (1936); a piece on Mendele, Farmest 1 (1936); on Morris Rozenfeld, Farmest 1 (1933); on Russian translations of Sholem Aleichem, Tsaytshrift 5 (1935); “Naye materyaln vegn aykhlen” (New materials on Aykhl), Tsaytshrift 5 (1935).  As he did not attempt to conform to the Party orientation, he did not avoid difficulties and fell a victim.  Already in 1932 he confessed to deviations from the Party’s ideology.  In a speech he gave at an official meeting of the Institute for Jewish Proletarian Culture in Kiev, he enumerated his sins, his Yiddishism, and his mechanical-empirical approach to literature, and as a result he was isolated not only for his Di geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur which was published in Poland, but for a number of works which had appeared in the Soviet Union.  In 1933 there appeared in Poland a scholarly collection entitled Arkhiv far yidisher shprakhforshung (Archive for Yiddish language research), edited by Noyekh Prylucki and Sh. Lehman.  In it appeared a work by Maks Erik on the memoires of Tosafot Yom-Tov following an old manuscript.  Erik had prepared the text and delivered it to Prylucki in 1926.  Erik published an explanation that he was distancing himself from the work and sharply criticized Prylucki for publishing it in 1933.  In May 1936 Erik was arrested and deported to a concentration camp, and there he died.  All of his essays, articles, and reviews have not as yet been assembled.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, pp. 815-18; Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 36 (September 4, 1936); Y. Tsinberg, in Kultur-historishe shtudyes (Cultural historical studies) (New York, 1949), pp. 314-28; Yankev Shatski, in Zamlbikher (New York) 8 (1952), pp. 41-54; Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1958), pp. 144-88; Aleksander Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1962), pp. 171-75, 387-96; Nakhmen Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) 2 (February 1964), pp. 14-22, 3 (March 1964), pp. 13-20; Y. Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, bibliografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966), pp. 68-69.
Elye (Elias) Shulman

[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. 274-75.]


ROKHL (RACHEL) ERTEL (b. July 13, 1939)
            She was born in Slonim, Poland, the daughter of Moyshe Valdman.  She and her mother were exiled in Kazakhstan during WWII.  She returned to Poland in 1946 and moved to Paris in 1948.  She later became a professor of American literature at Paris 7.  In addition to being a translator, she has published numerous essays in French journals on Yiddish literature: H. Leivick, Avrom Sutzkever, and Elie Wiesel, among others.  She also placed work in Encyclopédie Clarté (1975) and Encyclopédie Universalis (1979).  In book form, she has written about the Jewish American novel—Le Roman juif américain, une écriture minoritaire (The American Jewish novel, a minority piece) (Paris: Payot, 1980), 389 pp.—and the shtetl—such as in Le Monde perdu du Shtetl (The lost world of the shtetl) (Paris, 1984).  She has translated a series of books from Yiddish into French, such as: Mendl Man, Bay der vaysl (On the vistula) as Sur la Vistule (Paris, 1979), 319 pp.; Eli Shekhtman, Erev (On the eve) as À la Veille de (Paris, 1964), 317 pp.; H. Leivick, poète de notre siècle (H. Leivick, poet of our century), including fragments of his dramatic works (Paris, 1967); Shaye Shpigl, Flamen fun der erd (Flames from the earth) as Les Flammes de la terre (Paris: Gallimard, 1973), 202 pp.; Shpigl, Shtign tsum himl (Climbing to heaven) as Une échelle vers le ciel (Paris: Gallimard, 1979), 254 pp.; and Menukhe Ram,[1] Vintn (Winds) as Le vent qui passe (Paris: Juilliand, 1974), 234 pp.  She lives in Paris.

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 419-20.

[1] Translator’s note.  This was a pen name of her mother Riva Mirski. (JAF)


MIRL ERDBERG-SHATAN (April 15, 1894-1982)
            She was born in Kutne (Kutno), Poland.  At three years of age, she immigrated with her parents to London, and there she attended a Rothschild school.  Later, her family moved back to Poland, and she attended a religious elementary school for girls in Kutno, before going on to study at various private schools, in the Lodz seminary “Lehishtalmut Hamorim” (Teacher training), and in 1920 at the teacher’s course at Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) in Warsaw.  For a time she worked as a teacher in the Kutno Jewish public school named for Y. L. Perets, as well as in a preschool and the first Hebrew high school of Kutno, before immigrating to Canada in 1926.  She debuted in print with poetry in the Warsaw journal Dos folk (The people), edited by Noyekh Prylucki and Sh. Stupnitski, in 1918.  From that point, she placed work in: Gezangen (Songs), Yudisher zhurnalist (Jewish journalist), and Yugend (Youth)—in Lodz; Ilustrirte vokh (Illustrated week), Yudishe zamlbikher (Jewish anthologies) edited by Vaysnberg, and Dos folk—in Warsaw; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; Idisher zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto; and Tsukunft (Future) and Unzer tsayt (Our time) in New York; among others.  Her poems were represented in Ezra Korman’s anthology Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928).  She translated from Polish into Yiddish several short works by Przybyszewski.  She also rewrote into modern Yiddish the memoirs of Glikl of Hameln, published serially in Keneder odler.  In book form: Nit fun keyn freyd (Not out of joy), poetry (Montreal, 1950), 100 pp.  She died in Montreal.

Sources: Ezra Korman, Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), see index; Y. Rabinovitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 6, 1959).
Benyomen Elis