E. ALMI (January 2, 1892-September 24, 1963)
The adopted name of Elyahu-Khayim ben Shloyme-Zalmen Sheps, he was born in Warsaw to a very poor family. He studied in religious school until age ten. In 1907 he published on his first try a poem in Roman-tsaytung (Novel news). In 1908 he went to Krakow where he published poems in Avrom Reyzen’s Kunst un lebn (Art and life). Back in Warsaw, he joined a folklore group founded by Noyekh Prylucki; they collected folk poetry, stories, and women’s prayers. With the founding of the Warsaw newspaper, Der moment (The moment), he became a regular contributor and for a time the editorial secretary as well. Aside from features and poems, he published therein a series of folk stories concerning the part played by Jews in the Polish uprising of 1863. He also published poems in Peretz’s collection, Yidish (Yiddish), in Litvin’s Lebn un visnshaft (Life and science), and in Der shtral (The beam of light), among others. At the end of 1912, he emigrated to the United States and became a contributor to Tageblat (Daily news). Using the pseudonym “Elyash,” he contributed to Groyser kundes (Great prankster), among other serials. For a short time, he lived in Canada as a contributor to Keneder odler (Canadian eagle). He also edited there the monthly Der kval (The spring) which only issued one number, and the collection Epokhe (Epoch) with Y. Y. Sigal and A. Sh. Shkolnikov. With the demise of Tageblat, he wrote for Forverts (Forward), Tog (Day), and Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York, and he published poems and essays in Tsukunft (Future) in New York, Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw, as well as Yidishe tsaytung (Jewish news), Der shpigl (The mirror), and Davke (Dafke) in Argentina, though mainly he wrote in Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor) from 1923. His various pseudonyms include: Eli Elin, Elyash, L. Yash, Dr. B. Gitlin, Dr. E. Elkin, Sh. Elyahu, E. Tishby, Elyahu Zaydler, Kh. Reyzlin, E. Elshi, and Kh. Elshi.
Among his books are the following: Di tsveyte eksistents (The second existence), concerning the immortality of the soul (New York-Montreal, 1921), 104 pp.; Bay di randn (By the rows), poetry (New York, 1923), 92 pp.; In elyashs kenigraykh (In Elyash’s kingdom), playful children’s poetry (Warsaw, 1924), 112 pp.; Di khinezishe filosofye un poezye (Chinese philosophy and poetry) (New York, 1925), 102 pp.; Far di likht (Before the light), poetry (Warsaw, 1927), 99 pp.; Di reyd fun buda (Speech of the Buddha) (Vilna, 1927), 180 pp.; Yidishe povstanye mayses (Stories of Jewish rebels) (Warsaw, 1928; Polish translation: Warsaw, 1929); Mentsh un velt (Man and world), essays (Warsaw, 1928), 176 pp.; Humoristishe shrift (Humorous writings), two volumes (New York, 1928-1929), 324 pp.; Ven s’glust mir tsu lakhn (When I have to laugh), features and caricatures (New York, 1930); Literarishe nesies (Literary travels), essays (New York, 1931), 500 pp.; Mit zikh un mit andere (With myself and with another), episodes and stories) (New York, 1932); Mentshn un ideyen (Men and ideas), essays (Warsaw, 1933), 332 pp.; Geklibene lider (Collected poems) (New York, 1933), 292 pp.; Kritik un polemik (Critique and polemic) (New York, 1939), 264 pp.; Gezang un geveyn (Song and lament), ghetto and Holocaust poetry (New York, 1943); Momentn fun a lebn (Moments in a life), memoirs from childhood and youth (Buenos Aires, 1948), 254 pp.; Letste gezangen (Last songs), poetry (Buenos Aires, 1954), 79 pp.; In gerangl fun ideyen, eseyen (Struggling with idea, essays) (Buenos Aires, 1957), 226 pp.; Kheshbn un sakhakl, kapitlen fun mayn seyfer hakhayim, zikhroynes un makhshoves (Accounting and summing up, chapters from the book of my life, memoirs and thoughts) (Buenos Aires, 1959), 359 pp.; Sholem ash, a sakhakl (Sholem Asch, a summing up) (Chicago, 1959), 20 pp.; Spinoza kontro spinoza (Spinoza against Spinoza) (Buenos Aires, 1963), 56 pp.; Shirot aḥaronot (Last poems), translated from Yiddish (Letste gezangen) by Shlomo Shenhod (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1966), 205 pp.; and several pamphlets concerning communal matters. In honor of his seventieth birthday, Almi bukh (Almi book) was published in Buenos Aires (1962), 214 pp.
Almi’s poetry was often satirical or humorous; it was also simple and clear when lyrical or philosophical. He awakened with his popular essays an interest in religious and mystical issues. His literary criticism was sharply polemical. His literary memoirs possess a truly special value. He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Morris Bassin, Finf hundert yor yidishe poezye (Five hundred years of Jewish poetry) (New York, 1917); Shmuel Niger, in Tog morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 1955); Y. Botoshanski, Yorbukh tst”v (Yearbook for 1954) (Buenos Aires), pp. 243-47; B. Kutsher, Geven amol Varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; Sh. Tenenboym, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 11, 1945).