EMANUEL OLSHVANGER (IMMANUEL OLSVANGER) (April 13, 1888-February 7, 1961)
He was orn in Grayeve (Grajewo), in the Lomzher region of Poland. He graduated from high school in Suvalk (Suwałki) and studied Jewish subjects with Shmuel-Leyb Tsitron. He studied philology in Bern, specializing in Semitic languages and Sanskrit. In 1916 he received his doctorate for a dissertation on the topic of “Burial Customs among the Jews, Investigated on the Basis of Language and Practice.” His work as a writer began in his student years (he was a leader in the World Zionist Student Union, Hachaver), and he also participated in various Zionist publications, primarily in Switzerland. He later published articles and poems as well in the press in Palestine. In 1921 he went to South Africa on assignment from the Zionist Organization. In 1923 he published a major work in Dorem-afrike (South Africa), entitled: “Yidisher folklore in dorem-afrike” (Jewish folklore in South Africa), a study of the language of South African Jews and mutual influences of three languages: English, Boerish (Afrikaans), and Yiddish. In the years prior to WWII and the postwar years, he traveled through Europe, India, Burma, Singapore, and Indonesia. He published in Hebrew as well as in other languages. In 1936 he published a philosophical work in Tsukunft (Future), “Beyn odem lemakom” (Between man and God). In 1952 he settled in the state of Israel.
In Israel he published over a dozen works, as well as translations of Goethe, Dante, Boccaccio, and from Sanskrit at different times. In Yiddish he wrote: Rozinkes mit mandlen (Raisins with almonds), a Yiddish folkloric collection, published in Romanized transcription by the Jewish section of the Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (Swiss Ethnographic Association) (Basel, 1920); and Royte pomerantsn (Red oranges), also in Roman transcription (Berlin, 1936; also published in New York with an English translated, 1947). In 1952 he received the Tchernichovsky Prize in Tel Aviv for his translation of Dante’s Inferno into Hebrew. He was a pioneer researcher in Israel into the collection of Diaspora folklore. He was devoted to popularizing the spiritual writings of the Far East. He lived in Jerusalem until his death.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Leyvi, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (Kislev 6, 1954).