KHAYIM BEZ (HYMAN BASS) (November 27, 1904-September 14, 1983)
Born in Vilna, his father Avrom Bezprozvani was an opera singer who began as a choirboy in the Vilna city synagogue and later (under the name Dzhanski) traveled with a Russian opera company throughout Russia. His son, Khayim Bezprozvani, was raised for the first eight years of his life (because of his father travels) by his grandparents, and later by his parents in Vilna. He attended religious primary school and later a Russian elementary school; subsequently, he attended a “Mefitse haskalah” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]) school for boys, and after that he studied at the Vilna Jewish pedagogical seminary of the Central Education Committee (TSBK). In 1922 he emigrated with his family to the United States, and settled in New York where he continued his studies with the Jewish teachers’ courses at the Workmen’s Circle. In 1924 he became a teacher in Workmen’s Circle schools. Over the years 1925-1926, he participated in a seminar for research into Jewish history under the direction of Dr. Yankev Shatski. From 1926 he was working as a history teacher in a Workmen’s Circle Middle School in New York. From 1936 he was a teacher of the methods used in the Workmen’s Circle teachers’ course in New York. From 1948 he was teaching the methods course in the Jewish teachers’ seminar and people’s university in New York. Between 1924 and 1950, he worked in a variety of Jewish summer colonies. Over the years 1945-1948, he taught Jewish history and Yiddish language for “social workers” whom the Joint sent to Europe. In 1948 he became the secretary of the world center for the Yiddish school at the World Jewish Culture Congress, and in 1953 he was made executive secretary of same. In 1955 he represented the Culture Congress at the Commission to Investigate the Condition of Jewish Schools in New York. At the YIVO conferences of 1941, 1942, 1945, and 1949, he read reports on topics of school pedagogy.
His first efforts to write transpired while he was still in Vilna, in the school journals of TSBK: Grininke beymelekh (Little green saplings) and Khaver (Comrade). On January 1, 1926, he published in the magazine Kultur (Culture) (Chicago) a research piece entitled “Di mishpokhe bay yidn fartsaytns” (The family among Jews of old). Among his published books: Urshprung fun peysekh (The origins of Passover) (New York, 1926), 126 pp. (edited by Dr. Y. Shatski); Arbets-bukh far idisher geshikhte, fun di vanderungen in midber biz di idn vern fartribn keyn bovl (Workbook for Jewish history, from the wanderings in the desert until the Jews were exiled into Babylonia) (New York, 1931), 96 pp.; Unzer vort, literarish-gezelshaftlekhe khrestomatye (Our word, a literary-societal reader), with Z. Yefroykin (New York, 1932), 408 pp., second edition (New York, 1935), 424 pp.; Idn amol, arbets-bukh un leyen bukh far idisher geshikhte, fun goles bovl biz nokh bar kokhbes oyfshtand (Jews once upon a time, a workbook and reader for Jewish history, from the Babylonia exile until after Bar Kokhba’s uprising) (New York, 1933), 1933, 192 pp.; Idn amol un haynt: lern- un arbet-bukh far idishe geshikhte (Jews once upon a time and now, textbook and workbook for Jewish history) (Warsaw: Bzhoza, 1937), 288 pp., second edition (Warsaw, 1938), third abridged edition for Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) schools in Poland; Mayn shprakhbukh, arbet un leyen-bukh far yidish (My language text, workbook and reader for Yiddish), with Z. Yefroykin (New York, 1938), 192 pp., second edition (1945), part two (New York, 1942), 256 pp., second edition (1946); Dos yidishe vort (The Yiddish word), with Z. Yefroykin (New York, 1947), 320 pp.; Shprakh un dertsiung, metodik un program fun yidish-limed in der elementar-shul (Language and education, a method and program for Yiddish instruction in elementary school) (New York, 1950), 400 pp., awarded a prize from the Abel Shaban Foundation of the World Jewish Culture Congress in 1954; Program fun yidisher geshikhte, far di y. l. perets-shuln fun arbeter-ring (Program in Jewish history, for the Y. L. Peretz schools of the Workmen’s Circle) (New York, 1952), 164 pp.; Dos lebedike ṿort, leyenbukh far dem dritn lernyor (The living word, reader for the third year of study), with Z. Yefroykin (New York, 1954), 256 pp.; Undzer dor muz antsheydn, eseyen, referatn, batrakhtungen Our generation must decide, essays, papers, examinations) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1963), 354 pp.; Shrayber un verk (Writings and [their] work) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1971), 662 pp.; Af di veg fun der yidisher literatur (On the road of Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1980), 598 pp. He edited Dertsiungs-entsiklopedye (Encyclopedia of education) (New York, 1957-1969), 3 vols. He contributed to the following journals: Shul un dertsiung (School and education), Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education), Tsukunft (Future), and Yivo-bleter (Leaves from YIVO), all in New York; Pinkes (Records) in Chicago in 1948 with an essay entitled “Di sotsyale vortslen fun dem yidishn lerer” (The social roots of the Jewish teacher). He edited the quarterly journal Bleter far yidisher dertsiung (Pages for Jewish education) and Buletin (Bulletin) from the world center for the Yiddish school of the World Jewish Culture Congress.
Sources: P. Viernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 17, 1932); B. Roberts (Grobard), in Tog (New York) (April 29, 1932); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (March 19, 1933); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 27, 1933); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Undzer shul (New York) (February 1937); L. Lehrer, in Undzer shul (1933); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Undzer shul (October 1934); N. B. Minkov, in Kultur un dertsiung (December 1939); Sh. Mendelson, in Kultur un dertsiung (January 1943); T. Bernshteyn, in Kultur un dertsiung (February 1947 and December 1950); L. Bayan, in Bleter far yidisher dertsiung (April-July 1953); Z. Yefroykin, in Kultur un dertsiung (1956).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 95.]