Tuesday, 20 October 2015


            He was born in the village of Mutin, Krolevets district, Chernigov (Chernihiv) region [Byelorussia].  His father Moyshe, a timber merchant, came from Shchedrin, Mohilev region.  He studied Mishna and commentators with itinerant teachers, as well as Hebrew and Russian.  In 1902 he moved to Paris, studied there in the free Russian high school, and subsequently at the Sorbonne.  He was chairman of the Parisian organization of the Socialist Zionist Party.  After passing his examinations with the law faculty, he returned home in 1909 to care for his parents.  He then became ill with a serious foot ailment, laid in bed in Kiev until 1912, and then spent much time in Crimea.  In 1916 he settled in Kiev.  In 1917 he was active in the united socialist party.  He was one of the founders of the “Kultur-lige” (Culture league), as well as a member of its central committee and its executive bureau.  He was a teacher of Yiddish literature in the Jewish state people’s university, in the teachers’ seminary, and in other higher educational institutions.  He began his literary activities in Hatsfira (The siren), and in Yiddish in Vokhnblat (Weekly newspaper) edited by Hillel Tsaytlin.  From 1920 he was living in Moscow where he was active in local Jewish cultural institutions.  He was secretary of the first Jewish writers’ organization in Moscow.  Having received the title of professor, he gave lectures at the university for nationalities of the West, in the academy for education, in the Jewish state chamber theater, in the theatrical studio of the Kultur-lige, and in the Jewish section of the Second Moscow University [now, Moscow State Pedagogical University], among others.  He wrote on the topic of the Yiddish classical writers and about Soviet Yiddish writers from the oldest to the youngest.  As a playwright he accomplished much for the Yiddish state theater in Moscow.  Aside from his own plays, he adapted for the stage a string of works by Mendele, Sholem-Aleykhem, Goldfaden, and others such as: Masoes benyomen hashlishi (The travels of Benjamin the Third), Dray pintelekh (Three dots), Di kishefmakherin (The sorceress), and Dos tsente gebot (The tenth commandment), among others.  Dobrushin also brought out numerous one-act and short plays for children, which were tendentious propaganda.  On March 31, 1939 he was awarded by the Soviet government with an “honorary degree” “for extraordinary service in the development of Soviet theatrical art.”  During WWII he was evacuated to Uzbekistan.  He was a leading member of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow, particularly of its Historical Commission.  After the war he wrote a great deal about Yiddish writers who died on the battlefields.  According to published information, he was arrested with many other Soviet Jewish writers and past leaders of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee at the end of 1948 and thereafter deported to a Soviet penal camp where he was said to be found in 1955.[1]  Among his books: Benkende neshomes (Homesick souls), a collections of poems, one-act plays, and images (Vilna, 1912), 64 pp.; Esterke (Little Esther) (Kiev, 1914), 52 pp.; Ven gefiln vakhn (Feeling awake), a drama (Vilna, 1914); In gortn (In the garden), a children’s play (St. Petersburg, 1916; second edition, Kiev, 1918); A mayse mit a kholem (A story with a dream), a children’s play, written with Dovid Hofshteyn (Kiev, 1919), 20 pp.; Farnakhtn, lider (Evenings, poems) (Kiev, 1921; second edition, Lodz, 1921), 44 pp.; A zun mit a regn, lider (A sun with rain, poems), children’s poetry (Vilna, 1921), 16 pp.; Aleksander blok, etyud (Study of Aleksander Blok) (Kiev, 1921), 28 pp.; Got der fayer, yugnt plakat in dray bilder (The ardor of God, a youth placard in three scenes) (Moscow, 1922), 30 pp.; Gedankengang (Reasoning) (Kiev, 1922), 135 pp.; Yungvarg, instsenirung (Young people, a dramatization) (Moscow, 1927), 30 pp. (including musical notation by A. Pulver); Gavrosh (Gavroche) by Victor Hugo, adapted for Yiddish (Moscow, 1927), 64 pp.; Arum a baydl, agro-pyese in 2 bilder (Around a cabin, an agrarian play in two scenes) (Moscow, 1928), 54 pp.; Erd-lebn (Life on the land), stories, plays, and poetry (Moscow, 1929), 136 pp. (together with B. Olyevski); Moyshke harmat, kinder dertseylung (Little Moyshe the cannon, a children’s story) (Moscow, 1929), 69 pp.; Freydele, kinder-pyese in dray aktn (Freydele, a children play in three acts) (Kharkov, 1927), 29 pp.; Sholem aleykhems dramaturgye (Sholem-Aleykhem’s playwriting), offprint from Tsaytshrift (Periodical) 2-3 (Minsk, 1929); Der gerikht geyt, komedye in dray aktn akhtsn bilder (The trial is on, a comedy in three acts and eighteen scenes) (Minsk, 1930), 79 pp.; Afn 62tn (With the 62nd), a play in three acts (Minsk, 1931), 58 pp.; Kinder-teater (Children’s theater) (Minsk, 1931), 47 pp.; In iberboy, literarish-kritishe artiklen (Under reconstruction, literary-critical articles) (Moscow, 1932), 293 pp.; Kolvirtisher teater, eynakter un sketshn (Collective farm theater, one-acts and sketches) (Moscow, 1932), 30 pp.; Kolvirtishe kinder, fraye fartseykhenungen (Collective farm children, free notes) (Moscow, 1932), 55 pp.; Sovetishe dikhtung (Soviet poetry) (Moscow, 1935), 165 pp.; Pyesn (Plays) (Moscow, 1937), 184 pp.; Binyumin zuskind (Binyumin Zuskind) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 60 pp.; Mikhoels der aktyor (Mikhoels the actor) (Moscow, 1940), 128 pp.; Undzere mentshn, fartseykhenungen (Our people, notes) (Moscow, 1942), 30 pp.; Heyse hertser, fartseykhenungen (Warm hearts, notes) (Moscow, 1943), 29 pp.; Dovid bergelson (Dovid Bergelson) (Moscow, 1947), 341 pp.; foreword to Sh. Kupershmid, comp., Folkslider fun der foterlendisher milkhome (Folksongs from the fatherland’s war) (Moscow, 1944), 32 pp.; Di dramaturgye fun di klasiker (The playwriting of the classic writers) (Moscow: Emes, 1948), 190 pp.  Also translations of: Anatole France, Tayis (Thaïs) (Kiev, 1922; second edition, Warsaw, 1922-1923), 185 pp.; Émile Verhaeren, Filip der tsveyte (Philip II [original: Phillipe II]); Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Edipus der kinig (Oedipus the king [original: Ödipus und die Sphinx, or Oedipus and the sphinx]; Victor Hugo, Han der islender (Han d’Islande [Han of Iceland]); and others.  He compiled: Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (Declaimer of Soviet Jewish literature) (Moscow, 1934), 410 pp. (with Y. Rabin); Folks-mayses (Folktales) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 62 pp.; Yidishe folkslider (Yiddish folksongs) (Moscow, 1940), 486 pp. (with A. Yuditski); Evreyskiye narodnye pesni (Jewish folksongs) (Moscow, 1947), 279 pp.  He edited or co-edited publications of the Kultur-lige in Kiev and the children’s magazines Kling klang (Cling-clang) in 1923 and Pyoner (Pioneer) in 1927-1928; the anthology Eygns (One’s own) in 1918-1920; Oyfgang (Arise) in 1919; Bikher-velt (Book world); the anthology Shtrom (Current) in Moscow in 1922-1923; the collection Nayerd (New land), no. 1 (1925); Sholem-aleykhem, oysgeveylte briv (Sholem-Aleykhem, selected letters), comp. Mitlman and Nodel (Moscow, 1941); the Moscow newspaper Eynikeyt (Unity), 1942-1948; and other books and journals.  He contributed to the collections: Tsum ondenk fun sholem-aleykhem (To the memory of Sholem-Aleykhem) (Petrograd, 1918); and Mikhoels, 1890-1948 (Mikhoels, 1890-1948) (Moscow, 1948).  His work was also included in: Teater-bukh (Theater book) (Kiev, 1927); Osher shvartsman, zamlung gevidmet dem tsvantsik yortog fun zayn heldishn toyt (Osher Shvartsman, collection dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of his heroic death) (Moscow: Emes, 1940); Far der bine: dertseylungen, pyeses, lider (For the stage: stories, plays, poems), with musical notation (together with Y. Dobrushin and E. Gordon) (Moscow, 1929); Deklamater fun der sovetisher yidisher literatur (see above); Farn heymland in shlakht! (For the homeland in battle!) (Moscow, 1941); Far kleyne kinder (For small children) (Kiev, 1918); Klingen hemerlekh (Ringing gavels) (Moscow, 1925); Lider (Poetry) (Riga, 1941).  According to a report of Sheyne-Miriam Broderzon, he died in a Soviet concentration camp.

[1] According to information made available after this entry first appeared, he actually died in that camp in 1953—JAF.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, p. 655; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1, pp. 537-38; Shmuel Niger, in Bikher-velt (Warsaw) 4-5 (July-October 1922), pp. 425-28; N. Oyslender, in Shtrom 4 (1923); M. Litvakov, Finf yor melukhisher yidisher kamer-teater (Five years with the state Yiddish chamber theater) (Moscow, 1924); Y. Lyubomirski, Der revolutsyonerer teater (The revolutionary theater) (Moscow, 1926); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame (Archive of the history of the Yiddish theater and drama), vol. 1 (New York-Vilna, 1930), pp. 465-66 (reviewing Teater-bukh [Kiev, 1927]); A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 25-47, 50, 51, 84-90, 139, 140, 268; E. Shulman, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 5 (1934); D. Volknshteyn, Zeks shrayber ordntregers (Six writers who had received medals) (Kiev, 1940); “Inem melukhe farlag ‘der emes’” (In the state publishing house of “Der emes” [The truth]), Eynikeyt (March 25, 1947); P. Novik, Eyrope tsvishn milkhome un sholem (Europe between war and peace) (New York, 1948), p. 350; A. Mukdoni, Oysland (Abroad) (Buenos Aires, 1951), pp. 259-60; letter to Y. Opatoshu from Y. Dobrushin, in Zamlbikher (New York) 8 (1952), pp. 106f; Al. Pomerants, in Dovid edelshtat gedenk-bukh (Dovid Edelshtot memory book) (New York, 1952), pp. 532, 533, 554-56; Tog-morgn-zhurnal and Forverts (both New York) (November 23, 1955); H. Leivick, in Tog (New York) (December 10, 1955); Sh. M. Broderzon, in Tog morgn-zhurnal (January 3, 1958); Y. Lifshits and M. Altshuler, comps., Briv fun yidishe sovetishe shraybers (Letters of Soviet Jewish writers) (Jerusalem, 1979/1980).
Aleksander Pomerants

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 184.]

[1] According to information made available after this entry first appeared, he actually died in that camp in 1953—JAF.

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