LEON (LEYB) HALPERN (December 12, 1879-February 5, 1965)
He was born in Yevye, Vilna district. He studied in religious primary school, in yeshivas in Vilna and Oshmene (Oszmiana), and secular subjects with private tutors. In 1924 he emigrated to Montevideo, Uruguay, where he was one of the main builders of the Jewish community and a cofounder of many Jewish cultural and community institutions. Over the course of years, he served as a Yiddish-Hebrew teacher and inspector for the Vaad Haḥinukh (Board of education), as well as manager of the Yiddish-Hebrew teachers’ seminary. He was also president of the local union of Jewish writers and journalists. For a time he was secretary of the Ashenazi burial society, out of which later developed the contemporary democratic Jewish community. He was an executive member of the Jewish community management committee and its representative to the general central committee of Jews in Uruguay. He contributed to Folksblat (People’s newspaper) and Der moment (The moment) in Montevideo. Aside from newspaper articles, he also wrote stories, novels, essays, and memoirs which were an important contribution to the history of Jewish life both in the old country (including Jews from faraway Siberia) and the Jewish communities in South America. He also placed pieces in Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires, Der veg (The way) in Mexico City, Idisher zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto, and Der amerikaner (The American) in New York, among others. In 1957 he published serially in Folksblat (Montevideo) a novel about Jewish life in Russia, entitled Mishpokhe faynberg (The family Faynberg). In book form: Gaystike shklafn, roman in dem hintergrunt fun an okorsht fargangener epokhe (Spiritual slaves, a novel in the background of a recent passed epoch), in two parts (initially published in Di prese), part 1 (Montevideo, 1943), 267 pp., part 2 (Montevideo, 1944), 288 pp.; Neviim-geshtaltn, dos lebn un shafn fun unzere neviim (Figures of the prophets, the lives and work of our prophets) (Montevideo, 1950), 326 pp. His novel Di moderne rus (The modern Ruth) was published in installments in Der amerikaner (New York) in 1959. He was last living in Montevideo where he died.
Sources: Y. Vaynshenker, Boyers un mitboyers fun yidishn yishev in urugvay (Founders and builders of the Jewish community in Uruguay) (Montevideo, 1957), pp. 78-79; Y. Zhelenets, in Dos yudishe vort (Chile) (January 30, 1959); Zhelenets, in Ilustrirte literarishe bleter (Buenos Aires) 10-12 (1959).
Khayim Leyb Fuks