MENASHE HALPERN (November 28, 1871-January 9, 1960)
He was born in Krishpotovka (?), Starokonstantin district, Volhynia, to a wealthy rentier father. He studied with itinerant religious and secular teachers in the neighboring towns. He was already composing poetry in both Hebrew and Yiddish at age twelve or fourteen. At twenty he married in Yedinets (Edineţ), Bessarabia. He also became involved in Jewish community matters with craftsmen and farmers. In 1893 he sent his first poems to Y. L. Perets and engaged in a correspondence about this with Dovid Pinski and Yankev Dinezon as well. In that year, due to his father’s business affairs, he visited Vienna, Hamburg, and Budapest. He lived in Suvalk, 1896-1897. In 1898 he leased a yard and became a pioneer in improving land cultivation and was recognized as such by the state’s central bathhouse in Kiev. After the Kishinev pogrom in 1903, he moved to New York, and there he became acquainted with Dovid Pinski and Leon Kobrin, and published poems and stories in various New York newspapers. In 1904 he was living in Brazil and there became acquainted with Russian revolutionaries; in 1905 he left and settled in Switzerland, where he was carried away by the Russian revolution and so returned to Russian in 1908. From 1911 he was living in Moscow where he had his own bank. He was in Petrograd in 1917 and contributed to Petrograder togblat (Petrograd daily newspaper), before returning to Moscow in 1918 and cofounded (with Daniel Charney, Moyshe Broderzon, and El Lissitzky) the Moscow Circle of Jewish Writers and Artists. That year he bought from Herts Aktsin the publishing house of Khaver (Comrade), from which he brought out Segalovitsh’s Di vant (The wall) and his own book of poems and children’s stories, entitled Zilber-hor (Silver hair) (Moscow, 1917), 77 pp.—all of these were later confiscated by the Bolshevik regime. In 1922 Halpern moved to Kiev, and from there in 1925 to Vienna, and the following year to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he contributed to the daily Yiddish press and was a propagandist for the Zionist Organization. He was a delegate to the seventeenth Zionist congress in 1931 in Basel. In 1935 he settled with his family in Israel.
His first publication appeared in 1899 in Yud (Jew)—a miniature entitled “Shiboles oder svoles” (Shibboleth or tolerance). In 1903 he published poems and miniatures in Pinski’s Der arbeter (The laborer), Di Tsukunft (The future), and other periodicals in New York. He later placed poems, stories, and feature pieces in: Tsukunft, Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), and Forverts (Forward) in New York; Gutmorgen (Good morning) and Sholem-aleykhem (How do you do) in Odessa; Di naye velt (The new world), edited by M. Spektor, in Warsaw; Avangard (Avant-garde) in Buenos Aires; Togblat (Daily newspaper) in Petrograd; Vokhnblat (Weekly newspaper) and Idishe folkstsaytung (Jewish people’s newspaper) in Rio de Janeiro; and elsewhere. In book form: Zilber-hor [see above]; Mayselakh (Tales) (Moscow: Khaver, 1917/1918); Zalbafert (Four of us), poetry with M. Broderzon and others (Moscow: Lebn, 1918), 31 pp.; Oysn altn brunem (Without the old well), stories (Rio de Janeiro, 1934), 351 pp.; Parmetn, zikhroynes un shilderungen (Parchments, memoirs and depictions) (São Paolo, 1952), 343 pp.—one of the most important and interesting Jewish memoirs that was published in recent years; Lider (Poems) (São Paolo: Sifri, 1959), 162 pp., with a preface by Meyer Kutshinski and a “psychological essay” by Dr. Bernardo Hof. The author himself writes about the background of the poems. Among his pen names: Dal vekhomer, Al-Nasani, Odem Zig-zag, Tsem de Sha, and Ver iz Ver. He died in São Paolo, Brazil.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, col. 833 (with a bibliography); D. Tsharni (Charney), A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 1943), p. 228; Charney, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (April 1957); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (July 24, 1953); Glatshteyn, in Yidishe prese (Brazil) (August 7, 1953); Y. Pat, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1955); A. Lipiner, in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn, 4” (New York, 1957), p. 394; Lipiner, in Der idisher zhurnal (Toronto) (November 7, 1956); M. Kutshinski, in Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) (July 1957); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (New York) (February 23, 1958); A. Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (March 30, 1959); Heymish (Tel Aviv) (December 1959).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 208.]