YANKEV HELMAN (JACOB HELLMANN) (1880-September 8, 1950)
He was born in Talsen (Talsi), Courland, into a poor family. He studied in religious elementary school, later in the synagogue study hall. At age fourteen he left home, studied in various yeshivas—including a Musar yeshiva in Slobodka, where he fell in with the Jewish Enlightenment and ideologically became involved with Zionism. In Slobodka he and his friend M. Shatnshteyn published a newspaper produced hectographically entitled Haperaḥ (The flower). In 1897 he left to study ostensibly in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany, where he withered away in great want, studied German and science, served as correspondent from there for Hamelits (The advocate), and sat for the baccalaureate examinations as an external student; he then left for Marburg where he studied (with his friend Dr. Yankev Klatskin) philosophy with Hermann Cohen, and proceeded to enter the University of Berne, Switzerland, where he completed his doctorate in 1910. An adherent of the Uganda project (1903), he and the other Ugandists left the Zionist party in 1905, in Switzerland approached (ca. 1904-1906) the Socialist Revolutionary (S. R.) groups abroad, and actively assisted them in the illegal transportation of weapons for organizations involved in revolutionary struggles in Russia. After completing his university studies in Berne, he lived for a certain time in Berlin, and in 1912 settled in Riga; at the time of WWI, though, he moved to Moscow where, in 1916, he was one of the founders of the group Tseire Tsiyon (Young Zionists). In 1919 he returned to Riga where he soon became a prominent figure in local Jewish community life and one of the creators of a press in Yiddish in what was then a highly Germanicized Latvian Jewish community. On July 24, 1919, he began publishing in Riga a daily Yiddish newspaper, Idishe folksshtime (Voice of the Jewish people), which Helman, now with a certain journalistic seniority in German, Hebrew, and Yiddish, edited together with Professor A. Gulyak. On October 3, 1919 the newspaper folded. In May 1920 Helman was selected to be a deputy to the Latvian founding convention and simultaneously became editor of the new daily Yiddish newspaper Dos folk (The people), from which he departed within a month over divergent political ideas. In September 1922 Helman created and edited the daily Tseire Tsiyon newspaper Der veg (The way), which changed its name in April 1923 to Unzer veg (Our way) and continued to exist until February 15, 1924. In January 1926 he returned as co-editor (with Volf Latsky-Bertoldi and Y. Shekhtman) to Dos folk until July of that year, when the newspaper closed down—it reopened again at a later date, from October 1926 to July 1927 when it was finally liquidated completely. At that time, Helman and Latsky-Bertoldi moved over to the daily newspaper Frimorgn (Morning) which, in January 1926, was founded by the contributors to Dos folk who had been forced to leave, under new publishers. He remained with Frimorgn for many years as a writer and one of the editors of the paper. He also contributed to another weekly newspaper and one-off publications of his party in Latvia and Lithuania.
Helman was one of the organizers in 1920 of the unified Young Zionists “Organization.” In 1932 he was selected to the management of the unified Labor Zionists and Young Zionists, and thereafter was a member of the committee of the world union of Labor Zionism and of the committee of the world council of world aid conference, and he often traveled through various countries on missions for his party. Over the years 1933-1936, he was chief editor of the Labor Zionist daily in Warsaw, Dos naye vort (The new word). Helman later traveled to Israel, and in 1939 moved to Argentina as representative of the Jewish World Congress in South American countries. In Buenos Aires, he placed pieces in Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper), in which he published a series of essays on great Jewish personalities, as well as in Di naye tsayt (The new times) and other party publications. He later collected his published current-events articles into a book entitled Yerusholaim (Jerusalem), published posthumously by the Jewish community of Buenos Aires at the publishing house of Sh. Segal (1951), 325 pp., with a word “from the publisher” and a detailed “preface” by the writer (it also was published in Hebrew by Yisrael Berman). Over the course of the last ten years of his life, Helman made a considerable name for himself among the Jewish population of Buenos Aires. He died there, and thousands of people came to his funeral, which was arranged by the Jewish community of Buenos Aires. In early 1952 his body was transferred to the state of Israel.
Sources: L. Ovtshenski, Di geshikhte fun di idn in letland (1561-1923) (The history of Jews in Latvia, 1561-1923) (Riga, 1928), p. 16; M. Gerts, 25 yor yidishe prese in letland (25 years of the Yiddish press in Latvia) (Riga, 1933), pp. 30-38, 43-45, 47-49; Dr. R. Feldshuh, Yidisher gezelshaftlekher leksikon (Jewish communal handbook), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1939), pp. 857-58; Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (September 10, 1950); Y. Botoshanski, in Di naye tsayt (Buenos Aires) (September 15, 1950); B. Tsukerman, in Idishe tsaytung (October 9, 1950); Tsukerman, Idisher kemfer (New York) (October 13, 1950; February 1, 1952; Rosh Hashana [September 15,] 1958), pp. 41-44; A. L. Shusheys and M. Regalski, in Idishe tsaytung (October 9, 1950); Y. Rimun, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (October 12, 1950); P. Shteynvaks, in Di naye tsayt (November 10, 1950); Shteynvaks, Siluetn fun a dor (Silhouettes of a generation) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 95-99, 139-43; Davke (Buenos Aires) 5 (1950); Dray shprakhiker yorbukh (Trilingual annual) (New York) 10 (1951-1952), p. 49; Yorbukh tshtʺv (1952-1953 annual) (Buenos Aires); M. Shatnshteyn, in Yahadut latviya (Judaism in Latvia) (Tel Aviv, 1953), pp. 421-23; D. Tsharni (Charney), A litvak in poyln (A Lithuanian in Poland) (New York, 1955), p. 56; Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (September 7, 1955); Yehoshua Manoaḥ, in Hapoel hatsair (Tel Aviv) (December 10, 1957).