MAKS (MEYER) VAYNRAYKH (MAX WEINREICH) (April 22, 1894-January 29, 1969)
He was born in Goldingen (Kuldīga), Courland, Latvia, into a merchant household. Until age nine he studied in a modernized religious primary school, thereafter in the high school for Courland elite, where the language of instruction was Russian and, after 1906, German. In 1908, because of anti-Semitism, he left the school and moved to Dvinsk (Daugavpils), initially studying privately and later (1909-1912) in I. G. Eizenbet’s private Jewish high school. In 1912 he arrived at the history and philology faculty at St. Petersburg University; he spent 1919-1923 studying Germanics in Berlin and Marburg (Germany); in 1923 receiving his Ph.D. from Marburg University for his dissertation on the history of Yiddish philology—later published in part in his book Shtaplen (Rungs) (Berlin, 1923) and in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) 2-3 (1928) in Minsk. He began his literary activities with correspondence pieces in the Bundist daily Di hofnung (The hope) in Vilna (1907). Using the pseudonym M. V. Raykh, he published translations in Avrom Reyzen’s Eyropeishe literatur (European literature) (Warsaw, 1909). He was later a correspondent for Idishe shtime (Jewish voice) in Riga (1910). That year he published in Rigasche Rundschau (Riga review) in German several articles about Yiddish. Under the pen name M. Lazariev, he contributed in 1912-1913 to Nayes lodzer morgnblat (Lodz morning news) and in German to Neue Lodzer Zeitung (New Lodz newspaper). In 1913-1914, he contributed to the Bundist Di tsayt (The times) and Unzer tsayt (Our time) in St. Petersburg. In Yudishe velt (Jewish world) of Vilna (1913), he published his translation of the ninth song of Homer’s Iliad. He also contributed to the St. Petersburg Russian publications, Zviezda (Star) (1912) and Novyi voskhod (New rising) (1915). He worked, 1914-1917 (until the Russian Revolution), in the Bureau of Jewish Deputies as a speaker on behalf of the press, especially for the Latvian press. In 1916 he edited the anthology Nash putꞌ (Our route) in Russian, published by the Bundist student group in St. Petersburg, and he was editorial secretary and contributor to the Bundist Russian-language weekly Evreiskiia vesti (Jewish news), 1916-1917. After the March Revolution, he contributed to the Bundist Arbayter shtime (Voice of labor); after June 1917 he was the St. Petersburg correspondent for the Bundist daily in Minsk, Der veker (The alarm) which he edited in December 1917. In 1918 he moved to Vilna. He edited the daily newspaper Unzer shtime (Our voice), “organ of the Bund in Lithuania,” in 1918-1919. In May 1919 he became co-editor, and later a contributor, to Tog (Day) in Vilna. After returning from Germany to Vilna in 1923, he became a teacher of Yiddish language and literature in the Vilna Jewish teachers’ seminary. With the students there, he staged Mekhires yoysef (The selling of Joseph) and the Akhashveyresh-shpil (Ahashverosh play) from Aaron Wolfssohn’s Laykhtzin un fremelay (Frivolity and piety) under the direction of M. Kulbak. He was chairman of the Vilna Jewish Educational Society (VILBIG). In 1919 he began writing for Forverts (Forward) in New York, and from that point he published (using as well such pen names as Sore Brener, Yoysef Perl, and P. Berman) popular articles on current events and longer series on historical and literary figures. He also placed work in: Tsukunft (Future) in New York; Bikher-velt (Book world), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), and Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw; and other Yiddish-language newspapers and magazines.
When the memorandum from Nokhum Shtif in Berlin about the creation of a Yiddish academic institute arrived in Vilna in 1924, the institute was actually created in Weinreich’s home. The meeting of Vilna’s cultural leaders selected him and Zalmen Reyzen as the representatives of the Vilna organizing committee, together with Z. Tsherikover and NokhUm Shtif. Later, at the preliminary meeting in Berlin concerning the establishment of the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO) in August 1925, he was selected as scholarship secretary for the philological section, and in October 1929, during the first conference of YIVO in Vilna, he was selected to be a member of the central administrative committee of YIVO and of the executive bureau, as well as a member of the philological section. From that point in time on, Weinreich regularly carried out scholarly, editorial, and organizational work for YIVO. In the spring of 1929, he was in the United States on an informational and fund-raising tour for YIVO. In 1936 he was invited to an international congress of linguists in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he read a paper on Yiddish as an object of general language research (the paper was published in French). In August 1939 he and his older son, Uriel, moved from Vilna—to take part in an international congress of language researchers in Brussels, Belgium. Following the outbreak of WWII, he stayed with his son in Western Europe, while his wife and younger son remained in Vilna, which was then under Soviet occupation. He then departed with Uriel for the United States, where they arrived in March 1940. Together with the leaders of the American division of YIVO, which had existed since 1925, Weinreich transplanted YIVO in the years of WWII onto American soil, recovered after the end of the war his library and archive from the Vilna YIVO, which the Nazis had deposited in Germany, and established the work of YIVO in its new circumstances. From 1940 to 1950, he was the director of research at YIVO.
His books include: Shtaplen (Berlin: Vostok, 1923), 260 pp., “four studies in Yiddish linguistics and literary history”—(1) What we have and we are missing, (2) the first century of Yiddish language research, (3) the Scroll of Vints, a Yiddish historical poem, and (4) Courland Yiddish; Mekhires yoysef, dos iz aroysgenumen fun seyfer tam veyosher un fun andere sforim, vos in zey shteyen geshribn vunderlekhe mayses, vos hobn zikh farlofn fun odem horishn biz shiyen (The sale of Joseph, taken from the religious text, Tam veyashar and from other texts in which are described wonderful tales covering the period from Adam to Joshua) (Berlin: Vostok, 1923), 88 pp.; Shrayb on grayzn, a hantbikhl far ale vos viln rikhtik oysleygn yidish un spetsyel di hebreishe elementn in der yidisher shprakh (Writing without errors, a handbook for everyone who wishes to spell Yiddish correctly and especially the Hebrew elements in the Yiddish language) (Vilna: Y. Shabad, 1926), 62 pp.—this work appeared in two versions: (a) for the Lithuanian dialect and (b) for the Polish dialect; Shturemvint, bilder fun der yidisher geshikhte in zibtsntn yorhundert (Strom wind, images from Jewish history in the seventeenth century) (Vilna: Tamar, 1927), 220 pp. (Bohdan Khmelnytsky, Shabatai Tsvi, martyrs in Poland in earlier times, and the Vilna blood libel of 1690); Bilder fun der yidisher literatur-geshikhte, fun di onheybn biz mendele moykher-sforim (Scenes from Yiddish literary history, from the beginnings until Mendele Moykher-Sforim) (Vilna: Tamar, 1928), 370 pp.; A praktishe gramatik fun der yidisher shprakh (A practical grammar of the Yiddish language), with F. Halperin, part 1 (two editions) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1928), 93 pp., part 2 (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1929), 132 pp.; Der veg tsu undzer yugnt, yesoydes, metodn, problemen fun yidishn yugnt-forshung (The way to our youth, foundations, methods, problems of youth research) (Vilna: YIVO, 1935), 309 pp. (8 pp. in Polish), second edition (1940); Di geshikhte fun beyzn beyz (The story of the big bad Beyz) (Warsaw: Kinderfraynd, 1937), 29 pp. with illustrations [English translation by Gabriel Weinreich (Ann Arbor, 2000), 25 pp.—JAF]; Psikhoanaliz, zigmund froyd un zayn shite (Psychoanalysis: Sigmund Freud and his doctrine) (Vilna: D. Krejnesa, 1937), 59 pp.; Di shvartse pintelekh (The black dots), an illustrated history of the art of writing (Vilna: YIVO, 1939), 258 pp.; Hitlers profesorn, der kheylek fun der daytsher visnshaft in daytshlands farbrekhns kegn yidishn folk (Hitler’s professors, the role of German scholarship in Germany’s crimes against the Jewish people) (New York: YIVO, 1947), 326 pp.—it appeared earlier in Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) 27.1-2 (1946), from which an English translation was prepared: Hitler’s Professors: The Part of Scholarship in Germany’s Crimes against the Jewish People (New York: YIVI, 1946), 291 pp. [there are also German, Romanian, French, and Italian translations—JAF]; Fun beyde zaytn ployt, dos shturemdike lebn fun uri kovnern, dem nihilist (From both sides of the fence, the tempestuous life of Uri Kovner, the nihilist) (Buenos Aires: Central Association of Polish Jews in Argentina, 1955), 254 pp.; Geshikhte fun der yidisher shprakh, bagrifn, faktn, metodn (History of the Yiddish language: concepts, facts, methods) (New York: YIVO, 1973), 4 volumes; English translation [by Shlomo Noble with the assistance of Joshua A. Fishman (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980); 2008 edition, edited by Paul Glasser, includes footnotes. (JAF)].
Weinreich edited: Yidishe filologye, tsveykhoydeshdike bleter far shprakh-visnshaft, literatur-forshung un etnografye (Yiddish philology, bimonthly journal for linguistics, literary research, and ethnography) 1 (1924-1926) (together with Noyekh Prylucki and Zalmen Reyzen); Filologishe shriftn fun yivo (Philological writings from YIVO) 1-3 (1926-1928). He was a contributor and, from 1941 to 1950, also editor of Yivo-bleter. He also edited: Nokhum Stutshkof (Nahum Stutchkoff), Der oytser fun der yidisher shprakh (Thesaurus of the Yiddish language) (New York: YIVO, 1950), 933 pp. and he authored the introduction; Y. L. Cahan, Shtudyes vegn yidisher folks-shafung (Studies in Jewish folklore) (New York: YIVO, 1952), 374 pp.; Cahan, Yidishe folkslider mit melodyes (Yiddish folksongs with melodies) (New York: YIVO, 1957), 559 pp. He also published with his own biographical and bibliographical introduction: Ale ksovim fun d״r shloyme etiger (Collected writings of Dr. Solomon Ettinger) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1925), 2 volumes, 616 pp.; and he wrote a prefaces, introductions, afterwords, and annotations to a series of works. He contributed to the collection Der onheyb, zamlbukh far literatur un visnshaft (The start: anthology for literature and scholarship) (Berlin: Vostok, 1922); and was a member of the editorial board of Yidishe shprakh (1941-1951). He translated into Yiddish: R. Vipper, Geshikhte fun mitlalter far shuln un aleyn-bildung (History of the Middle Ages for schools and self-study [original: Uchebnik istorii srednikh vi︠e︡kov (Textbook in the history of the Middle Ages)]) (Dresden: Vostok, 1921), 191 pp.; Vipper, Geshikhte fun der nayer tsayt (History of modern times [original: Uchebnik novoi istorii (Textbook in modern history)]) (Dresden: Vostok, 1921), 195 pp.; (using the pseudonym Sore Brener) Ernst Toller’s dramas, Mase-mentsh, a drame fun der sotsyale revolutsye fun 20tn yorhundert (Man and the masses, a drama of social revolution from the twentieth century [original: Masse mensch]) (Warsaw: Di velt, 1922), 85 pp.; and Der iberker, a gerangl fun a mentsh (The upheaval, a man’s conflict [original: Die Wandlung (Transfiguration)]) (Berlin: Yidisher kultur farlag, 1923), 66 pp.; Sigmund Freud, Araynfir in psikhoanaliz, lektsyes (Introduction to psychoanalysis, lectures [original: Vorlesungen zur Einfuḧrung in die Psychoanalyse]) (Vilna: YIVO, 1936-1938), 3 volumes, 207 pp.
Weinreich’s own scholar writings appeared in journals, anthologies, and encyclopedias, including: “Yidishe etimologye” (Yiddish etymology), Yidishe filologye, YIVO publication (Vilna) 1 (1924), pp. 46-54; “Tsu der kharakteristik fun undzere folks-gleybenishn” (On the character of our folk beliefs), Yidishe filologye 1 (1924), pp. 168-76; “Lantukh, di geshikhte fun a heymishn nit-gutn” (Lantukh [a Jewish hobgoblin], the story of a familiar fiend), Filologishe shriftn (YIVO, Vilna) 1 (1926), pp. 217-36; “Tsu mikhael adams dray yidishe bikher” (On Michael Adam’s three Yiddish books), Filologishe shriftn 2 (1928), pp. 511-15; “Tsu der geshikhte fun der elterer akhashveyresh-shpil” (On the history of the older Ahashverosh play), Filologishe shriftn 2 (1928), pp. 425-52; “Tsvey yidishe shpotlider af yidn” (Two Yiddish satirical songs about Jews), Filologishe shriftn 3 (1920), pp. 537-54; “Yidishe yekar-hamtsiesn in keimbridzh” (Yiddish rarities in Cambridge), Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO) 1 (1927), pp. 20-25, in New York; “Seyfer matsl memoves” (Sefer matsil mimavot), Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo 2 (1929), pp. 20-30; “Fir umbakante teater-shtik fun mitn fun 19tn yorhundert” (Four unknown theatrical pieces from the middle of the nineteenth century), Filologishe shriftn 4 (1930), pp. 175-203; “Vos volt yidish geven on hebreish?” (What would Yiddish be like without Hebrew?), Tsukunft (Future) (March 1931), pp. 194-205, in New York; and dozens of works in Yivo-bleter from the first issue in 1931 in Vilna until the latest issues, which are appearing now in New York. Weinreich also published numerous pieces about Yiddish linguistics, both in Yivo-bleter as well as in such publications as Yidish far ale (Yiddish for everyone) and Yidishe shprakh, among others. In Shmuel niger bukh (Volume for Shmuel Niger) (New York: YIVO, 1958), pp. 101-23, he published his essay, “Bney hes un bney khes in ashkenaz, di problem un vos zi lozt undz hern” (Ashkenazic children of hes and children of khes, the problem and what it teaches us). In the Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia) (Paris-New York: Dubnov Fund, 1940), he contributed to volumes “alef” and “beys,” as well as to the volumes “Yidn” (Jewry): “Yidish” (Yiddish), in Yidn b’ (Jewry, vol. 2), pp. 23-90; and “Yidishe filologye,” in Yidn b’, pp. 100-7. From 1947 he was professor (initially assistant, later associate, and then full professor) at City College, New York, in charge of teaching Yiddish. He also published articles on scholarly topics in English and other languages. In 1948 he was guest professor of Yiddish at the University of California, Los Angeles; 1959-1960, guest professor of Yiddish at Columbia University. He worked for many years in a systematic way on the history of the Yiddish language. He held stipends from the Rockefeller Foundation (1932-1935) and from the Guggenheim Foundation (1955-1957). He was a member of the organizing commission for the conference on Yiddish research which took place in New York, April 7-10, 1958. He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1928); Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (August and September 1928); Niger, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (October 23, 1955); Niger, Habikoret uveayoteha (Inquiry and its problems) (Jerusalem, 1957); Niger, Yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1958), pp. 402-3; Dr. Y. Shatski, in Pinkes (New York) 1 (1927-1928), pp. 281-83; Y. Nusinov, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 2-3 (1928); Zalmen Reyzen, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 3 (1931), pp. 193-203; Reyzen, in Morgn zhurnal (New York) (October 5, 1931; April 10, 1932); Tsvien, in Forverts (New York) (September 17, 1932); Dr. Y. Shiper, in Yivo-bleter 7.1-2 (1934), pp. 36-40; Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn zhurnal (October 16, 1935); Mukdoni, in Eynikeyt (New York) (July-August 1946); Mukdoni, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (September 23, 1956); Sr. Shloyme Birnboym, in Yivo-bleter 18.1 (1941), pp. 84-91; Yivo-biblyografye (YIVO bibliography), part 1, 1925-1941 (New York: YIVO, 1943); Y. Botoshanski, in Mame yidish (Mother Yiddish) (Buenos Aires, 1949), pp. 11, 14, 17, 20, 30, 40; Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (February 3 and 4, 1956); V. Yunin, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (August 16, 1953); Shmerke katsherginski ondenk-bukh (Memoirs of Shmerke Katsherginski) (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 70; M. Elboym, in Forverts (April 29, 1955); B. Shefner, in Forverts (April 30, 1955); Yivo-biblyografye, part 2, 1942-1950 (New York: YIVO, 1955); M. Osherovitsh, in Forverts (July 8, 1956); S. Regensberg, in Forverts (May 13, 1956); Shloyme Bikl, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 28 (1957); Bikl, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (March 31, 1947); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (February 24, 1957); Y. Mark, in Yidishe shprakh (New York) (April 1959); A. Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (August 29, 1959); The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 10 (New York); Who’s Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 240.]