MENAKHEM-YOYSEF VAYSBAND (b. August 9, 1840)
He was born in Ovruch, Volhynia, Ukraine. He studied in religious elementary school and synagogue study hall. He later graduated from the teachers’ institute in Zhitomir and became a teacher in a Russian state school in Kovel (Kovle) and other cities. From 1878 until coming to Warsaw in 1882, he worked as a teacher and administrator of a Talmud-Torah in Simferopol, southern Russia, and later was a Hebrew teacher in Warsaw. A great Talmudist and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, he nonetheless loved the Yiddish language, as we find in his “A Word from the Author” to his story Yerubaal, der vare izraelit (Yerubaal, the true Israelite) (Warsaw, 1882), 32 pp. (published in several editions, the second in 1887). In his preface, Vaysband complained:
The old-fashioned Jews, the Talmudists
Were becoming like Yerubaal, and not desirable;
Zhargon [i.e., Yiddish] has no value whatsoever, no worth,
The holy tongue is sacred, a burning fire;….
Both classes, educated trendy,
Just like the ancient Orthodox;
Not allowing you across their threshold
Even when you cry and beg;….
Do you know with whom you are directing a campaign?
Who will open the doors for you?
The workers, the ordinary folk,
The cabinet-maker who works with the axe,
The furrier, the tailor,
The metalworker, the cobbler,
The drayman, the porter,….
Will they continue to work speedily for you….
Just like your own children?
Vaysband’s booklet, built on this motif of Yerubaal from Jewish history, is intertwined here with sentimental poetry. He was also the author of other pamphlets which he published under the name M״y B״y (Menakhem-Yoysef Ben Yitskhak). In 1865 he received a silver medal from the Russian government for saving two Christian children.
Source: N. Sokolov, Sefer zikaron (Book of remembrance) (Warsaw, 1889), p. 39.
Khayim Leyb Fuks