Monday, 2 January 2017


YOYSEF YOFE (JOSEPH JAFFE) (December 24, 1865-February 28, 1938)
            He was born in Salant (Salantai), Kovno region, Lithuania, into a rabbinical family.  He studied with his father until he was twelve, and then left for Vilna where he apprenticed to be an engraver.  In 1882 he moved to Revel (Tallin), Estonia, and there he worked as an employee in his uncle’s business, was drawn into student circles, studied Russian and German, and read the works of Russian and German poets.  Together with his entire family, in 1892 he moved to the United States and worked as an engraver in New York.  He debuted in print with a poem in Filadelfyer shtaats-tsaytung (Philadelphia city newspaper), edited by B. Gorin (1895); he later published his poems in: Abend blat (Evening newspaper), Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), Dovid Pinski’s Der arbayter (The worker), Di yudishe vokhnshrift (The Jewish weekly writing), Di tsayt (the times), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Der nayer gayst (The new spirit) in 1898, Forverts (Forward) in 1899, Tsukunft (Future), Forshrit (Progress), and Kundes (Prankster), among others, in New York; and Der yud (The Jew) in Warsaw-Cracow; among others.  The central theme of his poetry was love.  His poems were often charming and humorous, and his readers loved them; musicians composed music for them which were sung by the public.  He published in book form: Lider (Poems) (New York: M. Gurevitsh, 1914), 126 pp., with a preface by Dovid Pinski, which noted inter alia: “Yoysef Yofe is an entirely unique phenomenon in our literature and his manner of writing poetry: a rarity….  I would not refrain from expressing my hope that very soon people recognize what a wonderful prize this published collection is for our literature.”  On his seventieth birthday the Yehoash wing of the National Jewish Workers’ Alliance brought out his second collection, Gezangen (Songs) (New York, 1936), 158 pp., with prefaces by the publisher, Avrom Lessin, and Dovid Pinski.  He died in a hospital in the Bronx, New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Ben-Yakir (Kh. Royzenblat), in Tsukunft (New York) (July 1914); Y. Entin, Idishn poetn (Yiddish poets), part 2 (New York, 1927), pp. 107-10; Entin, in Tsukunft (July 1936); Entin, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 11, 1938); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York, 1937); A. Reyzen, in Tsukunft (January 1931); Elye Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 166, 167; Dovid Pinski, prefaces to Yofe’s two books; Pinski, in Tsukunft (May 1938); N. B. Minkov, Pyonern fun yidisher poezye in amerike (Pioneers of Yiddish poetry in America), vol. 3 (New York, 1956), pp. 265-326; Y. Rodak, Kunst un kinstler (Art and artists) (New York, 1955), p. 54; N. Mayzil, Amerike in yidishn vort (America in Yiddish) (New York, 1955).
Zaynvl Diamant


  1. My father, David Botwinik, wrote music to Yofe's song "Heymat" under the title "di litvishe shtetele". You can hear part of it here: ""
    or Google-search "di litvishe shtetele". Check out the version sung by the famous Cantor Louis Danto (O"H).
    The original text can be found on page 123 of his book "Lieder" downloadable here: ""

  2. Many thanks for the additional information!