Thursday, 23 February 2017


            He was born in the town of Kanyev (Kaniv), Ukraine, to a father who was a leather worker.  He received a traditional education both at home and in religious primary school, and at the same time a general education in a Russian school.  He was also an intensive self-learner.  In the early 1920s he founded a children’s home in his hometown for orphans and pogrom victims, and he worked there as a trainer of teachers.  He went on to organize a youth home in the city of Boslev (Bohuslav), while he taught language and literature in a middle school.  In 1930 he graduated from the literature and linguistics division of the Second Moscow State University, continued his pedagogical activities, and turned his attention to scholarly work in the field of Yiddish linguistics and pedagogy.  At that time he debuted in print with poetry and dramatic studies in children and youth magazines in Moscow.  He lectured at the linguistics section in the Department of Soviet Yiddish Literature, Language, and Folklore in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.  From 1931 he was a research student, and thereafter a scholarly collaborator in the philology section of the Kiev Institute of Jewish Culture in the Academy.  In 1937 he successfully defended his dissertation and became a “Candidate in Philological Science.”  Among his published articles: Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language) (Kiev) (1930), on language in Shmuel Godiner’s novel Der mentsh mit der biks (The man with the rifle); Di yidishe shprakh (November-December 1930), cols. 25-30, “Tsu der lektsik un vortbildung bay dovid hofshteyn” (On Dovid Hofshteyn’s vocabulary and language education); Ratnbildung (Soviet education) (Kharkov-Kiev) 3 (1934), pp. 53-64, “Vegn reyd-antviklung in di eltere klasn” (On speech development among the older classes); Afn shprakhfront (On the language front) (Kiev) 3-4 (1935), “Vegn dem tsushtand funem shprakh-limed in shul” (On the standing of the field of language in school); Afn shprakhfront 1 (1937), pp. 47-65, “Vegn der leksik fun albertons personazhn” (On the vocabulary of Alberton’s personages); Afn shprakhfront 2.2 (1937), pp. 65-96, “Vi azoy di yidishe tsaytungen in ratn-farband zetsn iber stalins redes” (How the Yiddish newspapers in the Soviet Union translate Stalin’s speeches); Afn shprakhfront 2.3 (1937), pp. 21-70, “Frages fun dikhterishe iberzetsung” (Questions of poetic translation), an analysis of the Yiddish translations of Pushkin’s poetry rendered by D. Hofshteyn, E. Fininberg, L. Reznik, M. Khashtshevatski, Y. Kotler, and Y. Remenik; Afn shprakhfront 2.4 (1937), pp. 17-66, “Humor in sholem-aleykhems shprakh” (Humor in Sholem-Aleykhem’s language).  His books include: Tsum nayem lebn, khrestomatye far onfangs-shuln fun algemeyner bildung far dervaksene (Toward a new life, a reader for beginning school in general education for adults), with Y. Baksht and G. Entin (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk, 1930), 245 pp.; Shprakh-genitungen (Language exercises), with A. Gelbman (Kiev-Kharkov, 1936), 103 pp., second edition (1937), third edition (1938), 112 pp.; Yidish in shul (Yiddish in school), “according to the materials of inquiry, May 1936” (Kiev, 1936), 67 pp.; Gramatik (Grammar), “textbook for the fifth and sixth classes in middle school” (Kiev, 1938), with M. Shapiro, part 1, “Morphology”; Gramatik un ortografye, lernbukh far 3tn klas (Grammar and orthography, textbook for the third class), with A. Zaretski (Kiev, 1938), 135 pp., appearing in numerous editions, among them Kovno in 1940; Zamlung fun sistematishe diktantn far der onfang- un mitl-shul (Collection of systematic dictations for elementary and middle school), with M. Shapiro (Kiev, 1940), 143 pp.  In 1942 he—together with E. Spivak and M. Maydanski—worked on text in Yiddish and Russian “concerning the Yiddish literary language, its history, and its contemporary state,” as well as on a text concerning “issues in the new word creation in Soviet Yiddish poetry.”  Portions of these works appeared over the course of 1942-1943 in publications of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.  He completed a work, entitled “Di shprakh fun dovid bergelson” (The language of Dovid Bergelson), and was working on the language of Perets Markish.  He was involved in preparation of the “Groyser rusish-yidisher verterbukh” (Great Russian-Yiddish dictionary) which appeared after his death, and in 1946 he was working on a study, “Sholem-aleykhem in ukraine” (Sholem-Aleykhem in Ukraine).  In 1948 he was head of the literary division of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences.  He was arrested on May 5, 1949, charged with “anti-Soviet activities” and “espionage for the Americans,” and sentenced to fifteen years of forced labor.  He was freed on April 27, 1955 and later rehabilitated.

Sources: N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband 1933 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union, 1933) (Minsk, 1935), p. 67; Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband 1934 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union, 1934) (Minsk, 1935), p. 63; Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband 1935 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union, 1935) (Minsk, 1936), pp. 19, 29; Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1928); Y. Mark, “Yidishe lingvistishe arbet in sovetn-farband) (Yiddish linguistics work in the Soviet Union), Yivo-bleter (New York) 16.1 (September-October 1940), pp. 31ff, 16.2 (November-December 1940), pp. 150-54; A. Kahan, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (July 15, 1942; April 5, 1943; April 2, 1946); M. Man, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 34; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
Zaynvl Diamant

[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 195-96.]

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