MOYSHE-YITSKHOK LITAUER (M. I. LITTAUER) (1888-1937)
He came from a small town in Poland. He moved to New York with the flow of mass immigration of the 1880s. He worked initially in a sweatshop, later becoming a coffee wholesaler, but under the influence of an idealist spirit at that time, he ceased working in business, grew a beard and long hair, dressed all in white, and began preaching vegetarianism. He then opened a vegetarian restaurant on the East Side in New York, where every Saturday evening he gave lectures and coached his audience on the crime of killing a living creature. He wrote on these matters (also using the pen name “Moyshe beyle rokhls” [Moyshe, the son of Beyle Rachel]) articles in Der vegetaryer (The vegetarian), a monthly in New York (1916). For the same journal he translated works on vegetarianism by Maurice Maeterlinck, among others. He also published in: Dos natsyonale leben (National life); Unzer gezunt (Our health), “a Yiddish monthly periodical for enlightenment and health issues,” edited by Ben-Tsien Liber, published in New York (1910-1917); Vegetarisher gedank (The vegetarian idea) in Los Angeles; and Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor); among other serials. He published in pamphlet form: Rabindranat tagor (Rabindranath Tagore) (New York, 1917), 35 pp.; Geklibene gedanken (Selected thoughts), “collected and translated (aside from a few) by Moyshe, the son of Beyle Rachel’s, price: from nothing to extremely high, published by a small group of genuine admirers, reprinting not prohibited” (n.d.), 64 unnumbered pp.; Gedanken iber toyt-shtrof (Ideas on the death sentence), written shortly after [Charles] Becker’s execution “for my friend Rokhl Katz, by Moyshe Yitskhok Litauer, price: free,” published by the group “Lovers of truth” and with the note: “reprinting not prohibited” (New York, n.d.), 16 pp. In the New York Jewish cultural world, Litauer was viewed as a curiosity, but with time he managed with his idealism to earn a great deal of respect. “Litauer is a highly educated man,” wrote E. Almi, “and his essays on Emerson and David Thoreau…may be considered among the best works on these two American thinkers.” For a time he ran a summer camp in Freedom Hill, New Jersey, for vegetarians and naturalists. Later the vegetarian movement fell apart, and Litauer remained alone. He died in New York.
Sources: E. Almi, Momentn fun a lebn (Moments in a life) (Buenos Aires, 1948), pp. 243ff; Kh. M. Shtiglits (Herman Morgenshtern), in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 24, 1959; October 24, 1961); Der vegetarisher gedank (Los Angeles) (August 1930), p. 7; information from E. Almi and I. Visotski in New York.