YISROEL LIKHTENSHTEYN (December 2, 1883-April 21, 1933)
He was born in Koval (Kowal), near Vlotslavek (Włocławek), Poland. His father was an itinerant school teacher; his mother died when he was young, and he was raised by his stepmother. In 1891 he moved to Włocławek and attended a Polish public school, but he soon had to interrupt his education and go to work. At first he was apprenticed to a plumber, later to a baker, while at night he studied further on his own. In 1897 he moved to Warsaw, worked for a time in a bookshop, later taking a teacher’s course of study as an external student, and for several years worked as a teacher in Jewish community schools. He was a close friend of Y. L. Perets and of young Yiddish writers of that era. In 1900 he joined the illegal movement of the Bund and was active as an organizer and speaker. He was arrested for the first time in 1907 and administratively deported to Vilna, where he continued his illegal work. He was a delegate to the illegal Jewish teachers’ conference (Vilna, Passover 1907), and together with other delegates, he was imprisoned in the Lukishker Prison. In 1911 he moved to Lodz, where he worked for many years as a teacher of Jewish history. He was also a teacher in a school for the deaf and mute. From 1916 he was a representative of the Bund in the city council and in the Jewish community administration in Lodz. He was a cofounder of the Jewish School and People’s Library Association and the initiator of the petition to the German school administration, with 30,000 signatures, thanks to which the occupation authorities permitted the opening of a Jewish secular school in Lodz. Because of his appearances at the city council and, primarily, because of the “Red pamphlet” (October 1917), which called on Jewish workers in Lodz not to work for the Germans, he had to flee Poland. He left for Ukraine, was active in Bundist work there, and in late 1918 returned to Lodz, where from that point forward he was the most important leader of Jewish labor in the city. He penned illegal proclamations and calls on behalf of the Bund in Warsaw (1903-1907). He wrote pieces for Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Vilna (1907); co-edited the illegal Lodzer arbayter (Lodz worker) (1915); co-edited Lebens-fragen (Life issues), Folkstsaytung, and Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writing for literature) in which he wrote articles on modern Polish literature—all in Warsaw; and he wrote for Der khaver (The friend) in Vilna and for practically all periodical publications of Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) in Poland. He edited Lodzher veker (Lodz alarm) (1925-1933), in which, among other items, he published articles on Y. L. Perets, Sholem Asch, H. D. Nomberg, M. Kulbak, Y. Y. Trunk, the Lodz writers’ group, and Soviet Yiddish literature, among other topics. His last article was “Vos lernen undz di pogromen in poyln?” (What do the pogroms in Poland teach us?), which he published under the name “A poylisher” (a Pole) in Di tsukunft (The future) in New York (March 1933). He also wrote under such pen names as: Shteyn, S-, and G. R. A. He died in a hospital in New York, where he had come (autumn 1932) on assignment from the central committee of the Bund in Poland. His body was transported to Lodz where he was buried on May 4, 1933. Over 20,000 people attended his funeral. In his memory a number of Jewish children’s homes and schools were named for him. Poems were also dedicated to him by the Lodz poets: Y. Rabon, Radoshitski, and Khayim Leyb Fuks. (His oldest son RAFAL LIKHTENSHTEYN [1908-1941], a well-known Polish novelist, translated from Yiddish literature into Polish. He was killed in the Soviet occupied zone of Poland.)
Sources: Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928), see index; Forverts (New York) (December 25, 1932; January 1, 1933; January 2, 1933; January 12, 1933; April 25, 1933); B. Botvinik, in Forverts (April 27, 1933); N. Khanin, in Der veker (New York) (April 29, 1933); A. Liessin, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1933); D. Eynhorn, in Der veker (Paris) (May 12, 1933); H. Erlikh and Y. Khmurner, in Folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (May 14, 1933); Y. Y. Trunk, Kh. L. Poznanski, Y. Peysakhzon, Y. Pat, Sh. Milman, A. V. Yasni, A. L. Zalmanovitsh, A. Patshorek, and S. Nutkevitsh, in Lodzher veker (Lodz) 10 (1934); Kh. L. Poznanski, Memuarn fun a Bundist (Memoirs of a Bundist) (Watrsaw, 1938), p. 239; A. L. Zalmanovitsh, in Lodzher yizker-bukh (Commemorative volume for Lodz) (New York, 1943), pp. 81-85; A. Z. Aescoly, in Kehilat lodzh (The community of Lodz) (Jerusalem, 1948), pp. 128, 148; Y. Y. Trunk, in Poyln (Poland), vol. 6 (New York, 1951), pp. 171-76; F. Kurski, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected works) (New York, 1952), p. 356; B. Shefner, Novolipye 7, zikhroynes un eseyen (Novolipye 7, memoirs and essays) (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 249; Shefner, in Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 2 (New York, 1956), pp. 9-31; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), see index; A. Tenenboym-Arzi, Lodzh un ire yidn (Lodz and her Jews) (Buenos Aires, 1956), see index; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), pp. 204,232, 239, 250; Fuks, in Unzer shtime (Paris) 2-3 (1957); Yisroel likhtenshteyn gedenkbukh (Memorial volume for Yisroel Likhtenshteyn) (Mexico City, 1967), 231 pp.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 335.]