ABE (ABA) LEV (1882-late June 1959)
He was born in Skidel, Grodno district, Russian Poland, into a revolutionary working family. His father, Moyshe Paltser (a “buntovshchik” [rebel, insurgent]) was well-known in the movement of the Garber-bund (Tanners’ union). Until age eleven he attended religious elementary school, later joining his father to work in a tannery. From his early years he was active in the revolutionary movement. He was a participant in the tanners’ strike of 1897 and in the Tanners’ union. He was arrested on several occasions by the Tsarist authorities. He lived in Vilna, Warsaw, Odessa, Kiev, and later in Moscow. As a soldier in the Tsarist army, he went on a trip with Sh. An-ski through the areas in western Ukraine that were affected by the pogroms and helped him collect materials and documents that were reworked later by An-ski for his Khurbn galitsye (The destruction of Galicia; 1920). After the Bolshevik Revolution, he joined the Communists and became a fixture in the Soviet Yiddish press. From 1928 he worked researching the history of the Jewish labor movement and was a member of the bibliographic and historical section of the Academy of Sciences. He made a name for himself in the 1930s as one of the most accomplished bibliographers and historians in his field in Moscow. He began his literary activities with correspondence pieces in Di garber-shtime (The voice of tanners) in Vilna (1908), later publishing articles in Der fraynd (The friend) in St. Petersburg-Warsaw (1908-1912). From 1918 he was regular contributor to the Soviet Yiddish press and periodicals. He placed work in: Di varheyt (The truth) in St. Petersburg (1918); Der emes (The truth) in Moscow (1920-1938); Yungvald (Young forest) in Moscow (1923-1928); Di garber-shtime (later: Di garber- un bershter shtime [The voice of tanners and brush men]) in Moscow (1924-1928)—in which he published “Tsu der geshikhte fun unzer prese” (On the history of our press); Der pyoner (The pioneer) in Moscow (1925-1928); Der apikoyres (The heretic) in Moscow (1931-1935)—in which, among other items, he published his memoirs which were republished in installments in Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom) in New York; Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw; Vilner tog (Vilna day); and Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga. In Visnshaftlekhe yorbikher (Scholarly yearbooks) (Moscow, 1929), pp. 108-17, he published portions of his work, “Di yidishe arbeter-bavegung in minsk bizn yor 1900” (The Jewish labor movement in Minsk until the year 1900). He also contributed work to: Royte bleter (Red leaves) (Moscow, 1929); Biblyografisher zamlbukh (Bibliographic annual) (Moscow-Kharkov, 1930)—in which, among other items, he wrote about Arn Liberman’s second prospectus for Haemet (The truth); Visnshaft un revolutsye (Science and revolution) (Kiev, 1934-1936); In Shmuel Agurski’s Di sotsyalistishe literatur af yidish (Socialist literature in Yiddish) (an anthology, Minsk, 1935), he published portions of his memoirs, and in Mendele un zayn tsayt (Mendele and his times) (Moscow, 1940), he published memoirs of Mendele Moykher-Sforim, which described the “grandfather” on the basis of as yet unpublished materials at that time. Among his books: Religye un kleykodesh in kamf kegn der idisher arbeter bavegung (Religion and clergy in the fight against the Jewish labor movement) (Moscow, 1923), 30 pp.; Der yidisher klerikalizm un zayn kamf kegn der idisher arbeter-bavegung (Jewish clericalism and its fight against the Jewish labor movement), with R. Vin (Moscow, 1928), 54 pp.—which appeared in subsequent editions under the title Der klerikalizm in kamf kegn der arbeter-bavegung (Clericalism in the fight against the labor movement), third edition (Moscow, 1934), 69 + 2 pp., fourth edition (Moscow, 1936), 73 + 4 pp. His announced book, “Di teroristishe bavegung tsvishn di yidishe arbeter” (The terrorist movement among Jewish workers), was not published for unknown reasons. Also unpublished was a collection he amassed with the bibliographer Abe Finkelshteyn of popular Yiddish aphorisms. Lev later worked as an archivist in the Moscow Institute for Research into the History of the Revolutionary Movement. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union and the Yiddish writers were evacuated from the capital, Lev remained there, not wanting to leave the materials he had spent years amassing. Until late 1942 he suffered from hunger and slept in an empty hall of Emes publishers. Then, until 1946, he lived in Osh, Kyrgyzstan. He then returned to work in Moscow at Emes publishers. In 1948 he was arrested with other Yiddish writers in conjunction with the liquidation of the Anti-fascist Committee. Sick and exhausted, he was freed in 1956 and returned to Moscow, where was a pensioner and wrote his memoirs, which he was preparing for publication. He died in Moscow.
Sources: A. Kirzhnits, Di yidishe prese in der gevezener rusisher imperye, 1823-1916 (The Yiddish press in the former Russian empire, 1823-1916) (Moscow-Kharkov-Minsk, 1930), pp. 6, 145, 185, 190, 215; Der pyoner (Moscow) 2 (1928); A. Gurshteyn, in Visnshaftlekhe yorbukh (Moscow, 1929), p. 247; M. R. in Der apikoyres (Moscow) 5 (1934); N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetnfarband 1934 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union, 1934) (Minsk, 1935); Rubinshteyn, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (April 16, 1946); R. Nadel, in Der apikoyres 1 (1935); L. Arye, in Yidishe tsaytung (Winnipeg) (April 13, 1949); Avram der Tate, Bleter fun mayn yugnt (Pages from my youth) (New York, 1959), see index; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[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. 209-10.]