GERSHON LEVIN (LEWIN) (January 5, 1868-November 1939)
He was born in Lublin, where his father was chief cantor in the Maharshal’s Great Synagogue. He inherited from him an inclination toward music. He attended religious elementary school and later graduated from middle school, and in 1895 he graduated from the medical school of Warsaw University. He then settled in Warsaw, became known as a fine doctor, especially in the field of tuberculosis, and with time became the house surgeon at the Jewish hospital. Already in his youth, Dr. Levin was drawn to writing, initially in Hebrew and Polish, later primarily in Yiddish. He debuted in print with a sketch, entitled “A shmues af der ban” (A chat on the train), in Y. L. Perets’s Yudishe biblyotek (Yiddish library) (Warsaw) 1 (1891). He later contributed to Perets’s other publications, as well as in: Yud (Jew), Fraynd (Friend), Veg (Way), Telegraf (Telegraph), Tsayt (Times), and Unzer leben (Our life). Also in Hebrew: Hatsfira (The siren) and Hatsofe (The spectator). Later, he published in Haynt (Today) in Warsaw one hundred stories, novellas, and feature pieces. As a community leader, he became well known as the manager of Hazemir (The nightingale) in Warsaw, where Yiddish folksongs were sung and many Yiddish composers were inspired to write Yiddish music and writers were stimulated to create fresh work. He excelled as a writer for his innovative Yiddish humor, with a juiciness and affective idiomatic quality in Lublin Yiddish. His features and countless stories were read by people with rare enthusiasm. He was a close friend of Perets and Sholem-Aleykhem, of Sholem Asch and H. D. Nomberg. In book form, he published: Vi azoy ken men zikh obhiten fun vider krank veren af shvindzukht? (How can one prevent oneself from contracting tuberculosis again?) (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1911), 25 pp.; Perets, a bisl zikhroynes (Perets, a few memories) (Warsaw: Yehudiya, 1919), 125 pp.; In velt-krig (In world war), “ayndrukn un iberlebungen als militer-doktor in rusland, mizrekh-galitsye, bukovine” (impressions and experiences as a military doctor in Russia, eastern Galicia, and Bukovina), published earlier in Haynt in 1918 (Warsaw: Yehudiya, 1923), 268 pp.; Higyene bay iden amol un atsind (Hygiene among Jews in the past and now) (Warsaw, 1924), 50 pp.; Fun di alte gute tsayṭen, a rayze af di kholera (From the old good times, a trip amid cholera) (Warsaw: Yehudiya, 1925), 178 pp.—a volume of memoirs and descriptions of the old Jewish way of life in Lublin; Lungen shvindzukht iz haylbar (Lung tuberculosis is curable) (1925); Iberlebenishn, epizodn un eyndrukn fun der rusish-yaponisher krig (Experiences, episodes and impression of the Russo-Japanese War) (Vilna, 1931), 231 pp. He died in Warsaw.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Z. Tigel, Geshtalten, 12 idishe perzenlikhkeyten (Images, twelve Jewish personalities) (New York: Farband, 1928), pp. 147-53; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (February 1927); N. Mayzil, Perets, lebn un shafn (Perets, life and work) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1931), vol. 1; Y. D. Berkovitsh, in Forverts (New York) (March 13, 1932; March 27, 1932); Avrom Reyzen, in Parizer haynt 4705 (1939); A. Reyzen, in Di vokh (Paris) 12 (1940); A. Reyzen, in Poylisher id (New York) (1940); M. Mozes, in Poylisher id (1940); Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence) (New York, 1947), pp. 213-20; Dos bukh fun Lublin (The book of Lublin) (Paris, 1952), p. 357; M. Turkov, Di letste fun a groysn dor (The last of a great generation) (Buenos Aires, 1954), see index; Y. Mastboym, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (April 16, 1954); Entsiklopediya shel galuyot (Encyclopedia of the Diaspora), Lublin volume, p. 638; M. Veykhert, Varshe (Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1961), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 345.]