LEYBUSH (LEIBUSH-MORTKHE) LEHRER (April 6, 1887-September 17, 1964)
The brother of Lipe Lehrer, he was born in Warsaw, Poland. He attended religious primary schools and the yeshivas of Makov (Maków) and Novominsk. At age fifteen he went to work so as to be independent. In 1903 he joined the group “Der unz” which stood for a goal of founding a cooperative agricultural colony (some of the members later emigrated to the United States and created a cooperative colony in Alliance, New Jersey). At the same time, he was attracted to the Zionist movement, and was later for a time active in the Socialist Zionist Party in Częstochowa. In 1906 he moved to Belgium, where (1906-1907) he was an early follower of Université Nouvelle in Brussels, and at the same time he worked slicing pieces of kindling wood used to light stoves. In late 1907 he returned to Warsaw. A short time later his friends in America sent him a ship’s ticket for passage, and in 1908 he left Warsaw, spent a short period with his brother Lipe in Paris, and in April 1909 arrived in New York, where until 1911 he worked making slippers, blankets, and neckties, and in his free time he was writing song lyrics. In his early youth back in Warsaw, he had already written songs to sing for the “Unz” group, and during his stay in Paris he published a song in a Parisian Yiddish magazine. Using such pen names as L. Magister, Sol Kesman, and Herkules, he published poetry and prose items in Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people), Der kibetser (The kibitzer), and Di fraye gezelshaft (The free society), among others. In 1912 he left for Valparaiso, Indiana, and graduated there from the preparatory school of Valparaiso University. In 1916 he received his B. A. diploma from Clark College in Wooster, Massachusetts, and in 1917 his M. A. degree from Clark University. That year he moved to New York, worked initially as a book seller, later (1918) became a teacher at the No. 3 Sholem Aleichem School, and in 1922 he moved to the No. 6 Sholem Aleichem School in New York. He was a cofounder of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and Camp Boiberik, where Lehrer served as director for over forty years, which practiced an innovative method of inculcating Jewish traditions and customs in youth, ceremonial celebrations of Sabbaths and holidays, widely commented upon in the American Yiddish press. The essays and articles that he wrote in subsequent years had the goal of explaining the spiritual path of the Jewish people, their thought and their story. “The artistic and the thoughtful word and also life with its practicalities,” wrote Dr. Shloyme Bikl, “were for Leybush Lehrer never a book from which to draw only knowledge or enjoyment, but always a text which taught him and stimulated him to do—namely, to bear the burden of work for the community, which others, and he himself, marked in writing and orally.” He published his essays in: Tog (Day), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Fraye arbeter-shtime, Tsukunft (Future), in the yearbooks and bulletins of the Sholem Aleichem Folk Institute and Workmen’s Circle, the anthologies Shriftn (Writings), Undzer bukh (Our book), Oyfkum (Arise), and other publications in New York, as well as in Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv. Together with Froym Oyerbakh, M. Boreysho, Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky, H. Leivick, and Dovid Pinski, he served on the editorial board of the weekly Idish (Yiddish), published by the Jewish Cultural Society in New York (1932-1934). Together with Dr. Yankev Shatski and Shmuel Niger, he was one of the principal initiators in founding the American division of YIVO, and from 1940 he contributed both to the administration and to the scholarly leadership of YIVO in America. He was secretary of the psychology-pedagogy section of YIVO and in his last years one of the leaders among the scholarship committee of YIVO as well as of Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) and the English-language Yivo Annual. Among his studies, the following appeared in YIVO publications: “Meynungen vegn eygnshaftn fun bakante” (Views of characteristics of the eminent), Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 2 (1931), pp. 32-48; “Di psikhologye fun der lerer-perzenlekhkeyt” (The psychology of the teacher’s personality), Yivo-bleter 4 (1932), pp. 97-117; “Dos yidishe in der psikhik fun dem amerikaner yidishn kind” (The Jewish [element] in the psyche of the American Jewish child), Yivo-bleter 4 (1932), pp. 330-63; “Natsyonale eygnshaftn” (National [Ethnic] characteristics), Yivo-bleter 7 (1934), pp. 257-59; “Di inteligents fun di amerikaner yidishe kinder” (The intelligence of American Jewish children), Yorbukh fun amopteyl fun yivo (Annual from the American branch of YIVO) (New York) 1 (1938), pp. 217-37; “Zigmund froyd” (Sigmund Freud), Yivo-bleter 15 (1940), pp. 2-10; an essay on Yitskhok Polishuk’s Di antviklung fun bavustzayn un der protses fun visn (The development of consciousness and the process of knowledge), in Yivo-bleter 17 (1941), pp. 73-78; “Natsyonale eygnshaftn,” Yivo-bleter 17 (1941), pp. 130-45; “Shekspir oder sheikspir?” (“Shekspir” or “Sheikspir” [on the proper Yiddish spelling of “Shakespeare”]), Yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language) (Vilna) 1 (1941), pp. 86-89. He served as editor for Shriftn far psikhologye un pedagogye (Writings on psychology and pedagogy) (Vilna) 1 (1933), 528 columns, in which he published his essay: “Di psikhologye fun shpil” (The psychology of play), cols. 77-106, and “Gevise eygnshaftn fun vizueln oyfnemen in zeyer shaykhes tsu teyl geometrish-optishe iluzyes” (Certain traits of visual reception in its connection with some geometric-optical illusions), cols. 275-94. In the second number of this journal (Vilna, 1940), he published: “Di dinamishe role fun yidishe simboln in der psikhik fun amerikaner yidishn kind” (The dynamic role of Jewish symbols in the psyche of the American Jewish child), cols. 80-110. He was co-editor of Yorbukh fun amopteyl fun yivo 2 (1939), 329 pp., in which he published: “Shtimungen bay undzer yugnt” (Tendencies among our youth), with tables, cols. 133-46. His subsequent work includes: “Kultur un geshikhte” (Culture and history), “Zhestikulatsye bay yidn un italyener” (Gesticulation among Jews and Italians), and “Teoryes vegn negative batsiungen fun yidn tsu yidn” (Theories of negative attitudes of Jews toward Jews), in Yivo-bleter (New York) 19 (1942); “Historish-psikhologishe faktorn un tsvishnyidishe batsiungen” (Historical-psychological factor of attitudes within Jews), Yivo-bleter 20 (1942); a series entitled “Fun poylishe dyalekt” (Of the Polish dialect), in Yidishe shprakh (New York) 2 (1942), pp. 47-48, pp. 149-51, pp. 180-81, and Yidishe shprakh 3 (1943), pp. 51-53 and 146-48; “Zhitlovskis teorye vegn ideen-farbindungen” (Zhitlovsky’s theory of ideas in contact), Yivo-bleter 22 (1943), pp. 131-46; “Yidn in likht fun sotsyologye fun visn” (Jews in light of the sociology of knowledge), Yivo-bleter 23 (1944), pp, 142-46; “Di dinamishe role fun yidishe simboln in der psikhik fun amerikaner yidishn kind,” Yivo-bleter 28 (1946), pp. 273-90, and 29 (1947), pp. 51-70; “Natsyonaler kharakter” (National character), Yivo-bleter 31-32 (1948), pp. 293-351; “Di yidishe ongeherikeyt fun der yugnt bay yidn” (The Jewish sense of belonging among Jewish youth), Yivo-bleter 38 (1954), pp. 78-105; and “Problemen fun yidishn folks-kharakter” (Problems of Jewish ethnic character), Yivo-bleter 41 (1958), pp. 290-329; among others.
His published books include: Di modern yidishe shul (The modern Jewish school) (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1927), 190 pp.; Di psikhologye fun literatur, an aranfir in filomitologye (The psychology of literature, an introduction to philematology) (New York: Matones, 1925), 254 pp.; Azoy zenen mentshn, shmuesn vegn der mentshlekher natur (That how people are, chats about human nature) (New York: Matones, 1934), 238 pp.; Psikhologye un dertsiung (Psychology and education) (New York: Matones, 1937), 488 pp.; Yidishkeyt un andere problemen (Jewishness and other issues) (New York: Matones, 1940), 208 pp.; Azoy zenen yidn (That’s how Jew are) (New York: Matones, 1959), 414 pp.; Fun dor tsu dor (From generation to generation) (New York: Matones, 1959), 412 pp.; Camp Boiberik, the Growth of an Idea (Boiberik, 1950), 44 pp.; Mentsh un ideye (Man and thought) (New York: Matones, 1960), 479 pp.; Simbol un tokh (Symbol and substance) (New York, 1965), 33 pp. Yiddish, 31 pp. English; In gayst fun traditsye (In the spirit of tradition) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1966), 523 pp. Of his translations, the following appeared in Yiddish: William McDougall, Psikhologye (Psychology), with a general introduction by Hugo Münsterberg (New York: Di heym, 1919), 187 pp.; Georg Brandes, Di romantishe shul in daytshland (The Romantic School in Germany), 2 vols. (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1921). He edited: with Y. Levin and Kalmen Marmor, Ertsiung, zamlbikher far algemeyner un shul-ertsiung (Education, collections for general and school education) (New York, 1922); and with Dr. Y. A. Merison, and Y. Levin, Unzer kind, tsvey monatlekhe zhurnal far dertsiungs-frages (Our child, a bimonthly journal of educational issues) (New York) 1 (1924), 2 (1925). He wrote prefaces to the textbook by Yisroel Shteynboym, Dovid Bridzher, and Yudel Mark, Der vokabular farn obheyber-klas in der amerikaner yidisher shul (The vocabulary for the beginning class in the American Yiddish school) (New York: Biblyotek fun YIVO, 1944), 78 pp.; and Yekhiel Shtern, Kheyder un beys medresh (Religious elementary school and synagogue study house) (New York, 1950), 128 pp. He contributed two essays, “Religye un yidishkeyt” (Religion and Jewishness) and “Ruzvelt-troyer” (Mourning Roosevelt) to Di yidishe esay (The Yiddish essay), ed. Dr. Shloyme Bikl (New York, 1946), pp. 49-53 and pp. 211-15, respectively. From 1919 he was a teacher at the Jewish teachers’ seminary and people’s university in New York. Over the years 1921-1947, he served as director of the Sholem Aleichem Middle School. He was a member of the national council on Jewish education, among other posts. He was a delegate to the second conference of World Jewish Culture Congress in New York (March 1959). In 1960 there was a celebration in New York for the fifty years of his educational, scholarly, and community activities. For his books of essays, in 1961 he received the Lonye Bimko Prize from the World Jewish Culture Congress. To honor his seventieth birthday, there appeared a great number of articles with appreciations of his life and activities. He died in New York.
Sources: B. Ts. Goldberg, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (December 3, 1926); Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (January 30, 1930); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (October 17, 1926; August 14, 1927; February 18, 1933; September 23, 1934; February 3, 1935; April 3, 1938); Dr. Y. Shatski, in Der oyfkum (New York) (July 1926); Shatski, in Unzer shul (New York) (January 1934), pp. 22-25; Z. Vaynper, in Der oyfkum (January 1927); Vaynper, Yidishe shriftshteler (Yiddish writers), vol. 1 (New York, 1933), pp. 127-31; B. Y. Byalostotski, in Der oyfkum (March 1928); A. Litvak, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1932); Y. Tverski, in Tsukunft (December 1932; June 1934); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 24, 1933; September 24, 1934; September 11, 1940); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (October 17, 1934; October 24, 1934; October 31, 1934); Dr. E. Knox, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (November 15, 1937); Knox, in Idisher kemfer (November 18, 1960; November 25, 1960); H. Kh. (Khatskeles), in Naye vegn (Riga) 2 (February 1938); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Tog (August 17, 1940); K. S. Pinson, in Jewish Social Studies (New York) 3 (October 1941), pp. 427-29; N. B. Minkoff, in Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 6 (New York, 1942), p. 599; A. A. Robak, in Afn shvel (New York) (April-May 1945); M. Ravitsh, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (July 3, 1947); E. Almi, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (September 15, 1948); Almi, In gerangl fun ideyen, eseyen (Struggling with idea, essays) (Buenos Aires, 1957), pp. 135-40; Z. Yefroykin, in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn 5” (New York, 1957); Yefroykin, in The Jewish People, Past and Present (New York, 1948), vol. 2; Sh. Margoshes, in Tog (July 3, 1954; July 12, 1954; March 5, 1960; May 1, 1960); E. Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 13, 1957; November 27, 1961); A. Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (September 21, 1957); Tsaytlin, in Idisher kemfer (Passover issue, 1958), pp. 79-83; S. Dingal, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (June 5, 1959; April 30, 1960); A. Glants, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (August 31, 1959; November 18, 1959); Sh. Suskovitsh, in Davke (Buenos Aires) 43 (July-December 1960), pp. 246-50; B. Sherman, in Idisher kemfer (April 29, 1960); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (August 9, 1960); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (April 30, 1960; August 10, 1962); Joseph C. Landes, in Jewish Social Studies 32.1 (April 1960), pp. 115-16; S. Kreiter, in In Jewish Bookland (New York) (March 1961), p. 3
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 341.]
 In the YIVO archives maybe found Lehrer’s unpublished translation of William James, Shmuesn mit lerer (Chats with a teacher), and Alfred Russell Wallace, Di sotsyale svive un der moralisher problem (The social environment and the moral issue [original: Social Environment and Moral Progress]).