Tuesday, 30 May 2017


            He was born in Zamość, Lublin district, Poland.  In the late 1850s, he left Zamość and lived Rava-Ruska, Kutne (Kutno), and Mlave (Mława) where he was a private tutor of Russia, Polish, and German in wealthy homes.  In 1866 he arrived in Warsaw where he became acquainted with Yisroel-Meyer Vohlman, but he did not long remain there and set out again on a wandering path.  In 1870 he again arrived in Warsaw and worked for a time as a proofreader in Yitskhok Goldman’s publishing house.  He spent the years 1873-1880 in Germany, and in 1880 he returned to Warsaw and was a frequent visitor to assimilated and Enlightened circles, where he received recognition for his knowledge of languages and his general wisdom.  He worked his entire life thereafter within the Warsaw Jewish community.  His writing activities began with short Hebrew stories on historical topics, as well as with the novel Neder yiftaḥ, sipur ahava (The vow of Yiftaḥ, a love story) (Warsaw, 1870), 71 pp., with a preface (“Mikhtav tehila” [Letter of praise]) by Y. M. Vohlman.  Neder yifta appeared in a Judeo-German translation by Y. Zeyfe from Kalish (Kalisz) (Puznów, 1972), 72 pp., and in Levinzohn’s own translation into Russian (Warsaw, 1871), 72 pp.  He also published in: Hamelits (The spectator) in Odessa; Hamagid (The preacher) in Lik; and Hatsfira (The siren) in Warsaw, where, among other items, he placed the story “Al tavuzu laganav” (Do not blame the thief) and chapters of a historical novel entitled Avotot haahava (The bonds of love).  In 1880, after a series of years of silence, he renewed his literary activity and published a comedy entitled Der kheyrem derabeynu gershon oder di vayberishe kniplekh (The ban of Rabbi Gershon or the wives’ nest-eggs), “a theatrical piece in five acts, written in verse; the story transpires in a small town in Lesser Poland” (Warsaw: Yoysef Lebenzohn, 1880), 48 pp., second printing (1882).  A comedy entitled Di vaybershe kniplekh (The wives’ nest eggs) had already been published in Vilna in 1873 (44 pp.) with the author’s name given as “Myvm” (Meyer-Yisroel Vohlman’s initials) and in Russian as “I. M. Volman.”  It had great success with audiences and soon appeared in a second printing.  In the notes to the Vilna edition of the comedy, we find: “The comedy takes place in Surban, a small town in Galicia.”  If the two editions of the comedy belong to two different authors (Vohlman and Ludvig Levinzohn) or to one of the two, and if to one—who was the original author and who the translator—this has not been clarified until now.  Levinzohn’s comedy was later—on December 14, 1928—revived in a performance by the Vilna Troupe in Warsaw (under the direction of Dovid Herman) and was again a hit with audiences.  Levinzohn published in Y. L. Perets’s Di yudishe biblyotek (The Yiddish library) (Warsaw, 1891) translations from Polish and German, among them: Eliza Orzeszkowa, “Gedalia” (issue 1, pp. 101-36).  He also translated treatises on popular science.  He died in Warsaw.  He left behind in manuscript the “Komedye in ferzen in 4 akten” (Comedy in verse in four acts) entitled Shlomke in fas (Shlomke in a barrel), as well as subsequent chapters of his novel Avotot haahava.  “Di vaybershe kniplekh which played in Hassidic environs is a comedy that excels in its simplicity, and the action develops within itself.  Everything that takes place here is natural, alive—it is no wonder that it aroused enthusiasm and was performed for many years.” (B. Gorin, Geshikhte fun yidishn teater [History of Yiddish theater], vol. 1 [New York, 1918], pp. 125-27)

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon dun der yidisher literatur un prese (1914), p. 362, with a bibliography; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), with a bibliography; Z. Turkov, Shmuesn vegn teater (Chats about theater) (Buenos Aires, 1950), see index; Khayim Leyb Fuks, “Yisroel-Meyer Vohlman,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biograpohical dictionary of modern Jewish literature), vol. 3 (New York, 1960).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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