YITSKHOK LEVIN-SHATSKES (August 10, 1892-December 15, 1963)
He was born in Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Latvia. He attended religious elementary school, and he had private tutors for secular subjects. He passed the level eight high school examinations in 1913 as an external student. In 1912 he joined the illegal circle of the Bund in Dvinsk, and the next year with a group of fellow Jewish high school students, he founded the first secular Jewish school with Yiddish as the language of instruction in Dvinsk. Over the years 1915-1919, he served in the Russian army, and after undergoing a year in prison and in the prison-of-war camp in Hafelsberg, Germany, he was later mobilized in the Red Army. From 1920, after Latvia became independent, he was active as a member of the central bureau of the revived Bund, a member of the Dvinsk city council, secretary of the Dvinsk Jewish community administration, chairmen of the trade unions of Latgale, and a deputy member of the Dvinsk fund for the sick. He began writing in Russian in 1913. He published journalistic articles in the Dvinsk Russian-language daily newspaper Dvinskaya ekho (Dvinsk echo) and in the weekly Dvinskaya zhizn’ (Dvinsk life). He began writing in Yiddish in 1921, as a regular contributor to the Riga daily Dos folk (The people). In 1926 he began writing also for the Yiddish daily newspaper Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga. He placed works as well in the Riga Bundist weeklies Unzer vort (Our word) and Naye tsayt (our time), as well as in the Bundist youth publication Arbeter-yugnt (Laboring youth). He also contributed to the Riga satirical journal Ashmodai (edited by H. Aktsin) and in the Warsaw Bundist weekly Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper). Between 1926 and May 1934, he served as editor of the Russian-language Latgal’skaya misl’ (Latgale idea) in Dvinsk. At the time of the fascist putsch in Latvia (1934), he was arrested and spent a year in prison and a concentration camp in Libave (Liepāja). In 1936 he came to New York, where in 1938 he became head secretary of the Jewish Socialist Union in America and editor of its organ Der veker (The alarm). With journalistic articles and features, he also placed work in: Tsukunft (Future), Gerekhtikeyt (Justice), Der fraynd (The friend), and Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education), among other serials, in New York. He was a member of the Forward Association and of the Workmen’s Circle; an executive member and vice-chairman of the Jewish Labor Committee; and executive member of the World Jewish Culture Congress; and a deputy member of Tsiko (Tsentrale yidishe kultur-organizatsye, Central Yiddish Cultural Organization). He also wrote under such pen names as: Shli (a pseudonym he used especially for his features column “Haklal” [In sum] in Der veker), Ivin, Der Gelinkter, D. Odin, Y. Markov, L. Evin, Elsha, and Levsha. He died in New York.
Sources: Jubilee collection for the Dvinsk Bund, branch 75 of the Workmen’s Circle (New York, 1939); Yahadut latviya (Judaism in Latvia) (Tel Aviv, 1953), see index; A. Golomb, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (December 1957); L. Lehrer, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (April 25, 1958); Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Workmen’s Circle builders and activists) (New York, 1962), pp. 222-23.