ZEVULIN (ZEBULLON) LEVIN (July 18, 1877-January 22, 1935)
He was born in Kelm (Kelmė), Kovno district, Lithuania. He attended religious elementary school and Rameyle’s Yeshiva in Vilna, as well as public school and private lessons in Hebrew and German. In 1893 he arrived in the United States, settled in a small town in Wisconsin, and became a peddler. He later lived in Philadelphia and thereafter settled in New York. He was an anarchist by temperament. He debuted in print in Der folks-vekhter (The people’s sentry) in Philadelphia. Later, he published from time to time sketches in: Ovent-blat (Evening newspaper), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Forverts (Forward), and Tsukunft (Future)—in New York; according to Zalmen Reyzen and Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, from 1905 to 1912 he published nothing and then began again to write (according to Zilbertsvayg, on December 13, 1907 he staged in Y. P. Adler’s Grand Theater a play entitled Di shule fun lebn [The school of life], which Levin wrote with Y. Entin). From 1912 he mainly published stories, novellas, and one-act plays in Forverts where he also worked as a typesetter. In 1918 he received an awarded from the Y. L. Perets Writers’ Union for his one-act play Poezye un proze (Poetry and prose), which was—like all of his one-act plays—staged by drama clubs. It appeared in two collections in English. He also translated scenic pieces from other languages into Yiddish and in 1925 published in Forverts: Di teksi (The taxi), a play in three acts. Among his published books: Zey zaynen man un ṿayb, un andere ertseylungen 1912-1919 (They’re man and wife and other stories, 1912-1919) (New York, 1919), 256 pp.; Kaplovits un andere ertseylungen (Kaplovits and others stories) (New York, 1919), 256 pp.; Komedyen, 1917-1920 (Comedies, 1917-1920), a collection of ten one-act plays (New York, 1920), 192 pp.; 20 dertseylungen (Twenty stories) (New York, 1923), 224 pp.; In lebn, 1921-1926 (In life, 1921-1926) (New York, 1926), 287 pp. As Shmuel Niger noted: “He was an extreme realist, almost a naturalist in his writings…. Z. Levin was such a consummate artist that he would render living people into a scheme. He showed us the contradictions and richness of life even in the poorest and most unidimensional of people. But he told us that with all of these contradictions and possibilities and wealth, man is still subject to something of a general and powerful life impulse, and he showed it to us in all of its most varied forms…. In many instances he was satisfied with pure painting, not assuming any more important and internal artistic tasks. Yet, as the artist in him was awakened, he descended to the depths of the human soul, discerning there the vigor of life and human weakness. He then does not give us the reality of life, but the life of reality. Realism for him was not the goal in and of itself, but, as in every genuine art, a means to idealism, a means to locating the kernel concealed beneath the incidental and shattered husk of reality…. Together with copies of images of life, he gave us as well a hint of his own approach to life.” He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); H. Rogof, in Tsukunft (New York) (August 1920); Rogof, in Forverts (New York) (April 23, 1932; June 31, 1935); Y. Entin, in Tsukunft (September 1932); obituary notice in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 15, 1935); Y. Kisin, in Forverts (January 24, 1935); M. Y. Odershleger, in Forverts (February 2, 1935); Shmuel Niger, Dertseylers un romanistn (Storytellers and novelists) (New York, 1946), pp. 272-81; Elye Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 120-21; L. Kobrin, Mayne fuftsik yor in amerike (My fifty years in America) (Buenos Aires, 1955).