SHMUEL (SAMUEL) MARGOSHES (October 21, 1887-August 23, 1968)
He was born in the village of Yuzefov (Józefów), near Tarnov (Tarnów), Galicia, the son of Yoysef Margoshes. His genealogy went back through generations of rabbis and great scholars to Maharsha [Shmuel Eidels, 1555-1631] and Rashi [Shlomo Yitzḥaki, 1040-1103]. His family also had roots in the literary tradition; his grandfather, Shmuel-Arye Margoshes, was the editor in the 1860s of Maḥazike hadat (Strengthening the faith), a Hebrew periodical from the court of the Belz Rebbe. Until age ten he was raised by his father in Józefów and studied with school teachers who were brought from afar on conditional employment; later, in Radomyśl Wielki, where he studied in religious elementary school together with Ruvn Ayzland (Reuben Eisland). At age thirteen he was sent to Tarnów to “study in the classrooms.” There he entered the third class of the state high school, and he graduated at age eighteen. Together with Max Binenshtok and other high school students, he founded an underground Zionist organization within the school. In 1905 Margoshes left for the United States to join his father who was there now for the second time. He worked for half a year in New York in an office, and he spent his evenings in the literary whirl of the group of writers known as “Di yunge” (the young ones), which brought him closer to his friend from home, Ruvn Ayzland. America proved uncongenial to him, and he made preparations to return to Galicia, but just at that time he became acquainted with his future wife, Roze Margoshes-Kirshenboym, and remained in New York. He began as a writer in 1904 with a Hebrew-language sketch in Frishman’s Hador (The generation). In New York he published in 1907 a story entitled “Der zamdiker veg” (The sandy road) in Yankev Fefer’s Yidisher vokhnblat (Jewish weekly newspaper), for which a year later he became a regular contributor and took over management of the newspaper. That same year (1907), he and Ruvn Ayzland brought out the weekly Di yidishe shtime (The Jewish voice)—three issues appeared. At this time, he entered the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and took evening courses at Columbia University, where he studied philosophy with John Dewey and social science with James Robinson. He graduated from both institutions in 1912 and received two doctoral degrees: from the Theological Seminary, doctor of Hebrew literature; and from Columbia, doctor of philosophy. The title of his Columbia dissertation was: “Jewish Education in Germany, 1648-1848.” Margoshes had no desire to assume a rabbinical position; he was moving into the area of community cultural work, and he founded the association “Pen-Galicia” to which Moyshe Nadir, Moyshe-leyb Halpern, and others also belonged. In 1912 he became the director of the textbook division of the Jewish educational bureau of the New York Jewish Kehillah or community council (established under the leadership of Judah [Yude-Leyb] Magnes, who was later the president of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem). In its yearbook, Jewish Communal Register, Margoshes published his work, “The Yiddish Press in America.” During WWI he was president of the “Galitsyaner farband” (Galician association) and director of a school for social work established by the Jewish Welfare Board to prepared Jewish cultural instructors for the American army. In 1919 Dr. Margoshes traveled to Poland to distribute food parcels among the Jewish population, and after returning home he became a cofounder of “People’s Relief,” the “Joint Distribution Committee,” and the American Jewish Congress. In 1920 he took over leadership of the Zionist Organization in Canada. In 1922 he was a contributor to Tog (Day) in New York, and from 1926 to 1942 he served as editor of the newspaper. In 1931 he visited Soviet Russia, and his subsequent articles on Jewish life there aroused sharp debates in the Yiddish press. In 1934 he organized for May 10 the Jewish mass march in New York to protest against Nazi violence; together with Dr. Koralnik he established the boycott of Nazi goods in America and assisted in holding in Madison Square Garden the historic judgment against Hitler’s regime. He was president of the Galicia-Bukovina Jews in America, vice-president of the American Jewish Congress and of the Zionist Organization in America, chairman of the Louis Lamed Fund for literature, member of the Zionist action committee in Jerusalem, and president of “Brit rishonim” (Covenant of the first ones), an organization of old-time Zionists. In Tog he ran the column in English entitled “News and Views” and practically every week wrote a Yiddish article on a variety of issues from Jewish life. He also wrote for the Hebrew journal Hatoran (The duty officer) and for an array of Anglophone Jewish magazines. He was then preparing for publication with the “Kval” (Source) publishers a book entitled Amerike iz andersh (America is different), a selection of his published articles which played and continue to play a significant role in the Jewish community in the United States, and beyond the borders of America. Among his pen names: Sh. Oshitser and Sh. Shtiglits. Dr. Margoshes received from the Danish king a medal—“Order of Merit”—for his service on behalf of Denmark during WWII. He died in New York. His volume, In gang fun doyres (In the course of generations) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1970), 359 pp., appeared posthumously.
Margoshes’s journalistic writings excelled in their broad view of a wide variety of problems in Jewish life. He was a Zionist veteran, but his party brethren scarcely took him for a diaspora Jew. He fought for the dignity of Hebrew and also fought for the dignity of Yiddish. He was even a militant Yiddishist. He saw the existence of the people first and then the existence of the land. The land of Israel and beyond the land, Hebrew and Yiddish were in essence living limbs of one Jewish people: “The Yiddish language and literature,” he wrote in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal) on June 8-9, 1961, “are the product of a thousand years of creative Jewish life in the diaspora. To them belong the Tanakh, the Talmud, medieval literature in Yiddish, just as do Hassidism, the Jewish Enlightenment, Jewish nationalism—and Zionism. A good Yiddish sentence is a carpet in miniature of Jewish history—glistening in it are the colors of Jerusalem, Madrid, Vilna, Warsaw, Lublin.” He believed that the land of Israel would be unable to solve the Jewish problem. This was and would remain outside the land. The issue outside the land would be far greater in sum than on the land, and thus, Israel could not become the sole spiritual center. The two mutually influenced one another spiritually. The most important role would be played by American Jewry. Graphically he dubbed this: the Joseph role. In his article, “Af der shvel fun 4tn yorhundert in yidishn lebn in amerike” (At the threshold of the fourth century of Jewish life in America) in Tsukunft (Future) in New York (March 1955), he formulated his idea in the following manner: “The American Jewish community is without a doubt destined to exercise a decisive influence on the state of Israel—economic, spiritual, and political. In this sense one may also say that the entire Jewish world will sooner or later assumed the role of signatory to American Jewry…. On the other hand, the state of Israel will strongly influence the entirety of world Jewry, including American Jews.” Dr. Margoshes saw Judaism “in a religious frame,” meaning that Judaism was not necessarily Orthodox-pious, with all 613 commandments. It entailed only that the synagogue be the center of the Jewish community. In the same article cited immediately above, he noted: “In many smaller and larger cities, the synagogue is the center of the Jewish community. The tendency of Judaism is to adapt to a religious frame, irrespective of the denomination of the synagogue.” Of all the various religious denominations, in Margoshes’s view, one will play a dominant role, and it is the expression of the new Zeitgeist: “The Reconstructionist synagogue of M. M. Kaplan conforms in this sense more than the others. It brings the synagogue closer to the spirit of the times and to its socio-cultural environment…. We need wait, for in the course of time an American Jewry will crystallize, and it will concentrate spiritually around the modern American synagogue, which will be the source of spiritual and communal Jewish life in America.”
Sources: R. Raskin, in Tsayt (New York) (June 11, 1921); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (September 29, 1931; April 23, 1932); N. Vagner, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (October 27, 1931); Y. Fishman, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (October 20, 1931; May 30, 1932); M. Dantsis, in Tog (June 12, 1932; July 21, 1933); B. Ts. Kats, in Morgn-zhurnal (September 16, 1932; October 4, 1932); Dr. A. Ubits, in Tog (January 3, 1932); V. Elyas, in Morgn-frayhayt (April 23, 1932; November 10, 1932); Sh. Z. Tsukerman, in Tog (December 12, 1932); Sh. Almazov, in Morgn-frayhayt (February 18, 1933); Y. Slonim, in Tog (March 20, 1933); P. Novik, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 16, 1934); “Di milkhome tsvishn vladekn un margoshesn” (The war between Vladek and Margoshes), Morgn-frayhayt (December 18, 1934); “Der yidisher arbeter-komitet” (The Jewish workers’ committee), Forverts (New York) (December 18, 1934); Moris Shvarts, in Morgn-frayhayt (January 9, 1935); Amkho (N. Bukhvald), in Morgn-frayhayt (February 18, 1935; [under the pen name B. Brand] July 24, 1935); Moyshe Nadir, in Morgn-frayhayt (August 29, 1935); American Jewish Yearbook, vol. 49 (New York); Sh. Gutman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (Passover, 1958); P. Shteynvaks, Siluetn fun a dor (Silhouettes of a generation) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 34-40; Y. Shmulevitsh, in Forverts (January 9, 1959); Y. Pat, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1961); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Yerlekhe gedenk-bukh (Annual remembrance volume) (Buenos Aires: Galitsye, 1961).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 367.]