YANKEV-SHMUEL SIGAL (b. February 13, 1889)
He was born in Plinsk (Płońsk), Warsaw region, Poland. He studied in religious primary school, synagogue study hall, a Russian-Polish public school, and later as an external student. From 1904 he was active in the Bund and was twice arrested. Due to police repression, he made his way to the United States in 1906. Until 1909 he lived in Kansas City, where he worked as a business employee and was active in the Jewish labor movement. Over the years 1909-1911, he lived in New York, where he continued his education at City College, and he later settled in Chicago where he became one of the most prominent Jewish community leaders and cofounder of a series of institutions of a community character. Sigal was active in the Yiddish school movement, the Workmen’s Circle, the Chicago Jewish labor committee, the World Jewish Culture Congress, the director’s council of the Jewish Welfare Board, and the United Jewish Appeal. For a time he was chair of the Chicago writers’ union, an active member of the Jewish Socialist Association, and other groups. His writing activities began in 1904 with correspondence pieces for illegal Bundist publications, and he later (1905-1907) contributed to Der veker (The alarm) and Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Vilna. He served as an internal contributor and editor (1911-1913) of the city division of Der yidisher kuryer (The Jewish courier) in Chicago, in which he published stories, sketches, literary notices, and articles on economic issues. From 1919 he was a regular contributor to Forverts (Forward) in New York and editor of Shikager forverts (Chicago Forward). He also placed work in Idishe arbeter-velt (Jewish labor world), Indritses yontef bleter (Indrits’s holiday leaves), and the anthology Plontsk (Płońsk), as well as other Yiddish publications. On June 7, 1964, his seventy-fifth birthday was celebrated in Chicago. He was last living in Chicago where he chaired the local division of the World Jewish Culture Congress.
As A. Fraynd put it:
In the full, richly ramified activity in which he engaged in so many areas, Yankev Sigal never neglected for a single moment his principal work, the work of editing Chicago’s Forverts, in which his articles, reflecting all shades of Jewish and gentile life of Chicago, appeared twice each week and were read with great interest…. And, it is difficult to say where Y. Sigal (even with his rarely seen capacity to work) found the time for all of this. How often we read his articles which reported on various though always current topics and published also in the national edition of the Forverts, and were read by tens of thousands of readers across the country.
“He was always,” S. Regensberg noted, “and remains now, the ‘ambassador’ of the Jewish worker and folk masses to wealthy Jews, in whose company he had gained great respect. The greatest virtue of Y. Sigal was the responsibility that he held for the positions which he assumed. He excelled as well as a journalist and publicist, and he excelled also in his youth, before the newspaperman gained the upper hand over him, in a successful effort at creating work in the literary field.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; M. Indrits, Indritses yontef bleter (Chicago) (March 1939); Leye Mishkin, in Pinkas shikago (Records of Chicago) (1952), p. 103; A. Fraynd, in Forverts (New York) (May 17, 1959); Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Builders and leaders of the Workmen’s Circle) (New York, 1962), p. 270; S. Regensberg, in Forverts (June 5, 1964); “Unzere yubilarn” (Our celebrants), Der veker (New York) (June 1964); Y. Shmulevitsh, in Forverts (August 2, 1964); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Der veker (October 1964); Who’s Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955).
Khayim Leyb Fuks