BORIS (BER) SMOLYAR (SMOLAR) (May 27, 1897-January 31, 1986)
He was born in Rovno, Volhynia. His father, Eliezer-Levi Smolyar, who worked as a Hebrew teacher, gave his son a secular-Hebrew education and taught him Russian as well. At age thirteen, Boris graduated from a commercial course of study and later was a bookkeeper in the office of a manufacturer. His journalistic activities commenced with correspondence pieces for Haynt (Today) in Warsaw. In 1915 he was the correspondent for the apologetic, Russian-language journal Voina i evrei (War and the Jews), which appeared in Moscow. During WWI he traveled through places along the Russo-German front and published (1916-1917) a series of articles entitled “Yudishe helder” (Jewish heroes) in Odessa’s Unzer leben (Our life)—to demonstrate that Jewish soldiers excelled in the war effort. After the 1917 Revolution, he made his way to Kazan. As a representative of the Bund, he was in the local council of worker and peasant deputies. He also wrote for the local Russian newspapers. In 1918 he returned to Rovno, where he edited the Russian daily newspapers: Prigorinskii krai (?), and later Naordnaia slovo (People’s word) and the weekly Zarya (Dawn). He served as plenipotentiary for OZE (Obschestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev—Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population) and director of its twenty-four children’s homes and schools in Volhynia. Later, when Poland took over Rovno, he wrote for Moment (Moment) in Warsaw a series of stories under the title “Fun ukrainishn thom” (From the Ukrainian abyss). In late 1920 he made his way to the United States, settled in Chicago where he graduated from the Haven School, before proceeding to attend Northwestern University and the Louis Institute. He was manager of the Workmen’s Circle schools in Chicago. Together with Y. B. Beylin, Kalmen Marmor, and Yankev Levin, he co-edited the monthly periodical Der nayer veg (The new path), published by the Chicago educational committee of the Workmen’s Circle (Chicago, 1921). He had charge of the weekly feature section of the Chicago weekly newspaper Der idisher rekord (The Jewish record) and contributed to the New York daily Di tsayt (The times). In 1924 he settled in New York, where he became co-editor and correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (ITA) for various Yiddish newspapers in Europe and America. He also placed work in the daily English-language newspaper Newark World (until it ceased publication). In 1930 he wrote correspondence pieces from Moscow (concerning the economic life of Jews in Soviet Russia), sent in reportage pieces as well on the anti-Jewish excesses in Romania that year. Over the years 1932-1936, he wrote correspondence pieces from Berlin. He was among the first to signal alarm concerning Nazi danger. He was expelled from Germany in 1937. He contributed thereafter to: Der nayer veg, Idisher kuryer (Jewish courier), Shikager rekord (Chicago record), and the journal Ineynem (Altogether) in Chicago—in the last of these he published “Di hebreishe prese in shikago in 19tn yorhundert” (The Hebrew press in Chicago in the nineteenth century), “H. d. nomberg” (H. D. Nomberg), “Der amerikaner lezer un di yidishe literatur” (The American reader and Yiddish literature), and “Vi halt es mit undzere klasiker in amerike” (Where do the classical Yiuddish writers stand in America?)—Der idisher rekord in St. Louis; Filadelfyer idishe velt (The Jewish world of Philadelphia); Idishe velt (Jewish world) in Cleveland; Di tsayt, Tog (Day), and Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s magazine), among others, in New York; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; Idisher zhurnal (Jewish journal) in Toronto; Moment and Literarishe bleter in Warsaw; and dozens of other daily and weekly newspapers and magazines published in the United States, Argentina, and Europe. He was a regular contributor to New York’s Forverts (Forward) for several decades. He also collected songs to be sung for schools and children’s homes. He dramatized children’s tales for the stage. In book form: Dray printsen, a maysele (Three princes, a tale) (Odessa: Blimelekh, 1918), 18 pp.; A mayse mit a hoz (A story with a rabbit), published by Kharkover farlag; Di kishufmakherin, an eynakter far kleyne kinder (The sorceress, a one-act play for small children (Warsaw-New York, 1922), 15 pp., also appearing in Hebrew as Hamekhashefa (Warsaw: Talpiyot); Vi leyvik iz gekumen tsu zayn golem (How Leivick met his golem) (New York: Tsveygn, 1923), 15 pp.; Di lebedike aritmetik, vitsike aritmetishe oyfgabn, shpiln un kuntsn (Living arithmetic, important arithmetic problems, games, and arts) (Warsaw-New York: Kinder-velt, 1923), 54 pp.; Kinder-velt (Children’s world), illustrated by Y. Ribak (Berlin-Charlottenburg: Shveln, 1923), 16 pp., reissued (Warsaw: Der fraynd, 1938), 16 pp.; Kleynvarg (Youngsters), notes by M. Hanft and N. Kozlovski (New York: Yatshkovski, 1929), 56 pp. Aside from articles about Jewish life in various countries, he also wrote a great deal about Jewish community issues and an assortment of cultural questions in America. He served for many years a director of ITA and editor-in-chief of its Yiddish division. 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); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (January 17, 1923); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (September 13, 1924); Nokhum Yud, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (February 22, 1929); Yud, in Di yidishe shul (New York) (February 1929); Kalmen Marmor, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (February 22, 1929); Marmor, in Oyfkum (New York) (1929); M. Olgin, “In shtrom” (In the storm), Oyfkum (July 7, 1933); M. Ḥizkuni, in Pinkas shikago (Records of Chicago) (1949/1950); Sh. Rozhanski, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (September 27, 1950); H. Rogof, in Forverts (New York) (October 3, 1953); Rogof, Der gayst fun forverts (The spirit of the Forverts) (New York, 1954); “D”r sherers taynes tsu ita un b. smolyars entfer” (Dr. Sherer’s complaints about ITA and B. Smolyar’s reply), Forverts (October 23, 1963); B. Shefner, in Forverts (October 29, 1963); E. Sherer, “Di metodn fun ita” (The methods of the ITA), Unzer tsayt (New York) (November 1963); “Di konyunktur fun hefkeyres” (The circumstances surrounding neglect), Der veker (New York) (November 1, 1963); UJA (New York) 9 (1943), p. 573.