DOVID SFARD (July 5, 1905-September 10, 1981)
He was born in Trisk (Turiysk), Volhynia, into a rabbinic family. In his youth, he moved with his parents to Ozeryan (Ozeryany), where his father was rabbi. Until age fourteen he studied with his father and with itinerant schoolteachers, later until 1923 in a Polish Hebrew high school in Kovel (Kovle) and Lutsk where he received his graduating degree. In 1924 he moved to Warsaw, and until 1928 he studied in the philosophy department of Warsaw University, later leaving for France and until late 1931 studying at the University of Nancy where he received his doctorate for a dissertation entitled: Du rôle de l’idée de contradiction chez Hégel. He was active in France in the association of Jewish students and general political life. In early 1932 he returned to Poland and lived in Warsaw until WWII. He was a cofounder of the Jewish leftist writers’ group and its representative on the managing committee of the association of Jewish writers and journalists, “Tłomackie 13.” He was also a member of the Jewish office in the Polish Communist Party. When the Nazis captured Poland, Sfard departed for Bialystok, where he served as vice-chair of the Bialystok division of the Soviet Writers’ Union. From late June 1941 until early 1946, he lived in Russia, for a time in a collective farm in Novouzensk, later in Alma-Ata, and then in Moscow where he was an active contributor to Związek Patriotów Polskich (Union of Polish Patriots) during the administration of repatriation of Polish Jews from Russia to Poland. From 1946 he took a leading role in community life of the Jews of Poland. He was a member of the central committee of Jews in Poland, vice-chair of the Jewish writers’ association, secretary general of the Jewish cultural association, and founder and editor of the publisher “Yidish-bukh” (Yiddish book) which published over 200 books in Yiddish. He was also active in Yiddish theater in Poland. In 1955 he received from the Polish government a medal for “ten years of work on behalf of the people of Poland.” His literary activities began with Hebrew poems, “Levadi-levadi” (Alone, alone) and “Le’an” (Whither), published in Al hamishmar (On guard) in Warsaw (1923). From 1924 he switched to writing in Yiddish. He was a cofounder and co-editor of the literary journal for young writers, Shprotsungen (Sprouts) in Warsaw (1925-1926), and he went on to publish poems, stories, translations from French, Polish, and other languages, and literary critical essays about writers and books, as well as journalist articles in: Literarishe tribune (Literary tribune) in Lodz-Warsaw (1931-1935); the daily newspaper Fraynd (Friend) in Warsaw (1934-1935); the biweekly Literatur (Literature) in Warsaw (1935); Farmest (Competition) in Warsaw (1936)—in all of these he was either a member of the editorial board or co-editor; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Varshever shriftn (Warsaw writings), and Foroys (Onward)—in Warsaw; Lebn un kamf (Life and struggle), an anthology of the leftist pioneer inclination in Poland (Minsk, 1936); Zibn teg (Seven days) in Vilna; the anthology Volin (Volhynia) in Lutsk (1934); Byalistoker shtern (Bialystok star); Oktyabr (October) and Shtern (Star)—in Minsk (1939-1946); and Tsum zig (Toward victory) and Eynikeyt (Unity) in Moscow. From 1946 he was internal contributor to: Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings), a monthly and its two anthologies (1947-1948), in Lodz-Warsaw, of which he was initially secretary of the editorial board and from 1950 the editor; and to Folksshtime (Voice of the people), Dos naye lebn (The new life), and Oyfgang (Arise) in Warsaw. He also placed work in: Di naye prese (The new press), Oyfsnay (Afresh), and Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical)—in Paris; Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Eynikeyt, Nay lebn (New life), Zamlungen (Collections), and Landslayt (Countrymen). Also, such one-off publications as: Lomir haltn di fon fun di geto-kemfer (Let’s raise the banner of the ghetto fighter) in New York; Fray yisroel (Free Israel) and Kol haam (Voice of the people) in Tel Aviv; Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in Moscow; as well as in the Yiddish, Communist-oriented publications in Latin America. He was living in Israel from 1969. His books would include: Shtaplen, lider (Rungs, poetry) (Warsaw, 1929), 64 pp.; Vegn tsegeyen zikh, dertseylung (On dispersal, a story) (Warsaw, 1934), initially appeared in Fraynd in Warsaw; Yitskhok-leybush perets, 1852-1915 (Yitskhok-Leybush Perets, 1852-1915) (Warsaw, 1947), 11 pp.; Shrayber un bikher (Writers and books) (Lodz: Yidish bukh, 1949), 136 pp., with a drawing by B. Hekhtkop—this work, in two parts, contains five articles entitled “Problemen fun der hayntiker yidisher literatur” (Problems with contemporary Yiddish literature) and eleven essays on Yiddish writers and books connected to Poland; Shtudyes un skitsn (Studies and sketches) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1955), 253 pp.—including his works: “In krayz fun y. l. perets” (In the circle of Y. L. Perets) which concerned I. M. Vaysenberg (Weissenberg), Kaganovski, Alter Kacyzne, and others of Perets’s generation; “Poezye” (Poetry) which concerned B. Heler, M. Shulshteyn, Hadase Rubin, and others; “Proze” (Prose) which involved L. Olitski, B. Shlevin, Y. Guterman, B. Mark, M. Mirski, and others; “Dramaturgye” (Playwriting) which dealt with Khayim Sloves, B. Smolyar, and B. Heler; “Di teater-oyftuen fun ida kaminska” (The theatrical accomplishments of Ida Kaminska); and “Fragn fun literatur” (Issues in literature); Lider (Poetry) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1957), 146 pp., with drawings by L. Mergashilski and Y. Tselniker; A zegl in vint (A sail in the wind), poetry (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1961), 127 pp., with drawings by Mane Kats; Borvese trit (Barefoot steps) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1966), 201 pp.; Brenendike bleter (Burning sheets) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1972), 176 pp.; Shpatsirn in der nakht (Walks at night) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1979), 173 pp.; Mit zikh un mit andere, oytobiografye un literarishe eseyen (With myself and with others, autobiography and essays) (Tel Aviv: Jerusalem Almanac, 1984), 540 pp. Translations from French include: Honoré de Balzac, Foter goryo (Father Goriot [original: Père Goriot]) (Vilna: Tomar, 1937), 373 pp. From Polish: Julian Stryjkowicki, Der loyf keyn fragale (The race to Fragala [original: Bieg do Fragalà]) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1955), 390 pp.; Dos tog-bukh fun dovid rubinovitsh (The diary of Dovid Rabinovitsh [original: Pamiȩtnik Dawida Rubinowitcza]) (Warsaw: Ḳsianzshḳa i Ṿiedza, 1960), 127 pp.; Stanislaw Wygodzki, Vuhin di oygn trogn (Where the eyes carry) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1963), 424 pp. He penned prefaces to E. Gozhanski’s Der mentsh hot gezigt (The man was victorious) (Warsaw, 1949) and to the writings of Alter Kacyzne and Y. M. Weissenberg (Warsaw, 1955), among others. His poetry appeared in Joseph Leftwich’s anthology in English, The Golden Peacock (1961). As Yankev Glatshteyn noted: “I have on several occasions remarked positively of Sfard and have enjoyed it when the opportunity arises to do so…. Sfard commands his poetic material. One hears the voice of a distinctive poet in a chorus of Yiddish poets. Even the narrowly semantic poems of his read calmly.” He died in Jerusalem.
Sources: Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928), see index; Sh. Zaromb, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 7, 1930); Alter Kacyzne, in Mayn redndiker film (Warsaw) (1936); A. Damesek, foreword to Sfard, Lebn un kamf (Life and struggle) (Minsk, 1936); B. Mark, in Shtern (Minsk) (November-December 1940); Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (June 1949; July 1949; October 1961); A. Kvaterko, in Folks-shtime (Lodz) (May 21, 1948); Y. Grudberg, in Nidershlezye (Lower Silesia), anthology (Wrocław, 1949); M. Shklar, in Dos naye lebn (Lodz) 72 (1949); Shklar, in Folksshtime (Warsaw) (September 30, 1961); M. Mirski, in Folksshtime 33 (1949); H. Vaynraykh, Blut af der zun (Blood on the sun) (New York, 1949), p. 90; B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (September 30, 1961; October 1, 1961; October 2, 1961); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (October 8, 1961); Sh. Shtern, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (November 12, 1961; May 31, 1962); Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Kh. Ayalti, in Yidisher kemfer (New York) (June 5, 1962); Y. Gar and F. Fridman, Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York, 1962), see index; L. Leneman, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (June 21, 1964); Leneman, in Forverts (New York) (July 7, 1964), concerning Sfard’s “Kholem khalamti” (I dreamed a dream), published in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) 5 (May 1964).
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 412.]