OYZER SMOLENSKIN (October 23, 1862-October 6, 1934)
He was born in the village of Helmyazev (Gel’myazov), Poltava district, Ukraine. From age five until fifteen, he was raised by his grandmother, a market saleswoman in a nearby town. He studied in religious elementary school with a Talmud teacher. He received his secular education from a Russian village teacher, and later he was a private tutor in various cities and towns in Ukraine. In 1893 he came with his wife and children to the United States and settled in Philadelphia, where until 1896 he was a teacher in Talmud Torahs. Over the years 1897-1901, he worked in a wholesale pharmacy business in Philadelphia. He worked (1901-1904) as a life insurance company salesman. Over the period 1904-1926, he was a real estate agent. He worked as a bank employee in the last years of his life. He debuted in print with a poem in Di yudishe gazetten (The Jewish gazette) in New York (November 24, 1893), and from that time forward he published poems in: Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) and Varhayt (Truth) in New York; Arbayter fraynd (Friend of labor) in London; Filadelfyer morgn-tsaytung (Philadelphia morning newspaper), the first Yiddish daily in Philadelphia, Di yudishe prese The Jewish press), Der folks-vekhter (The people’s sentry), Idishe velt (Jewish world), Idishe arbayter-velt (Jewish world of labor), Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), and Zuntogs folks-tsaytung (Sunday people’s newspaper)—in Philadelphia; as well as in the New York-based Di gegenvart (The present) and Di fraye gezelshaft (The free society). He composed a dramatic poem, “Der eyropeisher kontsert” (The European concert), staged in 1914, and he translated a series of poems from Russian and Yiddish. In book form: Geklibene lider (Selected poems), with a preface by Avrom Goldberg (Philadelphia, 1933), 299 pp. His poems also appeared in N. Mayzil’s anthology, Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955). He died in Philadelphia.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Yoyel Entin, Yidishe poetn (Yiddish poets), part 2 (New York, 1927), p. 37; D. B. Tirkel, in Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO), vol. 1 (New York, 1927-1928); M. Melamed, “Di tragedye fun a yidishn dikhter” (The tragedy of a Yiddish poet), Idishe velt (Philadelphia) (October 14, 1934); Elye (Elias) Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 172-74; N. B. Minkov, Pyonern fun der yidisher poezye in amerike, dos sotsyale lid (Pioneers of Yiddish poetry in America, the social poem), vol. 2 (New York, 1956), pp. 263-94; Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen-biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 4761; Y. Tsuzmer, Beikve hador (In the footprints of a generation) (New York, 1957), p. 212; N. Mayzil, Tsurikblikn un perspektivn (Retrospectives and perspectives) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1962), see index; The American Jewish Yearbook 5696 (Philadelphia, 1935).