KHAYIM EHRENRAYKH (HAYIM EHRENREICH) (May 10, 1900-March 31, 1970)
He was born in Sukhari, Mohilev district, Byelorussia. He studied in religious elementary school and in the Russian-Jewish school. At the age of ten (August 1910), he moved with his parents to the United States. He then began studying in public school in New York and in December 1910 he was the first pupil in the first Jewish national radical school in New York. Under the influence of his teacher, Yoyel Entin, he grew closer to the Yiddish theater. His older brother Tsvi-Hirsh, one of the veterans of the Zionist labor movement in America, also exerted a major influence on his life. In 1915 he graduated from the Jewish school and became a teacher there. For a time he also attended the Jewish teachers’ seminary. He graduated from Stuyvesant High School and studied at City College (in the division for journalism), while at the same time becoming a student at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was a stage manager for Emanuel Heyber when the latter ran his studio in New York. In 1951 he was one of the founders and later president of the American Israel Club, an unaffiliated association of Jewish writers and artists. He was a member of the Labor Zionists, the Jewish Socialist Alliance, the Forverts Association, as well as a member of the administrative committee of the Jewish Culture Congress and other cultural and community institutions. He began writing in his early youth. He published (1918-1919) children’s poetry in Y. Marinov’s Kunst (Art). In late 1922, after the publication of his first article in Forverts (Forward), he became a regular contributor to it. Initially he published reportage pieces of New York life and was employed in the news division of the newspaper. He was appointed in 1925 editor of the theater page of the paper. He wrote treatments of Yiddish and non-Yiddish theatrical performances, music, dance, and art and gained a name as an acclaimed theater critic and journalist. Before and after WWII, he traveled on several occasions through Europe and published travel narratives in Forverts. He also published light features under the pen name Herman Kvins and every Saturday (using the pen name Sydney Gordon) drama tales from Jewish families in America (adapted from real events and dubbed the Jewish “Family Location Service”). He composed the one-act plays Vu nemt men a kop? (Where do you get a head?) and Dos lid fun negev (Song of the Negev), among others, which were staged with success. He received from the World Jewish Culture Congress the B. Surovitsh Prize for his book Lender un mentshn, rayze bashraybungen (Lands and peoples, travel descriptions) (New York: Tsiko, 1957), 292 pp. Subsequent work included: Farblibene verter (Forgotten words) (Tel Aviv: Bukh-komitet, 1974), 156 pp.; Figurn un profiln af der yidisher bine (Figures and profiles on the Yiddish stage) (Tel Aviv: Bukh-komitet, 1976), 288 pp. He died in Brooklyn, New York.
“The most important part of this book,” noted Y. Varshavski [Isaac Bashevis Singer] concerning Lender un mentshn, “was his voyage through the Scandinavian countries. This trip was not very long, and it gives us an image of today, not of the past. Another thing: Ehrenraykh did not miss a single corner which might have been interesting for the reader, especially a Jewish reader. He was not satisfied just to visit several big cities, but he made trips to the distant North where tourists rarely go, and in these distant and secluded places (where the sun shines ‘in the middle of the night’) there are Jews there as well. Because Ehrenraykh used an airplane [to get around], he was able to cover terrain that in earlier times would have taken months. He established ties with the Jewish communities and with all manner of Jewish personalities of various and sundry sorts, and the reader of his book (as the reader of the Forverts earlier) gains a precise image of Jewish life in Scandinavia.”
Sources: Y. Shmulevitsh, in Forverts (New York) (February 8, 1957); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (April 14, 1957); Z. Yefroykin, in Der veker (New York) (October 1, 1957); N. Ben-Natan, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (March 7, 1958); Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Builders and leaders of the Workmen’s Circle), ed. Y. Yeshurin and Y. Sh. Herts (New York, 1962), pp. 282-83; Sh. Bontshek, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (May 10, 1963).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 413-14.]