Saturday, 30 June 2018

YANKEV (JACOB) PAT


YANKEV (JACOB) PAT (July 19, 1890-April 25, 1966)
            The father of Emanuel Pat, he was born in Bialystok, Poland, into a working class family.  He studied until age fourteen—first in religious elementary school and later in the Musar yeshivas of Slobodka and Slutsk.  He acquired a reputation as a prodigy.  Under the influence of the revolutionary movement, he forsook “Derekh hayashar” (The path of righteousness), left the yeshiva, and returned to his hometown of Bialystok where he became a laborer.  For a time he worked in spinning.  He read irreligious books, thoroughly learned the books that people were reading in schools, and then successfully passed the examinations for high school as an external student.  In 1905 he joined a group of Labor Zionists and then moved on to the Zionist Socialist Party.  A born speaker to the masses, the stunning political events in Russia brought forth in him the prayed-for, people’s tribune.  He traveled through the cities of Poland and “spoke”: at workers’ assemblies, at picnics in the woods, at the lectern in the synagogue study hall.  He became the alarm, the summoner, and the leader of the Bontshe Shvaygs.[1]  He was arrested and thrown in Tsarist jails on several occasions.  At the time he tied his personal fate to three main directions in Jewish life: the Jewish labor movement, Yiddish literature, and Yiddish-language schools.  From 1915 he was one of the creators of schools and children’s homes run in Yiddish.  During WWI, while under German occupation, he established the first Yiddish children’s home, later a Perets School (of which he was also director) in Bialystok; he described this period of the establishment of Yiddish schools in his book Di lererin ester (Teacher Esther).  He was selected in 1918 by the United (socialist) Party as a council member on the Jewish community council of Bialystok, and until 1919 he served as secretary.  After the Russo-Polish war, he lived for a short while in Vilna.  He was active in the realm of secular Jewish school curriculum, director of the Perets School, secretary of the Vilna Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization), and its delegate to the first Jewish school conference.  Over the years 1922-1938, he lived in Warsaw.  He was one of the main leaders of Tsisho and secretary of its executive committee.  From the early 1920s until his death, he was a member of the Bund, in which he assumed leading positions on its central committee and its other institutions.  He represented the Bund at the presidium of the Warsaw Jewish community council, at the literary association, and elsewhere.  In 1925 he visited the land of Israel and Western Europe, and in 1935 the Soviet Union—which he described in his book A rayze (A voyage), which the Polish censor confiscated.  He served on Tsisho missions to the United States, administering a campaign through America and Canada.  The last time he came to the United States was in 1938 as a member of a delegation of the Jewish labor movement.  Due to the outbreak of war, he remained in New York.  He and the other members of the same delegation joined the Jewish Labor Committee in New York in 1941.  Until 1963 Pat was the general secretary of this institution.  In his new position, Pat earned great merit in his campaign to rescue Jewish community leaders, personalities, and labor leaders from Nazi-occupied Europe to safe terrain, mainly in the United States.  He helped in the struggle for the state of Israel through the organization of the United Nations.  Through all these years, he worked in and for Yiddish schools: he was a teacher in the middle school of the Workmen’s Circle, and he wrote and edited publications for the Workmen’s Circle; and he was a member of the Workmen’s Circle’s Education Committee.  He published a series of articles about Jewish children in the ghettos and prepared the texts for dramatic productions.  In 1945 he was among the first Jewish community leaders to visit liberated Poland and the camps of the survivors in Germany.  He gave speeches in Western Europe, Israel, South America, and Australia.  A speaker before masses with a deep ethnic sensibility, his appearances encouraged a new Jewish cultural continuity after the recent destruction in Poland.  In 1948, as a founder and principal leader of the international Jewish culture conference which created the Jewish Culture Congress, he served as chairman of its administrative committee until his death.  He was among the main initiators of the Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical dictionary of modern Yiddish literature) and of the volumes “Yidn” (Jews) for the Yiddish encyclopedia.  He began writing with stories in Hebrew in 1905 and debuted in print in Hatsfira (The siren) in Warsaw in 1907 and with stories for children in Hashaar (The morning) in Warsaw the same year.  He then switched entirely to Yiddish and became one of the builders and establishers of Yiddish literature.  He published hundreds of stories, children’s tales, articles, dramas, novels, children’s plays, travel narratives, polemics, literary criticism, essays, feature pieces, journalistic essays, and textbooks, among other works, in virtually all of the Yiddish periodical publications throughout the world.  His critical articles in Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) and other periodicals always aroused heated debates.  He contributed work to: Romantsaytung (Fiction newspaper), Eyropeishe literatur (European literature), Teater velt (Theater world), Unzer lebn (Our life), the anthology Naye tsayt (New times), and Fraynd (Friend), among others.  For a time he served as the Bialystok correspondent to Haynt (Today) in Warsaw.  He was a member of the editorial board of party publications of the Zionist socialists in Poland; Der veg (The path) and Unzer veg (Our way) (Vilna-Warsaw, 1907-1919); and over the years 1921-1939, an editorial board member and later a member of the management committee of Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper).  He was also on the editorial boards of: Foroys (Onward), Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), Bikher-velt (Book world), Shul-vegn (School ways), and Di naye shul (The new school).  Over the years 1926-1938, he edited Kleyne folkstaytung (Little people’s newspaper) in Warsaw, while also contributing to: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Varshever almanakh (Warsaw almanac), Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm), Kegn shtrom (Against the current), and Unzer tsayt, among other serials, in Warsaw; and Vilner tog (Vilna day), Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees), and Der khaver (The friend) of which he was also co-editor, in Vilna.  For years he wrote correspondence pieces for: Frayhayt (Freedom), Forverts (Forward), and Di prese (The press).  In 1922 he published a novel of war and revolution in Frayhayt in New York, and in 1926 he received for his story “A tsuzamenshtoys” (A crash) first prize in a literary competition run by Tog (Day) in New York.  In 1948 he won first prize in a literary contest run by Tsukunft (Future) for his story “In di berg fun saskatshevan” (In the mountains of Saskatchewan).  From 1938 he was placing work in: Forverts, Der veker (The alarm), Tsukunft (also its co-editor), Unzer tsayt, and Faktn un meynungen (Facts and opinions), among other serials in New York.  He contributed to: Lerer yizker-bukh (Remembrance volume for teachers) (New York, 1954) and Almanakh yidish (Almanac of Yiddish) (New York, 1961); and he edited four volumes of Fun noentn over (From the recent past) (New York, 1955-1958).  For many years he was a contributor to: Di prese in Buenos Aires and Unzer shtime (Our voice) in {Paris.  He published as well in: Di goldene keyt (The golden chain), Heymish (Familiar), Lebns-fragn (Life issues), and Letste nayes (Latest news), among other serials, in Tel Aviv.  Portions of his writings appeared in a variety of Yiddish textbooks and were used in the Yiddish schools throughout the world.
            His published books would include: Ertsehlungen (Stories) (Warsaw: Progres, 1910), 100 pp.; Moyshe (Moses) (Bialystok, 1918; Warsaw, 1920), 93 pp., Yerikhe (Jericho) (Bialystok, 1918), 17 pp., Gideon (Gideon) (Bialystok, 1920), 22 pp., Yiftokh (Yifta) (Bialystok, 1920), 16 pp., Shimshn (Samson) (Bialystok, 1920), 29 pp.—all published together as: Moyshe, shimshn, yiftokh, gideon, yerikhe, dertseylt far kinder (Moses, Samson, Yifta, Gideon, Jericho, recounted for children) (Bialystok: Dos bukh, 1920)—A krants blumen (A wreath of flowers), a history, description and images from life of the new Yiddish schools (Warsaw, 1920), 144 pp.; Far di kleyne kindersvegn (For the ways of little children), twenty-five miniature stories, originals and adaptations on the motifs of Werfel, Tagore, the brothers Grimm, Tolstoy, and others (Warsaw, 1921), 93 pp.  He published a series of children’s stories: Bay der shney malke (The snow queen), Bay der stolyer (The carpenter), Der frumer noged un der erlekher shames (The devout rich man and the virtuous synagogue beadle), Der rov un der leyb (The rabbi and the lion), Er iz avek (He’s gone), An alte mayse (An old tale), In shenstn yonteg (On a beautiful holiday), and In der liber kolonye (In the beloved colony) (Bialystok and Warsaw, 1918-1921), between 16 to 40 pp. each; Shloymeles kholem, kinder-opere in dray bilder (Little Shloyme’s dream, a children’s opera in three scenes) (Vilna, 1921), 29 pp.; Tsum vaytn land, kinder-shpil in tsvey aktn (To a distant land, a children’s play in two acts) (Vilna, 1921), 18 pp.; Leyenen un shraybn far kleyninke kinder (Reading and writings for little children), a short textbook for teaching Yiddish (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1923), 8 pp.; Leyenen un shraybn in ershtn lernyor, metodishe onvayzungen (Reading and writing in the first school year, methodical instructions), a short textbook (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1923), 19 pp.; Mayn yidish bukh (My Yiddish book), written with Kh. Sh. Kazdan, a reader for the second and third school years, including his adaptation of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1925), 196 pp.; Keyn amerike, geshikhten vegen di vos vandern (To America, stories of those who roamed there) (Warsaw: A. Gitlin, 1920), 118 pp.; three volumes of Bundistn (Bundists), silhouettes and images of popular Jewish revolutionaries, vol. 1 with a foreword by Noyekh Portnoy (Warsaw, 1926), 127 pp., vol. 2, Af kidesh hashem (Martyrdom) (Warsaw, 1928), 174 pp.;
Af di vegn fun baginen (On the roads of dawn) (Warsaw, 1930), 319 pp.; Mayn yidish bikhl, leyenen un shraybn far der ershter opteylung (My little Yiddish book, reading and writing for the first division) (Warsaw, 1928), 79 pp.; Hirsh lekert, tsum finf un tsvantsiktn yortsayt fun zayn martire toyt, loyt di materyaln fun bundishn arkhiv (Hirsh Lekert, on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the martyr’s death, according to materials in the Bund’s archives) (Warsaw, 1927), 48 pp.; Iber nakht groy gevorn, vegn beynish mikhalevitsh (Turning gray overnight, on Beynish Mikhalevitsh) (Vilna, 1929), 8 pp.; A rayze (Warsaw, 1936), 318 pp., earlier published serially in Folkstsaytung (October 1935-April 1936); Beynish mikhalevitsh, a biografye (Beynish Mikhalevitsh, a biography) (New York, 1941), 55 pp.; Ash un fayer, iber di khurves fun poyln (Ash and fire, on the ruins of Poland) (New York, 1946), 391 pp., written during a visit to the former towns of Jewish residence—Warsaw, Lodz, Bialystok, and elsewhere and in the death camps of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and elsewhere, evoking the senses and moods of the remaining, surviving Jews in Poland, also in English—Henekh, a yidish kind vos is aroys fun geto (Henekh, a Jewish child who gets out of the ghetto) (Buenos Aires, 1948), 159 pp.; Shmuesn mit yidishe shrayber (Conversations with Yiddish writers) (New York, 1954), 290 pp., “recording for all time the thoughts and opinions of great Yiddish writers in America concerning existence and continuity and concerning Yiddish culture and literature of our time,” Hebrew translation by Shimshon Meltser as Siot im sofrim yehudiim (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1959), 294 pp.; Di lererin ester (Buenos Aires, 1956), 472 pp., on the emergence of the struggle for Yiddish schools in Poland—“Esther” is the prototype drawn from his own sister; Shmuesn mit shrayber in yisroel (Conversations with writers in Israel) (New York, 1960), 277 pp.; Khaneke, di tokhter fun der lererin sheyne (Little Hannah, the daughter of teacher Sheyne), the final chapter of Di lererin ester (Buenos Aires: Yidbukh, 1964), 120 pp., in which is described the pain and fortitude of Jewish children in the ghettos, their stories between life and death over the years 1939-1943 in Poland.  Of his dramatic work, the following were staged: Laydn un shafn (Suffering and creating), directed by Mark Ornshteyn (Bialystok, 1907); In goldn land (In the golden land), popular play in three acts, directed by Zigmunt Turkov (Warsaw, 1926).  He also published under such pen names as: Y. Vilner, Vili, Yavi, Y. P., Y. V., and A”A.  He died in New York.
            “Pious people,” wrote Ab. Cahan, “cannot speak about what is holy without a certain melody.  Pat does not write ‘on sheet music’; he writes completely naturally, but in the naturalness itself lies a certain something that makes you feel like his pen would speak with some sort of tune or accent which you cannot determine.  Inasmuch as this all comes from deep in his heart, the reader senses it instinctively.”
            “Literature is for Yankev Pat,” noted Shaye Shpigl, “only the frame for that wordless melody that is searching first for its embodiment in life.  He carries in himself, as a writer, not only the fine flame of creativity.  In it ceaselessly glows the fire of tangible deeda, of the fight and the struggle for something pure, exalted, sanctified.
            “There is in Yankev Pat’s simple writing—I have in mind his prose works—a rare feature: the trait of great compassion, of mercy for men.  Something like (in a certain sense) the warm simplicity of Dickens’s humanism.  There is also in Yankev Pat’s descriptions something of our own, familiar Yankev Dinenzon’s Jewish sorrow.  Two Jacobs wrestling hard with angels from heaven, while their heads rest on hard, rough stone.
            “The authenticity of Yankev Pat’s creations, you will find in their full artistic expression and justification in the moral heroism of the ages.  Yankev Pat located the sources of this authenticity in the struggle of generations of Judaism, the Judaism that created the psyche of the secular Jew.”



Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 3 (New York, 1959), with a bibliography; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Lodzher veker (Lodz) (May 15, 1927); Fuks, in Der veker (New York) (October 1, 1960); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 22, 1935; March 30, 1947); Ab. Cahan, in Forverts (New York) (February 21, 1947); Dr. Y. Kisman, in Der veker (February 25, 1947); H. Abramovitsh, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (May 1947); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (June 23, 1947); Ravitsh, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 22 (1955); Ravitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (July 1960); A. M. Fuks, in Di tsayt (London) (July 20, 1947); A. Sh. Hershberg, in Pinkes byalistok (New York) 1 (1949) and 2 (1950), see index; Nakhmen Mayzil, Geven amol a lebn, dos yidishe kultur-lebn in poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (There was once a life, Jewish cultural life in Poland between the two world wars) (Buenos Aires, 1951); Y. Freylikh, in Unzer veg (New York) (June 1954); Itsik Manger, in Der veker (March 1, 1955); A. Leyeles, in Tog (New York) (May 14, 1955; May 4, 1966); Leyeles, Velt un vort, literarishe un andere eseyen (World and word, literary and other essays) (New York, 1958); M. Osherovitsh, in Forverts (May 15, 1955); Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (July 10, 1955); Dr. E. Pat, in Tsukunft (November 1955); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Der veker (September 1, 1955); Pinkhes Shvarts, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956), p. 427; M. Grosman, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956), p. 42; Grosman, in Heymish (Tel Aviv) (June 1961); A. Zak, in Tsukunft (September 1955); Zak, In onheyb fun a friling, kapitlekh zikhroynes (At the start of spring, chapters of memoirs) (Buenos Aires: Farband fun poylishe yidn, 1962), see index; Zak, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (May 15, 1966); B. Shefner, Novolipye 7, zikhroynes un eseyen (Nowolipie 7, memoirs and essays) (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 77; Shloyme Bikl, in Tsukunft (July-August 1955); Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (June 23, 1957; March 13, 1960); M. Bernshteyn, in Der veker (May 1, 1956); Hillel Rogof, in Forverts (August 12, 19556); Nakhmen Blumental, in Di goldene keyt 24 (1957); Sh. D. Zinger, Dikhter un prozaiker (Poet and prose writer) (New York, 1959), pp. 313-17; Mortkhe Yofe, in Der veg (Mexico City) (September 26, 1959); Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence), vol. 2 (Buenos Aires, 1960), pp. 209-14; Glatshetyn, Mit mayne fartogbikher (With my journals) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1963), pp. 39-43; Yehoshua Gilboa, in Maariv (Tel Aviv) (Tevet 1 [= January 1], 1960); P. Shteynvaks, in Amerikaner (New York) (March 4, 1960); D. Naymark, in Forverts (March 20, 1960); Yankev Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (May 20, 1960); Sol Liptzin, in Jewish Bookland (New York) (May 1960); Aba Gordin, in Di goldene keyt 39 (1961); Mikhl Vaykhert, Varshe (Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1961), see index; Solomon Kahan, Literarishe un zhurnalistishe fartsaykhenungen (Literary and journalistic notes) (Mexico City, 1961), pp. 125-26; Y. Emyot, in Keneder odler (September 13, 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; B. Pik, in Di prese (January 14, 1965); Y. Mlotek, in Tsukunft (July-August 1965); Y. Shmulevitsh, in Forverts (April 28, 1966); A. V. Yasni, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (May 5, 1966); Mendl Man, in Unzer vort (Paris) (May 14, 1966); F. L. Goldman, in Unzer veg (May 1966); Moyshe Krishtol, in Tsukunft (May-June 1966); Dr. Shmuel Margoshes, in Tog (July 16, 1966); Y. Rotenberg, in Foroys (Mexico City) (June 1966); Yitskhok Kahan, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (Junly 15, 1966); Khayim Bez, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (September 1966); Y. Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, bibliografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966), see index; In gerangl, yankev pat un zayn dor (In the struggle: Yankev Pat and his generation) (New York, 1971), xii and 639 pp.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 423.]




[1] Translator’s note. This is a reference to the story of the same name (meaning: Bontshe the Silent) by Y. L. Perets about a thoroughly downtrodden worker who is utterly unconscious of just how subjugated he truly is. (JAF)

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