YISROEL EFROYKIN (January 24, 1884-April 12, 1954)
The brother of Zalmen Yefroykin, he was born in Vekshne (Viekšniai), Kovno district, Lithuania, into a merchant family with followers of the Jewish Enlightenment. Until age fourteen he studied in religious primary school and in the famed Telz yeshiva. Thereafter, as his family moved to Libave (Liepāja), Latvia, he began to study, as an external student, secular subject matter. In 1904 he went to study at Berne University. Over the years 1904-1910, he continued his studies, with interruptions, initially in philosophy and later in law, but for material reasons he was unable to complete his studies. In 1910 he settled in St. Petersburg. His community activities began in 1904 when he joined the Zionist socialist group “Vozrozhdenie” (Renaissance). Through the years 1905-1906, he devoted himself to party work together with M. Zilberfarb, N. Shtif, and Z. Kalmanovitsh. He began his literary activities in those years with translations into Russian of Perets and Nomberg, published in the radical newspaper Severnyi kur’er (Northern messenger). In 1904 he published an article in Fraynd (Friend) under the pen name Rifoelzon, and he contributed work to the organ of the Sejmists, Di folks-shtime (The voice of the people), and to Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye lebn (The new life). Together with Sh. Dubnov, Sh. Ginzberg, Y. Tsinberg, and Kh. D. Hurvits, in 1912 he founded the monthly journal Di yidishe velt (The Jewish world). Later, when the journal was moved to Vilna, Efroykin and Shmuel Niger were members of the editorial board and Efroykin published monthly reports in it. With Niger, Z. Kalmanovitsh, and N. Shtif, he edited (1914-1915) Di vokh (The week) in Vilna, and he placed work in: Novyi voskhod (New sunrise) and Evreiskii mir (Jewish world), among other serials. Over the course of 1911-1917, he worked in the field of the Jewish cooperative movement as an inspector for YIKO (Jewish Cultural Organization). After the February Revolution in Russia (1917), he, Dubnov, Shtif, Latski-Bertoldi, Y. Tshernikhov, and F. Dubinski founded “Di yidishe demokratishe fareynikung” (The Jewish democratic union). A short time later, it took on the name “Yidishe folks-partey” (Jewish people’s party [Folks-partey]).
In 1920, with a delegation of the Jewish relief committee Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny, or “Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”), which he helped found at the outbreak of WWI, he arrived in Paris to organize relief work there for Russian Jews in great numbers. He administered the general secretariat until the dissolution of the institution in 1925. Efroykin then turned to private business in which he was very successful. The riches he earned, though, in no way hindered his remaining an active community leader. In August 1917 at the conference of the Committee of Jewish Delegations in Zurich, he was elected a member of the permanent executive committee. Over the course of all the years to follow, he actively participated in the work of this Committee. In 1936 when the Committee of Jewish Delegations was transformed into the Jewish World Congress, he and Rabbi S. Weiss, Dr. N. Goldman, and other leaders stood by the roots of this organization. Several years before the outbreak of WWII, Efroykin was invited to take on the position of chairman of the Federation of Jewish Societies of France. When Hitler invaded France, Efroykin initially sought protection in the unoccupied zone of France, where he remained active in the realm of relief work. At the very last moment before the Nazis occupied that part of France as well, he was successfully rescued and taken to South America, and he settled in Montevideo, Uruguay. After the end of the war, he returned to Paris and with great energy threw himself into rebuilding Jewish associations destroyed in France.
Throughout his Parisian period, Efroykin concentrated his literary activities on fundamental problems of Jewish existence. At the time, he and Elye Tsherikover edited and published the anthologies of Afn sheydveg (At the crossroads). The central theme in this work was Jewish life—continuity and existence. Two issues appeared: April 1939 and August 1939. Efroykin continued the publication in Montevideo, when he was also co-editor of the journal Shriftn (Writings). He went on to join the Labor Zionist-Hitaḥdut Party and, after returning to France, he was selected to be a member of the central committee of the party in France. After the war Efroykin launched the journal Kiem (Existence), which he edited and published from 1948 until 1952 (sixty issues). In Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) 15 (1953), he published a piece entitled: “Sines-yisroel un sines tsien (antisemitizm)” (Anti-Israel and anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism).
In book form: In kholem un af der vor (In dream and reality) (New York, 1944), 377 pp.; A khezhbn-hanefesh (A spiritual stocktaking) (Paris: Tserata, 1948), 491 pp., Hebrew translation by Avraham Kariv as Ḥeshban hanefesh (Tel Aviv, 1950), 295 pp.; Kdushe un gvure bay yidn amol un haynt (Sanctity and fortitude among Jews past and present) (New York, 1949), 164 pp.; Oyfkum un umkum fun yidishe goles-shprakhn un dialektn (The rise and fall of diaspora Jewish languages and dialects) (Paris, 1951), 95 pp.
Several months before his death, Efroykin was appointed the first community head of the first community of Eastern European Jews in Paris. He also wrote under such pen names as: Rifoelzon, Y. Manin, A. Litovski, Aleksander, and Efron.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), Barg-aroyf, bletlekh fun lebn (Uphill, pages from life) (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1935); Y. Bashevis, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1940); A. Fefer, in Ikuf (Buenos Aires) (November 1948); Y. Kharlash, in Veker (New York) (December 15, 1948); Sh. Z. Shragai, in Unzer veg (Paris) 74 (1948); Shragai, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (May 7, 1954); B. Tshubinski, in Tsukunft (November 1952); Dr. A. Mukdoni, Oysland, mayne bagegenishn (Abroad, my encounters) (Buenos Aires, 1951); Mukdoni, in Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) (August 1954); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 21, 1951); Ravitsh, in Der veg (Mexico City) (October 9, 1951); Ravitsh, in Letste nayes (December 14, 1951); Y. Yanasovitsh, in Arbeter-vort (Paris) (January 18, 1952); Yanasovitsh, in Di naye tsayt (Buenos Aires) (May 6, 1954); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Arbeter-vort (January 18, 1952); Khayim Grinberg, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (October 24, 1952); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (April 14, 1954); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (April 17, 1954); Niger, in Di yidishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (May 12, 1954); Y. Grinboym, in Letste nayes (April 23, 1954); Grinboym, Fun mayn dor (Of my generation) (Tel Aviv: Makor, 1959); A. Tsaytlin, in Tog (April 30, 1954); Y. Mark, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (May 1954); A. Alperin, in Tog (May 4, 1954); Alperin, in Tsukunft (July 1954); L. Domankevitsh, in Unzer vort (Paris) (May 15, 1954); Y. Anshel, in Kiem (Paris) 2 (63) (1954); Y. Gotfarshteyn, in Kiem 2 (1963) (1954); Dr. M. Dvorzhetski (Mark Dvorzetsky), in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 20 (1954); B. Tsukerman, in Idisher kemfer (January 27, 1961; Passover issue 1960); Dr. Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Pinkes (New York) (1965), pp. 122ff.