Wednesday, 4 July 2018


            His Jewish first name was Shiye (Joshua), born in Grodno, Byelorussia.  He studied initially in religious elementary school and in the yeshivas (1913-1914) of Shtutshin (Shchuchyn) and Mir.  Over the years 1917-1918, he was a pupil in a higher-level Hebrew course and in Russian high schools in Ostro-Gozhonsk (?) and Minsk.  He began writing in his student days.  He debuted in print in 1919 with a poem on the first anniversary of the death pf Leyb Naydus in Grodner tsaytung (Grodno newspaper).  He was a student (1922-1923) in the teachers’ course at the Workmen’s Circle in New York.  He edited the literary anthologies of Yung-kuznye (Young smithy) in New York, published 1924-1925 by the young worker-writer association, which identified with the Communist movement, and Spartak (Spartacus), also in New York.  He was a member (1924-1925) of the editorial collectives of the New York journals: Hamer (Hammer), Signal (Signal), and Yugnt (Youth); and he contributed to Frayhayt (Freedom), Ikor (Yidishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in rusland [Jewish colonization organization in Russia]), and Nay-lebn (New life) in New York.  Over the years 1933-1935, he lived in the Soviet Union, was a researcher at the literature and criticism section at the scientific research institute for Jewish culture in Kiev and received the academic title “scholarly candidate for Yiddish literature.”  It was there that he wrote his “Etyudn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher proletarisher literatur in amerike” (Studies in the history of proletarian Yiddish literature in America)—later published in his book Prolet-pen (Proletarian pen).  After returning to the United States, he became a regular contributor to Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom).  Until 1950 he was a member of the American Communist Party.  After leaving the Communists, he worked in Local 22 of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union to put in order the local’s archives, and for a longer time he translated the news for Forverts (Forward) in New York.  He also contributed work to: Tog (Day), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Tsukunft (Future), and Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO)—in New York.  Together with Menakhem Flakser, he prepared for YIVO a bibliography of Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union.  He also assisted in the preparation of Dovid edelshtadt-bukh (Volume for Dovid Edelshtadt) (New York, 1953); he wrote biographies of the Soviet writers for Shmuel Niger’s work, Yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1958), pp. 457-75, and the biographies in the first three volumes of Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical dictionary of modern Yiddish literature); and he was among the first contributors to the Groyse verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh (Great dictionary of the Yiddish language).  He also placed work in Grodner opklangen (Grodno echoes) which was published in Buenos Aires.  From 1955 until his death, he worked as a cataloguer in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  His book concerning the murdered Soviet Yiddish writers aroused considerable attention in the literary world and also led to a series of debates.  In the summer of 1963, he visited the state of Israel and a number of European countries.  He wrote under the pseudonyms Shiye Grodner and P. Aleksander.  He catalogued the Hebrew and Yiddish books in the Spinoza collection at Columbia University.  The list was utilized by Adolph S. Oko in his Spinoza Bibliography (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1964).  His books would include: Prolet-pen, etyudn un materyaln tsu der geshikhte fun dem kamf far proletarisher literatur in amerike (f. sh. a.) (Proletarian pen, studies and materials in the history of the struggle for proletarian literature in America [U.S.A.]) (Kiev: Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, 1935), 248 pp.; A meydl fun minsk (A girl from Minsk) (New York, 1942), 96 pp.; Kavkaz (The Caucasus) (New York, 1943), 96 pp.; Tserisene keytn (Broken chains) (New York, 1943), 94 pp.; Inzhenern fun neshomes, di shrayber un bikher fun der idisher sovetisher literatur (Engineers of souls, the writers and books of Soviet Yiddish literature) (New York, 1943), 96 pp.; A rayze in der tsukunft (A voyage in the future) (New York, 1944), 94 pp.; Der tragisher goyrl fun di yidishe shrayber in sovet-rusland (The tragic fate of Yiddish writers in Soviet Russia) (New York, 1957), 14 pp., offprint from the trilingual Jewish Book Annual 15 (1957); Di sovetishe haruge malkhes, tsu zeyer 10-tn yortsayt, vegn dem tragishn goyrl fun di yidishe shraybers un der yidisher literatur in sovetnland (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government, on their tenth anniversary of their deaths, concerning the tragic fate of the Yiddish writers and Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union) (Buenos Aires: YIVO, 1962), 498 pp.  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (November 22, 1944); Hemshekh-antologye (Hemshekh anthology) (New York, 1945); E. Almi, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (July 19, 1946); Y. Farber, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (October 10, 1947); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), A litvak in poyln (A Lithuanian Jew in Poland) (New York, 1955), pp. 42-43; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Builders and leaders of the Workmen’s Circle), ed. Y. Yeshurin and Y. Sh. Herts (New York, 1962); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (1962); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 30, 1962); M. Shenderay, in Di idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (August 26, 1962); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (October 21, 1962); Dr. L. Zhitnitski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (December 4, 1962); P. Sandler, in Zayn (New York) (April 1964), pp. 54-58; A. H. Byalik, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (April 1, 1963; May 15, 1963; August 1, 1963); Zalmen Yefroykin, in Forverts (New York) (May 12, 1963); Yoysef-Shimen Goldshteyn, in Forverts (May 15, 1963); Avrom Zak, in Di idishe tsaytung (January 17, 1965); Yefim Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, biblyografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966), pp. 96, 112, 189, 193; Grodner opklanger (Buenos Aires) (June 1966), with articles by Avrom Zak, Avrom Menes, and Y. Freyd.
Moyshe Shtarkman

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