KARL FORNBERG (VORNBERG) (August 1, 1871-November 15, 1937)
The pen name of Shaye Rozenberg (Rosenberg), he was born in Slobodke (Slobodka), near Kovno, into a merchant household. He early on became acquainted with the Hebrew Enlightenment literature, read Russian-language works, and studied German, French, and bookkeeping. In 1890 he joined in Kovno as a bookkeeper and German correspondent the banking office of Dovid Halpern, three years later becoming treasurer and manager of the banking house of Jacob M. Sachs. Together with Sh. Rozenfeld and a group of young people, he led (1887-1888) a struggle against the Kovno partition, corresponded about this to Voskhod (Arise), and later switched to general journalism in a Russian newspaper in Kovno and Vilna. He soon became the principal writer for publicist work and theatrical criticism. In 1888 he moved abroad and studied political economy, philosophy, and history at Leipzig University and, for a short time as well, at the University of Berlin. In 1902 he received his Ph.D. degree with the highest marks for excellence for his work Ricardo und Marx als Werttheoretiker: Eine kritische Studie (Ricardo and Marx as theorists of value, a critical study), published in Vienna by Ignatz Brand in 1904 (128 pp.). At that time, he began to write in Yiddish (using the pen name Novus) on the economic condition of Russian Jewry, for the weekly Di velt (The world), edited by his friend Sh. Rozenfeld. Together with Rozenfeld and his wife Miriam, Fornberg compiled the second volume of the world history that Yankev Dinezon began under contract to the publisher Aḥiasef as a supplement to the journal Yud (Jew). In 1903 he began writing under the name Vornberg for Karl Kautsky’s periodical Die Neue Zeit (The new times), and at that time he also published in the major Russian journal Russkaia mysl’ (Russian thought) an article in opposition to Mikhail Tugan-Baranovsky and a longer work on the “Negro question.” In May 1903 he came to the United States, published an article in Tsukunft (Future) in New York on the nationality question, later for Forverts (Forward) he wrote an editorial and treatment of socialism. In November 1905 he had a difference of opinion with Ab. Kahan, left Forverts, and joined Varhayt (Truth), at the same time contributing to Tsukunft where he was in charge of the political and social report entitled “Iber der velt” (Ober the world). In 1906 he became editor of the serial. He researched the emigration issue and published in the field two booklets in Russian. One of the two—Evreiskaia emigratsiia (Jewish emigration) (Kiev, 1908), 94 pp.—was an attempt at a statistical investigation. At the same time, he wrote two pamphlets in Yiddish—one of them: Der shtutgarter kongres un zayne problemen (The Stuttgart Congress and its problems) (Vilna: Tsukunft, 1908), 45 pp.—and two other works on this topic which were lost when the publishing house went bankrupt. He traveled to Russia with the intention of remaining there, but returned promptly to America. In the spring of 1909, he left Varhayt and became editor once again in 1910 of Tsukunft. At the end of 1910 he was invited to Chicago to edit the socialist weekly newspaper Di idishe arbeter velt (The Jewish labor world), edited before him by A. Sh. Zaks. He also placed work in: Voskhod, Evreiskii mir (Jewish world), Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia), and Fraynd (Friend), among other publications from Russia. In 1913 he returned from Chicago to New York, took over the publisher “Internatsyonale biblyotek” (International library), and founded “Literarisher farlag” (Literary publishing house). From 1914 he was editing the monthly journal Literatur un lebn (Literature and life), which in April of the year merged with the Vilner yidishe velt (Vilna Jewish world) of B. Kletskin. As one of the leaders of the Jewish Socialist Federation, he contributed to its publications, but during the war withdrew from its party activities. In 1916 he worked with Tog (Day) in New York and wrote journalistic or political articles for it twice each week. In December 1924 he published a weekly newspaper in Yiddish with an English sections, Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice), in Newark, New Jersey. There, in late 1926, he founded a center for cultural activities in Yiddish. He published a number of research works, such as “Hundert yor yidishe geshikhte in amerike” (One hundred of Jewish history in America) and “Vi farteyln zikh di klasn in amerike” (How classes are distributed in America), in Di naye velt (The new world) (New York) 1 and 3 [respectively]. He also translated: the first volume of Romain Rolland’s Zhan Kristof (Jean-Christophe); and Nikolay Chernyshevsky’s novel Vos tut men? (What is to be done? [Chto delat'?]) (New York, 1917). In the last years of his life, he wrote the history of Jewish immigration to America, a chapter from which was published in the yearbook of the American division of YIVO (New York) 2 (1939). He also wrote under such pen names as: M. Depou, Ribon, M. De Roz, Ben Hillel, Klarbakh, Dr. Y. Mirkin, A Groyer, Hakore, A. Rider, Shmaya Veavtalyon, and Dr. A. Muzikant. Further works in book form would include: Di geshikhte fun der sotsyalistisher bavegung (The history of the socialist movement), part 1 (New York: Literarisher farlag, 1914), 99 pp.; Sokrates, zayn leben (Socrates, his life) (New York, 1914), 80 pp.; Di yidishe vanderung (Jewish migration) (Warsaw: Tsukunft, 1917), 16 pp.; Dos naye opera-bukh (The new opera book) (New York: M. Yankevitsh, 1923), 412 pp., under the pseudonym “Dr. A. Muzikant.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Tsvien, in Tsukunft (New York) (December 1909; April 1911); Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (July 1910); Niger, in Tog (New York) (February 28, 1933); Dr. B. Dubovski, in Tsayt (New York) (September 1, 1921); M. Margolis, in Tog (January 28, 1932); H. L. Zelik, in Tog (August 1, 1932); A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 24, 1933); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), part 3 (Vilna, 1935), pp. 292-95; G. Aronson, in Tsukunft (May-June 1942); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Tsukunft (May-June 1942); Shtarkman, in Hadoar (New York) (May 23, 1947); Yivo-biblyografye, 1925-1941 (YIVO bibliography, 1925-1941) (New York, 1943), see index; Y. A. Rontsh, Amerike in der yidisher literatur (America in Yiddish literature) (New York, 1945); Y. Sh. Herts, Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung in amerike, 70 yor sotsyalistishe tetikeyt, 30 yor yidishe sotsyalistishe farband (The Jewish socialist movement in America, seventy years of socialist activity, thirty years of the Jewish Socialist Union) (New York, 1954); V. Grosman, Amol un haynt (Then and now) (Paris, 1955), p. 182; Kalmen Marmor, Mayn lebns-geshikhte (My life story), vol. 1 (New York, 1959), p. 397; B. Tsukerman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (Rosh Hashana issue, 1961); Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Builders and leaders of the Workmen’s Circle), ed. Y. Yeshurin and Y. Sh. Herts (New York, 1962), p, 307; Zerubavl, in Tsukunft (November-December 1962); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 12, 1964); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Lite (Lithuania), anthology, vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1965), pp. 413-14; V. Shulman, in Lite, p. 183; Dr. Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Pinkes (New York) 1 (1965); Yefim Yeshurin, 100 yor moderne yidishe literatur, bibliografisher tsushteyer (100 years of modern Yiddish literature, bibliographical contribution) (New York, 1966).