KHAYIM LEYB FUKS (CHAIM LEIB FOX) (May 29, 1897-March 6, 1984)
He was born in Lodz, Poland. His father Rode, who was a descendant in the line from Reb Avremele, the Tshekhanover (Ciechanower) Rebbe, and from Yitsḥak-Meir, a Sefardi and a descendant from Rabbi Yosef Karo. His father, a rabbi in Lodz, also composed poetry and fables in both Hebrew and Yiddish. As a father of four children, he left the rabbinate and became a sign painter. Until age sixteen, Khayim Leyb studied in yeshivas and acquired a reputation as a prodigy. As an audodidact, he acquired secular subject matter. During the years of WWI, he was conscripted into forced labor in Germany. Later, when he had returned to Lodz, he was for a time active in the Bund and in trade union work, later in the Zionist labor movement. He was also involved in the illegal aliya movement to the land of Israel from Poland. He lived for a short time in Israel, in 1936, and during the troubles at that time he joined the Hagana. In late 1938 he returned to Poland. During WWII, 1940-1946, he was in Soviet Russia, and later until 1948 he was back in Lodz. He spent 1948-1953 in Paris. In 1953 he immigrated to the United States and lived in New York. In Paris he was a cofounder and vice-chairman of the Yiddish literary association and cofounder of the community of Eastern European Jews. From 1959—in the United States—he was a member of the management of the New York Yiddish Pen Center. His literary activities began with Hebrew poetry during his yeshiva years. In 1913 he switched to Yiddish and debuted in print with poems in Folksblat (People’s newspaper) in Lodz (1915). He was a cofounder of the Lodz writers’ group, a representative of the Lodz writers’ association, and a delegate from the latter to the first conference of Yiddish writers in Poland (1919). He contributed poems, stories, essays, and reviews concerning literature, theater and art, travel narratives, prose (the novel Gyoras letster veg [Giora’s final road]), journalistic essays, and translations for: Folksblat, Yung idish (Young Yiddish), Literatur (Literature), S’feld (The field), Gezangen (Songs), Shveln (Thresholds)—also co-editor of the last three of these—Vegn (Paths), Oyfgang (Arise), Literarishe monatshrift (Literary monthly writing [also its editor]), Inzl (Island), Lodzher veker (Lodz alarm [also head of its literary department]), the weekly Fraytog (Friday [also co-editor]), and Der yidisher zhurnalist (The Jewish journalist), among others, in Lodz; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm), Ilustrirte vokh (Illustrated week), Varshever shriftn (Warsaw writings), Foroys (Onward), Vokhnblat far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), Os (Letter), Arbeter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), Dos vort (The word), Undzer ekspres (Our express), and Haynt (Today), among others, in Warsaw; Vilner tog (Vilna day) in Vilna; Parizer haynt (Paris today), Naye prese (New press), and Parizer bleter (Parisian leaves), in France; Di tsayt (The times) in London; Nayvelt (New world) and Davar (Word) in Israel; Byalistoker shtern (Bialystok star) in Bialystok; Shtern (Star) in Minsk; and the anthology Dos blut ruft tsu nekome! (The blood cries out for revenge!) (Moscow: Emes, 1941); among others. From 1946, he placed work in: Dos naye lebn (The new life), Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), Arbeter vort (Workers’ word [also literary editor], Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings), Folksshtime (Voice of the people), Lomir kinder lernen (Let’s teach children), Oyfgang, Flamen (Flames), Dror (Freedom), Historisher zamlbukh (Historical anthology), Pinkes fun yidishe druker (Records of Jewish publishers) in which he published portions of his work Lodzher yidishe drukers (Jewish publishers of Lodz), Undzer shul (Our school); and the Polish-Jewish Most (Bridge), Słowo Młodych (Voice of youth), Głos Bundu (Voice of the Bund), and Nasze Słowo (Our word), among others, in Poland; Undzer shtime (Our voice), Kunst un visnshaft (Art and science), Undzer vort (Our word), Tsienistishe shtime (Zionist voice), Problemen (Problems), Teater-shpigl (Theater mirror), Undzer veg (Our way), Frayland-iberblik (Freeland survey), Kultur-yedies (Cultural information), Kiem (Existence)—among other items, materials from his major work Mehus fun der yidisher literatur (The essence of Yiddish literature) and pieces from his novel Gyoras letster veg—and Arbeter vort, among others, in Paris; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle), Yidisher zhurnal (Jewish journal), Tint un feder (Ink and pen), and Dos idishe vort (The Yiddish word) in Canada; Undzer lodz (Our Lodz), Di naye tsayt (The new times), Yidishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper), Shmerke katsherginski-ondenk-bukh (Memory volume for Shmerke Katsherginski) (Buenos Aires, 1955), and Naye literarishe bleter (New literary leaves), among others; Dorem afrike (South Africa) in Johannesburg; Heymish (Familiar), Hapoel-hatsair (The young worker), Davar, Nayvelt, and Lebns-fragn (Life issues), among others, in Israel; Tsukunft (Future), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Veker (Alarm), Fraynd (Friend), Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education), Unzer tsayt (Our time), Undzer veg, Forverts (Forward), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Svive (Environs), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Velt un folk (World and people), Opklayb (Selection), Amerikaner (American), and Byalistoker shtime (Voice of Bialystok), among others, in New York; Der veg (The way), Foroys, Dos vort, and Di shtime (The voice), among others, in Mexico City; and in the memorial volumes for such cities as Skernyevits (Skierniewice), Bzhezhin (Brzeziny), Tshenstokhov (Częstochowa), Sokhatshov (Sochaczew), Pyetrikov (Piotrków), and Lodz, among others. A number of his poems were translated in Polish, Hebrew, Russian, and French. His work has been included in the following anthologies: Z. Shik, 1000 yor vilne (One thousand years of Vilna) (Vilna, 1939); Mortkhe Yofe, Erets-yisroel in der yidisher literatur (Israel in Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1961); Kadye Molodovski, Lider fun khurbn, t”sh-tsh”h (Poetry from the Holocaust, 1939-1945) (Tel Aviv, 1962); N. Mayzil, Y. l. perets in der yidisher dikhtung (Y. L. Perets in Yiddish poetry) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1965); and Joseph Leftwich, The Golden Peacock: An Anthology of Yiddish Poetry (London, 1939). Fuks was the author of a number of major research works: Vskhodnye gas in lodzh (Wschodnia Street in Lodz) (1957); “Dos yidishe literarishe lodzh” (Jewish literary Lodz), 150 years of Yiddish and Hebrew literature, in Fun noentn over (From the recent past) (New York) 3 (1957), pp. 189-284; A yidish shtetl bay der khinezish-sovetisher grenets (A Jewish town near the Sino-Soviet border) (1958); Der yidisher khurbn in poyln in di verk fun katsenelson, broderzon un segalovitsh (The Jewish destruction in Poland in the works of Katsenelson, Broderzon, and Segalovitsh) (1965). Other books include: Durshtike lemer, lider, poemen, baladn (Thirsty lambs, poems and ballads) (Lodz, 1926), 199 pp.; Zingt mir a velt (Sing me a world), poetry (Lodz, 1936), 78 pp.; Gyoras letster veg, a historical novel (Lodz, 1939), 374 pp.; Sho fun lid, lider un poemen (Time for song, poetry) (Paris, 1951), 128 pp.; Di teg neygn di kep, lider, poemes, un balades (The days bow their heads, poems and ballads) (New York: Tsiko, 1969), 96 pp.; Lodzh shel mayle, dos yidishe gaystiḳe un derhoybene lodzh, 100 yor yidishe un oykh hebreishe literatur un kultur in lodzh un in di arumiḳe shtet un shtetlekh (Lodz on high, the Jewish spiritual and elevated Lodz, 100 years of Yiddish and also Hebrew literature and culture in Lodz and in the surrounding cities and towns) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1972), 352 pp.; Zunfargang (Sunset) (Haifa, 1972), 71 pp.; Der akhter himl, lider, tefiles, poemes fun mayn velt un fun mayn erets yisroel (The eighth heaven, songs, prayers, [and] poems of my world and of my land of Israel) (New York: Tsiko, 1974), 126 pp.; 100 yor yidishe un hebreishe literatur in kanade (100 years of Yiddish and Hebrew literature in Canada) (Montreal: Bukh-komitet, 1980), 326 pp.; Tsu di himlen aroyf (To the heavens above) (New York: Tsiko, 1982), 199 pp. He was one of the main contributors to Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical dictionary of modern Yiddish literature), author of some 3000 biographical entries (among them 400 of forgotten poets and storytellers and authors of early Yiddish). He also wrote under such pen names as: Kh. Narkis, Kh. L. Ludzki, Mikhl Libling, Khl”f, Khalef, FU, FS, Leye Grinboym, and F-s. He died in New York.
“Blended together into one mold in Khayim Leyb Fuks,” wrote Yitskhok Bashevis, “is the poet, the storyteller, and the collector. He belongs to the very few sincere Yiddishists whom one can truly count on one’s fingers…. The accent is on Yid…. His poems are full of religious turns of speech, religious and ethnic spirit. One can say of Fuks that God, Israel, and Yiddish literature form a single whole in him.”
As Y. Yanasovitsh has noted: “Khayim Leyb Fuks is the poet of ardent prayer-song and deep lyrical outpouring lament…. His emotions did not flow into a crystal flower pot of formed workmanship. [He] works with what is elemental and with ecstasy.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Meylekh Ravitsh, Renesans (Renaissance) (London, 1919); Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 11, 1960; November 12, 1962); Arn Mark, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (April 16, 1926); Sh. L. Shnayderman, in Folkstsaytung (Warsaw) (August 20, 1926); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928), see index; Y. Rabon, in Literarishe bleter (July 10, 1936); Y. Yanasovitsh, in Nayer folksblat (Lodz) (July 16, 1936); Yanasovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (February 22, 1958); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Inzikh (New York) (September 1936); Y. Bashevis, in Tsukunft (New York) (August 1943); Bashevis, in Forverts (New York) (August 5, 1962; June 11, 1967); Khayim Krul, in Literarishe heftn (New York) (May 1946); Y. Sh. Herts, Geshikhte fun a yugnt (Story of a youngster) (New York, 1946), p. 312; M. Grosman, in Dos naye lebn (Lodz) (1946); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York, 1949), pp. 189-90; L. Domankevitsh, in Undzer vort (Paris) (February 3, 1951); M. Borvin-Frenkel, in Undzer shtime (Paris) (February 1951); A. Leyeles, in Tog (New York) (August 19, 1951); 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), p. 67; Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (December 1954); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tsukunft (December 1951); Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (October 1, 1967); M. Valdman, in Kiem (Paris) (February 1952); Valdman, in Undzer eynikeyt (Paris) (December 1958); Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (August 15, 1954); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 1955; May 9, 1958; January 15, 1965); Yekhiel Aronson, in Di naye prese (Paris) (January 14, 1956); Sh. Tenenboym, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (June 30, 1956); P. Shvarts, in Fun noentn over (New York) 2 (1956), pp. 431, 439; Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (December 31, 1957); Botoshanski, in Fun noentn over 3 (1957), pp. 190, 341, 345, 351, 355, 379; H. Fenster, in Undzer shtime (May 26, 1958); M. Dluzhnovski, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (June 1, 1958); Dluzhnovski, in Folk un velt (New York) (November 1967); Avrom Shulman, in Undzer shtime (July 19-20, 1958); Avraham Levinson, Toldot yehude varsha (History of the Jews of Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1953), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 439.]