YANKEV FRIDMAN (JAKOW FRYDMAN, YAAKOV FRIEDMAN) (1910-November 12, 1972)
He was born in Milnitse (Mielnica), Galicia, the son of the Milnitse Rebbe, Sholem-Yoysef, a descendant of Reb Yisroeltshe of Ruzhin. In 1919 his family moved to Czernowitz. Over the years 1919-1933, he lived in Warsaw, before returning to Romania. During the years of WWII, he lived in Bershad, Transnistria. He spent 1945-1947 in Bucharest. In 1947 he illegally departed for the land of Israel. He was detained by the English, and for about two years, until 1949, he was held in a camp in Cyprus for those clandestinely trying to enter the land. From 1949 he was living in the state of Israel. He began writing poetry in Hebrew and Yiddish in his youth and debuted in print with a poem entitled “Ikh veys” (I know) in Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz sheets) in 1927. He went on to publish poetic works in: Ershter shnit (First cut), Tshernovitser bleter, Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), and Arbeter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), among others, in Warsaw; Tsukunft (Future), Svive (Environs), and Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York; and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain), Heymish (Familiar), Folksblat (People’s newspaper), and Yisroel shtime (Voice of Israel), among others, in Israel. From 1956 he was a regular contributor to Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv, publishing images drawn from Israeli life, in addition to poetry, under the pen name Y. Namdirf [“Fridman” backwards]. He also placed work in: Zamlbikher (Collections), edited by H. Leivick and Y. Opatoshu; Bukareshter zamlbikher (Bucharest collections) of which he was also co-editor in 1947; and Shloyme bikl yoyvl-bukh (Shloyme Bikl jubilee volume) (New York, 1967). Fridman’s poetry was represented in: Sh. Meltsar’s anthology of Yiddish poetry, Al naharot (By the rivers) (Jerusalem, 1955/1956); Mortkhe Yofe’s Erets yisroel in der yidisher literatur (The land of Israel in Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv, 1961); and Joseph Leftwich’s English anthology, The Golden Peacock (London-New York, 1939); among others. His revue Undzer shteyger (Our situation) was staged in 1947 in Bucharest, and in 1948-1949 in the Cyprus camps for those seeking aliya. He received several literary prizes: L. Hofer Prize in Buenos Aires (1954) for his book Pastekher in yisroel (Shepherds in Israel); the Sholem-Aleichem Prize from the “Goldene pave” (Golden peacock) press in Paris (1962); the Edith and Israel Pollak Prize for a poem of his appearing in the journal Di goldene keyt 58; and the Carl Rotman Literary Stipend from the World Jewish Congress in 1967 for his book Libshaft (Love). He also received the Fikhman Prize in 1967, the Manger Prize in 1970, and the Groper Prize in 1973 (posthumously).
In book form: Oysgeshtrekte hent, dramatishe poeme in tsvey bilder (Outstretched hands, a dramatic poem in two scenes) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1932), 44 pp.; Odem, poeme (Adam, a poem) (Czernowitz, 1934), 30 pp.; Shabes (Sabbath), poetry (Czernowitz, 1939), 100 pp.; Pastekher in yisroel, poetry (Tel Aviv, 1953), 159 pp.; Di legende noyekh grin (The legend of Noah Green), poetry (New York: World Jewish Culture Congress, 1960), 112 pp.; Nefilim, dramatishe poeme (The antediluvian giants, a dramatic poem) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1963), 107 pp.; Libshaft, poetry (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1967), 114 pp.; Sheleg bamidbar (Snow in the desert) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1970), 134 pp.; Miyomana shel meshoreret (From the diary of a poet), trans. Yosef Aḥai (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1972), 44 pp.; Lider un poemes (Poetry), vol. 1: Tsum ershtn eyns (First things), vol. 2: Odem, shabes, pastekher in yisroel (Adam, Sabbath, shepherds in Israel), vol. 3: Di legende noyekh grin, nefilim, libshaft (The legend of Noah Green, the antediluvian giants, love) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1974), 284 pp., 287 pp., 371 pp.; Gezen af a vayl (Seen a while) (Tel Aviv: Yidish-bukh, 1979), 335 pp.; Shabat (Sabbath), trans. from Yiddish by K. Bertini (Tel Aviv: Reshafim, 1977), 92 pp.; Bereshit hayta hademama (In the beginning there was silence) (Tel Aviv, 1983), 459 pp., a collection of 130 of his poems, translated by eight Hebrew poets, with a preface by Dan Miron. He died in Ramat Gan.
As Shloyme Bikl wrote, “Fridman’s…subject is the longing for union with Creation and the desire to catch sight of its light…. [His] poetic word is not that of a man of nature, but of a man with complicated longings for union with nature and with speculative and once revelatory reflection on reality…. All roads from authentic creativity lead to a vision of God. If it is true, however, as Ludwig Berne holds, that humor is ‘the belief that sees God where another cannot even imagine Him,’ then without a doubt this applies to the poet Yankev Fridman, the poet of ‘our grandfather Jonah’ and of ‘the legend of Noah Green.’”
“He was without the least doubt,” noted Shumel Niger, “loaded with a rich burden and the enduring wealth of a spiritual legacy, accumulated from the generations and generations of Hassidic rebbes from whom he descended. Among the generation of writers and poets from the eve and after the Holocaust, there have been none so completely saturated with the tradition and style of the old Jewish and specifically Hassidic way of life, as has Yankev Fridman. His language, his expressiveness, his entire worldview is suffused with the spirit and taste, with the folklore and the symbolism of earlier times. They exercise no pressure in or over him; he is their expression. He and they form one universe.”
Sources: D. Rubinshteyn, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (March 2, 1931); Kh. D. Kazdan, in Vokhnshrift far literatur (Warsaw) (June 24, 1932); Tanye Fuks, in Naye prese (Paris) (August 14, 1945); Dr. A. Shafran, in Ikuf bleter (Czernowitz) 3 (1946); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1949); Yoyel Mastboym, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (September 20, 1951); Y. K. Shabatai, in Davar (June 2, 1951); (June 2, 1951); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Veker (New York) (February 1953); A. Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 2, 1953); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (June 26, 1953); Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (November 3, 1960); Glatshetyn, Mit mayne fartog-bikher (With my daybreak books) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 76-81; B. Y. Varshavski (Bashevis), in Forverts (New York) (October 18, 1953); Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (May 30, 1954); E. Feleg, in Omer (Tel Aviv) (June 3, 1955); Gitl Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (July 1955); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My Lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), pp. 345-47; Ravitsh, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (November 1, 1968); A. Lis, in Heym un doyer, vegn shrayber un verk (Home and duration, on writers and work) (Tel Aviv: Y. L. Perets Library, 1960), pp. 116-21; Moyshe Grosman, in Heymish (Tel Aviv) (February 1960); A. Oyerbakh, in Svive (New York) (October 1961); Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (September 22, 1963); M. Gros-Tsimerman, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) (1961), p. 40; Gros-Tsimerman, Dos vort vos mir shraybn (The word we are writing) (Tel Aviv, 1971); Y. Paner, in Di goldene keyt (1963), p. 47; Paner, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1966); Avrom Golomb, in Der veg (Mexico City) (June 14, 1965); Shloyme bikl yoyvl-bukh, ateret shelomo (Shloyme Bikl jubilee volume, the crown of Solomon) (New York, 1967), pp. 198-99; L. Domankevitsh, in Unzer vort (Paris) (February 4, 1967); Avrom-Volf Yasni, in Letste nayes (September 29, 1967); Y. Kahan, in Yidishe post (Sydney) (June 14, 1968); Dov Sadan, preface to Sheleg bamidbar (Snow in the desert) (Tel Aviv, 1970), pp. 7-23; Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation) (Tel Aviv, 1970); Kh. Grade, in Al hamishmar (Tel Aviv) (July 24, 1970); Y. Yanasovitsh, Penemer un nemen (Faces and names) (Buenos Aires, 1971); M. Ḥalamish, in Al hamishmar (November 17, 1972); Y. Ḥ. Biletski, in Davar (December 8, 1972); Y. Goldkorn, Heymishe un fremde (Familiar and foreign) (Buenos Aires, 1973); Avrom Sutzkever, in Di goldene keyt 78 (1973); M. Tsanin, in Di goldene keyt 79/80 (1973); B. Hager, in Di goldene keyt 81 (1973); Kadia Molodowsky, in Svive 39 (1973); L. Podryatshik, Shmuesn mit andere un mit zikh (Conversations with others and with myself) (Tel Aviv, 1984), pp. 63-73; A. Lis, Shmuesn biksav (Conversations in writing) (Tel Aviv, 1985), pp. 52-65.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 454, 550.