GAVRIEL RAVITSH (1826-1892)
He was the author of storybooks, known as “the master from Vilna” (Hagvir mivilna) or just “master” (Gvir). He was born in Vilna. He received a stridently religious education, though he was secretly devoted to the Jewish Enlightenment. He was close to Avrom-Ber Gotlober, Ayzik-Meyer Dik, Avraham Mapu, and Yude-Leyb Gordon, among others. He was assistant rabbi to Dr. Neyman in St. Petersburg and Dr. Shvabakher in Odessa. For a short time, he served as secretary for Hamelits (The advocate). In his last years he was the beadle in the St. Petersburg Choral Synagogue. He authored numerous storybooks, such as: Yikhes haoves vehaneviim vehatsadokim, vu es zaynen ale kvorim fun unzere oves hakdoyshim (Pedigrees of the forefathers and the prophets and the sages, where all the graves of our sacred forefathers are) (Vilna: Yoysef Ruvn Rom, 1855/1856), 26 pp.; Yoysef der yosem, velkhe dernokh zeyer gliklikh givorin (Joseph the orphan, who later became very happy) (Vilna, 1865), 72 pp.; Rib mishpokhe, oder r’ shmuel hoferdig (Quarrel in the family, or Mr. Shmuel Hoferdig) (Vilna, 1864/1865), 84 pp.; Di beloynung, a vahre ertseylung (The reward, a true story) (Vilna, 1871), 31 pp., later editions (1894, 1907, 1910, 1923, 1927, and more); Di kluge hadrokhe (Wise guidance) (Vilna, 1877), 16 pp.; Der gvald ris, roman (The violent rupture, a novel) (Vilna, 1883), 92 pp.; Der glik, zeks naye lider (The joy, six new poems) (Vilna, 1893), 30 pp. He frequently contributed to Mikhl-Leyvi Rodkinson’s Kol laam, politish literarishes vokhenblat fir izraeliten (The people’s voice, political and literary weekly newspaper for Israelites); using the pen name Gvir, he published there correspondence pieces, translations from Russian newspapers, poems, stories, and historical anecdotes, among other items. After the Russo-Turkish War, he co-edited in Lemberg Der blumengorten (The flower garden)—three issues appeared. “Both in language and from content,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “Ravitsh’s stories and poetry are of no value, but he was one of the first writers of this sort of booklet which grew more popular later.” He died in St. Petersburg.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Sh. L. Tsitron, Geshikhte fun der yudisher prese prese fun yor 1863 biz 1889 (The history of the Yiddish press from the year 1863 until 1889) (Vilna, 1923), pp. 98-99.