HERSHL (HESHL) RABINKOV (August 23, 1908-1981)
He was a prose writer and playwright, born in Sosnitse (Sosnytsia), Ukraine. He spent his early youth in Seredyna-Buda. From age twelve he was raised by an uncle in Moscow, where he worked as a bricklayer and later in a print shop, while studying at the same time. After graduating from the literature faculty at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute in 1935, he settled in Birobidzhan where he worked as a teacher of Russian language and literature at the local technical school. In 1949 he was exiled to a camp in the Gulag “for Jewish nationalism.” After being freed in 1956, he returned to Birobidzhan. He began writing in 1927 with a story published in Der emes (The truth) in Moscow. He went on to publish stories as well as critical essays in the journal Prolit (Proletarian literature) in Kharkov and in Forpost (Outpost) in Birobidzhan (1936-1940), the almanac Birobidzhan (3 issues, 1946-1948, also its co-editor), Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in the 1960s, and elsewhere. He dedicated his entire life to the Jewish Autonomous Region in Birobidzhan and wrote extensively about it. The heroes of his writings are remarkable for their love of the region. He published dozens of long stories and novellas, but not one of them appeared in book form. Along the motifs of his lengthy story “Ruvn burles” (Rueben Burles)—concerning the life of Jews in Russia in the first half of the nineteenth century—which was published in Forpost, he wrote a play with the same title which was performed in the Birobidzhan State Theater in 1940. Also performed there was his play In di berg fun krim (In the mountains of Crimea) in 1942. He additionally wrote a novel entitled Avrom goldfaden (Avrom Goldfaden) which was dramatized and staged by the Birobidzhan State Theater. He wrote a great number of critical essays and reviews of books and theatrical performances, as well as a series of works on Sholem-Aleichem and Y. L. Perets. His work also appeared in Dertseylungen fun yidishe sovetishe shrayber (Stories by Soviet Yiddish writers) (Moscow, 1969). He also wrote under the pen name: H. Boyder. He died during a visit to Moscow in 1981.
Sources: Y. M. Budish, Almanakh fun yidishn folksordn (Almanac of the Jewish people’s order) (New York, 1947), pp. 382-84; Y. L. Zhitnitski, A halber yorhundert idishe literatur, makhshoves un eseyistik (A half-century of Yiddish literature, thoughts and essays) (Buenos Aires: Eygns, 1952), p. 63; Y. Emyot, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (January 1958).
[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), p. 346.]