YISROEL RABINOVITSH (September 15, 1894-March 18, 1964)
A musicologist and journalist, he was born in Biten (Byteń), Grodno Province. He came from a poor family of klezmer musicians. He received a traditional education. At age thirteen he played in the municipal klezmer band. Due to his father’s illness, he took over his father’s professional-wedding entertainer practice and wrote up rhymes for the traditional seating ceremony for the bride. In 1911 he made his way to Montreal. He worked as a tailor, while simultaneously devoting time to self-education and learning more music. He debuted in print with a series in Montreal’s Der hon (The rooster) in the second decade of the twentieth century. His first serious articles were about Mendele’s Di klyatshe (The nag) in Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal (January 1918), a serial for which he would later become a principal contributor and editor (1932-1957). Virtually every day he wrote therein about Jewish community affairs, education, Yiddish writers, music, theater, and the cantorial art. He published in: Nuansn (Nuances) in 1921, Ineynem (Altogether), Disonansn (Dissonances), Kultur (Culture) in Chicago, Kanade (Canada) (no. 3, 1925, co-edited by A. Sh. Shkolnikov), Der idisher zhurnal (The Jewish journal) in Toronto, Der veg (The way) in Detroit, Montreoler heftn (Montreal notebooks), Royerd (Raw earth) in 1927, Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), and Tsukunft (Future), among others. With Hirsh Volofski and Benyomen Gutel Zak, he co-edited the large jubilee publication for Keneder odler in 1927 (126 pp.). On his sixtieth birthday, the following collection appeared: Lekoved yisroel rabinovitsh (On honor of Yisroel Rabinovitsh) (Montreal, 1954), 24 pp. + 8 pp. In book form: Di geshikhte fun idishen shul-problem in kvibek, fun ihr antshtehung bizn hayntigen tog (The Jewish school problem in the province of Quebec, from its origin to the present day) (Montreal: Keneder odler, 1926), 34 pp. (Yiddish) and 20 pp. (English); Muzik bay idn un andere eseyen af muzikalishe temes (Music among Jews and other essays on musical topics) (Montreal, 1940), 200 pp., which appeared in English as Of Jewish Music: Ancient and Modern (Montreal: Book Center, 1952), 321 pp. His pen name was: Yisroeli. He died in Montreal. “One of the most serious and finest of Jewish Canadian journalist,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen of him, “with a huge interest in modern Jewish cultural issues.” He also wrote for Anglophone periodicals.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 6 (Mexico City, 1969); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (December 27, 1954); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 27, 1962); Rokhl Korn, in Keneder odler (April 19, 1964); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Khayim Leyb Fuks