Sunday, 5 May 2019


YITSKHOK RABINOVITSH (October 13, 1846-April 8, 1900)[1]
            A Hebrew poet and Yiddish novelist, he was born in Kovno.  He often added to his name “Ish kovno” (A man of Kovno).  He came from a religious family.  While still in his youth, he attempted to write florid Hebrew prose and poetry.  Avraham Mapu taught him Hebrew grammar and German.  In 1867 he settled in Telz where he befriended Y. L. Gordon.  From 1880 he lived in Vilkomir (Ukmergė) and other cities in Lithuania.  In 1893 he made his way to join his children in New York, where he lived in poverty.  He published three volumes of his Hebrew poetry.  In New York he began his literary activities in Yiddish, which mainly consisted of writing “highly interesting” novels for: Yudishe gazetten (Jewish gazette), Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Der folks vekhter (The people’s watchman), Der folks zhurnal (The people’s journal), and Di yudishe prese (The press)—the last three of these in Philadelphia—among others, as well as for publishers, the majority going to the Hebrew Publishing Company.  In book form: Unshuldig geliten, oder der vampir (Innocent victim, or the vampire), a novel in thirteen volumes (New York: A. Ferenburg, 1895), 2061 pp.; Der groyzamer hersher, oder der kamf gegen di tiranay (The ruthless ruler, or the struggle against tyranny), fifteen volumes (New York: Z. Kantorovits, 1897-1898), 3384 pp.; Ferbrekhen oys liebe, oder di intrigen fun a londoner meshugoim hoyz (A crime of love, or the intrigues of a London insane asylum) (New York, n.d.), 640 pp., and a second edition appeared in print; Unshuldig in a meshugoim hoyz, oder in shveren kerker fershpart (Innocent in an insane asylum, or imprisoned in a rough jail) (New York, n.d.), 1280 pp. (this work carried the English title “Sane among the Insane”); Tsvishn menshenfreser (Among cannibals) (New York, 1890s), 26 volumes; Der froyen-hendler, oder a bestye in menshn-geshtalt, a roman (The merchant in women, or a beast in human form, a novel) (New York: J. Saphirstein, 1894), 1520 pp.; Dos geroybte kind, oder der henker fun berlin (The stolen child, or the hangman of Berlin) (New York, 1890s).  He translated Perets Smolenskin’s Kevurat amor (Burial of the ass) under the title Der shtodt-moser, oder begroben kvures khamer (The city informer, or burying an ass) (New York: Khinski, n.d.), 111 pp., and Simat hanef (Joy of a hypocrite) as Shvindler, oder di freyd fun a khoynef (Swindler, or the joy of a hypocrite) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, n.d.), 92 pp.  His novels were often translated or adapted from other languages, and often only a portion was rendered by him.  He also composed a small number of poems in Yiddish.  Several of them are included in Tsvey patryotishe shirim (Two patriotic poems) (New York: Yudishe gazette, 1889/1890), 36 pp., and in Morris Basin’s Antologye, 500 yor yidishe poezye (Anthology, 500 years of Yiddish poetry) (New York, 1917).  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Meravya, 1967); Otsar hasifrut (Treasury of literature), vol. 3 (Cracow: 1890), pp. 74-75 (autobiography); Kalmen Marmor, Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike, 1870-1890 (The start of Yiddish literature in America, 1870-1890) (New York: Writers’ Section of IKUF, 1944), p. 36; Y. Kabakoff, Ḥalutse hasifrut haivrit baameriḳa (Pioneers of Hebrew literature in America) (Tel Aviv, 1966), p. 267; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Yekhezkl Lifshits

[1] These dates and those in the text below follow Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Meravya, 1967); Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4, has mostly different ones.

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