BENYOMEN RESLER (BENJAMIN RESSLER) (February 8, 1901-January 27, 1983)
The author of stories, novels, poetry and plays, he was born in Kopitshinets (Kopyczyńce, Kopychyntsi), Galicia. For ten years he studied in religious primary school and at the same time in a public school. He later entered a secular high school and went on to study philosophy in Vienna, where he also studied in a drama school. In 1925 he came to the land of Israel and performed in Hebrew theater—later, traveling through Paris, Antwerp, Berlin, and then the Cracow Yiddish community theater (1926-1927, named for B. Izraelzon). In 1928 he emigrated to the United States. He wrote poems, stories, novels, dramas, feature pieces, and translations. He debuted in print in 1918 with poems in Togblat (Daily newspaper) in Lemberg. He also published several stories there. He contributed to Anzelm Kleynman’s Yudisher literarisher kalendar (Jewish literary calendar) in Lemberg (1922-1925), as well as to: Di yudishe bihne (The Yiddish stage); Tsushteyer (Contribution) (1931), Morgen (Morning), and Dos fraye vort (The free word) in Lemberg; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; Parizer bleter (Parisian leaves); Idishe prese (Jewish press) in Antwerp; Idishe velt (Jewish world) in Philadelphia; Kultur (Culture) in Chicago (among other items, a major novel entitled Shini karavashi); Der amerikaner (The American), Yidish (Yiddish), and Tsukunft (Future) in New York; among others. From 1929 he was a regular contributor to Tog (Day) in New York, and there he published for several years the series “1000 yorn yidn in poyln” (1000 years of Jews in Poland). Later, he wrote for Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Day-morning journal), and later still he placed work in Algemeyne zhurnal (General journal) in New York. His writings include: Ershte gezangen (First songs) (Lemberg: Yudisher literarisher farlag, 1922), 95 pp.; Af alter erd, roman (On ancient ground, a novel), concerning Jewish life in the land of Israel (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1927), 267 pp.; Nokhn geretenish, roman (After the harvest, a novel) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1927), 409 pp.; Der veg tsu yisroel, roman (The path to Israel, a novel), first volume of a trilogy (Paris-New York,: Unzer vort, 1950), 224 pp.
Concerning his first novel, Af alter erd, for which he gained a reputation, Shmuel Niger wrote that it possesses “a completeness of mood, uniformity of rhythm…. He took unique, often separated episodes…and made a totality from them, from a single vital sensibility a vivid item permeated by it…. He did not build a building, but he gave us a rich and colorful mosaic.”
Resler wrote numerous plays, the majority of which were staged: Iber vayse stepes (Over white steppes); Likht un shotn (Light and shadow); In di alte moyern oder di gildene roze (Within the old walls or the gilded rose), a mystery in verse, drawn from the life of Jews in Lemberg in the seventeenth century, published in Anzelm Kleynman’s Kalendar (1924/1925); Fun dem foyln degenerirtn salon (From the putrid, degenerate salon), not staged; Shpinvebs (Cobweb); Fremde veltn (Alien worlds), later known as Dray doyres (Three generations); 60 toyznt giboyrim (60,000 heroes); the comedy Onkl sem (Uncle Sam); Shikh (Shoes), published in Hamshekh (Continution) in New York (1940), pp. 191-258. He translated Ernst Toller’s Hinkeman (original: Der deutsche Hinkemann [Hinkemann, the German]). In his later years, he wrote a great deal in Hebrew. In 1959 he received the Lamed Prize for his novel Naḥalat tsvi, roman (Patrimony of Tzvi, a novel) (New York-Jerusalem, 1958), 285 pp.
“Benyomen Resler is…the first Yiddish novelist,” noted Shloyme Bikl, “of the Galician shtetl. Resler’s novel Der veg tsu yisroel is not only new, in that this is the first storybook about Galician Jewish city life, but also new in its conveying a plotline…connecting its ‘creator’ to Resler’s extraordinary affinity to Sholem-Aleichem…. The main figural element for Resler is the hero’s eloquence.”
“Benyomen Resler is one of our better novelists,” commented Yankev Glatshteyn, “one of the group of writers upon whom rests a literature…. Resler’s greatest virtue is his language, his extraordinarily musical durability for nuances of our rich language.” He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Merḥavya, 1967); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (December 14, 1952); Yisroel Shtern, Lider un eseyen (Poems and essays) (New York, 1955), pp. 215-24; Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence) (New York, 1956), pp. 425-29; Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation), vol. 1 (New York, 1958), pp. 345-49; Froym Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 21, 1959); Yidisher teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish theater in Europe between the two world wars), vol. 2 (New York, 1971), pp. 366, 378; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).