SORE REYZEN (SARA REISEN) (ca. Hanukkah 1885-October 25, 1974)
She was a poetess, storyteller, and translator, born in Koydenev, Byelorussia, the sister of Avrom and Zalmen Reyzen. She was also the first wife of Dovid Kasel. She received a Jewish education and studied Russian privately. She moved to Minsk in 1899, worked as a seamstress and later passed the high school examinations there as an external student. From 1908 she was living in Warsaw and in 1914 was back in Minsk, where she worked as a teacher (1916-1921) in the Jewish public school. After that she moved to Vilna, and in 1933 she made her way to the United States.
In 1902 she debuted in print with a sketch in Russian. She began writing in Yiddish for Avrom Reyzen’s Dos yudishe vort (The Yiddish word); she later published sketches, tales, stories, and poetry in: Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper), Der veg (The way), Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper), Der shtrahl (The beam [of light]), Naye velt (New world), Fraynd (Friend), Frihlings-bleter (Spring sheets) in 1909/1910, Sivan (Sivan [the month]) in 1911/1912, Haynt (Today), Unzer ekspres (Our express), Forverts (Forward) in which he also placed serialized novels, Tsukunft (Future), Der amerikaner (The American), and Feder (Pen), among others; and in Avrom Reyzen’s collections, Eyropeyishe literatur (European literature) and Dos naye land (The new land). In the Minsk Yiddish press, she wrote under the pen name Sore Kalmens [Sara, daughter of Kalmen]. Her poetry also appeared in: Ezra Korman, Yidishe dikhterins, antologye (Female Yiddish poets, anthology) (Chicago: L. M. Shteyn, 1928); Morris Basin, Amerikaner yidishe poezye (American Yiddish poetry) (New York, 1940); and Shmuel Rozhanski, Di froy in der yidisher poezye (Women in Yiddish poetry) (Buenos Aires, 1966). She also published several stories and poems for children—in the anthologies Fraye minuten (Free minutes) (Warsaw, 1913), Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) (1914), and elsewhere. Her booklets for children include: Der ber un dem yeshuvniks dray tekhter (The bear and the village Jew’s three daughters) (Odessa: Blimelekh, 1918), 8 pp.; Der hon un dos bebel (The rooster and the bean) (Odessa: Blimelekh, 1918), 5 pp.; Far kleyne kinders vegn (For little children’s ways) (Vilna: Sh. Shreberk, 1918), 32 pp.; Bobe yakhne un moyshele (Grandma Yakhne and little Moyshe) (Warsaw; Vilna: Kinder velt, 1919), 7 pp.
Works by her in book form include: Kholem un vohr (Dream and reality) (Warsaw: Progres, 1911), 120 pp., a collection of her first sketches, tales, and one-act plays; Lider (Poetry) (Vilna: Association of Yiddish writers and journalists, 1924), 128 pp.; Lider (New York, 1955), 192 pp.; Di zilberne khasene (The silver wedding) (n. p., n. d.), 6 pp. Translations: Sergey Aksakov, Dos royte blimel (The little red flower [original: Alenkiy tsvetochek]) (Warsaw: Y. Lidski); Daniel Defoe, Robinzon (Robinson [Crusoe]) (Warsaw: Bikher-far-ale, 1910), 158 pp., many editions; Seumas MacManus, Irlandishe folks-mayselakh (Irish folk tales) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1922), 157 pp.; Ivan Turgenev, Foters un kinder (Fathers and sons [original: Ottsy i deti]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1922), 280 pp.; Aleksandr Pushkin, Dubrovski, dertseylung (Dubrovsky, a story [original: Dubrovskii]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1923), 102 pp.; Leonid Andreyev, Der gubernator (The governor [original: Gubernator]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1923), 85 pp., initially published in the Bundist Folks-tsaytung in 1908; Aleksei Tolstoy, Aelita, roman (Aelita, a novel [original: Aelita]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1923), 235 pp.; S. Orlowska, Unṭer der hershaft fun di kalifn, historisher roman oys dem arabishn lebn fun IX yorhundert (Under the rule of the Caliphs, a historical novel of Arab life from the ninth century) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1925), 360 pp.; Rabindranath Tagore, Di heym un di velt (The home and the world) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1929), 298 pp.; Leo Tolstoy, Vidergeburt (Resurrection [original: Voskresenie]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1929), 2 volumes.
“Sore Reyzen’s poems,” wrote Ezra Korman, “constituted one step further in the development of Yiddish women’s poetry…. They are quiet…, as quiet and simple as her language, imagery, and poetic comparisons. This, though, runs counter to her directness and expressed feelings.” She died in the Bronx, New York.
Sore Reyzen, front row center
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 6 (Mexico City, 1969); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 35 (1924); Benyomen Grobard, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1956); Ben-Tsien Goldberg, in Tog (new York) (December 3, 1956); Hirsh Bloshteyn, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (November 9, 1964); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).