ELYE (ELIAS) SHULMAN (September 28, 1907-1986)
He was born in Slutsk, Byelorussia, descended from a family of parchment makers and scribes. He attended a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school), a Russian commercial school, and evening Tarbut courses. He graduated from middle school and university in New York, where he emigrated in 1922. He was a research student (1935-1936) at YIVO in Vilna. He received his doctoral degree from Dropsie University in 1965 for a dissertation on Jewish education in Soviet Russia (1918-1948). He was active in community cultural affairs: academic secretary of the historical circle at YIVO, for many years a member of the administration of the World Jewish Culture Congress, and the like. He served as director (1961-1975) of the library of the Jewish Education Committee in New York. From 1971 he was professor of Yiddish literature and cultural history at Queens College and of Yiddish literature at the Herzliya teachers’ seminary.
He debuted in print in 1931 in Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), and from that point in time he published articles, essays, book reviews, and studies on literary historical topics. He placed work in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), Tsukunft (Future), Forverts (Forward, a regular contributor of literary critical articles), and Afn shvel (At the threshold) in New York; Shikago (Chicago); Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education), Kultur un lebn (Culture and life), In zikh (Introspective), Unzer tsayt (Our times); Bay zikh (On one’s own) and Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv; and from 1967 he was the editor of Veker (Alarm), in which he placed literary articles and shorter notices under a special rubric, “Khoydeshlekhe kurantn” (Monthly gazette), using the pen name Ilya Falkov. He also co-edited: Getseltn (Tents) in New York (1945-1948); Pinkes far der forshung fun der yidisher literatur un prese (Records of research in Yiddish literature and the press) in New York (1972, 1975); and Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical dictionary of modern Yiddish literature), vols. 7 and 8.
Longer works by him include: “Di arbeter-tsaytung” (The workers’ newspaper), in Tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher prese in amerike (Toward a history of the Yiddish press in America) (New York, 1934); “Di varhayt” (The truth), in the anthology Lekoved dem 250stn yoyvl fun der yidishe prese (In honor of the 250th anniversary of the Yiddish press) (New York, 1937); “Di ‘fraye shriftn’” (The “Free writings”), in Yitskhok-nakhmen shteynberg ondenk-bukh (Remembrance volume for Yitskhok-Nakhmen Shteynberg) (New York, 1961); “Di yudishe velt” (The Jewish world), in Pinkes (Records) in New York (1965); “Di yidishe veltlekhe shul in lite” (The Jewish secular school in Lithuania), in Lite (Lithuania), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1965); “Shtrom” (Current), in Shloyme bikl yoyvl-bukh (Jubilee volume for Shloyme Bikl) (New York: YIVO, 1967); “Yidishe kultur-tetikeyt in minsk, 1917-1941” (Jewish cultural activity in Minsk, 1917-1941), in Seyfer hayoyvl leavrom golomb, tsu zayn akhtsiksṭn geboyrn-yor (Jubilee volume for Avrom Golomb, on his eightieth birthday) (Los Angeles, 1969); “Avrom reyzen vi a redaktor” (Avrom Reyzen as an editor), in Bay zikh 7-19; “Fun elye bokhur biz mendelson” (From Elye Bokhur to Mendelssohn), on an unpublished book by Zalmen Reyzen and Maks Erik, in Di goldene keyt 98 (1979); “Leksikon fun forverts-shrayber” (Biographical dictionary of Forverts writers), in Forverts (May 23-December 5, 1982); “Oyfkum fun di ‘yunge’” (Rise of the “Yunge” [Young ones]), in Bay zikh (June 1983-June 27, 1985). Shulman has indicated that, in the Tsinberg archive in Leningrad, there is the manuscript of Volume IX of Tsinberg’s Geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn (The history of Jewish literature). He contributed biographies of Yiddish writers to Encyclopaedia Judaica. From 1977 he was writing the annual survey of new Yiddish books in the yearbook for Encyclopedia Britannica.
His books include: Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike 1870-1900 (A history of Yiddish literature in the United States, 1870-1900) (New York: Biderman, 1943), 244 pp.; Yung vilne, 1929-1939 (Young Vilna, 1929-1939), (New York: Getseltn, 1946), 63 pp.; Yisroel tsinberg, zayn lebn un verk, biografye un eseyen (Yisroel Tsinberg, his life and work, biography and essays) (Paris: World Jewish Culture Congress, 1971), 95 pp.; Di sovetish-yidishe literatur (Soviet Yiddish literature) (New York: Tsiko, 1971), 200 pp.; Portretn un etyudn (Portraits and studies) (New York: Tsiko, 1979), 512 pp.; Sugyot betoldot sifrut yidish (Issues in the history of Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv, 1969), 56 pp., essays translated from Yiddish into Hebrew; The Fate of Russian Jewry (New York, 1959), 32 pp.; A History of Jewish Education in the Soviet Union, 1918-1948 (New York, 1971), 184 pp., which was awarded the Atran Prize for 1979.
“His approach to evaluating a work or a literary phenomenon,” wrote Leyzer Podryatshik, “comes, if I may say so, from within. He acquaints himself with the content of a work, in the author’s realm of thought and sense, and strives to get to the bottom of it, to its central idea.”
“In recent times,” noted Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, “his creative activity in the field of research and criticism entered a kind of equilibrium, and he arrived at a point where he is nowadays the only person—in the American Yiddish press—who regularly has an impact on newly published Yiddish books and reacts to issues in Yiddish literary works.”
Sources: Kalmen Marmor, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 23 (1944); Shloyme Bikl, in Yivo-bleter 29 (1947); Shmuel Margoshes, in Tog (New York) (November 8, 1958); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (July 29, 1959); Yisroel Emyot, in Forverts (New York) (July 25, 1970); Noyekh Gris, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1970); Tsvi Sharfshteyn, in Hadoar (New York) (Adar 15 [= February 10], 1971); Avrom Golomb, in Tsukunft (October 1971); Arn Vergelis, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 1 (1972); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Veker (New York) (April 1972); Shtarkman, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1980), pp. 404-8; Yoysef Okrutni, in Idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (April 24, 1972); Falik Lerner, in Idishe tsaytung (April 28, 1972); Yitskhok Yanasovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (November 22, 1972); Yanasovitsh, in Folk, velt un medine (Tel Aviv) (September 1979); Getzel Kressel, in Masa (Tel Aviv) (April 6, 1973); Yoysef Fridlender, in Bay zikh (Tel Aviv) (May 1979); Volf Gliksman, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (May 1979); Elkhonen Indelman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (May 4, 1979); Yude Kersh, in Lebns-fragn (Tel Aviv) (November 1979); Leyzer Podryatshik, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 100 (1980); A. A. Robak, in Jewish Social Studies (New York) V (1943).
Dr. Noyekh Gris
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 520.]