YUDE SHTEYNBERG (JUDAH STEINBERG) (1863-March 10, 1908)
He was the author of Hebrew and Yiddish stories, poetry, and fables, born in Lipkan (Lipcani), Bessarabia. His father was a Hassidic zealot and gave him a fervently religious education. At age seventeen, after marrying, he moved to a village in Romania where the residence of the Riziner Rebbe’s Hassidic dynasty was located. Beautiful nature on one side and the Hassidic way of life on the other strongly affected his later literary work. He returned to Lipcani after three years. He took up teaching there, as well as in Yedinets (Edineţ) from 1889 and Leovo (Leova) from 1897. On his own he studied mathematics, the basics of natural science, and foreign languages. On the whole he lived in a state of want and had to put up with the persecutions from the fanatically religious. In 1906 he settled in Odessa. He wrote stories, poetry, fables, and children’s tales primarily for Hebrew-language periodicals. Kol kitve yehuda shteinberg (Collected writings of Yude Shteynberg) (Warsaw, 1909-1913), 4 vols., and the last single volume with the same title (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1959) were all published posthumously, in addition to a series of publications of individual volumes of his stories. He was more closely tied to Hebrew than to Yiddish. His first item in Yiddish was, it would appear, published in Yud (Jew) 18 (1899). There he also published a lengthy story entitled Beril der vaserfihrer (Beril the watercarrier) of 1902. At the same time, he was a regular contributor to the weekly newspaper Di yudishe folkstsaytung (The Jewish people’s newspaper) (1902-1903), in which in addition to stories he published one of his most beautiful pieces, “Der goldener” (The golden one), in 1902. He contributed stories, sketches, and humorous pieces as well to: Di yudishe familye (The Jewish family) in Cracow, Fraynd (Friend), Der veg (The way) in Warsaw (1905-1906), the anthology Hilf (Relief) (Warsaw, 1903), and Tsukunft (Future) in New York, among others. For a brief time in 1906, he was the Odessa correspondent for New York’s Varhayt (Truth). Writings by Shteynberg were published after his death in: Dos yohr (The year) in 1910, Lidskis familyen-kalendar (Lidski’s family calendar) in 1911, Blumen af sukes (Flowers on Sukkot) (Warsaw, 1913/1914), and in numerous readers in bith Hebrew and Yiddish. He died in Odessa.
His writings in Yiddish include: Oysgevehlte shriften (Selected writings) (New York: Literarishe ferlag, 1910?), 177 pp.—two parts: 1. Khsidishe mayselekh; 2: In yene tsayten [see below]; Dertseylungen (Stories) (New York: Folk-shul, 1926), ed. Sh. Shapiro, 1926), 146 pp. Translations from Hebrew: Khsidishe mayses (Hassidic tales), trans. B. K[arlinski] (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1909), 72 pp.; In yene tsayten, zikhroynes fun a kantonist (At that time, memoirs of a cantonist), trans. B. K[arlinski] (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1909), 105 pp., in abridge form, trans. B. Epelboym (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1922), based primarily on Karlinski’s translation; Khsidishe mayses un ertsehlungen (Hassidic tales and stories), trans. Shmuel-Tsvi Zetser (Warsaw, 1910); Khsidishe mayses un ertsehlungen; In yene tsayten (Warsaw: B. Shimin, 1912), 72 pp. + 105 pp.; Shulamis (Shulamith) (Warsaw: Mayselekh, 1913), 31 pp.; Der maler; Bruderl un shverterl; Di shtodt; Shver nit (The misfortune; Little brother and sister; The city; Don’t swear) (Odessa: Blimelekh, 1918); A mayse emit a firsht; Der geshlogener ingel; Fligen shriftn; A rayner gevisen; Di shule (A tale with a duke; The beat-up lad; Fly script; A pure conscience; The school), trans. M. A. Shapiro (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1918), 29 pp.; Fragen; Shmuel milner; A mayse mit tsvey brider; Royzen un shmaragden (Questions; Shmuel Milner; A tale with two brothers; Roses and emeralds), trans. M. A. Shapiro (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1918), 32 pp.; Shimen ikh zol azoy lebn; Di farsholtene printsesin; Di gefangene kale (Simon, I have to live this way; The cursed princess; The captive bride), trans. Sh. Shapiro (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1918), 32 pp.; Rozhinkes mit mandlen, mayselekh far idishe kinder (Raisins with almonds, tales for Jewish children), trans. Sh. Shapiro (New York: Maks N. Mayzel, 1918), 29 pp.; Mayselekh (Tales), trans. B. Epelboym (Warsaw: Blumen, 1921), 85 pp.; A feryosemt leben, ertsehlung (An orphaned life, a story) (Warsaw: Unzer bukh, n.d.), 61 pp. He also published other stories, such as: “Arele narele” (Arele the fool), “Di khasene” (The wedding), “Di royzn” (The roses), “Tsvey khaverim” (Two friends), “Dos naye kapotkele” (The new little gabardine), “Tsvey bageren” (Two desires), “Di nit farentferte kashes” (The unanswered questions), “Loy takhmud” (Thou shalt not covet), and “A roygez” (Anger). It is, however, difficult to find them, just as it is difficult to be sure of what the original language in which these stories was written.
“The main theme of Shteynberg’s stories,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “was patriarchal Jewish family life, with all of its fine morals, with modesty, naïveté, and that additional Shabbat soul…. Especially good were his stories and legends of Hassidic life…. Together with Perets and Berdyczewski, he was a classic writer of Hassidism in our literature. He differ, though, [from these two] in that he was not carried away by Hassidism, but by the Hassid and the Hassidic way of life,…and he was able masterfully to give a vivid picture of this with all of its characteristic distinctive qualities.”
Shteynberg’s best known works were his collection of fables, Bair ubayaar (In the city and in the forest), and the children’s tales, Sikhot yeladim (Children’s conversations). Of his stories, especially well known is Bayamim hahem (From those days). Concerning his fables, Yankev Fikhman writes: “This booklet was a new phenomenon in our literature: It caused a flurry among us with the scents of open fields and flowers; the naïve village life with its animals, chickens, and vegetation spoke to us in their language and in a Jewish manner as well, Rabba bar Bar-Ḥanna with Abaye and Rava all together.” And, what Fikhman says here about Hebrew literature at that time can be said of Yiddish literature in that era.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Merḥavya, 1967); Lidskis familyen-kalendar (1908/1909); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), vol. 3 (New York, 1935), p. 179; Yankev Fikhman, Regnboygn, zikhroynes, eseyen un lider (Rainbow, memoirs, essays, and poems) (Buenos Aires, 1953), pp. 60-73; Fikhman, Ruḥot menagnot (Winds playing) (Jerusalem, 1952), pp. 313-52; Arn Tsyatlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (new York) (July 4, 1958); Genazim (Tel Aviv) 1 (1961), pp. 139-42; Froym Oyerbakh, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (February 10, 1969); Dov Sadan, Avne miftan, masot al sofre yidish (Milestones, essays on Yiddish writers), vol. 3 (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1972), see index; Ber Grin, Fun dor tsu dor (From generation to generation) (New York, 1971), pp. 170-74; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).