Wednesday 4 June 2014


MOYSHE-LEYZER AYZENSHTADT (January 13, 1869-November 27, 1943)

A historian and literary scholar, he was born in Nyesvizh (Niasviž), Byelorussia, into the home of a teacher and Hebraist.  He received a Jewish education, and by age thirteen he had already published correspondence pieces in Hamelits (The advocate) and Hatsfira (The times).  He later studied in the Volozhin yeshiva, moving on to Minsl to receive a secular education. From 1889 he was a student of philosophy, Oriental languages, literature, and history at Berlin University and in the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Higher Institute for Jewish Studies).  He received his doctorate from the Hochschule for a dissertation concerned with Bible criticism in Talmudic literature.  For a time he was a teacher of Jewish subjects in a Jewish orphanage in St. Petersburg and a number of high schools. Over the years 1900-1910, he was a rabbi in Rostov-on-Don and from 1910 in St. Petersburg.  He led a project to reform the old cheder system. From his student years, he published in Hebrew, Yiddish, and German newspapers which carried his human-interest pieces, stories, reviews, and current events articles, principally on issues concerning education, as well as translating a series of works from other languages in Hebrew and Russian. In Yiddish he wrote articles for Y. L. Perets’s journal Hoyz-fraynd (House friend), as well as sketch in Hoyz-fraynd, no. 5, with the title “Vu zaynen zey?” (Who are they?).  He contributed to Yud (Jew) with a series of articles about education, also in Der fraynd (The friend), Der tog (The day), and Sh. Frug’s Luekh fir erd-arbayter (Calendar for farmers).  From 1910 he was a member of the editorial board of the Russian-language educational periodical News of Jewish education’ in St. Petersburg, and in 1918 he was coeditor of a number of textbooks for Jewish youth. In the early 1920s, he was professor of Talmudic literature at the Petrograd Jewish University. During those years, he was working on a major project in Yiddish entitled Di aynlaytung in talmud (Introduction to Talmud). He subsequently emigrated to Paris and after Hitler’s march into France, he came to the United States in 1942. Other work by him include: Nokh der groyse sreyfe, ertseylung (After the great fire, a story) (Vilna, 1901), 16 pp. He died in New York.  Further details can be found in: Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature) (Merḥavya, 1967). 

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Algemayne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 2.

[Additional information in: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 18-19.]

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