Thursday 31 July 2014


DOVID ANIN (January 20, 1913-May 1, 1979)
      Adopted name of Dovid Azarkh, he was born in Dvinsk (Daugavpils), Latvia, son of Shmaryahu.  From 1937, he was in Paris, and from 1952 in New York.  He was a contributor and a member of the editorial board of the Parisian Bundist daily newspaper, Undzer shtime (Our voice), and he published in Undzer tsayt (Our times), Gerekhtikeyt (Justice), and Veker (Alarm)—all in New York.  He was also a contributor to Russian publications.  Among his pseudonyms: D. Serzh, D. A., A. David, D. Mirski, and Observator.  He died in Israel.


The place and date of his birth are unknown.  He graduated from the science high school in Vilna.  He was a manager of the press department and bibliographic headquarters of YIVO in Vilna.  Among his important work: “Di yidishe bikher-produktsye in tsofn-amerike” (The production of Yiddish books in North America), Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) 4-5 (1932-1933); “Yidishe lernbikher in pedagogye” (Yiddish textbooks in pedagogy), Yivo-bleter 7 (1934); “Materyaln tsu a bibliografye fun yankev leshtshinski” (Materials for a bibliography of Yankev Leshtshinski), Yivo-bleter 10 (1936); “Spinoza-bibliografye” (Spinoza bibliography), in Spinoza-bukh (Spinoza volume) (New York, 1932), ed. Dr. Y. Shatski; a bibliography of the work of Nokhum Shtif, Yivo-bleter (1933); “Yidishe lernbikher in pedagogye, 1934-1939” (Yiddish textbooks in pedagogy, 1934-1939), with Y. Yafe, in Shriftn far psikhologye un pedagogik (Writings on psychology and pedagogy), vol. 1 (Vilna, YIVO, 1933), pp. 465-528; “5 yor yidishe prese, 1926-1930, statistishe sakhaklen” (Five years of the Yiddish press, 1926-1930, statistical data), Yivo-bleter 2 (1931).  He also contributed to Bikhervelt (World of books) (Warsaw, 1928).

Sources: Sh. Katsherginski, Khurbm vilne (Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); Lerer yizker-bukh (Teachers’ memory book) (New York, 1954), p. 19; obituary in Yivo-bleter 26, p. 5.

Wednesday 30 July 2014


Y[ITSKHOK] ANTOKOLETS (d. August 1944)
     Pen name: Yan.  He was born in Vilna, practiced medicine, and was a leader of the Bund and its correspondent for its Warsaw organ, Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper).  He wrote satirical poems in the ghetto and gave lectures on popular health.  He was sent to Estonia together with a group of other Jews, and he escaped into the woods.  In August 1944 he was murdered by the Germans.

Sources: Dr. M. Dvorzhetski (Mark Dvorzetsky), Yerusholayim delite in kamf un umkum (The Jerusalem of Lithuania in struggle and death) (Paris, 1948), pp. 214, 215, 220; Sh. Katsherginski, Khurbm vilne (Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947).



He compiled and edited Jewish folklore materials.  He published his important folklore collections from 1908 through 1913 in Minsk in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) 2.3 (1928), pp. 787-97.


Born in Sokolke (Sokółka), Poland.  He was for many years an active member of the local Sholem Aleykhem Library.  He worked as a clerk in the finance department of city hall.  He was the former clerk in the office of medical insurance.  He was also an editor of Veker (Alarm) in Byalistok.

Sources: Byalistoker leksikon (Byalistok handbook) (1935); Pinkes fun yidishe druker in poyln (Records of Jewish publishers in Poland) (Warsaw, 1949), p. 45.


AVROM-MEYER AMSTERDAM (1871/1872-July 29, 1899)
Born in Vitebsk, Russia to poor parents (his father was a teacher in an elementary religious school).  He studied in religious elementary school and later, until age sixteen, in an artisanal school in Moscow.  Banished from Moscow, he returned to Vitebsk in early 1890.  At an early age he was active in community life and in the Moscow student group “Bnei-tsiyon” (Children of Zion), under the influence of his brother-in-law, Ruvn Braynin.  At that time, he was a close friend of Dovid Pinski and one of the dreamers of Zion in the Hebrew language, but later he parted from Zionist ideology and dedicated himself to spreading education among the people.  He founded youth clubs in Vitebsk which made him beloved among young people, chiefly among yeshiva boys.  An extraordinary, arousing orator, he became with the course of time one of the pioneers of the Jewish labor movement in Vitebsk, later becoming active as well in Mohilev (Mogilev) where he served in the military (1894-1895).  He went to Vilna in 1896 and became a member of the “Zhargonishe komitet” (Yiddish committee).  So as to spread radical Yiddish writings, he became a peddler.  Der yidisher arbayter (The Jewish laborer) in August 1899 wrote of him that he had become a peddler who had studied the Jewish people well and that they felt attached to him with a powerful love.  He was “a man of pure personality, an orator, a superb cultural propagandist, and a man drawn to artistic endeavors and who also made his own efforts at writing fiction” (A. M. Ginzburg-Naumov).  Unfortunately, the work referred to here was lost.  He was arrested on June 27, 1897 and spent two years in various jails.  When he was freed, he wrote Briv tsu di arbayter (Letter to laborers) as well as a speech for May Day.  He was also interested in issues in Jewish history, and on his own collected materials for a Jewish history with a materialistic interpretation.  He was an enthusiastic adherent of Yiddish and believed that his people would succeed in building their own literature in their own vernacular language.  He drowned in the Dnieper River in Shklov (Škłoŭ).  His tragic death was described by Zalman Shneur in his Shklover yidn (Jews of Shklov) in a chapter entitled “Der dertrunkener” (The drowned).
Khayim-Leyb Fuks

Sources: Der yidisher arbayter 2.3 (February 1897), 4.5 (November 1897), 7 (August 1899); A. Litvak, Vos geven (What was) (Vilna, 1925); A. Tsher (Tsherikover), Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO) (Vilna-Paris, 1939); Sh. Levin, Untererdishe kemfer (Underground fighters) (New York, 1946); Algemayne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 3, p. 315; Ruvn Braynin, Fun mayn lebns-bukh (From my book of life) (New York, 1946), p. 272; Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 1 (ed. Y. Sh. Herts) (New York, 1956).

Tuesday 29 July 2014



Author of Der origineler idisher familyen kokh-bukh (The original Jewish family cookbook), “the original work of a Jewish woman” (New York, 192?), 72 pp.


AVROM AMBER-STRUSH (d. March 1942)
     He hailed from Tshenstokhov (Częstochowa), Poland.  From an early age, he was involved in the local Bundist movement.  He was in Lemberg (Lvov) in 1920.  He was a member of the regional committee and representative to the conventions of the Bund in Galicia.  When the Soviets occupied Lemberg, he was sent to a camp.  During the repatriation of Polish citizens in 1941, he contracted typhus and died.  He began publishing in Di lebns-fragn (Life issues), edited by V. Medem, in 1916 in Warsaw.  From 1922 until the outbreak of WWII, he was the correspondent from Częstochowa and Chelm, later from Eastern Galicia; and for Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw.  Together with D. Naymark, he edited the Bundist weekly Arbeter-shtime (Voice of labor), organ of the Lemberg regional committee of the Bund.  Among his pseudonyms: Adolf, A. Trayer, A. Galitsyaner.  He died in a military hospital in Yangiyo‘l (Yangi-Yul), outside Tashkent.

Source: M. Bernshteyn, in Foroys (Mexico) (February 15, 1954)


HERSH AMASYA (AMASIA) (1864-May 28, 1927)
Born in Odessa.  He studied in religious schools and sang in choruses in schools and the Yiddish theater.  He became a professional actor and was connected with the Yiddish theater in Poland.  In his last years, he retired from the professional Yiddish actors’ union in Poland.  He published his memoirs in Yidish teater (Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (Warsaw, 1927).  He died in Warsaw.

Source: Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater, vol. 1.


EMANUEL OLSHVANGER (IMMANUEL OLSVANGER) (April 13, 1888-February 7, 1961)
     He was orn in Grayeve (Grajewo), in the Lomzher region of Poland.  He graduated from high school in Suvalk (Suwałki) and studied Jewish subjects with Shmuel-Leyb Tsitron.  He studied philology in Bern, specializing in Semitic languages and Sanskrit.  In 1916 he received his doctorate for a dissertation on the topic of “Burial Customs among the Jews, Investigated on the Basis of Language and Practice.”  His work as a writer began in his student years (he was a leader in the World Zionist Student Union, Hachaver), and he also participated in various Zionist publications, primarily in Switzerland.  He later published articles and poems as well in the press in Palestine.  In 1921 he went to South Africa on assignment from the Zionist Organization.  In 1923 he published a major work in Dorem-afrike (South Africa), entitled: “Yidisher folklore in dorem-afrike” (Jewish folklore in South Africa), a study of the language of South African Jews and mutual influences of three languages: English, Boerish (Afrikaans), and Yiddish.  In the years prior to WWII and the postwar years, he traveled through Europe, India, Burma, Singapore, and Indonesia.  He published in Hebrew as well as in other languages.  In 1936 he published a philosophical work in Tsukunft (Future), “Beyn odem lemakom” (Between man and God).  In 1952 he settled in the state of Israel.
In Israel he published over a dozen works, as well as translations of Goethe, Dante, Boccaccio, and from Sanskrit at different times.  In Yiddish he wrote: Rozinkes mit mandlen (Raisins with almonds), a Yiddish folkloric collection, published in Romanized transcription by the Jewish section of the Schweizerischen Gesellschaft für Volkskunde (Swiss Ethnographic Association) (Basel, 1920); and Royte pomerantsn (Red oranges), also in Roman transcription (Berlin, 1936; also published in New York with an English translated, 1947).  In 1952 he received the Tchernichovsky Prize in Tel Aviv for his translation of Dante’s Inferno into Hebrew.  He was a pioneer researcher in Israel into the collection of Diaspora folklore.  He was devoted to popularizing the spiritual writings of the Far East.  He lived in Jerusalem until his death.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Leyvi, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (Kislev 6, 1954).


ELYAHU OLSHVANGER (ELIYAHU OLSVANGER) (December 15, 1878-September 19, 1952)
Born in Grayeve (Grajewo), in the Lomzher region of Poland.  After graduating from high school, he studied natural science and mathematics in St. Petersburg University and medicine and philosophy in the Universities of Berlin and Würzburg from which he received his doctorate.  He began writing articles about political economy in Russian, and he translated into Russian a work about cartels.  During WWI, he was one of the founders and editors of the daily Letste nayes (Recent news) in Vilna where he wrote articles on current events as well as feature pieces on theater.  He took an active part in Vilna’s community and cultural life, worked as a lecturer at the Jewish people university, and served a committee member of the Disseminators of Education (Mefitsey-haskole).  In 1919 he moved to Berlin where he managed the Vostok publishing house.  Because of the Nazi persecutions, he moved on to Paris and later to New York where he lived out his final years.  His books include: Der kleyner geometer (Beginner’s book of geometry), translation of Grace Chisholm Young and W. Young (Dresden, 1921); Der koyfer fun Soana, a translation of Der Ketzer von Soana (The heretic of Soana) by Gerhart Hauptmann (Berlin, 1922); Shtarkung fun kerper (Strengthening the body), a translation of a work by Felix Aron Theilhaber (Berlin, 1925); and a series of pamphlets concerning tuberculosis, rickets, and venereal disease (Berlin, 1924-1930).  In the collection entitled Mes-les (24 hours) (Vilna, 1918), he published an article concerning the Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen.

Sources: Pinkes far der geshikhte fun vilne (Records for the history of Vilna) (Vilna, 1922), pp. 583-90; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1.


LEYBELE OLSHANYETSKI (1905-December 31, 1934)
Born in Lodz, Poland into a well-to-do, intellectual family.  He received both a religious and a general education.  At age fourteen, while a student in high school, he joined the socialist movement and became active among his fellow pupils and labor youth in the Bundist “Tsukunft.”  He was a magnificent speaker and lecturer who had a formidable influence on Jewish youth.  In 1923 he settled in Warsaw where he worked in the association of Jewish cooperatives in Poland.  He began writing while still in high school—poems and discourses on literary questions.  He contributed to Lodzher veker (Lodz alarm) and Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm) in Warsaw, serving for a time on the editorial board of the latter.  He died in Warsaw from tuberculosis.  He used such pen names as Leybele and L. Olsha.

Sources: Perets, in Yugnt-veker (Warsaw) (January 27, 1934); Y. Sh. Herts, Di geshikhte fun a yugnt (The history of a youth) (New York, 1946), pp. 356-57; S. Nutkevitsh, Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 2 (New York, 1956); Kh. L. Fuks, “Dos yidishe literatur lodzh” (Yiddish literature in Lodz), Fun noentn over 3 (New York, 1956).

Monday 28 July 2014


B. ALKVIT (December 7, 1896-February 11, 1963)
     Adopted name of Leyzer Blum, son of Sholem Blum.  He was born in Chelm, Poland.  He studied in religious elementary school, and at age twelve he was already a orphan.  He then left for Lublin, from there to Warsaw, and from thence he made his way to Vienna.  He arrived in the United States in 1914 and worked as a tailor in a shop.  His first poems appeared in Inzikh (Introspection), no. 2 (February 1920).  He published poems, stories, and literary essays—in Tsukunft (Future), Yidisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), Di feder (The pen), Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), Undzer bukh (Our book), Kern (Kernel), Kultur (Culture) in Chicago, Hamer (Hammer), Yidish (Yiddish), Oyfkum (Arise), Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s journal), Tog (Day), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), and Di prese (The press), among others.  He took part in the Khelmer yisker-bukh (Chelm memory book) (Johannesburg, 1955).  From 1926 he was a regular contributor to Morgn-zhurnal.  In the period 1934-1938, he served as a member of the editorial board of Inzikh.  His works include: Afn veg tsum perets skver (On the way to Peretz Square) (New Yoirk: Tsiko, 1958), 324 pp.; Lider (Poems) (New Yoirk: Tsiko, 1964), 99 pp.  He translated Arthur Schnitzler’s Casanovas Heimfahrt (Casanova’s homecoming) into Yiddish (New York, 1926), 206 pp.  In 1931 his work, Vegn tsvey un andere (About two and others) (New York), 80 pp., appeared in print.  His stories excelled in their themes and motifs of modern Jewish life in America and their expressionistic style.  He lived in New York until his death.

Sources: M. Shtarkman, Hemshekh-antologye (Continuation anthology) (New York, 1945); Z. Vaynper, Yidishe shriftshteler (Jewish writers) (New York, 1933); P. Viernik, “Undzer filshprakhike literatur” (Our multilingual literature), Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 22, 1931); M. Yafe, “60 yor yidishe poezye in amerike” (60 years of Yiddish poetry in America), Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (February 12, 1954); B. Grobard, A fertlyorhundert (A quarter century) (New York, 1935); Anna Margolin, Dos yidishe lid in amerike (The Yiddish poem in America) (New York, 1923); A. Leyeles, in Inzikh no. 54 (New York) (April 1940).


PINKHAS-LEYB ALKAN (January 28, 1895-April 3, 1960)
     Born in Selts (Syalyets), Polish Lithuania.  He studied with his father, a Hebrew teacher.  In 1912 he emigrated to the United States, and in 1914 published his first piece in Dos yidishe folk (The Jewish people).  He published sketches, stories, and one-act plays in Tog (Day), Forverts (Forward), Varheyt (Truth), Kaliforner shtime (Voice of California), Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), and Kundes (Pranster), as well in such collections as Ist brodvey (East Broadway), Onheyb (Beginning), and the like.  His books include: Di milkhome in midlvil (The war in Middleville) (New York, 1947), 293 pp.; and Dramatishe verk (Dramatic works) (Tel Aviv: Peretz, 1962), 300 pp.  He wrote dramas, one of which—entitled Rums tsu renten (Rooms to rent)—was performed on stage.  One of his plays was performed in Los Angeles in English.  Among the pseudonyms he used: Y. Elkin, Y. Alkan, Yehoshua Alkan.  He was living in Los Angeles until his death.


Sources: Z. Zilbertsvayg, Teater-leksikon, vol. 1; L. Fogelman, in Forverts (November 11, 1932); B. Y. Goldshteyn, in Tog (November 11, 1932); Z. Vaynper, in Frayhayt (August 1947); M. Kats, in Frayhayt (Sepgtember 5, 1947); Sh. Shtern, in Vokhnblat (Toronto) (June 3, 1947).


BEN-TSION (BENZION) ALFES (November 5, 1850-December 23, 1940)
     Born in Vilna.  He studied in religious schools as well as with his father, Rabbi Yirmyahu-Akiva, a scholar and God-fearing man.  With his father’s death, he was orphaned at age fifteen and went to study in Eyshishok (Eišiškės).  Married at age seventeen, his wealthy mother-in-law supported him and he thus continued his studies in Eyshishok.  He later settled in Vilna where he studied in the Gaon’s synagogue, while his wife engaged in business.  At the end of 1871 he left for Palestine with the intention of remaining there, but his wife did not wish to follow him there.  So, after living in Jerusalem and Hebron for two years, he returned to Vilna.  Thereafter he lost his possessions, and he became a proofreader for a publishing house.  For fifteen years he maintained this position, but he did wish to proof novels and other ordinary “heretical” writings.  He was particularly attentive to educating poor children in religious elementary schools and to befriending humble folk with Yiddishkeit.  He studied with ordinary people, lectured in schools and synagogue study halls, and became well known as an interpreter.  He also set to translating all manner of edifying Jewish texts from Hebrew to Yiddish.  In 1886 his publishing house in Vilna brought out his Yiddish translation (in partnership with Rabbi Avrom Kretshmer, the Antokoly Rav) of Rabbi Yonah Gerondi’s Shaare teshuvah (The gates of repentance) and Sefer hayirah (Book of religious fear [of God]), to which he added an extraordinary tale concerning Rabbi Moshe Galant, translated from the text Matok midvash (Sweetness from honey).  His published his Yiddish translation together with the Hebrew original.  This work went through several printings.  In the 1890s in small synagogues associated with the Musar movement, people used to study Shaare teshuvah with the Yiddish translation by Kretshmer and Alfes.  He then went on to translate the Rambam’s last will, Rabbi Avraham Jagel’s Lekach tov (A good lesson), the biography of the Vilna Gaon from Rabbi Yitzhak Moldan’s Even shelomo (Rock of Solomon).
     As a pious counter-force to the impact that novels and other “heretical” texts in Yiddish were having on the young, he wrote Mayse alfes (Alfes’s tale) which described a “genuine, heartfelt love for the one and only that one must love.  A stunningly beautiful history of the celebrated, cultivated Rachel with her beloved Joseph.”  This pious novel was initially published early in 1900 as a series of books (published by Sh. Shreberk in Vilna).  The full series ran to ten parts, several parts were republished (in 1953 the Agudat bate kenesiyot de-shikago veha-Galil [Association of synagogues of Chicago and the Galilee] published a new, improved edition).  Mayse alfes was written in the form of a letter from a daughter to her father (the book to the author) to whom the daughter explains her experiences and describes her impressions, with examples and stories drawn from prominent Jewish figures.  Jewish preachers saw in Mayse alfes a modern work of Musar and used it as such.  The success of Mayse alfes and the popularity of its author enabled the Vilna press that published it, Rozenkrants and Epshteyn, to proceed to place orders with him for translations and “Mayse alfes”-style commentaries on the regular prayer book, the high holiday prayer book, the Passover Haggada, the night liturgy of Shavuot, supplicatory prayers, and similar religious works.  He also adapted the Mishnah in Yiddish with a commentary in Hebrew and wrote a text entitled Seyfer oyster hatoyre (The treasury of the Torah) which he described within as: “explaining the meaning of each passage of the Pentateuch, five scrolls, and the haftaras with observations, examples, and the eighteen perushim.”  Only the first part of Genesis was printed (Vilna: Shreberk Publishers, 1914).  He also authored: Der hokhgishetster gast, a sheyne geshikhte vos erklert di hoykhe gedanken fun unzer herlikhn tsirung (tfilin) (The highly esteemed guest, a lovely story that explains the elevated ideas of our splendid treasures [tefillin]) (Poltava, 1917/1918), 32 pp.; and Di vayse khevrenikes oder nimrods soyuz (The white guys or Nimrod’s Sayuz) (Poltava, 1918), 16 pp.  Aside from his own texts, Alfes also published work in Hebrew and Yiddish of other writers, written in the spirit and the style of Mayse alfes, with his own introductions, appendices, and footnotes—as, for example, Hamatif, der redner (The sermonizer) by Gershon Pyestun, as well as other religious works: Hapaamon, der glekel (The bell) by Meir Achun; Folks-droshes (Popular sermons) and Mayn zeydes hagode, oder a pogrom af dem afikoymen (My grandfather’s haggadah, or a pogrom on the afikomen) by Borekh ben Refuel Halevi Yofis; Der barimter yunger darshan, oder meshiekh ilmim (The famed young expositor, or savior of the silent) by Avrom Meyer Rubinshtayn; A gibet brif (A pleading letter); a Yiddish translation of R. Avraham Ibn Ezra’s Igeret ha-shabat (Epistle on the sabbath); Hilkhot rav alfes, im miluim maaseh alfes (Rules according to R. Alfes, supplement: Alfes’s tale); and Metav hagiyon (Studies in logic) by Samson Raphael Hirsch, translated with R. Yitshok-Ayzik Hirshovits; among others. 
     During WWI, Alfes and his sons turned up in Vilna, and in 1924 made aliya to Palestine.  For a short period of time, he lived in Petach-Tikvah, and gave lessons there in Chevra Tiferet-Bachurim, and later with his second wife (the first died in Vilna) entered an old age home in Jerusalem.  Disregarding his old age, he continued to be active and tried to give lessons for the seniors and sermons in the study halls.  He adapted parts of Mayse alfes in Hebrew as Ahavah levavit tehorah (Love, genuine and pure), a novel in two parts; Taut nimharah o ibud atsmo ladaat (Foolish error, or suicide) (Jerusalem, 1933).  The last of these was a translation of his short book, Der shreklikher toes (The horrible mistake), in which the protagonists engage in a debate about Karl Marx, socialism, materialism, piety, and humaneness; concerning the revolution of 1917, the Bolshevik regime in Russia, and the question of labor in general.  He expressed the same contentions before the “proletarians and Bundists” in his booklet entitled Maase alfes hachadash (Alfes’s new tale) (Tel Aviv, 1940).  On his ninetieth birthday, he wrote an autobiography entitled Zikhroynes (Memoirs) (Jerusalem, 1940).
Leyzer-Refuel Malachi

Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1.

Sunday 27 July 2014


NOYEKH ALKON (d. 1943)
Born in Kobrin, near Brisk (Brześć) in Lithuania.  He received a Jewish and general education.  He was active in the Zionist movement.  Until 1940 he lived in Brisk.  He was a member of the editorial board of the Zionist weeklies, Brisker vokhnblat (Brisk weekly news) and Kobriner shtime (Voice of Kobrin), 1932-1939, in which he published both articles and fiction.

Source: M. Ginzburg, Entsiklopedya shel galiut, brisk delite (Encyclopedia of the diaspora, Brisk, Lithuania) (Jerusalem, 1954).


            He was the author of many story books, including: Di um grekhte velt (The unjust world) and Der doctor bukh (The doctor book) (Warsaw, 1882), both 32 pp.

Sources: Noyekh Prylucki, Mame-loshn (Mother tongue) (Warsaw, 1921), p. 124; Sh. Chajes, Otsar beduye hashem (Treasury of pseudonyms) (Vienna, 1933), p. 33.