Thursday 28 August 2014


MARIA OKUN (GOLDBERG) (1873-March 22, 1954)
Born in Lodz, into a merchant, semi-assimilated family.  While still a child, she moved to St. Petersburg.  Firmly Russified, she graduated from the Lesgaft Course [in physical education] and became a Russian teacher.  Early on she joined the social democratic movement and later the Bund.  Around 1902-1903, Maria Abramovna was sent by the Hevra Mefitsei Haskala (Society for the promotion of enlightenment) to take up a teaching position in Bobruisk, and there she married the Bundist leader and writer, the engineer Yisroel (Israel) Okun.  From 1920 she directed the preschool education of the Central Educational Committee of the Bund in Vilna.  In 1914 her collection, Baveglekhe shpiln far kinder (Mobile games for children), 105 pp., was published by B. Kletskin in Vilna, and reissued in a second edition in 1919 in St. Petersburg.  She also published articles concerning her area of expertise—as well as on general pedagogical topics—in the publications of the Central Educational Committee (Vilna) and Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) in Warsaw.  In the late 1920s, she emigrated to Canada and from there, following the death of her husband [in 1941], to the United States.  She was an extraordinary figure with a sense of morality as strong as iron.  Alone and blind, she died in an institution not far from New York.

Sources: Y. Kharlash, Lerer-yisker-bukh (Memorial book for teachers) (New York, 1954), pp. 438-40, reprinted from Undzer tsayt (New York) (April-May 1954); Y. Pat, Kultur un dertsiung (Culture and education) (New York) (December 1954).

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