BER ORSHANSKI (November 30, 1883 [1884?]-November 15, 1945)
Born in Horodok, Byelorussia [now in Ukraine], in the home of a retailer, he was a prose author, playwright, and critic. Until age sixteen he studied traditional Jewish subject matter. He lived in Riga, 1902-1906, and there took part in the Bundist movement. From 1908 he was in Vilna where he began his literary activities with a one-act play concerning the Revolution of 1905. In 1909 he published a dramatic poem entitled “Der eybiker kholem” (The eternal dream). In 1918 he became a member of the Bolshevik Party, performing underground work in Byelorussia and Lithuania. In the 1920s, he was director of the Jewish section at the Institute of Byelorussian Culture (“Inbelkult”). He wrote novels, stories, plays, children’s stories, memoirs, literary criticism, and current events articles and books. His play Blut (Blood) was staged by the Yiddish State Theater of Byelorussia. His pen names include: Kh. Ber, Z. B. Elenzon, Khayem Mikhlson, and Kulyes un eynikl. He died in Moscow.
His works include: Der eybiker kholem (The eternal dream), a play, in the anthology, Knospn (Buds) (Vilna, 1909); Bay di ershte zunen-shtraln, a drame in dray aktn (At the first ray of the sun, a play in three acts) (Vilna, 1911), 47 pp.; Ana, a drame in dray aktn (Anna, a drama in three acts) (Vilna, 1911); Di legende vegn bolshevizm (The legend of Bolshevism) (Moscow, 1918), 48 pp.; Af khvalyes (On waves), a novel (Moscow, 1924), 83 pp.; In dem bloen kestele (In the little blue box) (Minsk, 1927), 49 pp.; Blut, tragedye in fir aktn (Blood, a tragedy in four acts) (Minsk, 1929), 105 pp.; Arbetndike froy, zay aktiv in gezerd (Working woman, remain active in Gezerd [All-Union Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers in the USSR]) (Moscow: Gezerd, 1930), 14 pp.; In baheltenish, dertseylungen far kinder (In hiding, stories for children) (Moscow, 1930), 80 pp.; Teater-shlakhtn, artiklen-zamlung (Theater battles, a collection of articles) (Moscow, 1931), 230 pp.; Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland nokh der revolutsye, pruvn fun an oysforshung (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia after the revolution, attempt at an inquiry) (Minsk, 1931), 258 pp.; Artyom (Moscow, 1932), 67 pp.; A tsung, dertseylung far altere kinder (A tongue, story for older children) (Moscow: Emes, 1933), 101 pp.; Kamo, stories (Moscow: Emes, 1937); 131 pp.; In kolime (In Kolyma), stories (Moscow, 1937), 95 pp.; Mit ofene meyler, mayses fun amol (With mouth wide open, stories from the past) (Minsk, 1939), 33 pp.; Epizodn, dertseylungen far kinder (Episodes, stories for children) (Moscow, 1940), 63 pp.; Der geler pas, eynakter (The yellow pass, a one-act play) (Minsk: Melukhe-farlag, 1940), 23 pp.; Kolimer dertseylungen (Stories from Kolyma) (Moscow, 1941), 140 pp. He also edited the anthologies: Der shnayder (The tailor), Shtern (Star) (Vilna), and Oktyaber (October), and the daily newspaper, Der shtern (The star) in Minsk.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Shmuel Niger, in Yidishe velt (Jewish world) (1914), vol. 2; Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (April 29, 1927); “Shoymers mishpet af sholem aleykhemen” (Shomer’s trial to Sholem-aleykhem), Tsukunft (New York) (January 1947); Moyshe Litvakov, In umru (Apprehensive), vol. 2 (Moscow, 1926), pp. 159-80; Y. Bronshteyn, Atake (Attack) (Minsk, 1931); M. Khashtshevatski, in Royte velt (August 1931); Sh. Bitov, in Farn leninishn etap in der literatur-kritik (Toward the Leninist stage in literary criticism) (Live, 1932); Y. Mestl, in Yivo-bleter 5 (1933); Elye Shulman, “Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland” (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia), Shikago (February-March 1933); A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), p. 25; Yidish-sovetisher shrayber b. orshanski in rige (The Soviet Yiddish writer B. Orshanski in Riga), in Oyfboy (Riga) 11 (June 1941); “B. orshanski” (B[er] Orshanski), in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (November 17, 1945); A. Pomerants, Edelshtot gedenkbukh (Memory book for [Dovid] Edelshtot) (New York, 1953).
[Additional information from: 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. 31-32.]