NOKHUM BABAD (1872-1903)
Born in a town in southern Bessarabia. He studied in a high school in Akerman. In 1889 he emigrated to the United States. He worked in a sweatshop in New York, and in his free time he took evening courses. In 1891 he began publishing poems and sketches in Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor) and in other Yiddish labor publications. As a Russified Jewish intellectual, he began writing Yiddish for the same motive as a Dovid Edelshtat (David Edelshadt) and others: the moral imperative to be closer to the suffering immigrant masses. After two years in a sweatshop, in 1893 he came down with tuberculosis. With great difficulty, he made his way to California, stayed for a time in San Francisco in a hospital and thereafter was compelled to work harder and suffer hardship. In New York he made a living contributing to the newspaper of Russian immigrants, Russko-amerikanskii vestnik (Russian-American herald), in which he also published poems. In San Francisco he published translations in English newspapers. He returned to New York in 1893. Due to his aggravated medical condition, in 1898 he again had to go to California. He died in 1903, shortly after he had graduated from a medical course of study. Among his writings: Di geshikhte fun amerike (The history of America) (New York, 1895), 96 pp.; Haynrikh hayne (Heinrich Heine) (New York, 1900), 15 pp. No trace remains of all that he wrote in Russian and English. In the history of Yiddish literature in America, Babad remains one of the first socialist writers of the 1890s decade. His poems were extremely popular in the first years of the Jewish labor movement in the United States. “Babad was distinguished from other socialist poets of his generation in that he often quarreled over with other individuals over efforts and romanticism” (N. B. Minkov).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; N. B. Minkov, in Gerekhtikeyt (New York) (July 1943); Kalman Marmor, Dovid edelshtat (David Edelshadt) (New York, 1950); Elias Schulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 185-90.