MENAKHEM BOREYSHO (MENAHEM BORAISHO) (January 26, 1888-February 12, 1949)
His earlier name was Menakhem Goldberg, and he was known until the 1920s by his literary name of “Menakhem,” at which point he assumed the surname Boreysho (Boraisho), his mother’s maiden name.
He was born in Brisk (Brześć) in Lithuania, son of a Hebrew teacher, Noyekh Goldberg, who himself wrote in Hebrew and who encouraged his sons to do so (one of his sons, Avrom Goldberg, was the later editor of the Warsaw newspaper, Haynt [Today]). Due to his sickliness in early childhood, Menakhem was unable to attend religious elementary school, but studied with his father. Later he attended the Russian municipal school, and later still studied further as an external student. Early on he demonstrated an interest in politics (at age sixteen he was a member of Poale-Tsiyon). He also began early to write poetry in Russian and Yiddish. In 1905 he arrived in Warsaw and showed Y. L. Perets his poems. Perets befriended him and published several of his poems in Der veg (The way). He chose for his maiden poem to publish, Kodesh (Holy) of 1907. In the course of his first two years in Warsaw, his poems were published (all under the name “Menakhem”) in the anthologies: “Shvartse royzn” (Black roses) in Naye tsayt (New times); “Tfiles” (Prayers) in Literarishe monatshriftn (Literary monthly writings); “Shloyme” (Solomon) in Yidish (Yiddish); and in other publications. In 1908 he became a regular contributor to Haynt and Dos yidishe vokhnblat (The Jewish weekly), for which he wrote articles about theater as well as feature pieces. Between 1909 and 1911, he served in the Russian army, and he published his impressions of barracks life in Haynt and Fraynd (Friend). In 1914 during the anti-Jewish boycott movement in Poland, he wrote his poem “Poyln” (Poland) (Warsaw, 21 pp.). It afforded him the opportunity to express his bitter feelings against elitist, anti-Semitic Poland. At the outbreak of WWI, he left for Switzerland, and from there he went to the United States. In New York, he contributed for a certain period of time to Tog (Day), and later for the periodicals: Firer (Leader), Haynt, Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), Tsayt (Time), and Literatur un lebn (Literature and life). In 1916, together with Moyshe Leyb Halpern, he edited the anthology Ist brodvey (East Broadway). During his initial years in the United States, he composed poetry and stories, as well as essays about theater (using the pseudonym “M. Grim”) and current events articles. He also published his first poetry collection, entitled A ring in der keyt (A ring in the chain) (New York, 1916), 124 pp. In 1915 he became secretary for the just founded “People’s Relief.” Between 1917 and 1920, worked again for Tog and for a period of time he lived in Chicago, before returning to New York. In 1919 he published a critical piece on the Russian writer, Aleksander kuprin (New York, 39 pp.), and in 1920 his poem Zamd (Sand) (New York, 206 pp.), a long lyrical-epic work which effectively announced a new turn in his literary works. In the same year of 1920, he was the head of the Jewish press department in the “Joint Distribution Committee,” a post he retained until 1929. In 1923 he published, under the name “M. Boreysho,” Zavl rimer (Zavl Rimer) (Warsaw, 224 pp.), a poetic chronicle in sixteen chapters, written in verse, with deeply lyrical parts that were well adapted to the narrative-poetic frame of the work. With this book began a new phase in Boreysho’s creative writing, a period in which he freed himself bit by bit from his earlier, often flowing sentimentalism.
In 1926 he undertook a trip to Poland and Soviet Russia. That very year, the publishing house of B. Kletskin in Vilna brought out his work Der gilgl, dialog in tsvey bagegenishn (The transformation, a dialogue in two encounters), 145 pp. When he returned from his trip, he published a travel narrative in Frayhayt (Freedom) in New York, where he was a regular contributor until 1929. Due to the pro-Arab stance of the Communists [in the wake of the Arab riots against Jews in 1929 in Palestine], he, together with an entire group of writers, left this newspaper. He became a contributor to Di vokh (The week)—first issue, October 1929; all in all, thirty-three issues—and later to Yidish (Yiddish), a weekly put out by the Yiddish Cultural Society (first issue, May 1932; published from 1932 to 1934). In 1932 Kletskin Publishers brought out in Vilna his Der pastekh dovid, a shpil oyf a biblishn motiv in zeks bilder (David, the shepherd, a play with a biblical motif in six scenes), 149 pp. That same year, he became a teacher in a Workmen’s Circle school in Boston. In 1933 he received a regular position with the American Jewish Congress, a position he retained until 1947; he wrote editorials for the organization’s Congress Weekly. Between 1933 and 1943, he worked on his longest and more important work, Der geyer, kapitlen fun a lebn (The peddler, chapters from a life), 2 vols. (New York, 1943), 512 pp. Distinct parts of this work had been published earlier in Zamlbikher (Anthologies) (1936-1938) and in Tsukunft (Future) (1940-1942). Der geyer was like a conclusion to a long, arduous path, rich in a thoughtful search and poetic self-analysis—a path that extended from “Tfiles” and “Poyln” through Zamd to the wanderings of the peddler (Der geyer), Noyekh Markan. Concerning this work, critics wrote that it isn’t a book, but a religious text. In 1940, the publishing house of CYCO (Central Yiddish Cultural Organization, Tsentrale yidishe kultur-organizatsye) brought out his report, Der kriziz in yidish (The crisis in Yiddish) (New York, 32 pp.); in 1946, the American Jewish Congress published his pamphlet in English, The Story of Yiddish (New York, 23 pp.); and in 1947, his work, A dor, opklayb fun lider un poems, 1907-1933 (A generation, a selection of songs and poems: 1907-1933) (New York, 307 pp.). Included in the last of these was an autobiographical work, entitled “Mit dem dor” (With the generation), which covered the poet’s taxing and searching efforts to erase the “dividers between him and his generation” and to devise what is “amenable for a poet.” In 1947 he again became a contributor to Tog which he continued to do until his final days. In Tog he published many fundamental articles concerning Jewish life in the United States. At this time, he had already strengthened his long-held position in Yiddish literature, that of the poet as a thinker, a “peddler,” and a searcher, replete with responsibility. He was more than anything full of doubts, but also a man of deep beliefs in a higher realm, in a higher spiritual realm. Appearing posthumously were: Eseyen (Essays) (Buenos Aires: Yidbukh, 1856), 243 pp.; and Der fremder un zavl rimer (The stranger, and Zavl the saddler) (Buenos Aires: Lifshits-fond, 1968), 315 pp.
On February 12, 1949 Menakhem Boreysho died in New York at the age of sixty-one. In 1950 the publisher Matones in New York brought out the last, though in part still unfinished, works by the poet in the volume entitled Durkh doyres (Through generations), 277 pp., together with a work by Leo Finkelshteyn, Menakhem boreyshos shafungs-veg (Menakhem Boreysho’s creative path). The volume included Boreysho’s poems, Moyshe (Moses) and Kheshbm afn ash (An accounting for Asch). Also of great interest were Menakhem boreyshos briv (The letters of Menakhem Boreysho) which Shmuel Niger published in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1954). A collection of his essays was being prepared for publication. [n.b. The last, entitled Eseyen (Essays), came out in 1956, published in Buenos Aires.]
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2 (1927), pp. 438-41; Shmuel Niger, in Algemeyner entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 5 (1944); L. Finkelshteyn, “Boreysho-biblyografye” (Boreysho’s bibliography), in Durkh doyres, cited above; letters from Boreysho to Y. Tverski, in Di goldene keyt 4 (Tel Aviv) (1949); letter(s) to Y. Shatski, in Yivo-bleter 36 (1952), pp. 343-44; Ada Boreysho-Fogel, “Ikh dermon zikh” (I recall), Tsukunft (New York) (January 1955); letter(s) to G. Pomerants, in Tint un feder 3 (Toronto) (September 1949).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 59.]