Monday 19 January 2015


SHOLEM-ZISL BEYLIN (b. October 18, 1857)
     Born in Novarodok, Byelorussia, into a semi-enlightened, merchant household, he graduated in 1880 from Realschule in Pinsk, and he then volunteered to serve for half a year in the military.  During the 1880s, he was an employee in an office as well as a teacher in a primary school for the poor.  From 1891 he served for ten years as rabbi in Rogaczow, followed by twenty years as rabbi in Irkutsk; from 1921 he was a pensioner of the Irkutsk community.  From 1884 he diligently collected Yiddish folk stories, sayings, aphorisms, jokes, proverbs, and the like.  For technical reasons, he published them first in Russian and German, and only later in Yiddish.  His first publication appeared in 1895 in Voskhod (Sunrise).  It was a series of articles in which he analyzed the origins of well-known, popular stories and legends and then demonstrated the influence that Talmud and Midrash had had on universal legend literature.  This would appear in book form as: Stranstvuyushchiye ili vsemirniye povestiye i skazaniya o drevne-ravvinskoi pis’mennosti (Wandering or international sagas and legends of ancient rabbinical literature) (Irkutsk, 1907), 351 pp.  He also published in Russian: Yevreyskiye narodniye skazki (Tales of the Jewish people, 1897); and Yevreyskiye narodniye skazki i skazaniya (Tales and sagas of the Jewish people) (Vilna, 1898), 48 pp.  He also published a book in Russian, the title of which translates as “Sayings and Aphorisms of Siberian Jews” (Irkutsk, 1913).  In 1905 he published in an Irkutsk newspaper several articles which compared the morality of the gospels with that of the Talmud.  He also wrote for Yevreyskaya starina (Jewish antiquity), 1909-1914, notes concerned with Jewish folklore.  During the years 1910-1913 he was a regular contributor to Grunwald’s Mitteilungen zur Jüdischen Volkskunde, in which he published Yiddish sayings, children’s poems, jokes, and riddles.  From his rich collections, he published: “Farglaykhenishn” (Parables), Shriftn (Kiev, 1928), 323-30; “Anekdotn, redsartn, glaykhvertlekh, shprikhverter” (Anecdotes, proverbs, aphorisms, sayings), Tsaytshrift 2-3 (Minsk, 1928); “Lomdishe un maskilishe vitsn” (Scholarly and enlightened jokes), Shriftn (YIVO, Vilna, 1929), pp. 498-514.  His as yet unpublished collections of Yiddish anecdotes concerning religious and national enmity and legends about Professor Daniel Chwolson, as well as over 1,000 files of his can be found in the YIVO archives in New York.

Sources: Yevreyskaya Entsiklopediya, vol. 4; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1.

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