YANKEV-SHMUEL BIK (YAAKOV-SHMUEL BICK) (1772-1831)
Born in Brod (Brody), Galicia, he was a Hebrew writer and translator, as well as an outstanding maskil (enlightenment figure) in Galicia. Bik was distinguished among his maskilic contemporaries for his tolerance with respect to Hassidim and for his demonstrating a love for Yiddish. Bik was the first Hebrew writer in the Enlightenment epoch who defended the Yiddish language and literature. In 1823 he sharply and clearly countered a pamphlet entitled Kol meḥatsetsim (Voice of the archers) that Tuvye Feder wrote against Mendl Lefin for having translated Proverbs into the Yiddish of Volhynia. In Bik’s reply to Feder’s pamphlet, he marveled with chagrin at “how one could blanket with calumny a language that our fathers spoke over the course of 400 years!” He reminded the maskilim that “all languages were, in the initial phase of their development, just as labored and rough as zhargon, but with development of a literature the language became refined.” Bik’s rebuttal was first translated into Yiddish in Kol mevaser (The herald) in 1863, but like everything else that the maskilim wrote at that time, Bik’s Hebrew-language reply to Feder circulated in manuscript. Over the course of many years, Bik wrote memoirs. The manuscript of them, though, was lost in the great fire in Brod of 1835. Bik died in Brod.
Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (January 1922, May 1924); E. R. MalaChi, in Tsukunft (October 1928); Zalmen Reyzen, in Literarishe bleter (October 16, 1931); Morgn-zhurnal (September 14, 1936); Maks Erik, Etyudn tsu der geshikhte fun der haskole (Studies in the history of the Jewish Enlightenment) (Minsk, 1934); Dr. R. Tsinberg, Di geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn (The history of Jewish literature) (Vilna, 1936), vol. 7, book 2, pp. 262-66; Dr. P. Fridman, in Fun noentn over (From the recent past) 4 (Warsaw, 1937); Sh. Verses, in Yivo-bleter 13.7-8 (November-December 1938), pp. 306-36.
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