LEYB BERMAN (March 18, 1882-1959)
He was best known under the name Leybetshke. He was born Libkind—later, due to political circumstances in Tsarist Russia, he lived with a fake pass bearing the name Yisroel-Moyshe Berman, and formally retained this name.
He was born in a small town in the Kovno region of Lithuania. Soon thereafter, however, he moved with his parents to Dvinsk (Daugavpils). He grew up in poverty and want. Until age twelve he studied in the Dvinsk state Talmud-Torah. He then went to apprentice with a carpenter. At age sixteen or seventeen he left to work as a carpenter and adopted a stance with the Bund. In the autumn of 1902 he moved to Warsaw where he took part (January 1903) in the demonstration at the Opera Theater. From Warsaw he was sent for illegal party work to Ekaterinoslav, Ukraine; he was arrested, placed in a dungeon, and began a hunger strike in prison. He was one of the founders of the Bund’s “B. O.” (boyevoy otryad [armed struggle detachment]). He served as a delegate to the seventh congress of the Bund in Switzerland (1906). In those years he began writing correspondence pieces for the illegal Bundist press. In 1908 he began specializing in carpentry for the Vilna society “Help Through Work,” in 1910 he became an instructor in the carpentry division of the Vilna artisans’ school, and in 1912 he was send by YIKO (Jewish Cultural Organization) to Germany to perfect his carpentry craft. He published a series of articles in the Warsaw serial Fraynd (Friend), entitled “Arbets-fragn” (Labor issues). He also wrote the volume Di tishler-arbet, vikhtike yedies far yudishe stolyares (The joiner’s work, important information for Jewish carpenters) (St. Petersburg, 1913), 72 pages of text, drawings, and figures (an enlarged edition appeared as Mebl-arbet [Furniture work], 162 pages of text with 99 pages of illustrations [Warsaw, 1929]). This is the sole volume in Yiddish on the carpentry trade.
In 1915 Berman was sent by YIKO to Odessa to found an evening course for carpenters. During the years of the Russian Revolution, 1917-1918, he threw himself further into politics, edited the Bundist Odessa weekly Der glok (The bell), and at the eighth congress of the Bund in December 1917 in Petrograd he was elected to the central committee of the party. In 1922 he left Soviet Russia and settled in Warsaw, where he founded the master workshop for artistic furniture and the evening course for adult carpenters at ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades), while editing its periodic trade newspaper for carpenters—the only writing of its kind in Yiddish. During this same time, he wrote articles and memoirs for Undzer gedank (Our idea) in Vilna, and Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), Vokhnshrift far literatur (Weekly writing for literature), and the anthology 25 yor (Twenty-five years)—all in Warsaw. In 1936 his book In loyf fun yorn, zikhroynes fun a yidishn arbeter (Over the course of years, the memoirs of a Jewish worker) was published in Warsaw (415 pp.). Over the years 1936-1937 his book was serialized in Forverts (Forward) in New York, and in 1947 it was republished in book form in New York. In 1939 Berman escaped from Warsaw with his daughter, and traveling through Russia and Japan arrived in the United States in 1940. His wife Rute remained in Warsaw, where she gave her life in illegal Bundist work. In New York Berman published articles on various topics in Forverts, Der veker (The alarm), and Unzer tsayt (Our time).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, pp. 195-96; “Noyekh,” foreword to In loyf fun yorn (Warsaw, 1936), pp. 5-6; R. Abramovitsh, preface to In loyf fun yorn (Warsaw, 1936), pp. 7-10; Sh. Rabinovitsh, in Tsukunft (December 1936); Z. Sher, in Tsukunft (June 1946); P. Shvarts, in Der veker (March 1, 1952); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Unzer tsayt (October 1952); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (March 14, 1937).