Thursday 26 March 2015


He was born in Nayshtot-Shirvint (Rus. Vladislavov), Suvalk district, Russia, into a family of means.  He received a traditional education.  He was a businessman, scholar, and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment movement, a son-in-law of the Kalvarier rabbi, and an uncle of the Anglo-Jewish journalist Herman Bernshteyn.  He was the author of “Devarim aḥedim al davar hayehudim vehayahadut lifne shloshim vearba shana” (A few word concerning the Jews and Judaism after thirty-four years [resident in America]), Yalkut maaravi (The western collection) (New York, 1904); as well as of a Hebrew booklet aimed at Yaakov Bachrach: Sefer hayiḥus likhtov ashur (The book of pedigree for confirmation) and A matematishe tabele far sokhrim (A mathematical table for businessmen).  Early on he began publishing in Hakarmel (The garden-land), Halevanon (Lebanon), and Hamagid (The preacher), among others.  He was a friend of Perets Smolenskin.  He came to the United States at age twenty-four and served as a correspondent for the Hebrew press in Europe.  In his correspondence pieces, he defended “the tens of thousands” of Polish Jewish immigrants vis-à-vis the malevolent fabrications of German Jews, also immigrants.  He supported Jewish emigration to America: “America is a wide open country, and even if all the Jews in Poland were to come here, no one would even notice,” he wrote in one of his correspondence essays.
When in 1870 the Franco-Prussian War erupted, Bernshteyn recognized an opportunity to bring out a newspaper in New York in Yiddish, and in August 1870 he founded Di post (The mail).  Its first editor was the Hebrew writer Zvi Gershuni, who was also the newspaper’s compositor.  The second editor was the writer and compositor M. Y. Yohalemshteyn.  This was the first, published, Yiddish-language periodical work in the United States.  The newspaper—for which Bernshteyn had to import Yiddish movable type from Vilna—initially had great success and sold some 4,000 copies, but half a year later it was discontinued and not a single copy of it has since been found.
With the discontinuation of Di post, Bernshteyn and Jacob Cohen, who played an important part on the East Side in the Democratic Party, began publishing a quatrilingual newspaper in Yiddish, Hebrew, German, and English which they titled Hebrew News.  The first issue, with thirty-two pages, appeared on April 5, 1871.  It had a small circulation and was published with the electoral aims connected to Cohen’s candidacy.  When he lost, the newspaper ceased publication with its thirteenth number on April 14, 1872.  The Hebrew News published the first Yiddish poetry in America.  In its first issue was a poem entitled “Yidishe romantik” (Jewish romance), which may be seen as the very first Yiddish poem published in the United States.  Bernshteyn also brought out the first Hebrew serial in the United States: Hatsofe baarets haḥadasha (Spectator in a new land), launched June 1871.  It continued until 1876 with some long interruptions.  Its editor was the same Yohalemshteyn.  Bernshteyn was also involved with banking business.  He lost his holdings in the Yiddish theater, as owner of the “Romanian Opera House” in New York.  Toward the end of his life, he lived in the Catskill Mountains in Tannersville, New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Kalmen Marmor, Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (The beginning of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1940), see index; Joseph Chaikin, Yidishe bleter in amerike (Yiddish newspapers in America) (New York, 1946), pp. 52-53; E. Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 33-34; Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter bavegung in amerike (History of the Jewish labor movement in America), vols. 1 and 2 (New York, 1944), see index; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (January 1940); N. B. Minkov, in Tsukunft (April 1954); Moyshe Shtarkman,

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