Friday 24 April 2015


ROKHL BROKHES (RACHEL BROCHES) (September 23, 1880-1942)

            She was a prose author, born into a poor family in Minsk, Byelorussia.  Her father, Volf, was a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment and wrote a great deal in Hebrew, but did not publish it.  When she was nine years of age, her father died, and shortly thereafter she was herself compelled to make a living and became a tailor.  At the same time, she devoted her attention to self-study, later becoming a teacher of handicrafts in the Minsk Jewish Artisanal School for Girls.  She first published in 1899 in Der yud (The Jew) a story entitled “Yankele.”  Later she published stories in Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg and Tsukunft (Future) in New York.  Her story “A mieser gedank” (A loathsome thought) was published in Forverts (Forward) in 1907. An analysis of the story by the editor of the Forverts, Abraham Kahan, was published in three issues of the newspaper. Until the Soviet period, the principal theme of her work was the life of Jewish women and mothers, of Jewish children, and of female Jewish workers. She also wrote dramas and stories for children. In the 1920s and 1930s, she published her writings in the Minsk journal Shtern (Star) and newspaper Oktyabr (October). Her first collection of stories came out in 1922. A number of her short stories were translated into Russian, German, and English.  By the late 1930s, she had written more than 200 stories, numerous children’s tales, and a handful of plays.  The state publishing house of Byelorussia had planned to publish her collected writings.  The first volume was set in type and ought to have appeared, but the Nazi invasion made this impossible.  She was living in Minsk, was unable to evacuate from the city, and was murdered in the Minsk ghetto.

Among her books: A zamlung dertseylungen (A collection of stories) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1922), 96 pp.; In pyonerishn lager (In a pioneer camp) (Minsk, 1936), 40 pp.; Gelke, stories (Moscow, 1937), 38 pp.; Odlerl un shoymele, a vunder-maysele (Odlerl and Shoymele, a wondrous tale) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 16 pp.; Shpinen (Spiders) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1940), 30 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 441-43; Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), part 1 (Vilna, 1929), pp. 168, 169, 171, 181-84, 187; part 2, p. 63; Uri Finkl, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (July 14, 1945); Binyomin Yud, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (November 1945).

[Addition information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 57-58.]

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