BEN-TSIEN (BEN-ZION) GOLDBERG (January 9, 1895-December 29, 1972)
This was the pen name of Ben-Tsien Veyf (Benjamin Waife). He was born in Olshan (Gol’shany), Vilna region. He was the son of the Olshan scribe and ritual slaughterer, R. Moyshe Veyf; his mother Khyene was of the Margolis family. He came from considerable pedigree. On his father’s side, he was related to the Dvinsker rabbi, and his mother was the daughter of the Gedritser rebbe, and they were related to the author of Pitḥon tshuva (Voice of response) and of R. Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. He studied with his grandfather in Olshan, also in a religious primary school and later in the yeshivas of Lide (Lida) and Volozhin—secular subject matter with private tutors. In 1907 he moved with his parents to the United States, settling in New York. He studied for one year at the yeshiva of R. Yitskhok Elchonon. He spent the years 1908-1914 in the states of Michigan and Iowa. There he studied in elementary and middle school, and one year at the University of Iowa. In 1914 he returned to live in New York. He studied psychology at Columbia University, and in 1920 he received his doctorate there in psychology. Goldberg began writing while quite young. At age twelve he placed a poem in Varhayt (Truth) in New York. At age sixteen he published articles in Shikager rekord (Chicago record). While a student at Columbia University, in 1914, he visited Sholem-Aleykhem and invited him to speak before the Jewish students. From that time on, he became a regular visitor to Sholem-Aleykhem’s home, befriended the latter’s daughter Marusya, and in 1917 became Sholem-Aleykhem’s son-in-law. In 1920 he placed his first pieces in Tog (Day), a series of articles on psychology which at that time appealed only to a limited circle of readers. When the editorial board declined to publish him further, because the content of his pieces were deemed too “erudite,” Goldberg did not become discouraged, and using a female name “Ida Brener,” he continued to submit his writings which were published and had such success that the editors of Tog sought out just who the real author was. In 1921 he made a voyage through Europe and sent in correspondence pieces which were a big hit with readers. In 1922 he became a regular contributor to the newspaper. Under his own name, as well as under the pseudonyms B. Marusin and B. Margolis, he wrote on a variety of topics. From 1924 he wrote a daily column entitled “In gang fun tog” (Starting off the day), in which he reacted to virtually every event in the most diverse fields of general and Jewish life. Over the years 1916-1926, he was a pioneer and director of the New York Jewish Folk University and the Jewish teachers’ seminary. He was later active in IKOR (Yidishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in rusland [Jewish colonization organization in (Soviet) Russia]). He was one of the initiators of the American division of YIVO. In the 1930s he was one of the founders and active leaders of IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association). During WWII, he was an active member of the American Jewish-Russian Relief Committee, chair of the “American Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists, and Scientists,” and later chair of the large reception committee for the delegation from the Moscow “Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee,” the stage director and writer Shloyme Mikhoels, and the Soviet Jewish poet Itsig Fefer. Over the years 1924-1940, he served as managing editor of Tog. He was also active in the field of English-language journalism. In 1932 he had a daily column in the Brooklyn Eagle, entitled “The World Today.” In 1940 he became editor of Jewish Digest and in 1941 edited American Jewish Almanac. In 1932 he traveled to the Middle East. In 1934 he traveled through Soviet Russia, Birobidzhan, China, and Japan. During all of his trips, his daily column appeared in Tog. His correspondence pieces and subsequent articles about Soviet Russia and Birobidzhan aroused considerable polemics in their day in the American Jewish press.
Among his books, he published in English: The Sacred Fire (New York, 1930), 386 pp.—also appearing in England (1931), 287 pp. This volume was a history of the issue of sex as it was handled by various religions—it was translated into other languages as well. In Yiddish he wrote: Sovetn-farband, faynt oder fraynt (Soviet Union, enemy or friend) (New York, 1947), 48 pp.; and Yidn in ratn-farband, zeyer lage, zeyere problemen, zeyer tsukunft (Jew in the Soviet Union, their condition, their problems, their future) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1965), 452 pp., with Hebrew translation by A. D. Shapir as Habaaya hayehudit bevrit hamoatsot (Tel Aviv: Am oved, 1966), 316 pp. He edited: Shtudyes in sotsyaler visnshaft (Studies in social science), published in honor of the fiftieth birthday of A. Sh. Zaks (New York, 1930), 203 pp., and to this he contributed an essay on the honoree. He also contributed an article on Zaks in Dr. Herman Frank’s book, A. sh. zaks, kemfer far folks-oyflebung (A. Sh. Zaks, fighter for popular revival) (New York, 1945), 396 pp. He published memoirs, entitled “Momentn sholem-aleykhem” (Moments with Sholem-Alekhem), in Sholem-alekhem-bukh (Sholem-Aleykhem book) (New York, 1926). Over the years 1943-1945, he edited the journal Eynikeyt (Unity), organ of “American Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists, and Scientists.” He also contributed to Avron Reyzen’s journal, Yung-yidish (Young Yiddish), Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter), and Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor). Goldberg frequently published his work in the organ of IKUF, Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York. His work on 300 years of Jewish life in the United States was published in the Hebrew-language journal, Orlogin (Clock) in Tel Aviv (May 1940). He was also a contributor to Al hamishmar (On guard) in Israel. He was living in New York, and from September 1957 he edited the English section of the Sunday paper, Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Daily morning journal). He died in Tel Aviv.
Sources: Dos sholem-aleykhem bukh (New York, 1926), see index; Y Botoshanski, “B. ts. Goldberg” (B. Ts. Goldberg), in Portretn fun yidishe shrayber (Portraits of Jewish writers) (Warsaw, 1933); Y. Khaykin, Yidishe bleter in amerike (Jewish newspapers in America) (New York, 1946), see index; M. Yordani, “B. ts. Goldberg” (B. Ts. Goldberg), in Intervyus mit yidishe shrayber (Interviews with Jewish writers) (New York, 1955), pp. 33-43; S. Kahan, B. ts. goldberg, kinstler fun yidisher publitsistik (B. Ts. Goldberg, artist of Jewish journalism) (Mexico, 1956), 28 pp.; Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 5; Who’s Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955); Kh. Liberman, Di maske un dos ponem (The mask and the face) (New York, 1963), p. 64.