Sunday 28 June 2015


NISN GORDON (b. January 23, 1918)
            He was born in Krasnoluk, Minsk region, Byelorussia.  His father, R. Yokhanan, was known in Liubavitsher (Lubavitch) Hassidic circles in the United States as R. Yochanan Shai.  Until age eleven he studied in religious elementary school in Dokshits, Minsk region—later, in the Liubavitsher yeshiva “Tomchei Temimim” (supporters of the pure ones) in Vilna.  He emigrated to the United States in 1934.  He studied in the Yeshiva “Torah V’daat” in Brooklyn.  In 1937 he began writing correspondence pieces in Dos yudishe togblat (The Jewish daily newspaper), the organ of Agudat Yisrael, in Warsaw.  He published treatises on matters concerning religious Judaism and surveys of newly published religious texts for Tog-morgn-zhurnal (Daily morning journal) in New York, and in Dos yidishe vort (The Jewish word), the Agudat Yisrael monthly in America.  He was the author of Alt un nay in erets-yisroel, bilder un eyndrukn fun a rayze in heylign land (Old and new in the Land of Israel, images and impressions froma trip to the Holy Land) (New York, 1964), 159 pp.  He was living in Brooklyn and was active in Liubavitsher Hassidic circles.  From 1972 he worked as assistant editor of the weekly Algemeyner zhurnal (General magazine) in New York.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 145-46.]

Friday 26 June 2015



            He was playwright and journalist who worked as a tailor and laborer and lived in Minsk.  He authored a series of one-act plays which depicted the new conditions of life in the Soviet Union after the October Revolution. On the whole they were staged in workers’ clubs.  And, he wrote current events articles for the Minsk newspaper Oktyabr (October). Additional biographical information remains unknown.

            His work includes: Arbkorishe tsores (Troubles of a worker-correspondent), Der bris (The circumcision), and Fizkultur (Physical culture), which appeared in the collection Fun nayem shteyger (From a new way) (Minsk: Byelorussian division, “School of the book,” 1925), 36 pp.; Tsebrokhene tsamen (Broken fences), drama of manners in three acts (Minsk: D’z, 1927), 64 pp.  He also wrote: Mit a bagleyter af der royt-foniker fabrik oktyaber (With an escort to the red-flagged factory “October”) (Minsk, 1933), 64 pp. 

Source: Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1 (New York, 1931).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 145: and 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), p. 73.]


MIKHL GORDON (November 4, 1823-December 24, 1890)
            He was born in Vilna.  His father Arn-Dovid was the author of the religious text Apik neḥalim (Course of the rivers) (Vilna, 1836), written in imitation of Moshe Chaim Luzzato’s work “Layesharim tehila” (Praise be to the upright).  His great uncle, Yisrael Gordon, was a rabbi in Vilna.  As a child, Mikhl studied in religious primary school and later in synagogue study halls where he acquired proficiency in Tanakh and Hebrew grammar, studied Russian and German, and also began to write poems.  He was a frequent visitor to Avraham Dov Lebensohn and became a close friend of his son Micha-Yosef—people used to call them: “big Mikhl” (Gordon) and “little Mikhl” (Lebensohn)—as well as with other followers of the Jewish Enlightenment in Vilna.  At age twenty he married the sister of Yehuda-Leib Gordon, the subsequently famous poet, and lived for several years with his in-laws.  Six years older than his brother-in-law, he had a major influence on him, awakening him to the need for an education and the Enlightenment; he also inspired in him the desire to write.  The friendship between the two Gordons was not torn asunder even after Mikhl’s wife died and he remarried.  His second wife was a daughter of a prominent family in New Zhager (Žagarė), and he moved there to take up residence.  He lived there for over ten years.  At that time he began to write poetry which “he would read in front of a circle of followers of the Jewish Enlightenment,” wrote Y. Shatski.  “Shiye Shteynberg, the censor and lexicographer, offered him a piece of advice not to have those [poems] published, while his brother-in-law, Yehuda-Leib Gordon, was encouraging him to write and publish in Yiddish.” (Shatski, Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole bay yidn in lite [Cultural history of the Jewish Enlightenment in Lithuania], p. 145).  From that time, Yankev Dinezon recounted in his memoirs (published in Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd [House friend] 1 [1888] and in Shmuel Niger’s Pinkes [Records] in 1913) many interesting things in the life of Mikhl Gordon, who was then living with Dinezon’s parents “in one house, under one roof,” and the young Dinezon “had [him] on his hands.”  Gordon always lived under difficult economic circumstances: he had learned no trade, received no systematic education, was unfit for the life of a merchant, and he lived a life of want.  Early in the 1860s, he received a position as a bookseller from Baron Ginzburg, in Poltava, but he was unhappy with this employment.  He refused to be a business representative of a large Moscow manufacturing form in Shpole (Shpola), Kiev region.  He preferred to take the harsh road full of misery of a teacher and educator of the younger generation, and he had therefore to come under the support of enlightened patrons.  He remained in Ukraine and was a private tutor to elite families in various cities, and in Zlatopol (Zlatopil) he earned a salary for high school students.  In 1884 his second wife died in Cherkasy, and in 1889 he himself became ill with cancer.  At that point in time, he was living in Pyriatyn, and from there he was brought to a hospital in Kiev where he died a half-year later.  He was buried in the old Kiev cemetery, not far from the Malbim (Meyer Leybush ben Yeḥiel Mikhl Viser).  On his gravestone was etched the last two stanzas of his poem “Mayn letster tog” (My final day).  His death passed unnoticed in the Yiddish and Hebrew press of the time.  Then, in 1891, at the time of his first yortsayt, Y. L. Peretz published a short obituary for him in the first volume of Di yudishe biblyotek (The Yiddish library).  In the third volume of Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd, Shimen Frug published a poem entitled “Af mikhl gordons keyver” (At Mikhl Gordon’s grave), and Yitskhok-Yankev Vaysberg, a close friend of the late poet, published in three issues (287, 289, and 292 [1891]) of Hamelits (The advocate) a detailed appreciation concerning him.  Gordon’s first published poem appeared in the Hebrew anthology Kol bokhim (Voice of crying) in 1846.  The anthology included Kalman Shulman’s translation from German of the censor Jakob Tugendhold’s eulogy at the death of Mordechai-Aharon Ginzburg, which also involved four poems by four Hebrew poets, among them Mikhl Gordon.  He later published short notices and notes in Hamagid (The preacher), Hashaḥar (The dawn), Kokhve yitsḥak (The stars of Isaac), Haboker or (Good morning), Hakarmel (The Carmel), and the like.  He also brought out Hebrew essays, Tiferet banim (The glory of children), a textbook for youth (St. Petersburg, 1881), and Shever gaon (Pride before a fall), a critical work on the Talmudical text Ḥad veḥalak (Plain and simple).  He first published Shever gaon in 1883 with Y. Y. Vaysberg’s Gaon veshevro (Pride and its fall), also a critique of Ḥad veḥalak but in a witty form (“Halatsa” or witticism), and one year later (1884) he published Shever gaon as a separate imprint.  His popularity as a writer, however, was not thanks to his Hebrew tracts, but to his Yiddish poems with which he opened up a new, distinctive chapter in the history of Yiddish poetry.  He wrote a great part of his Yiddish poetic output in his younger years.  The Enlightenment surroundings with their attitude toward Yiddish, however, was such that a Yiddish poet regarded his own Yiddish poetry as so much mischief, and this may have been one of the reasons for why so many of his poems were lost.  In his poem, “Mayne liderekh” (My little poems), the first in his collection Yudishe lider (Yiddish poems) of 1889, he wrote: “I must tell you, my children, / You had many brothers, / I misplaced them as poor sinners / and have no longer set eyes on them.”  In 1868 he first was willing to publish a collection of his poems under the title Di bord un dertsu nokh andere sheyne idishe lider (The beard and other beautiful Yiddish songs), “all by a great Hassid” (Zhitomir, 1868), 96 pp.  He hid his identity behind the ironic signature of “a great Hassid,” because he feared revenge from Hassidim whom he ridiculed in the poems.  He only signed the introduction to the collection as “Ger dal makh ani” (wretched stranger, poor me), which was an anagram for “Mikhl Gordon.”  B. Voloderski, the author of the “Kurtse byografye fun mikhl gordon” (Short biography of Mikhl Gordon), published in Hoyzfraynd 2 (1889), wrote that Gordon did not sign his name to his first collection of poems, because he was ashamed of having written them in Yiddish.  Zalmen Reyzen later repeated this contention in his Leksikon (Biographical dictionary).  However, Gordon himself wrote in 1869 in his approbatory poem to Sh. Berenshteyn’s Magazin fun yudishe lider far dem yudishn folk (Storehouse of Yiddish poems for the Jewish people): “My poems have been published for the world, / As meticulously as contraband; / I have not placed my name upon them, / I feared a malicious hand.[1] / Your Storehouse is full of kosher goods, / Sweets little poems, written in zhargon; / so I can sign my name without fear or trepidation, / your true friend Mikhl Gordon.”  And, in a well-known poem, “Di bildung, di vare bildung un di falshe bildung” (Education, the true education and the false education)—in the first edition of Gordon’s poems in 1868, he titled this “Di bildungs pilin” (Education’s ??)—he wrote of teasing a young girl who can “scratch a little bit on the clavier and had already read books three and four,” wickedly and painfully: “The heart takes a turn for the worse, full of poor manners, as the first sacrifice is a bit of Yiddish.”  Evidently, Gordon had a deep and abiding love for the Yiddish language, although he regarded the folk language like all the other followers of the Jewish Enlightenment, and in his famed poem of the Enlightenment, “Shtey oyf mayn folk!” (Arise, my people!) of 1869, he wrote: “You aren’t speaking a language, which anyone understands, / Your language is alien, confused, garbled, / The language of the land is clear and pure.”
            In his first collection (1868) were seventeen of his early songs and poems, among them: “Der yud in goles” (The Jew in exile), “Di bildung” (Education), “Di bord” (The beard), “Der get” (The divorce), “Di mashke” (The booze), “Di shtifmuter” (The stepmother), “Di getlekhe hant” (The divine hand)—all poems known from earlier and popular due to their spread in manuscript form.  In 1869 his poem “Shtey oys, mayn folk!” became well-known, and it appears that, over the course of the 1870s, no more of his poems were forthcoming.  Then, in the 1880s he published his new poems in Tsederboym’s Yidishes folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper) (supplements 8 and 9), in Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd (book 1 of 1888 and book 2 of 1889), in Familyenfraynd (Family friend) (supplement to Hoyzfraynd, 1887), and in Sholem-Aleykhem’s Yudishe folks-biblyotek (Jewish people’s library) 2 (1889).  The great majority of these new poems, together with twelve of the seventeen poems from his first collection, were included in the second, enlarged edition of his poetry, Shirey m. gordon / Yidishe lider fun mikhl gordon (Poems of M. Gordon, Yiddish poems by Mikhl Gordon) (Warsaw, 1889), 112 pp.  Twenty-seven songs and poems were included in this edition.  The difference between the two collections was not simply in the number of poems, but also in the poet’s mood and vision which marked a change in the intervening twenty-year period.  In 1869 in his approbatory poem to Berenshteyn’s Magazin fun yudishe lider far dem yudishn folk, Gordon expressed his poetic self-characterization: “I have sung a handful of songs, / Not because I have the nature of a singer, / But when I see the cases of my brothers, / My heart within me bursts.”  Gordon witnessed his poetic publications in those years in protest, awakening, reproving, and instruction.  In 1889, though, in his aforementioned “Mayne liderekh,” one sees something else: “There lay Yisroelik bruised, beaten, / He had to be consoled, entertained; / What good is his crying, his lamentations, / To stir his wounds.”  He accompanied the old poems which he reissued in the new edition with notes and annotations with the goal of correcting and clarifying many of his previous notions, because he was already disappointed in himself.  In his poem “Der yud in goles,” for example, he had written in the 1860s: “Soon it will be 2,000 years that I, a Jew, will have walked around—despised everywhere, moaning like a worm…, but people have now become wiser….  Quick, make a blessing to the redeemer of Israel.”  In 1889, he added in a comment here: “Owing to our great sins, suddenly a new wild beast with iron horns [meaning: anti-Semitism] has been born atop the Jew….  All magnificent hopes have burst like a vial of soap bubbles.”  At the time, Gordon adapted this widely known and oft recited poem to his changed viewpoint, and in a newly added stanza he wrote: “The troubles have overcome my strength; strengthen me, God, to bear up under the troubles and remain a Jew.”  In the great Enlightenment program poem, “Shtey oyf, mayn folk!,” in 1869, he had courageously sought to awaken the Jew from slumber, because “The sun long ago set on the world.”  In 1889, it would appear that the poet did not conform to the new times: “It was good”—he wrote by way of annotation—“in 1869 when the Jew had good prospects, good hopes.”  In 1889 he no longer believed in the “good will of the government,” and was generally disappointed in life.  His lyrical, philosophical poems of the 1880s “Mayn letster tog,” “Mayne yorn” (My years), and “Mayn lebnstsayt” (My vital years), which demonstrated that his poetic talent was so much stronger that in his Enlightenment poems, had an elegiac, melancholy Koheleth-like tone.  In the 1889 edition, Gordon included his oldest Yiddish poem—“Fun der khupe” (From the wedding canopy)—“from the wedding canopy to the feast, I’m left, I’m left holding the bag”—and “Mayn deye” (My influence), which was also in the first edition, and for both poems he added a long introduction concerning the old-fashioned Jewish lifestyle, with the early weddings, with their bringing into the world large families without worry and without planning for the future, and with the veil on the young girl against her will.  In the later edition were also included: the popular poems, “Di bord” and “Der get”—“You’re still here, Mr. Jew, in Poltava, and so you’ve seen my husband”—the anti-Hassidic poems “Mayn vide” (My confession of sins), “Mayn tshuve” (My penance), “Der borsht” (The borsht), “A naye moyfes” (A new miracle), and others; the anti-heder poem “A moshl” (A tale); the touching poem “Di shtifmuter”; the popular song “Di mashke” which is still sung today as a folksong (in the arrangement of M. Varshavski); the poignantly social poem “Yoytse zayn far der velt” (Repaying the world), and others as well.
            With the publication of Gordon’s collection Yudishe lider in 1889, Shimen Frug in his poem “Tsu mikhl gordon” (published later with his poem “Af mikhl gordons keyver” in Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd 3 [1894]) wrote to Gordon: “I see your Yiddish muse dressed in ordinary, old-fashioned Jewish clothing; they are, though, sewn well with strong and kosher thread….  The Yiddish muse!...  The ancient orphan without a father and without a mother carrying on their shoulders a sack of rhymes.”  Gordon succeeded in transforming this “sack with rhymes” into robust verses, and he thereby opened the way for Frug and other Yiddish poets.  In the 1860s he carried around a plan to publish in Yiddish a series of popular scholarly booklets on history, geography, and natural science, but he lacked all material means and ultimately only succeeded, with partial help from the society “Mefitse haskalah” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]), in publishing the first part of Di geshikhte fun rusland (The history of Russia)—“here we shall recount in ordinary Yiddish language the entire history of the Russian people, all the stories that have transpired in Russia since it became a state until contemporary times”—(Zhitomir, 1869), 214 pp.  This book was an adaptation from Russian, and it was written in a nationalistic spirit of devotion to the government that characterized the Jewish Enlightenment.  A. Kupernik wrote in detail about this book in Kol mevaser 11 (1869), and later Zalmen Reyzen did as well in his Leksikon.

Sources: Yevreyskaya entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia) (St. Petersburg), vol. 6, pp. 696-97; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Y. Dinezon, in Hoyzfraynd 1 (1888); Dinezon, in Der pinkes (ed. Shmuel Niger) (Vilna, 1913), pp. 149-54; Y. Entin, Yidishe poetn (Jewish poets), vol. 1 (New York, 1927), p. 79; Nokhum Shtif, Di eltere yidishe literatur (Older Yiddish literature) (Kiev, 1929), pp. 143-67; A. Litvin, in the anthology Lite (Lithuania), ed. Y. Yeshurin (New York, 1935), republished from Tsukunft (New York) 1 and 2 (1915); Itsik Manger, Noente geshtaltn (Proximate images) (Warsaw, 1938), pp. 153-60; Kh. Gordon-Mlotek, in Yivo-bleter 35 (1951), pp. 299-311; Dr. Y. Shatski, Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole bay yidn in lite (Cultural history of the Jewish Enlightenment in Lithuania) (Buenos Aires, 1950), see index; Shmuel Niger, in Lite 1 (New York, 1951), pp. 799-816; Y, Fikhman, Regnboygn (Rainbow) (Buenos Aires, 1953), pp. 227, 228; B. Wachstein, Die hebräische Publizistik in Wien (Vienna, 1930).
Yitskhok Kharlash

[1] In the edition of his poems in 1889, in place of “malicious hand” he wrote “a Hassid’s hand.”

Thursday 25 June 2015


M. GORDON (b. 1909)
            He was born in Vilna and graduated as an engineer.  In 1922 he was a teacher and lecturer at the Vilna technicum.  In 1938 he was a member of the managing committee of the Vilna engineers’ association.  He authored a popular book entitled Elektrishe tsentrales (Electrical exchanges), published by the committee of mutual assistance of the Vilna Jewish technicum (Vilna, 1931), 61 pp.; he was possibly also the author of a pamphlet entitled Lomir ale ineynem (Let’s all together) (Warsaw, 1931), 32 pp.  In early 1939 he left for Russia.  His subsequent career is known.

Sources: Vilner yidisher tekhnikum (Vilna Jewish technicum) 2 (Vilna, 1922); M. Shrayber, in the anthology Vilne (Vilna) (New York, 1935); V. Shuster, in Vilner almanakh (Vilna almanac) (Vina, 1939).


LEO (LEYB) GORDON (b. 1914)

            He hailed from a town near Lomzhe, Poland, and studied in a religious elementary school and a Polish public school.  He later became a laborer.  From 1937 he was publishing stories in Undzer ekspres (Our express) and Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper) in Warsaw.  During WWII, he was for a time in Bialystok, later leaving for Russia.  Biographical details and his subsequent career remain unknown.


            He was born in Bialystok.  He studied in a secular high school and was active in the Pioneers.  He published his first poem in Yugnt-veker (Youth alarm) 19 (1936) in Warsaw.  He later published in Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw.  His poems—“Di brik klingt unter undzere fis” (The bridge sounds under our feet), “Tsi zaynen undz teg nokh a sakh geblibn?” (Do we still have many days remaining?), “Ven ikh zol kenen redn tsu dir” (If I should be able to speak with you), “Mir hobn baym trogn di kletser” (We’re holding up the beams), and “Er vet mikh rufn” (He calls to me)—were discovered in manuscript in the Bialystok ghetto.  He was killed as a partisan in the woods around Bialystok.  Several of his poems were published in the anthology Lider fun di getos un lagern (Poems from the ghettos and camps), edited by Sh. Katsherginski (New York, 1948), pp. 17, 18, 21, 23, 340.

Sources: Y. Rapoport, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (May-June 1946); D. Klementinovski, in Byalistoker shtime (May-June 1946); Shmuel Niger, ed., in Kidesh hashem (Sanctification of the name) (New York, 1948); B. Mark, Der oyfshtand in byalistoker geto (The uprising in the Bialystok ghetto) (Warsaw, 1950), pp. 141-43; Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954), pp. 198-200.


YANKEV GORDON (April 14, 1902-January 1944)
            He was born in Vilna and came from a merchant household.  Over the years 1912-1915, he studied in the private high school of P. Cohen.  During the years of WWI, when the high school was forced to evacuate from Vilna, he studied with private tutors.  At the end of 1918, he began studying in the eighth class of the Vilna school for boys of the “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]), and graduated in July 1919.  Over the years 1920-1926, he studied philosophy, history, and psychology at Hamburg University.  With the assistance of the Hermann Cohen Foundation at the Academy of the Science of Judaism, his doctoral dissertation, Der Ichbegriff bei Hegel, bei Cohen und in der suedwestdeutschen Schule hinsichtlich der Kategorienlehre untersucht (A study of the I-notion in Hegel, in Cohen, and in the southwest German school in terms of category theory), part 1: “Der Begriff des denkens bei Hegel und Cohen” (The concept of thought in Hegel and Cohel) was published (Hamburg, 1926).  This study attracted the attention of Professor Albert Einstein.  In 1927 he returned to Vilna.  He worked together with YIVO, 1929-1933, initially in the bibliographical section and later in the archives.  Over the years 1935-1939, he worked for the publishers “Rosenkranz and Schriftsezer.”  Together with Arn Mark and Y. Gezuntheyt, he edited (1934-1936) Etyudn (Studies), a periodical concerned with problems of culture and life.  With the discontinuation of Etyudn, he served as editor of the Vilna serial Kultur un problemen (Culture and issues).  Gordon published his work in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Polish in such serials as: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw; Vilner tog (Vilna day); Moznaim (Scales) in Tel Aviv; Wiadomości literackie (Literary news) in Warsaw.  He contributed a treatise to Spinoza bukh, tsum drayhundertstn geboyrnyor fun benedictus de spinoza, 1632-1932 (Spinoza volume, toward the 300th anniversary of the birth of Benedict de Spinoza, 1832-1932), edited by Yankev Shatski (New York, 1932); it also appeared in Yivo-bleter (Leaves from YIVO) 5.3-5.  Among the important works that he published in various periodicals and journals were: “Der krizes fun der moderner filosofye” (The crisis in modern philosophy); “Filosofish-psikhologishe skitsn” (Philosophical-psychological sketches); “Der tsugang tsum bukh” (The approach to the book); “Klugshaft un kinstlerishe intuitsye” (Wisdom and artistic intuition); “Fremder un fremdkeyt” (Strangers and alienation); “Di problem fun geshikhte un der mekhanisher materyalizm” (The problem of history and mechanical materialism); “Denken, redn, shraybn” (Think, speak, write); “Fremdkeyt” (Alienation); “Fridrikh engels” (Friedrich Engels); “Der marksistisher bagrif fun der geshikhte” (The Marxist concept of history); “Der marksistisher bagrif fun yokhed un mase” (The Marxist concept of individual and masses); and “Fragn un misfarshteyenishn” (Questions and misunderstandings), among others.  All of these writings were published in the years 1934-1936.  He was also the translator of Kant’s Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, which was typeset but not published because of the war.  During WWII, Gordon lived under German occupation in Vilna.  From June 1941 he was on the Vilna “Judenrat” (Jewish council).  Later, he was in Beutelager.  Although he lived in hunger and want, he continued his literary and scholarly work.  He later worked for YIVO.  He had to prepare a series of translations from Yiddish and Hebrew into German.  He submitted his work to the managing committee of the “Literary Association” in the Vilna ghetto, and it proposed to a representative from YIVO, Yankev Gens, to pay him 800 rubles to cover the cost for the printer’s sheet, so as to mitigate a bit his severe material privation.  In the ghetto he penned a work entitled “Vos iz taytsh di spetsifishkeyt fun der geshikhte? a. gezelshaft un perzon” (What is meant by the specificity of history? A. Society and the individual).  In 1943, one month before the liquidation of the Vilna ghetto, Gordon was deported to the Vaivara Camp in Estonia.  From hunger and dislocation, he became ill there with dysentery and died.  (According to other sources, he died in the camp at Klooga, Estonia.)  Many of his works remain in manuscript, among them a work concerning Friedrich Nietzsche, entitled “Der goen fun zelbstrefleksye” (The genius of self-reflexion).

Sources: Sh. Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); written information from his widow Gite Gordon in Israel.

Zaynvil Diamant

Wednesday 24 June 2015


YUDE-LEYB GORDON (September 2, 1860-Octoer 21, 1927)
            He was born in Myadl, Vilna region.  He studied in religious primary schools and yeshivas, among them the Volozhin Yeshiva.  For a time he worked as a village elementary-school teacher, later he turned to secular education.  He mastered German, became a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, and then subsequently opened a model elementary school in Oshmene (Oshmiany), Vilna region, where students studied Talmud, Tanakh, and Hebrew grammar, but also Russian.  At the beginning of 1900 he emigrated to the United States, gave private lessons in Hebrew, and at the same time worked as an itinerant preacher in synagogues.  He traveled across the country, collecting subscriptions for his historical Sidur bet yehuda (Prayer book of the house of Yehuda), with a half-German translation and a commentary in Yiddish; the first part was published in Vilna, and the other two parts in Petrikov, Poland.  In America, his book Sefer tseda lederekh (Provisions for the road) was also quite popular—concerning Jewish law and customs, concerning deceased and mourners, with a Yiddish translation.  Gordon also for many years worked on a major edition of the Pentateuch, Hatora vehadaat (The Torah and the faith), with a philological commentary in Hebrew and a Yiddish translation.  The first part had an introduction—in both Hebrew and Yiddish—concerning the cosmogony of the Egyptians, Hindus, Babylonians, and Canaanites.  He also penned treatises, poetry, and ballads for various American Jewish newspapers.  In M. Bassin’s Antologye, 500 yor yidishe poezye (Anthology, 500 years of Yiddish poetry), his ballad “Heshayne rabe-nakht” (Hoshana Rabba night) appears.  His books include: Der zelbst-merder (Suicide), “an interesting and instructive story of suicide and struggle for life, grounded in philosophy and scientific facts,” with a foreword by Elyokim Tsunzer (Zunzer) (New York, 1918?), 36 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; M. Bassin, Antologye, 500 yor yidishe poezye, vol. 1 (New York, 1917), p. 255—he gives Gordon’s year of birth as 1855.


YEHUDA-LEYB (JUDAH LEIB) GORDON (December 7, 1830-September 16, 1892)
            He was born in Vilna, into a well-off Orthodox family.  By age eleven he was already adjudged to be a child prodigy.  At sixteen he was skilled at Talmud—later, under the influence of his brother-in-law, the poet Mikhl Gordon (see Igrot yehuda leb gordon [Letters of Yehuda-Leyb Gordon], vol. 1, p. 170), he went on to learn about the Jewish Enlightenment and secular education.  He studied Russian, Polish, German, and French, and embraced the followers of the Enlightenment movement in Vilna, especially Mikhl Lebenzon (Micah Lebensohn).  Just as his material condition at the time was dire (his father became impoverished and could no longer help him out), he went to study in the rabbinical school in Vilna, sat for the graduation examinations in 1852, and became a teacher initially in the Russian-Jewish state school in Ponevezh (Panevezys), later in Shavel (Šiauliai) where he founded a girls’ school, and in Telz where he served as the school manager.  In his teaching years, he studied European literature and ancient languages, and he published his first poetic works which brought him considerable renown and accorded him honor in the world of Hebrew literature.  Among these works were: the poem Ahavat david umikhal (The love of David and Michal) (1856); the collection Mishle yehuda (Yehuda’s fables) (1860), adapted from Aesop, La Fontaine, Krylov, and the Talmud, and masterly adjusted to Jewish coloring and to performances for Jewish children, with an ample historical, scholarly introduction on fables generally; and Shire yehuda (Yehuda’s songs) (1866).  Gordon also wrote prose and contributed to such Russian Jewish and German Jewish serial publications as: Razsviet (Dawn), Sion (Zion), Yevreiskaya biblioteka (Jewish bibliography), and Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums (General newspaper on Judaism).  In 1872 he moved to St. Petersburg, where he assumed the position of secretary to the “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]), and from there, in the name of the Enlightenment’s ideals, he led a struggle against the hardened forms of traditional Jewishness and thereby forged the slogan “Be a Jew in your tent [home] and a man on the street” which soon became the credo of the Jewish Enlightenment in Russia.  In 1879 during the rabbinical election in St. Petersburg, Gordon was arrested because of a false accusation and a denunciation, and together with his wife he was deported to Pudazh, Olonets district.  Thanks, however, to the intercession of a friend, several months later he was freed (see his description of this episode in Perezhitoie [Past] 4 [1913]).  Following his return to St. Petersburg, he became assistant editor of Hamelits (The advocate), where he published editorials and literary critical articles, as well as spirited feature pieces under the pseudonym “Azov.”  Gordon wrote a great deal about Hebrew literature, under the pen name “Mivaker” (reviewer), for the Russian-language Voskhod (Sunrise), in which he also published (nos. 1-2, 1881) a pioneering investigation of the history of the Jewish community in St. Petersburg, and in various Hebrew journals such as Hashaḥar (The dawn).  In the Russian encyclopedia of Brockhaus and Efron, he published a series of Judaic articles.  From his Hebrew writings of the 1870s and 1880s, his poems made a particularly strong impression—works such as: “Ben shne arayot” (Between two lions), “Tsidkiyahu babayit hapekudot” (Tsidkiyahu [Zedekiah] in prison), written in exile, “Shne yosef ben shimen” (Two Josephs, sons of Shimon), “Kotso shel yod” (The dot of a yod), a heartrending description of the sufferings of a Jewish woman due to the obscurantism of Jewish society), and “Lemi ani amel?” (For whom do I labor?), an expression of the poet’s deep disappointment in the last period of his life and works.  The two-volume work Igrot yehuda leb gordon also has great historical and cultural value.  In the last years of his life, Gordon suffered from cancer.  He underwent an operation in 1891 in Berlin, but without positive results.  He returned to St. Petersburg, and there one year later, all alone, an embittered man, he died.
            Gordon is part of the history of Jewish literature not simply as the great poet of the Jewish Enlightenment, but also as the creator of a new style in Hebrew literature for Mendele.  His collected writings in Hebrew have been published and republished several times.  “The Jewish Nekrasov” (as he was dubbed by Shimon Dubnov in Voskhod, no. 7, 1884) was applied to him unsympathetically vis-à-vis the Yiddish language.  Until the end of his life, he did not think highly of “zhargon.”  His often-cited answer (1889) to Sholem-Aleykhem’s invitation to contribute something to Yudishe folks-biblyotek (Jewish people’s library) went, inter alia: “I do not agree with the survival of zhargon, which is glued to us like leprosy throughout the long ages of our dispersion….  Speaking zhargon is the same as strolling across Nevsky Prospekt, dressed in the traditional four-cornered undergarment of the Orthodox.”  For his part, he was chastising Sholem-Aleykhem as to why he was wasting his strength on this “zhargon” instead of writing in Russian or Hebrew.  However, Gordon himself over the course of thirty years also wrote in Yiddish.  True, he did not use it seriously: “to make a fool of myself with zhargon”—as he put it in a letter to Dovid Frishman.  He did not even want to sign his name beneath one of his poems that was published in a Yiddish serial at the time.  Irrespective of all this, he and his Yiddish poems inscribed his own chapter in the history of Yiddish poetry.  The first of his published poems in Yiddish (which he signed “L. Gordon”) appeared in Kol mevaser (Herald) (no. 11, March 17-29, 1866): “Der muter abshyed” (The mother’s farewell [to her child in the year 1845]).  In this poem the poet sang the sorrows of the fate of the Jewish recruit who would have “to live in barracks for twenty-five dark years” and expressed the hope that he would both serve the Tsar faithfully and not forget his Jewishness.  Later, in the 1880s, Gordon published his Yiddish poems primarily in Yidishes folksblat (Jewish daily newspaper) in St. Petersburg.  In the first issue of this newspaper (January 1881), his poem “Zmir lesimḥat hatora” (Song to the joy of the Torah) was published and signed “G.”  In issue no. 2 of the same year, he published “Unzere libe shvester un brider” (Our beloved sisters and brothers) which he left unsigned.  This last poem does not appear in Gordon’s collection of Yiddish poems.  In issue no. 5, same year, he published “Der bal loshn” (The master of language), signed: Y”L Gordon.  In issue no. 14 (1883), he published “Ikev hakriye” (Inhibition to reading), again anonymous and with the heading “feature,” a story of old, a compelling social satire of the criminal “recruit irregularities” in the Jewish community of the time, of the “rabbi and the gabbay, the two moraines, murderers and bandits,” who have “thrown in the barracks” a poor woman’s son in place of the gabbay’s kid.  Later, after the appearance of Gordon’s Yiddish poetry collection, Siḥat ḥulin (Ordinary conversation), there was published in Yidishes folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper), no. 21 (May 21, 1887), under the title “Shikhes khulin fun tsvey talmide khakhomim” (Ordinary conversation of two scholars), an occasional poem dedicated to Professor Getsl Zelikovitsh.  The was later included in the second edition of Siḥat ḥulin together with Zelikovitsh’s response poem which was published in Yudishe gazeten (Jewish gazette), a weekly supplement to Yidishe tageblat in New York, edited by Zelikovitsh.  In issue nos. 18 and 20 (March 16 and 30, 1889), Yidishes folksblat published Gordon’s literary critical feature entitled “A kol mayrev leyam” (A voice west of the sea), with a subtitle: “On the new zhargon fiction.”  In 1881-1882 he also wrote about domestic and foreign news for Folksblat.
            In 1885-1886, according to the initiative of the bookseller and actor Eliezer-Yitskhok Shapiro, a collection of Gordon’s Yiddish poems appeared with the title Siḥat ḥulin, lider in der folksshprakh (Ordinary conversation, poems in the vernacular) (Warsaw, 1886), 92 pp.; it carried an introduction: “A word to the male and female readers from the publisher of these poems,” written in “Warsaw, September 15, 1885.”  The publisher regretted in this introduction that “our Hebrew writers are ashamed on the whole of writing in zhargon,” and he was pleased that he was successful in getting Gordon to “have these poems, written in pure zhargon, brought out in print.”  Dovid Frishman advised Gordon to issue his Yiddish poems in book form.  The poet finally yielded, but he expressed his sole connection to this entire matter with the name itself: Siḥat ḥulin or everyday, ordinary conversations.  In the collection with the poem “Mekhile-betn” (Asking for forgiveness), the poet expressed his scornful attitude toward Yiddish: “Beloved readers, I beg your forgiveness…as I have spoken to you in my stories, half in Yiddish and Judeo-Byelorussian….  The language of the Tsene urene is sacred to me,... the language of my great-grandmother Khyene, may she have a glorious paradise.”  The second poem was simply beautiful, “Far vemen shrayb ikh?” (For whom do I write?)—Gordon’s credo in his Yiddish poems—and here the artist took the upper hand to the Enlightenment crusader (“My sisters and my brothers, who toil the entire week—the peddler with his heavy bundle, the coachman on his wagon, the broker in the market, the innkeeper and the shopkeeper, the Jewess embarrassed and the saloonkeeper with her glasses….  For you my brothers and sisters, I have compiled as a pastime this small booklet of poems.”)  “Di yunge yorn” (The young years), a depiction of the lives of Jewish children in years gone by; “Der bal loshn,” a satire on assimilated followers of the Jewish Enlightenment; “Der koolsher indik” (The communal turkey), a satire on the old village rabbi; the unforgettable satire on past community life, entitled “Vos iz bay der asife geblibn?” (What remained from the meeting?); the aforementioned “recruit” description, “Ikev hakriye” and “Der muter abshyed”; the humorous “Lider fun der redavke” (Poems of a re-dafke)—all these and others were socially serious in content but light and playful in form.  Gordon’s Yiddish poems had great success, and three years later (1889) a second “improved and enlarged” edition was published with several “opportune poems” added at the end.  The final, fourth edition came out from the publishing house of Mortkhe Katsenelboygn (Vilna, 1899, 104 pp.), with a new, short preface from the publisher.  (By mistake, into his poem Siḥat ḥulin was inserted—and later consciously republished by the publisher—the poem “Tsvey khsidim” [Two Hassids] by N. Goldberg, known by the name Baron Tarnegol [chicken], a popular parody of the contemporary, well-known poem, “Di grenadire” [The grenadiers]).  Some of Gordon’s Hebrew works were translated into Yiddish by other writers, among them: “Stsenen fins yudishn lebn” (The Jewish life of ?), a “story, translated by Kh. P.” (Kol mevaser, 1872, issue nos. 4 and thereafter); “Iber a pintele” (Over a dot), “the celebrated Hebrew poem, ‘Kotso shel yod,’…in a free yet faithful translation…by Yitskhok Yoyel Linetski, Odessa, 1903”); “Barburim avusim” (Fattened swans), translated by A. Domeratski (Yidishes folksblat, supplement, 1888, no. 1).  Paltiel Zamoshtshin translated “Bemitsulot hayam” (Amid the refuse of the sea) without the permission of the author and published it in the anthology Dos heylike land (The holy land) (Zhitomir, 1891) (in Gordon’s journal in Heavar [The past], Petrograd, 1918, no. 2, p. 21).  His “Kotso shel yod” was also translated by the Enlightenment figure from Lemberg, Yitskhok-Leyb Hertser (1887), but he died that very year, and his translation was not published (see Gordon’s journal, p. 23).  Just after Gordon’s own death, Yudishe gazeten (New York, October 12, 1892) published G. Zelikovitsh’s obituary for him (“Der litvisher filozof” [The Lithuanian philosopher]) and Morris Rozenfeld’s “Klage lid af yude-leyb gordon” (A mourning poem for Yehuda Leyb Gordon).


Sources: Igrot yehuda leb gordon, comp. and ed. Y. Y. Vaysberg, 2 volumes (Warsaw, 1894-1895); Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); M. Vintshevski, in Tsukunft (New York) (October 1907); Dr. A. Ginzburg, in Tsukunft (February 1913), pp. 132-38; E. R. Malachi, in Tsukunft (September 1917); “Omeni shel y. l. gordon” (My faith in Y. L. Gordon), Haavar 2 (1918), p. 18; Dr. A. Tsipruni, in Hadoar (New York) (January 29, 1922); Malachi, in Hadoar (August 17, 1923); Y. Entin, ed., Yidishe poetn (Yiddish poets), part 1 (New York, 1927), p. 87; Nokhum Shtif, Di eltere yidishe literatur (Older Yiddish literature) (Kiev, 1929), pp. 176-92; articles by Malachi, M. Ribalov, and P. Lipavtski, in the special issue of Hadoar for Gordon (December 26, 1930); Malachi, in Pinkes, vol. 2.1 (New York, 1929), pp. 80-84; Shoyl Ginzburg, in Tsukunft (November 1930; May 1931); Sh. L. Tsitron, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 6, 1931); N. Mayzil, Literarishe bleter (January 9, 1931); Nosn Grinblat, Yude-leyb gordon (Kovno, 1931), 79 pp.; Sh. Ginzburg, in Tsukunft (March-April 1932); Sh. Dubnov, in Tog (New York) (December 10, 1932); Sh. Rozenfeld, in the anthology Vilne (Vilna), ed. Yeshurin (New York, 1935), pp. 457-65; M. Rabinovitsh, “Y. l. gordon a nit gedrukte lid” (An unpublished poem by Y. L. Gordon), Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 13 (1938), pp. 629-30; Y. Sh. Yudelovits, in Afrikaner yidishe tsaytung (Johannesburg) (September 7, 1945); R. Brainin, Fun mayn lebns-geshikhte (From my book of life) (New York: IKUF, 1946), pp. 336-40; Dr. Y. Shatski, Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole bay yidn in lite (Cultural history of the Jewish Enlightenment in Lithuania) (Buenos Aires, 1950), see index; Y. Likhtenboym, Sofrenu mimapu ad byalik (Our literature from Mapu to Bialik) (Jerusalem, 1950); Dov Sadan, ed., Kaarat tsimukim o elef bediha ubediha, asufat humor beyisrael (A bowl of raisins or one thousand and one jokes, an anthology of humor in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1952); Shmuel Niger, in Zamlbukh lite (Anthology Lithuania), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), p. 813; Y. Fikhman, preface to Kitve yehuda leb gordon (The writings of Yehuda Leyb Gordon) (Tel Aviv, 1950); A. Ben-Or, Toldot hasifrut haivrit haḥadasha (History of modern Hebrew literature), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1951), pp. 202-52; A. Tsaytlin, in Yivo-bleter 34 (1952), pp. 99-113; Moyshe Shtarkman, in Goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 17 (1955), pp. 236-40; Dov Sadan, Kaarat egozim o elef bediha ubediha, asufat humor beyisrael (A bowl of nuts or one thousand and one jokes, an anthology of humor in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1953), see index; A. Avrunin, Meḥkarim belashon byalik veyalag (Studies in the language of Bialik and Y. L. Gordon) (Tel Aviv, 1953); G. Bader, Mayne zikhrones (My memoirs) (Buenos Aires, 1953), pp. 387-93; Dr. Y. Klausner, Historiya shel hasifrut haivrit haadasha (History of modern Hebrew literature), vol. 4 (Jerusalem, 1954), pp. 301-466; Y. Likhtenboym, ed., Hasipur haivri (The Hebrew story) (Tel Aviv, 1955), p. 517; Amerike in yidishn vort, antologye (America in the Yiddish word, anthology) (New York, 1955), see index; Shloyme Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 4680; R. Goldberg, in Orlogin (February 1957).

Yitskhok Kharlash

Sunday 21 June 2015


HIRSH-LEYB GORDON (November 22, 1896-January 20, 1969)
            He was born in Dugelishok, Vilna region, where his father Eliyahu Gordon was rabbi.  He studied in religious primary school and in the yeshivas of Slobodka and Volozhin.  Over the years 1912-1914, he lived in Odessa where he graduated from the rabbinical seminary.  From late June 1914 until January 1915, he served as an envoy of Hatsfira (The siren) and Dos lebn (The life) in the Land of Israel.  Following the entry of Turkey into WWI, he was deported from Israel.  He left for Alexandria, Egypt, where he managed a program to assist thousands of homeless who found themselves there at the time.  Together with Zhabotinsky and Trumpeldor, he founded the Jewish Legion.  For political reasons, he left the army for Florence, Italy, where he worked as a teacher in a rabbinical seminary, and at the same time studied in the local university.  In 1917 for the first time he came to the United States, and the next year he returned to the Land of Israel with the Jewish Legion.  In 1919 he again made his way to the United States, continued his studies at various universities, and received a series of titles: doctor of philosophy and Semitic languages, Yale University, 1922; doctor of literature and Egyptology, Columbia University, New York, 1923; Master of diplomatic arts, American University, Washington, 1924; Master of psychology, 1926, of pedagogy, 1927, and of the history of art, 1928.  Over the years 1930-1935, he studied medicine in Berlin and in Rome.  From 1941 he devoted himself to medicine.
            He began to write in Hebrew in Har hazman (The mountain of time), issue no. 110, in Warsaw (1910), where he published, using the pen name “Gil,” an article about the Volozhin Yeshiva; and in Yiddish in Der id (The Jew) in Odessa (1912), a satirical story entitled “A mayse mit a blayshtift” (A story with a pencil).  From that point on, he wrote political, critical, and biographical articles, scholarly treatises, travel impressions, and poems in Hebrew and Yiddish newspapers: Hatsfira, Dos lebn, Der fraynd (The friend), Moment (Moment), and Har hazman in Warsaw; Tog (Day), Forverts (Forward), Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Varhayt (Truth), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people), Tsukunft (Future), Di naye velt (The new world), Der amerikaner (The American), Der kundes (The prankster), Hahad (The echo), Haivri (The Jew), Hatoren (The mast), Hadoar (The mail), and Harofe haivri (The Jewish doctor), among others, in New York.
            Dr. Gordon occupied himself with scholarly research in the field of Semitic and ancient Egyptian archeology.  He was the author of books in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and Italian concerned with various issues, among them medicine.  He Yiddish he published: Dramen (Dramas)—including Der mekubl (The Cabbalist) and Der nister (The hidden one)—(Warsaw, 1938), 108 pp.; Dos eybike likht (The eternal light), a drama which, despite protests from many Israeli organizations, was staged in Yiddish in the amphitheater of the Jewish Legion near Lod (March 1919); In goldenem shayn (In golden light), a one-act play, in the anthology Unzer bukh (Our book) (New York, 1929).  In English: a monograph concerning his father, Rabbi Elijah Gordon, His Life and Works (New York, 1926), 33 pp.; The Maggid of Caro: The Mystic Life of the Eminent Codifier Joseph Caro as Revealed in His Secret Diary, a psychological biography of Joseph Caro, author of the Shulan arukh (New York, 1949), 400 pp.; The Jewish Legions in the British Army during the World War (1914-1918) (New York, 1940).  In Italian, among other works: Mattia Ben Haresh medico romano del primo secolo (Matthew ben Ḥaresh, Roman doctor of the second century) (Rome, 1935).  He also translated and adapted a series, Shenste mayses fun der velt (Most beautiful stories from around the world), from eighty masterworks of the Russian, German, French, English, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic literatures, among others.  He published translations in Yiddish of the Egyptian hieroglyphic “Der vaks-krokodil” (The wax crocodile), in Forverts (November 1921).  He edited the medical monthly Gezund (Health) in New York (1940-1941).  He also published under the pseudonyms: Gil, Bar-Kokhba, Leon Gordi, Don Gorani, De Leon, Albatros, and Hirsh Katsenelenboygn, among others.  He was living in New York until his death, and he often gave lectures on psychotherapy and psychology on the Yiddish radio.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater, vol. 1; Zilbertsvayg, Hintern forhang (Behind the curtain) (Vilna, 1928), p. 145; Dr. Y. Shatski, in Hadoar (New York) (December 14, 1956); Shloyme Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 5198.  Review of his book on Joseph Caro can be found in: Journal of the History of Medicine (New York, 1950), pp. 130-32; Prof. H. Baruck, in Revue d’histoire de la medicine hebraique (Paris, April 1950); Who’s Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955), p. 282.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


ELIYAHU GORDON (February 27, 1865-December 19, 1932)
            The father of Hirsh-Leyb Gordon, he was born in the town of Myadl, Vilna region, into a devout household.  He studied in a religious elementary school and yeshivas, among them with R. Khayim Soloveitchik and R. Yitskhok Elchanan Spektor in Kovno, from whom he received rabbinic ordination.  He served as rabbi in Dugelishok, Vidz (Vidzy) where he was also head of the yeshiva, Kamay, and Vilna.  In 1923 he emigrated to the United States and there he was a rabbi and preacher.  He authored such religious works as: Divre eliyahu (The words of Eliyahu), two parts (Vilna, 1903); Dimeot haashukim (Tears of the oppressed) (Vilna, 1907), 52 pp.; Yisrael baamim (Israel among the nations) (Vilna, 1914); Maarkhot yisrael (Systems of Israel) (Warsaw, 1926), 174 pp.; and Seder eliyahu (The order of Eliyahu) (Warsaw, 1932), 215 pp.  Over the years 1923-1932, he published articles on Jewish practices and traditions, as well as on education, in Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper) and Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York.  He died in New York.

Source: H. L. Gordon, Rabbi Elijah Gordon, His Life and Works (New York, 1926), 33 pp.


ARN-DOVID (AHARON DAVID) GORDON (June 10, 1856-February 22, 1922)
            He was born in the village of Troyano, Podolia region, Russia; his father Uri, a scholar, came from Vilna.  He studied in the village, later in Vilna.  A man of immense character, he always worked and sought out a way of life by himself that would accord with his ethical ideas.  He was devout himself, but close to followers of the Jewish Enlightenment movement and Zionists.  He interpreted Zionism in his own manner and way.  At age fifty he departed for the Land of Israel and for a time worked as a simple warden.  He later joined the workers’ party Hapoel Hatsair (The young worker) and became its ideologue.  One of the most beautiful figures of the Zionist labor movement, he had an immense impact on the spiritual shape of an entire generation of leaders of laboring Palestine.  He was the founder of the ethical socialist movement Dat haavoda (Religion of labor).  He published a large number of works on various issues in Hebrew as well as in Yiddish, among them his series “Briv fun erets-yisroel” (Letters from the Land of Israel), in Moment (Moment) in Warsaw (1912), which later appeared in book form (retranslated by Sh. Rabidovitsh from a German translation, Berlin, 1921, 52 pp., because no one could locate the Yiddish original).  As Yoysef Aronovitsh has explained in his essay “Shtrikhn tsu der lebnsgeshikhte fun a. d. Gordon” (Features of the biography of A. D. Gordon), which appears in the edition of Gordon’s Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings) (Tel Aviv, 1946, 271 pp.), Gordon composed a number of poems while dancing with his coworkers after difficult physical labors.  Also his friend Kh. K., who worked with him in the Kineret colony, recounted this and cited from a Yiddish-language poem by Gordon (in his Gezamlte shriftn, p. 47).  Using the pseudonym Zaken (old man), Gordon translated a number of works from Russian into Hebrew, such as several works by Rubanik.  His pamphlet Haavoda (Work) was translated from Hebrew into Yiddish by Kh. Menakhem as Di arbet (Tomaszow-Mazowieski, 1921), 16 pp.  He died in Deganya.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; B. Brodetski, Kemfer un boyer (Fighter and builder) (Chicago, 1945), pp. 20-22; Y. Aronovitsh, ed., Gezamlte shriftn fun a. d. Gordon (Collected writings of A. D. Gordon) (Tel Aviv, 1946), pp. 7-30; D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah lealutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the founders and builders of Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1955), vol. 1, pp. 413-15; A. Ben-Or, Toldot hasifrut haivrit (History of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1951), pp. 406-15; M. Ben-Amram, in Folk un tsien (Jerusalem) (June 8, 1956); A. Levinson, Ketavim (Writings) (Tel Aviv, 1956); Yosef Shekhter, Mishnato shel aharon david gordon (The opinion of Aharon David Gordon) (Tel Aviv, 1956), p. 170; A. Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (June 22, 1956).


AVROM GORDON (ca. 1874-ca. 1941)
            He was known by the name Avrom Reztshik.  Born in Vilna to poor parents, he studied in religious primary school and in a Russian public school.  He later became an engraver and supported himself in this way for his entire life.  At age sixteen or seventeen, he was an active contributor to propaganda circles which Jewish pioneers of socialism at the time led among the Jewish workers of Vilna in the Russian language.  Gordon became known as the leader of the “opposition” to the new system of agitation which Arkadi Kremer articulated in his Russian-language pamphlet Ob agitatsii (On agitation) of 1894.  Contrary to the new movement for a broad political agitation in Yiddish, he held that they had to lead the propaganda circles in Russian.  In the 1920s he was still running his propaganda work, as well as he could, in Russian.  Gordon-Rezchik issued the following pamphlets: Di apelatsye tsu vilner arbeter (The appeal to Vilna laborers) (Vilna, 1919); Der groyser krizis in marksizm, sotsyalizm, demokratye un in arbeter-bavegung (The great crisis in Marxism, socialism, democracy and in the labor movement) (Vilna, 1924); In friling fun vilner yidisher arbeter-bavegung (In the spring of the Vilna Jewish labor movement) (Vilna, 1925), 68 pp.  In the last of these pamphlets were his speeches, beginning in 1891, as well as a report on the struggle of the “opposition” in those years.  In 1940 one could still encounter him in Vilna.  He either died or was killed sometime around 1941.

Sources: Yu. Martov, Zapiski sotsial-demokrata (Notes of a social democrat), part 1 (Berlin, 1922), pp. 229-33; Pati Srednicki (Kremer), in Arkadi-bukh (Volume for Arkadi [Kremer]) (Vilna, 1930), pp. 50-54 (also p. 284); Hillel Kats-Blum, on Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO), vol. 3 (Vilna-Paris, 1939), pp. 352-53; John Mill, Pyonern un boyer (Pioneers and builders), part 1 (New York, 1941), pp. 98-102; Leo Bernshteyn, Ershte shprotsungen (First sprouts) (Buenos Aires, 1956), pp. 151-59.
                                                                                                        Yitskhok Kharlash

Saturday 20 June 2015


KHONE GARBER (b. September 15, 1907)
            He was born in Azor, Grodno region.  He studied in a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school), and in 1926 he graduated from the Russo-Polish high school in Grodno and then took up a teacher’s course of study run by Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization) in Warsaw, becoming a Yiddish teacher in the evening school for laborers of the left Poale-Tsiyon in Węgrów.  In 1928 he emigrated to join his family (colonists) in Argentina, became a teacher in Tucumán, and at the same time studied pharmacy.  He wrote for the organ of Poale-Tsiyon, Undzer tsayt (Our time), as well as for Yidishe dertsiung (Jewish education), and edited Grodner opklangen (Grodno echoes)—all in Argentina.  Among his book-length works: Mentshn, plantsn un refues (People, plants, and remedies) (Buenos Aires, 1945), 158 pp.; Natur, lebn un gezunt (Nature, life, and health) (Buenos Aires, 1951), 160 pp.; Problemen, algemeyne shmuesn ṿegn natur-visn un yidishn denken (Problems, general conversations about knowledge of nature and Jewish thought), with a foreword by Mikhl Hacohen Sinai (Buenos Aires, 1955), 51 pp.  He was living in Buenos Aires, Argentina.



            He was a Soviet Jewish pedagogue and school leader, especially active in Ukraine in the 1920s and first half of the 1930s. He edited the monthly magazine Oktyaberl (Little October), “for little Octoberites,” in Kiev (1932), and he was one of the leaders of the pedagogical section of the Kiev Institute for Jewish Culture at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He translated into Yiddish a number of textbooks for Jewish schools, such as: Al. Astriab’s Eksperimentale geometrye (Experimental geometry) (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1926), 290 pp. In late 1934 when the director of the Institute, Yoysef Liberberg, became chair of the executive committee of the Jewish Autonomous Region and left for Birobidzhan, Gorokhov assumed his post. His role in this post did not last long. When in 1936 the security organs in Moscow and Kiev turned to looking for former “Trotskyists,” all in the same night the leaders of the Kiev Institute—Max Erik, Mikhl Levitan, and Yoyne Khinshtin were all arrested; along with them, the director was also arrested. According to available information, Gorokhov’s life was cut short in 1937.

            He wrote for the anthology Di lernarbet in shul (School work), edited by Yankev Reznik (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1933), 210 pp.  He was the author of pamphlets and books, among them: Di ibergreytung fun der lerershaft (The preparedness of the faculty) (Kharkov, 1930), 22 pp.; Di politekhnishe shul loyt marks-engels-lenin (The polytechnic school according to Marx, Engels, and Lenin), with Yankev Reznik (Kharkov-Kiev: State Publishers for National Minorities, 1932), 196 pp.; Vos iz azoyns an arbet-tsimer (Just what is a work room) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1932), 31 pp.; Lenin vegn frages fun pedagogik un shulboyung (Lenin on questions about pedagogy and school building) (Kiev: Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, 1934), 55 pp. 

Source: E. Shulman, in Fraye arbeter shtime (New York) (July 18, 1952).

[Additional 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), p. 72.]

Friday 19 June 2015


            He was from Dvinsk (Daugavpils), and in 1896 he published a small booklet of poems in four pages: Di transval gold-mayns (The gold mines of Transvaal), brought out by “Excelsior Printing Works,” 30 Commissioner St., Johannesburg, South Africa.

Source: L. Feldman, Yidn in yohanesburg (Jews in Johannesburg) (Johanessburg, 1956), p. 70.


            He was a leader in the Jewish Enlightenment movement and a teacher in Berdichev.  He authored a letter manual entitled Gorodinskis korespondent der nayer brifnshteler (Gorodinski’s correspondent, the new letter manual) in four parts (Berdichev, n.d.).

Source: Y. Bostomski, in Di naye shul 1 (Warsaw, 1923).


BINYUMIN GOR (b. 1897)
            He was born in a town near Cracow, western Galicia, into a well-off family.  He graduated from a Polish high school and studied at Cracow Academy of Mines.  In 1920 he was living in Lodz where he worked in a textile factory.  He later left for Belgium to complete his studies.  He began writing poetry in the Polish language and later switched to Yiddish.  He published: Blinderheyt (Blindness), experimental poems on various themes (with futuristic influences) (Lodz-Warsaw, 1920), 36 pp.; and Moyern (Walls), poems on urban themes, with a social undercurrent (Brussels, 1926), 49 pp., with drawings by Fernand Veri.  He translated Yvan Goll’s poem Rus (Ruth).  He prepared an anthology of modernist pets, from the German Expressionists’ document, Menschheitsdämmerung (Twilight of humanity), to the French Surrealists, but it was never published because of the outbreak of WWII.  Since 1940 he disappeared from Europe.  According to certain information, he was living in the Belgian Congo.

Source: Kh. L. Fuks, in Fun noentn over 3 (New York, 1957).


YOYSEF GAR (October 4, 1905-November 1, 1989)
            He was born in Kovno, Lithuania.  He spent his childhood in Kron (Kruonis), near Kovno.  During WWI, he moved with his parents to Minsk, Byelorussia, returning to Lithuania after the war.  He studied in an ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) school in Kovno.  In 1927 he graduated from the Jewish teachers’ seminary in Kovno.  He later became a teacher in the Jewish public school in Utyan (Utena).  Over the years 1933-1937, he studied history and pedagogy in Kovno University.  During the years of the Holocaust, he was in the Kovno ghetto.  In July 1944 on the route to Dachau, he ran from the roadway and later survived until liberation.  In 1945 he left Lithuania for Poland and from there continued on to Germany.  He spent three years among the survivors in Landsberg and Munich.  In November 1948 he made his way to the United States.  He worked as a teacher in Jewish schools in New York and New Jersey.  Most recently he served as a contributor to the Holocaust project of YIVO and Yad Vashem.  In 1932 he debuted in print with a story, “In kupe” (In a pile), in Folksblat (People’s newspaper) in Kovno.  He later wrote treatises on books and essays concerning general Jewish issues.  For a short period of time, he edited the literary page of Folksblat.  He also published his works in Belgishe bleter (Belgian leaves), Brussels (edited by B. Zilbershteyn).  He served on the editorial board of Landsberger lager-tsaytung (Landsberg camp newspaper) (1945-1946), and he edited Hemshekh (Continuation) in Munich.  In 1948 he published articles in Tog (Day), Forverts (Forward), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), and the anthology Lite (Lithuania) in New York; Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires; Yidishe shtime (Jewish voice) in Munich; and Akrikaner yidishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper) in Johannesburg.  Among his books: Umkum fun der yidisher kovne (The destruction of Jewish Kovno) (Munich, 1948), 424 pp.; In geloyf fun khoreve heymen (In the rush of destroyed homes) (New York, 1952), 135 pp.; Viderklangen, oytobyografishe fartseykhenungen (Echoes, autobiographical jottings) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1961-1971), 2 vols.; Azoy is geshen in lite, 1940-1941 (That’s what happened in Lithuania, 1940-1941) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1965), 157 pp.; a long piece entitled “Baltishe lender” (Baltic countries) appeared in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn A” (New York, 1964).  He was well-known for his work, “Bafrayte yidn” (Liberated Jews), in Fun noentn over (From the recent past) 3 (New York, 1957).  He edited (with Philip Friedman) Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books on the catastrophe and heroism) (New York: Yad Vashem and YIVO, 1962), xxxi, 330 pp.  By himself he edited Biblyografye fun artiklen vegn khurbn un gvure in yidisher peryodike (Bibliography of articles on the catastrophe and heroism in Yiddish periodicals) (New York: Yad Vashem and YIVO, 1966-1969), 2 vols.  Among his pen names: Y. Gama, Y. Avi-geto, and Observator.

Sources: V. Volf, in Kiem (Paros) (November 1948); Dr. Y. Kisman, in Forverts (New York) (November 28, 1948); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 23, 1949); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (December 11, 1949; April 12, 1953); P. Berman (Dr. Maks Vaynraykh), in Forverts (December 1, 1952); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (December 5, 1952); Dr. Sh. Bernshteyn, in Dos yidishe folk (New York) (January 1952); Y. Leshtshinski, in Velt un folk (New York) (December 1952); Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 5, 1953).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 144-45.]


YOYEL GAK (August 13, 1913-July 24, 1979)
            He was born in Rovno, Ukraine.  He studied in religious primary school, later in a Tarbut high school, and in 1930 he was studying chemistry in university in Prague.  In 1932 he published for the first time an article in Voliner shtime (Voice of Wolhynia).  That same year he returned to Rovno.  He published reportage pieces and stories in the local press.  In 1933 he emigrated to Montevideo, Uruguay.  There he contributed to Folksblat (People’s newspaper), Ilustrirte literarishe bleter (Illustrated literary leaves), and Di idishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires.  Over the years 1939-1946, he studied at the university in Montevideo, from which he received a civil engineer’s diploma.  In 1951 he became a regular contributor to Folksblat, publishing articles on pedagogy and cultural matters, as well as literary critical treatises.  He wrote a work called “Oytoportret” (Self-portrait) for Avrom Sutskever’s Lider-zamlung (Poetry anthology) (Buenos Aires, 1953).  He wrote from time to time for Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires.  He edited various publications of Hanoar hatsiyoni (The Zionist youth) in Montevideo.  He was a member, 1934-1939, of the local Zionist federation and a co-founder and secretary of the Jewish writers’ and journalists’ association in Montevideo.  He was living in Montevideo until his death.

Sources: D. Arzuk, in Folksblat (February 1954); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (October 2, 1954); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (New York) (February 23, 1958).


SHMUEL GOTS (1895-September 5, 1983)
            He was born in Shavel (Šiauliai), Lithuania.  He studied in religious elementary school, yeshiva, secular high school, and in Petrograd University.  From 1935 he was in South Africa.  He lived in Bulawayo.  He was an active Zionist.  He published articles in Idishe shtime (Jewish voice) in Kovno, Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga, and Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper), among others.  He died in Bulewayo, southern Africa.

Source: A. Shaban, in Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (April 15, 1955).