Friday, 31 July 2015


MOYSHE GUTMAN (September 21, 1883-1939)
            He was born in the town of Veper (Vepriai), Kovno district, Lithuania, into a commercial household.  He studied in religious primary school, yeshivas, and with private tutors.  As an external student, in 1907 he sat for the examination to become a pharmacist’s assistant.  From 1902 he was active in the Jewish labor movement, initially working with the Labor Zionists (Poale-Tsiyon), later with the Zionist socialists, and later still with the “Fareynikte” (United [socialist party]).  He was one of the initiators of the Jewish school system in Tsarist Russia.  He was the author of a project concerned with a congress for Jewish emigration.  He was coopted in 1909 to join the central committee of the Zionist Socialist Party, and he was a delegate to the Kovno conference of Jewish communities, during which he was arrested and thrown in jail for a short period of time in Lodz.  After being freed at the end of 1910, he lived in Lodz and Warsaw, and he was active in the Jewish teachers’ union.  In 1912 he participated in the Territorialist Conference in Vienna concerned with Angola.  When he returned to Russia, he was arrested again and placed in prisons in Kiev and Warsaw (Pawiak).  He later lived illegally in Pinsk, Homel (Hamel, Gomel), and Minsk.  During the years of WWI, he was active in Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”) in the community and in ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) in Kiev, and in the zemstvo (local electoral districts) association in Odessa.  With the outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917, he served as chairman of the first committee to organize a workers’ council in Odessa and as a representative of the Fareynikte to the third all-Russian conference of trade unions in Petrograd.  Together with Henryk Erlich, in September 1917 he was coopted into Kerensky’s “pre-parliament.”  Both were representatives of the Jewish socialist parties.  At that time he was also the representative of his party in the general executive committee of the workers’ councils in Russia.  He was (July-August 1917) a member of the Ukrainian central council (rada) in Kiev; and he was (December 1917) a member of the council of the Byelorussian People’s Republic in Minsk.  He administered the point in the council’s manifesto concerning the national-personal autonomy for the Jews.  He also served as a counselor for the Minsk community.  From December 1918 until the beginning of 1925, he was in Warsaw where he was active in the Jewish trade and school movement and in the office for laborers’ emigration at the central bureau of the Jewish trade unions.  He was the author of a project to have a democratic electoral law for the Jewish communities.  He chaired a committee to reform Yiddish orthography.  From December 1921 until the end of 1924, he was a member of the Bund.  Late in 1924 at the third conference of the Bund, he left it and joined the Communists.  He was living in early 1925 in Soviet Russia.  In Kharkov he worked as a Yiddish teacher and writer.  He was active as well in “Gezerd” (All-Union Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers in the USSR).  During the trials of 1937, he was arrested and deported to a camp—he was “liquidated” in 1939.
            He began writing in the Khronik fun poyle-tsien (Chronicle of Labor Zionists), which he also edited (Vilna, 1903).  From that point in time he published in organs of the Zionist socialists (later, the Fareynikte): Unzer veg (Our way) in Vilna (1907); the anthology Tsukunft (Future) in St. Petersburg (1913); Idishe proletaryer (Jewish proletariat) in Kiev (1917); Unzer vort (Our word) in Odessa (1917); Naye tsayt (Our time) in Kiev; Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg-Warsaw; Hazman (The times) in Vilna; Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw; and in the Russian-language press as well.  After leaving for the Soviet Union, he contributed (1929-1934) to: the daily newspaper Der shtern (The star) in Kharkov-Minsk; Der veker (The alarm) in Minsk; Gezerd; and Afn shprakhfront (On the language front), among others.  He edited such party publications as: Der shtral (The ray) in Homel (1918); and the anthology Foroys (Onward) in Vilna (1919).  He served on the editorial board of Unzer veg, Nayer veg (New way); Unzer nayer veg (Our new way); and other party publications of the Fareynikte in Russia and Poland.  He wrote about the economy, politics, trade, and emigration issues (in Soviet Russia also about matters concerning Yiddish language and orthography).  Among his pseudonyms: B. Zelikovitsh, Baltikaklis, Mogn, Der mizinik, B. Mikhlin, M. Kamenshteyn, and others.  Together with Iser Goldberg, he published the pamphlet: Di fareynikte oyfn sheydveg (The United at a crossroads).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Moyshe Gutman, “Zikhroynes” (Memoirs), Roytes pinkes (Warsaw) 1 (1921); Toyzent yor pinsk (1000 years of Pinsk) (New York, 1941), pp. 123, 161; Khayim Shloyme Kazdan, Fun heyder un “shkoles” biz tsisho, dos ruslendishe yidntum in gerangel far shul, shprakh, kultur (From religious primary school and [non-Jewish] schools until Tsisho, Russian Judaism in conflict over school, language, culture) (Mexico, 1956), see index.

Khayim Leyb Fuks

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