Sunday 13 September 2015


M. GERTS (GERSHON MOVSHOVITSH) (April 1, 1892-December 2, 1958)

            A journalist and playwright, he was born in Girkalnis, Kovno region, Lithuania.  At age seven he moved with his parents to Riga.  At age seven he moved with his parents to Riga, Latvia, and from age twelve he studied in the religious secondary schools in various Latvian cities: in Dvinsk, in “Knesses yisroel” (Congregation of Israel) in Slobodka run by the Musernikes (adherents of a religious movement stressing moral edification), and in Mir. At age nineteen, he settled in Vilna where he turned to self-education and supported himself as a tutor in the homes of well-to-do families. It was also at this time that he made his debut in literature with a human-interest piece published in Vilner vokhnblat (Vilna weekly newspaper), edited by Lipman Levin. He returned to Riga in 1914, wrote for the local Russian and German presses, and in 1915 during the expulsion of Lithuanian and Courland Jews, he turned up in Voronezh, southeastern Russia. In 1919 he returned again to Riga, initially became a contributor to Der royter emes (The red truth), a Bolshevik Yiddish newspaper, and soon thereafter he moved to the editorial board of the Labor Zionist Idishe folks-shtime (Voice of the Jewish people), edited by Dr. Yankev Helman; the latter serial appeared in October 1919, and in May 1920 he moved with Dr. Helman to the editorial board of the newly founded daily newspaper Dos folk (The people) which later, under the editorial and business management of Tankhum Eydes (Tankhum Dvinski), underwent various ideological metamorphoses—from “Aguda” [conservative, religious] to Communism.  Gerts stayed with the newspaper for five years, editing the humor supplement Der lets (The clown) in 1923 and the children’s supplement Far undzere kinder (For our children) in 1924. He also edited the humor publications: Der lets afn shtrand (The clown at the beach) of 1921; and Der mazek (The mischievous child) of 1925.  At the end of December 1925, he and the regular contributors to Dos folk went on strike as a sign of protest against the venality of the newspaper, and he then left it.  Together with the rebellious group, he brought out the one-off publication Unzer folk (Our people) in Riga (December 31, 1925), and they all joined the newly established daily Frimorgn (Morning) in January 1926, where he worked until the end of its existence. He was also editor of the daily afternoon newspaper Batog (Daytime) which commenced publication in 1932.  For many years he was the Riga correspondent of Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York.  He placed pieces as well in Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) and Khazonish-velt (Cantorial world) in Warsaw, among other places. In 1940 when the Soviets arrived in Latvia, Gerts contributed to the Soviet press. With the Nazi invasion, he evacuated to Russia, and in 1945 returned to Riga. He published in Moscow’s Eynikeyt (Unity), worked on archival materials concerned with Jewish martyrology, completed a book entitled Fun grub (From the mines), and prepared another book, Di yidishe geto in rige (The Jewish ghetto in Riga), but in the late 1940s he was purged. After his rehabilitation in 1956, he returned to Riga where he died two years later.

            Among his books: Hinter di kulisn fun redaktsye, a komedye in eyn akt (Behind the scenes of the editorial board, a comedy in one act), written as G. Movshovitsh (Riga: B. Shereshevski, 1920), 16 pp.; 25 yor idishe prese in letland (Twenty-five years of the Yiddish press in Latvia) (Riga: Alef, Idishe literarishe farayn in letland, 1933), 60 pp.; Musernikes, tipn un geshtaltn (Adherents of the Musar movement, stressing moral values: types and images) (Riga: Skala, 1936), 91 pp.; Amol iz geven yontef, bilder un shtimungen (There was once a holiday, images and moods), images of Jewish holidays from times past (Riga: Logos, 1939), 92 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; A. Y. Goldshmidt, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (June 12, 1936); M. R., in Yidish bilder (Riga) 19 (103) (May 1939); “Iber vos arbetn yidishe shrayber in rige?” (For what do Yiddish writers work in Riga?), Eynikeyt (Moscow) (August 11, 1945); M. Shayer, in Eynikeyt (February 4, 1947); Z. Kahan, in Eynikeyt (June 17, 1947); A. Riger, Yizker-alamankh fun riger relif (Memorial almanac for Riga relief) 3 (New York, 1948).

Yitskhok Kharlash

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. 85.

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