Tuesday 27 October 2015


MENAKHEM-MENDL DOLITSKI (March 13, 1856-February 26, 1931)
            He was born in Bialystok, the son of Zev-Volf, a scholar and a ritual slaughterer.  He studied in a school run by the father of Dr. L. Zamenhof, in a synagogue study hall, and foreign languages on his own.  At age seventeen he married, and lived with his in-laws while studying literature of the Jewish Enlightenment.  Due to his weak state of health, he was for a time under treatment in Meran, Tyrol, and took the opportunity to visit Perets Smolenskin in Vienna.  By that time he had published in Hashaḥar (The dawn), edited by Perets Smolenskin, his first poem in Hebrew—“Likui shne hameorot” (Two eclipses)—which makes fun of two Hassidim who hold a competition between themselves.  When he returned from Meran, for a short time he worked as a traveling agent for Smolenskin’s weekly newspapers, Hamabit (The observer) and Hamabit leyisrael (The observer of Israel).  Later he worked as a Hebrew teacher in Bialystok and in Kiev where he survived a pogrom.  From that time forward, his early Zionist activities commenced.  In 1882 he was working as a Hebrew teacher in Moscow and secretary to K. Z. Visotski (Wissotzky), whose biography he would write: Mofet lerabim (A model for the many) (Frankfurt, 1892), 26 pp.  He published Zionist-themed poems in Hebrew in Kneset yisrael Community of Israel).  He suffered a great deal in Moscow during an expulsion, because he lacked residential rights.  He left Russia in 1892 and came to New York.  For a short time he worked in a sweatshop, and he later opened a cafeteria and worked as an itinerant teacher.  In a poem entitled “Aliya veyerida” (Ups and downs), he portrayed this period as a poet becoming a man who chases after a loaf of bread that was so often absent from his house and as his wife and children go hungry.  He began writing for Di yudishe gazetn (The Jewish gazette) in New York in 1892, in which he published his first Yiddish poem, “Fun tsofn land” (From the north land) (this poem was later republished by M. Shtarkman in Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) (Tel Aviv) 17 (1953).  He also published in Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper) and in Morgn zhurnal (Morning journal) many novels, poems, and fables.  His newspaper novels (some written under the pseudonym M. Volfovitsh) number more than forty.  He also published in Tsukunft (Future), and he edited Di tsayt (The times), “a monthly journal for literature, entertainment, and Yiddish interests” (New York, 1897-1898), nos. 1-10.  A number of his novels came out in book form, such as: Shtarker fun ayzn, oder der gekroynter bandit (Stronger than iron, or the crowned bandit) (New York, 1894), 846 pp., reprinted (New York, 1920), vol. 1, 352 pp., vol. 2, 353 pp.; Der gebildeter merder oder dem henkers zun (The cultivated murderer or the hangman’s son), nine volumes (Chicago, 1897), 1456 pp.; Di finstere hershaft biz minister mirski (The sinister regime to Minister Mirsky) (New York, 1904), 846 pp.; Skhus oves oder gronem der bal-tshuve, roman fun yidishn lebn in rusland (Merits of the ancestors or Gronem the penitent, a novel of Jewish life in Russia) (New York, 1912), two volumes.  In 1907 in the Yiddish theater in New York, his play Di kharote (The regret) was staged.  In Hebrew a collection of his stories was published in book form, Mibayit umiḥuts (At home and abroad) (New York, 1908), 184 pp.  Also: Milḥemet ha-teḥiya (The war of rebirth) (New York, 1911), 464 pp.; Kol shire menaḥem mendel dolitsḳi (All the poetry of Menkhem Mendl Dolitski) (New York, 1895), 64 pp.; Haḥalom veshivro (The dream and its destruction) (New York, 1904), 42 pp.; Shire menaḥem (The poems of Menakhem) (New York, 1900), 183 pp.; Neginot sefat tsiyon (Melodies in the language of Zion) (New York, 1904), 64 pp.; and Shire tsiyon (Poems of Zion).  Early, in Europe, he also published a number of letter-writing manuals in Hebrew, with letters by Mapu and Smolenskin.  His Yiddish novels were sensationalist with underworld heroes, seducers, and the seduced.  These novels lacked much literary value but were enormously successful among the mass readership.  For this reason he abandoned his literary activity.  However, every Sunday he wrote for Morgn zhurnal a poem, and in his last years he also published fables.  He died in Los Angeles, California.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Yosef Klausner, Yotsrim uvonim (Creators and builders) (Tel Aviv, 1925-1929), pp. 247-57; E. Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), p. 90; Pinkes (New York) 1 (1927-1928), p. 260; Yorbukh fun amopteyl (Annual from the American branch [of YIVO]), vol. 1 (New York, 1938), pp. 256-80; M. Ribalow, Sefer hamasot (Essays) (New York, 1928), pp. 68-74; A. Sh. Hershberg, Pinkes byalistok (Records of Bialystok), vol. 1 (New York, 1949), p. 235; M. Aronson, in Morgn zhurnal (New York) (March 26, 1950); E. R. Malachi, in Hadoar (New York) (Shevet 2=January 20, 1950); A. Ben-Or, Toldot hasifrut haivrit haḥadasha (History of modern Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1951), pp. 44-47; M. Ḥizkuni (Shtarkman), in Metsuda 7 (1953); Y. Likhtnboym, Hasifrut haivri (Hebrew literature) (Tel Aviv, 1955); Y. K. Miklishanski, in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn H” (New York, 1957), p. 146; A. Tsentsiper, Paame hageula (The time of redemption) (Tel Aviv, 1951).

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