MIKHL DAVIDZON (1883-December 2, 1941)
He was born in Nay-Konstantin, Podolia district, Ukraine, into an elite, rabbinical family. In his youth, he moved with his parents to Lyeve (Leova), where his father was hired to serve as rabbi. He studied in religious primary school, synagogue study hall, and with his father’s help to deepen his knowledge of Hassidism and Kabbala. Living at that time in Leova was the Hebrew writer Yehuda Shteynberg, and the young Davdizon was a frequent visitor of his. At that time, he began writing poetry in Hebrew, which at Steynberg’s recommendation was published in Haolam (The world). Shteynberg also guided him in the study of secular knowledge. At the time of the Kishinev pogrom, 1903, he was studying in a local high school and was one of the more active leaders of Jewish self-defense. He was thus placed in police custody and later was compelled to leave Russia. He lived for a fair amount of time in Germany and studied technology at Göttingen University. He was the founder of the local student organization “Hatikva” (The hope), which in 1907 staged his Hebrew translation and direction of Dovid Pinski’s Di mishpokhe tsvi (The family Tsvi). In 1909 he returned to Russia. During WWI he lived in Warsaw, later in various cities in Russia and Ukraine. He was in Odessa and Kiev, where he in 1919 he helped create the Children’s Home, predecessor of the “Kultur-lige” (Culture league) of Kiev. In 1923 he left Russia and lived in Western Europe. He emigrated to the United States in 1924 and settled in Chicago where he worked as a Hebrew teacher and was a member of the circle surrounding the journal Kultur (Culture), 1925-1926. At the end of 1938, he moved to New York and until his death was a Hebrew teacher in yeshivas. He published poetry and translations from world literature in Der shtral (The ray [of light]) and Fraynd (Friend) in Warsaw, Dos yidishe folk (The Jewish people) in St. Petersburg, as well as in a great number of Yiddish periodical and literary publication in Russia and in Poland. He placed pieces in: Haolam, Hayom (Today), and Hameorer (The awakener) in London, in which he published, in addition to poetry, translations from Yiddish literature, such as a drama by Perets Hirshbeyn. He contributed to the Shtibl publishing house, for which he translated in Hebrew various works, such as: “Dos pastukh fayfl” (The shepherd’s pipe [original: “Die Hirtenflote”]), and the dramas: Kabale un libe (Intrigue and love [original: Kabale und Liebe) and Di royber (The robbers [original: Räuber]) by Friedrich Schiller. In America he published poetry in various publications, such as Kultur in Chicago. Among his books: In veldl, kinder-drame in tsvey aktn (In the woods, a children’s drama in two acts), with illustrations by Todres Geler (Chicago, 1926; second edition, 1938), 138 pp. This play was staged earlier in Hebrew under the direction of Kh. N. Bialik (Odessa, 1918). He also wrote Der lyever rebe, historishe drame in fir aktn (The Leova rebbe, historical drama in four acts) (Chicago, 1935), 208 pp. This play, which he describes in his own foreword as a “free adaptation,” elicited a literary polemic. Davidzon lived alone and in his last year became quite devout. He also wrote under the pen name “M. Ben-David.” He died in the middle of the street as he was walking from work at the Bensonhurst Yeshiva, Brooklyn, New York.
Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (November 21, 1926); K. Marmor, in Frayhayt (New York) (June 17, 1926); E. R. Malachi, ed., Igrot david frishman (Letters of David Frishman) (New York, 1927); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (Winter 1936); Dr. L. Zhitnitski, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (June 12, 1935); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 26, 1935); Tog (December 2, 1941); Morgn-zhurnal (December 2, 1941); Hadoar (New York) (December 5, 1941); A. Almi, in Tog (December 20, 1941); Y. Rapoport, Tropns toy (Dew drops) (Melbourne, 1948), pp. 34-35; Leye Mishkin, in Pinkes shikago (1952).
Khayim Leyb Fuks