Monday 19 October 2015


SHIMEN DOBIN (SHIMONI) (1869-June 1944)

            He was political writer, teacher, and literary researcher, born in the town of Bobr, Mohilev region, Byelorussia, into an extremely poor family.  Until age fifteen he studied Talmud in a synagogue study house.  He later lived in Korsun', Kiev region, Ukraine, where he studied as an external student.  Thereafter, he spent three years in Odessa, an early Zionist, working as a bookkeeper, and passed the examinations to become a teacher. In Ekaterinoslav he founded a Labor Zionist organization, but he soon shifted and became an activist of the Socialist Zionist Party, was coopted onto the central committee, and composed an appeal from the party.  He was arrested in 1907 and sentenced to deportation to Archangel district in northern Russia.  Because of poor health, he was permitted in 1908 to emigrate and recuperate abroad.  He worked intensively there in the field of political writing and formed acquaintances with prominent Yiddish writers, among them Sholem-Aleichem.

            Back in the Kiev area in 1911, Dobin was one of the founders of the first (illegal) secular Jewish school in the Kiev suburb of Demyevka, where he worked as a teacher until the Revolution. He was now a Bundist and a member of the Bundist party council.  Over the years 1917 and 1918, he helped create the “Kultur-lige” (Culture league). He edited books, gave lectures in Jewish middle and high schools, and contributed to the section on Jewish culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He later served as chair of the Kultur-lige after the Bolshevik Revolution, a lecturer in Yiddish Pedagogical Technicum, a member of the central council of Gezerd (All-Union Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers in the USSR), and was a leading figure on behalf of Gezkult (Gezelshaft kultur, or Culture Society) in the 1920s.  Over the years 1918-1920 he was the actual editor of Pedagogisher byuletin (Pedagogical bulletin) in Kiev, and later (1927-1930) he was a member of the editorial collective of the journal Di yidishe shprakh (The Yiddish language).

A sincere man of the people, he performed his pedagogical and literary work as a kind of divine service.  There was no subsequent Pedagogical Technicum or Teachers Institute in Kiev in which he did not stand at the head of the teaching staff.  There he taught the Yiddish classics and the new Soviet Yiddish literature.  In addition, he took an active part in the linguistic work of the Kiev Yiddish Scientific Institute. In the obituary notice published in the Moscow journal Eynikeyt (Unity) on June 8, 1944, in connection with his death it noted: “The well-known societal leader, man of letters, and pedagogue Shimen Dobin died at the age of seventy-five in the city of Sverdlovsk, during the evacuation. His entire life, Shimen Dobin faithfully served with his work the Jewish folk masses and was always closely tied to their sufferings and hopes.”

Without his knowledge, the Zionists published his report on the National Fund under the title Geulat haarets (Redemption of the land)—Berl Katsenelson wrote that it was the best piece of writing on the subject.  A pamphlet of his, Di yidishe pogromen un zeyer badaytung (The Jewish pogroms and their meaning), was set in type, but not printed because of the failure of the publishing house.  Dobin wrote memoirist articles about the life, character, and writings of Sholem-Aleichem in the anthology Tsum ondenk fun sholem-aleykhem, zamlbukh (Toward the memory of Sholem-Aleykhem, collection) and in the special Sholem-Aleykhem issue of Sovetish 12 (Moscow, 1941), pp. 272-90.  He edited and translated a great deal as well.  He was the actual editor of the Sejmist monthly organ Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) (Kiev, 1906; Vilna, 1907).  He was a member of the editorial board of the Bundist Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper), as well as editor of the “Kultur-lige” publishing house.  He also adapted for the children’s library Sholem-Aleichem’s Motl peysi dem khazns (Motl Peysi the cantor’s son) and Mendele’s Masoes benyomin hashlishi (The travels of Benjamin the Third).  He published numerous articles in Folks-shtime, in the collections Di shtime (The voice), Di alte shtime (The old voice), and Tsayt-fragn (Issues of the time), and in the monthlies Lebn un visnshaft (Life and science) and Dos naye lebn (The new life).  In 1914 he contributed in Warsaw to Lebn (Life).  After the Revolution, he placed pieces in Folks-tsaytung, in the monthly Shul un lebn (School and life), and he also translated: In kooperativn daytshland (In cooperatives in Germany), In kooperativn england (In cooperatives in England), and In kooperativn shotland (In cooperative in Scotland)—all published in Kiev in 1919; Charles Gide’s Di tsukunft fun kooperatsye (The future of cooperation [original: L’Avenir de la Coopération) (Kiev, 1920); K. I. Shelavin, Der arbeter-klas un zayn partey (The working class and its party [original: Rabochii klass i ego partiya︡, istoriya︡ R.K.P. = The working class and its party, the Russian Communist Party]) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1925); L. Paperno, Alefbeys fun marksizm: filosofye, politishe ekonomye, ṿisnshaftlikher sotsyalizm (The ABCs of Marxism: philosophy, political economy, and scientific socialism) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1926), 231 pp.; several pamphlets about cooperation; and Nokhum Shtif’s booklet about Dashevski.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4, pp. 750-56; M. Zilberfarb, M. Gutman, and Y. Bregman, in the anthology Royte pinkes, vol. 1; Yidisher arbeter pinkes (Jewish laborers’ records), pp. 43, 48, 78; Afn shprakhfront (Kiev) 1 (1934); Vegn der ukrainisher yidisher shprakh-baratung 304 (1935); Anon., in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (June 8, 1944); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico, 1956), see index; A. Golomb, Fuftsik yor geshikhte fun yidisher dertsiung (Fifty years of history of Yiddish education) (Mexico, 1957), p. 101.

Aleksander Pomerants 

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 184; 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), pp. 95-96.]


  1. Together with Lipe Reznik SHIMEN DOBIN edited Sholem-Aleykhem. Zayne kindershe un yinglshe yorn : kapitlen fun Sholem-Aleykhems avtobiografie.- Kiev : Kooperativer farlag Kultur-Lige, 1926.- 94 [2] pp., portr. (Serie : Shul - un Pionern - bibliotek # 14).
    שאלעם-אלײכעם. זײנע קינדערשע און אינגלשע יארן :קאפיטלען פון שאלעם-אלײכעמס אװטאביאגראפיע
    שאלעם-אלײכעם; רעדאגירט פון ש. דאבין און ל. רעזניק

  2. The Russian original book for 3 translations 1. In kooperativn daytshland (In cooperatives in Germany), 2. In kooperativn england (In cooperatives in England), and 3. In kooperativn shotland (In cooperatives in Scotland)—all published in Kiev in 1919, was Z. Lenski's In In cooperatives in Europe : Travel essays (orig.: По кооперативной Европе : Путевые очерки) first published in 1910.