Wednesday 14 October 2015


YANKEV GRINFELD (November 9, 1884-March 6, 1940)
            He was born in Boyarka, Kiev district, Ukraine.  His father, a ritual slaughterer and a Sadagura Hassid, died in 1919 at the hands of a band of Ukrainian pogromists.  He studied in yeshivas until age nineteen, though at the same time he was also concentrated on getting a secular education.  In 1904 he graduated from a Russian high school in Pskov.  In 1905 he left for Austria and from there to Switzerland, where he studied law and philosophy.  He received his doctorate in 1914 in Zurich.  He was one of the founders there of the Jewish Student Club and secretary of the Educational Association of Switzerland.  In 1917 he emigrated to the United States.  He worked as a teacher of Yiddish and Hebrew in religious schools and yeshivas.  At one point he was secretary of the Association of Ukrainian Jews in America.  For a time he inclined toward Communism, and later he became religious.  He began writing in 1910 in German Jewish and German publications.  In 1913 he published his work “On the Utility and Injuriousness of the Yiddish Language” (in German) in Israelitisches Wochenblatt in Zurich.  In 1915 he published (also in German) a pamphlet entitled (in translation) “Crimes and Punishment in Classical Roman Law,” which received an award from the law faculty of Zurich University.  He began writing in Yiddish in the United States, and his first article—“A brandays-fal in der shvayts” (A Brandeis case in Switzerland)—was published in Tsukunft (Future) in New York (Ju;y 1916), and from that time forward he published articles on literature and pedagogical issues in: Di idishe arbayter shtime (The voice of Jewish labor), edited by D. Pinski; Der idisher kemfer (The Jewish fighter); the anthology Shriftn (Writings), in issue no. 4, the beginning of a longer work, “Der ideen-gang fun der idisher literatur” (The order of ideas in Yiddish literature); and Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people), which he edited for a year’s time.  He also contributed to the translation of Georg Brandes’s works (New York: Farlag Maks Meyzel, 1920)—of which he alone translated volume 6, Der naturalism in England (Naturalism in England), 252 pp., and volume 7, Yung-daytshland (Young Germany) which remained in manuscript.[1]  Grinfeld was the author of a pamphlet Di lage fun di yidn in daytshland (The condition of Jews in Germany), 32 pp., published by the Jewish Folk-Committee fighting against anti-Semitism and fascism, located in New York, and he also published in English a three-act play entitled Esther.  Among his pen names: Y. Gershunzohn, Y. Blumenzohn, Henrik Rozen, and Ben Porakh.  He died in New York.

Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1.

[1] Worldcat claims that this volume was published by the same publisher in 1921—JAF.

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