Tuesday 9 February 2016


ZISHE HONIK (b. 1905)
           He was born in Lodz, Poland.  He attended religious elementary school, later studying in a Polish high school.  During the years of WWI, he moved with his parents to Kovle (Kovel), Volhynia, and there in 1925 he graduated from the state high school and then entered Vilna University where he turned his attention to studies of Jewish historiography.  Over the years 1927-1929, he gave papers “On the Sources for the History of Jews in Poland” at the seminars of Professors Modelski and Chodnitski, and he wrote up his study of “The Struggle of Vilna Jews with City Hall over Abolishing the Ghetto.”  He also undertook research work in the Vilna State and Municipal Archives, discovering documents and materials on the history of Jewish in Byelorussia, Lithuania, and, principally, Vilna—and pursuant to this material, he prepared a major piece of scholarship: “The Struggle of the Tsarist Government against Traditional Jewish Attire in Lithuania at the Times of Nikolai I.”  Honik’s second major piece of work was entitled: “Di yidn in sokolke, bay grodne, tsum sof fun 17tn y”h (a privilegye fun kinig oygust dem tsveytn)” (The Jews of Sokółka, near Grodno, at the end of the seventeenth century, a privilege from King August II), which appeared in Yivo-bleter (Leaves from YIVO), in Vilna, 2 (1931), pp. 454-57.  In 1929 he graduated from university and in 1932 he submitted his doctoral dissertation, “The Jurisdiction over Vilna Jews at the End of the Seventeenth Century and the Organization of the Castle Court in Lithuania.”  The preface to his book, Urząd podwojewódziego w Wielkim Księstwie Litewskiem, studjum historyczne (The office of Jewish judge in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, historical study) appeared in the series of scholarly publications from the Society for Scholarly Assistance in the Name of E. Wróblewski” (Vilna, 1935), and in Ateneum Wileński there appeared his chapters: “O Genezie urzędu podwojewódziego w Księstwie Litewskim” (On the genesis of the office of Jewish judge in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania); and “O organizacji i praktyce Wilenskiego sądu zamkowego u schylku 17 W.” (On the organization of the Vilna castle court at the end of the seventeenth century).  Two chapters were also published in Yiddish: “Di yurisdiktsye iber di litvishe yidn sof 18tn y”h” (The jurisdiction over Lithuanian Jews at the end of the eighteenth century), Yivo-bleter 8 (1938), pp. 278-82; and “Di yurisdiktsye iber di yidn in lite nokh der lubliner unye” (The jurisdiction over Jews in Lithuania after the Lublin Union), Yivo-bleter 14 (1939), 316-34.  Honik also prepared a monograph, Di vilner yidn in di tsaytn fun amolikn poyln (1593-1793) (Vilna Jews in the Poland of old, 1593-1793), several chapters of which appeared: in Vilner tog (Vilna day) (1932), “Der pogrom af yidn in vilne mit 340 yor tsurik” (The pogrom against Jews in Vilna 340 years ago); in Di tsayt (The times) (May 8, 1935), “Der alter vilner beys oylem” (The old Vilna cemetery); in Di tsayt (June 6 and 9, 1935), “Ven iz oyfgeboyt gevorn di vilner shtot-shul?” (When was the Vilna municipal school erected?), which was reprinted in Yivo-bleter 11 (1937), pp. 405-7; in Di tsayt (September 6, 1935), “Oysn lebn fun di vilner yidn sof 18tn y”h” (On the life of Vilna Jews at the end of the eighteenth century).  Several of Honik’s articles on historical topics were published in Di tsayt in Vilna (August 19-21, 1932; October 6, 1935).  Four longer historical works of his on the history of Jews in Pinsk can be found in the collection, Toyzent yor pinsk (1000 years of Pinsk), edited by Tzvien (New York, 1941).  One of the most important works that Honik prepared for publication was: “A diplomatisher kodeks tsu der geshikhte fun di litvishe yidn” (A diplomatic code for the history of Lithuanian Jewry), in which he introduced roughly 100 royal privileges of various Jewish communities, consensuses of clergymen to build schools and cemeteries, statistical information about the Jewish population, materials from and about economic history, Jewish publishing houses, the production of secular and religious books, and the like.  Until the Nazi occupation, Honik worked as a teacher in a Vilna Polish Jewish high school, and from time to time he delivered papers at YIVO meetings.  His subsequent fate remains unknown.
Leyzer Ran

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