Tuesday 22 March 2016


FABIAN SH. HALEVI (February 23, 1849-September 20, 1932)
            He was one of the pioneers of the Yiddish press in Argentina.  He hailed from Plotsk (Płock), Poland, where he was known as a scholar and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment.  The middle initial “Sh” in his name was short for shrayber (writer): Fabian Shrayber Halevi.  His father was a teacher of “secular matters” (teaching youngsters to read and write), but a “writer”—as one used to call such a person among Jews in bygone times—to differentiate him from a melamed (teacher in a religious elementary school) who taught “holy matters.”  He spent several years in Lodz and thereafter (probably already in the 1890s) he moved to Argentina, settled in the colony of Entre Rios, where he turned his attention to teaching—in a YIKO (Jewish Cultural Organization) school—and to community work.  He learned Spanish, wrote in Hebrew, as well as in Spanish newspapers and became widely known among Argentinian “scribes, scholars, and followers of the Jewish Enlightenment movement” (according to Mikhl Hakohen Sinai, in Viderkol [Echo], Buenos Aires, 1898).  When a group of Jewish community leaders with the president of the association “Poale tsedek” (Workers for justice), the manufacturer Soli Borak, leading the way began publishing in Buenos Aires the first printed Yiddish newspaper in Argentina—Der idisher fonograf (The Jewish phonograph), appearing initially once each week, later twice weekly—they named as editor of the newspaper Fabian Sh. Halevi.  He was already at the time an older man, an “enlightened” Jew, a scholar, and “skilled in all areas of knowledge.”  Now, Halevi did not speak a pure Yiddish, and he wrote in a sharply Germanized Yiddish, here and there “German in Jewish letters.”  He wrote treatises on “higher affairs,” “filled with midrashim and sayings of the Sages, with higher philosophy and Judaism” (according to P. Kats in his Geklibene shriftn [Collected writings]).  The tumult among the first colonists, as well as the social and personal intrigues, which seethed amid urban Jewish life at that time in Argentina, scarcely echoed in the pages of Der idisher fonograf.  In one long article entitled “V’al haavoda” (And on service), the editor strongly reproved the colonists—why were they complaining “just like the Jews did to Moses who had led them out of Egypt” (P. Kats).  After thirty-plus issues, Der idisher fonograf ceased publication.  Halevi later contributed to the weekly newspaper Di blum (The flower) which the publishers of Di poyk (The drum, 1899-1901) brought out (under the editorship of Z. Levin) at the end of 1901 in Buenos Aires.  Over the years 1908-1909, Halevi edited Dos folksblat (The people’s newspaper)—a weekly that Yoyel Rozenblit, one of the founder of Der idisher fonograf, was publishing (thirty issues appeared).  In 1914 in Buenos Aires, the first Yiddish daily newspaper in Argentina commenced publication—Der tog (The day).  Initially, its editor was Sh.-Y. Lyakhovtski, who soon, though, quarreled with the publishers, and in his stead they appointed Halevi who edited the newspaper until late 1916, when it closed down.  He wrote daily in the newspaper political editorials and war rapports which Yiddish readers consumed with much interest.  Little by little, Halevi’s Yiddish improved, and in 1916 he even edited the monthly magazine Der kinder-fraynd (Children’s friend)—only two issues appeared (Buenos Aires).  At this time, his view of Yiddish and Jewish education had much changed.  In his last years, he also wrote longer items in Yiddish, including a novel—entitled Der farlorener (The lost one)—chapters from which were published after his death in the anthology Plotsk (Płock) (Buenos Aires, 1945), pp. 124-27.  He also translated into Yiddish the lyrical drama Ester [original: Esther] by the French writer Racine—the only copy of this translation may be found in the Argentinian YIVO.  Halevi also lived in Buenos Aires off of private lessons.  In his final years, he supervised the Jewish subject matter taught at the Jewish orphanage.  He died in Buenos Aires.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); foreword to Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Yiddish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), p. 13; V. Bresler, “Biblyografishe reshime fun yidishe oysgabes in argentine” (Bibliographic list of Yiddish publications in Argentina), in Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine, pp. 933, 935, 937; “In der yidisher un hebreisher literatur” (In Yiddish and Hebrew literature), Tsukunft (New York) (June 1944); Plotsk, bletlekh geshikhte fun idishn lebn in der alter heym (Płock, pages from the history of Jewish life in the old country) (Buenos Aires, 1945), pp. 124-27, 157-60; P. Kats, Geklibene shriftn, vol. 5: Idishe zhurnalistik in argentine (Collected writings, vol. 5: Yiddish journalism in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1946), pp. 12, 30-37, 67-68, 81-82.
Yitskhok Kharlash

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