Sunday 6 March 2016



            A current events author, editor, and elder brother of the writer Yisroel-Zalmen Hurvits (1872-1955) who was best known in Yiddish literature under his pen name of Z. Libin. He was born in Horki, Mogilev region, Byelorussia, into the family of an itinerant teacher.  He studied in religious elementary school and with the town rabbi.  From 1881 to 1887, he was a student of the local agronomy college; he later studied philosophy at the University of Vienna, while simultaneously studying at the synagogue study hall of Yitskhok-Ayzik Weiss.  In 1900 he moved to Berlin, where he studied social sciences, principally political economy, and he received his doctoral degree for a dissertation on “The Growth of Human Needs and the Social Differentiation of Society”—published in Professor Schmoller’s journal of social science research, Zeitschrift für sozialwissenschaftliche Forschung (Leipzig, 1901).  At that time he became close friends with Dovid Pinski, and together they helped develop Yiddish cultural activities among Jewish students in Berlin. Yitskhok-Leybush Perets approved of his first literary efforts and invited him to contribute work to his “holiday pamphlets.” Over the years 1901-1903, he co-edited with the novelist and journalist Mortkhe Spektor the weekly newspapers, Di yudishe folks tsaytung (The Jewish people’s newspaper) and Di yudishe froyen-velt (The world of Jewish women), both in Cracow, and there he published various writings under the name Hurvits and an assortment of other pseudonyms.

            He also published in Russian newspapers and in the Hebrew-language Hatsfira (The times), Hashiloa (The shiloah), Luaḥ aḥiasef, and Sefer hashana (Yearbook), in which he placed stories and sketches.  He published a series of popular scientific works in the collections Mimizraḥ umimaariv (From the east and from the west) and Hashelaḥ (The weapon), among others, which were later included in the first three short volumes of his writings entitled Hamamon (Mammon) (Warsaw: Tushiya, 1900).  In 1901 he began writing in Yiddish with the story “Dreyfus” in Yud (Jew) in Cracow, and he became a contributor to the London Jewish newspapers, Arbayter fraynd (Friend of laborers) and Idishe ekpres (Jewish express).  After completing university that same year, he moved to Warsaw where he became a professional journalist.

            With the founding of the daily newspaper Der fraynd (The friend) in St. Petersburg in 1903, he became one of its main contributors and a member of editorial board.  He had an article in virtually every issue and ran the special section, “Fun yidishn ekonomishn lebn” (On Jewish economic life), where he dealt with economic and financial issues.  These articles, which he signed “A soykher” (a businessman), were written in a clear style and popular language, and they were highly regarded among Jewish readers.  In 1906 Hurvits left the editorial board of Der fraynd and remained, until 1911, a regular contributor to the newspaper.  At the same time, he was one of the most prominent leaders on the central committee of YIKO (Jewish Cultural Organization) and for many years an inspector for its savings and loans office.  He also became one of the main theoreticians of the Jewish cooperative movement and wrote about it: a great number of articles in the Yiddish and Russian Jewish press and also a series of brochures, such as: Zelbst-hilf (Self-help) (Vilna, 1912), 64 pp.; Helft zikh aleyn (Help yourself), Ver iz shuldik (Who’s guilty), Eyn tog in yor (One day each year), Tsum moment (At the moment), and Farayorn un haynt (A year ago and today) (Warsaw-Vilna, 1911-1914), each 16 pp.  He was also the author of a longer work, Di praktik fun di ley un shpor kases (The practice of a saving and loan office) (Warsaw: Jewish Colonialization Society, 1913), 96 pp., which was considered a guide for the Jewish cooperative credit movement. In later years, he published articles, stories, and sketches in the Yiddish and Russian press, signing them, as before, “A soykher.” He was an important contributor as well to: Petrograder togblat (Petrograd daily newspaper) in 1917-1918; Farn folk (For the people) in Minsk, 1919, for which he served as editor; Der emes (The truth) in Moscow, 1918; Haynt (Today) and Moment (Moment) in Warsaw; editor of the economic section of Di yudishe velt (The Jewish world) in Vilna, 1912-1915; with Y. Blim, L. Zak, and Y. Yefroykin, co-editor of the monthly magazine Di yudishe kooperatsye (Jewish cooperativism) in Vilna, 1913-1914; co-editor of Tsienistishe zamlbikher (Zionist anthologies) in St. Petersburg, 1918.  After the Bolshevik Revolution, he lived for a time in Minsk, Vilna, and Warsaw, where he published in local Yiddish newspapers.  He later returned to Russia where he was active for a time in Jewish cultural work in the 1920s, as well as economic and scholarly state organizations. From time to time, as well, he published articles on economic questions. He died in Moscow.

            From Hurvits’s great number of important works, which are scattered through many collections, it is important to single out: “Karl marks lere” (Karl Marx’s teachings), “Di sotsyalistishe parteyen in rusland” (The socialist parties in Russia), “A brif tsu dubnovn” (A letter to Dubnov), and “Di yudishe ekonomishe lage in rusland” (The Jewish economic situation in Russia) which appeared in Dos lebn (The life) (St. Petersburg, 1905); “For vos nit yidish?” (Why not Yiddish?), Der fraynd (St. Petersburg, 1905); “Sotsyal-ekonomishe tipn in der nayer yudisher literatur” (Socio-economic types in modern Yiddish literature), Tsukunft (Future) (New York, 1911); “Tsu der tsenyoriker geshikhte fun fraynd” (On the ten-year history of Fraynd), Der pinkes (The record) (Vilna, 1912), among others.

Of his entire literary output, only the following have appeared in book form: Yudishe klasn un parteyen, a sotsyalogisher etyud (Jewish classes and parties, a sociological study) (St. Petersburg, 1918), 72 pp.; and with Yude Novakovski, Di kooperatsye un dos yidishe shtetl (The cooperatives and the Jewish town) (Kiev, 1928), 96 pp.  He also edited and wrote an introduction for agronomist Khayim A. Feygin’s book, Di vegn un metodn fun der arbayts-kolonizatsye in erets-yisroel (The paths and methods of labor colonization in the land of Israel) (Warsaw, 1920), 94 pp., which was considered the first effort to work out a plan of systematic agricultural colonization with workers’ property as its foundation (“workers’ property”: the tract of land belongs to the colonist, but he had to work the land by himself). He also published pieces of his memoirs in Emes (Moscow, 1925).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); N. G., in Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 8, p. 289; A. Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life) (Vilna, 1935), vol. 2, p. 68, vol. 3, pp. 60-61; Sh. Rozenfeld, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1936); M. Kitai, Unzere shrayber un kinstler (Our writers and artists) (Warsaw: Jewish Universal Library, 1938); D. Tsharni (Charney), in Tsukunft (June 1939); Charney, A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 1943), p. 226; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (May 1942); Sh. Ginzburg, Amolike peterburg (Old St. Petersburg) (New York, 1944), p. 192; D. Pinski, in Tsukunft (May 1945); Vl. Grosman, Amol un haynt (Then and now) (Paris, 1955), p. 22; Dr. Sh. Urkhov, in Heavar (Tel Aviv) (August 1957).

Khayim Leyb Fuks 

[Additional information from: 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. 122-23]

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