Tuesday 19 April 2016


FROYM-LEYB VOLFSON (January 16, 1867-October 1, 1946)
            He was born in Riga, Latvia, into a poor, working family (his father was a rope-maker at the Riga port).  Until his bar mitzvah he studied in religious elementary school, later becoming a servant in a haberdashery business.  Under the influence of a poem by Sh. Frug, at an early age he began writing poetry but they were not published.  In April 1889 he came to the United States; he stayed in Philadelphia with his brother, a metal worker who was an active leader in the anarchist group “Knights of Freedom,” and he himself grew close to the anarchist movement.  He was a butcher, a clothing buyer, a publisher, an insurance agent, a bank employee, and later he worked in the administration of Di varhayt (The truth) and Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal).  He began writing in 1896 (using the pseudonym L. Robotnik) in Arbayter-fraynd (Friend of labor) in London.  He published—under such pen names as: Fotograf, L. Volkof, L. Vaynshteyn, Mefistofeles, Kintabar, Ben-Zev, Leon Rudnik, and Maksim Slotski—poems of a satirical social agitation bent in the New York and Philadelphia publications: Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), Nayer gayst (New spirit), Filadelfyer shtodt-tsaytung (Philadelphia city newspaper), Literarisher shtral (Literary ray [of light]), Kunst un lebn (Art and life), Telegraf (Telegraph), Filadelfyer post (Philadelphia mail), Gegenvart (Present), Filadelfyer pres (Philadelphia press), Filadelfyer idisher herald (Philadelphia Jewish herald), Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), Abend blat (Evening newspaper), and Di yugend (Youth).  In 1908 he published and edited in Philadelphia a humorous weekly Der ligner (The liar)—three issues appeared.  He contributed as well to the Zionist anthology Der shtern (The star) in Philadelphia (1906-1907).  Over the course of twenty-six years, he published regularly on the humor page of the Sunday Forverts (Forward) “Lustike lider” (Cheerful poems).  He translated and published in Fraye arbeter shtime Walt Whitman’s poem “Di froy, vos vart af mir” (A woman waits for me).  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Y. Entin, in Idishe poetn (Jewish poets), part 2 (New York, 1927), pp. 117-23; D. B. Tirkel, in Pinkes 1 (New York: YIVO, 1927-1928); Ab. Cahan, Bleter fun mayn lebn (Pages from my life), vol. 3 (Vilna-Warsaw, 1928), p. 469; Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1930); R. Roker, In shturem (In the storm) (Buenos Aires, 1952), p. 809; N. Mayzil, ed. and comp., Amerike in yidishn vort, antologye (America in the Yiddish word, an anthology) (New York, 1955); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Fraye arbeter shtime (New York) (January 13, 1956); N. B. Minkov, Pyonern fun yidisher poezye in amerike (Pioneers of Yiddish poetry in America), vol. 3 (New York, 1956), pp. 121-68; Folks-shrift (New York) (January 1957).
Zaynvl Diamant

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