Monday 25 April 2016


MEYER VAKSMAN (WAXMAN) (1887-March 7, 1969)
            He was born in Slutsk (Sluck), Byelorussia, into a rabbinical family.  He studied in religious primary school and in various yeshivas, later gaining secular knowledge through self-study.  He received ordination into the rabbinate at age eighteen.  In 1905 he moved to the United States.  He studied at a number of universities and received his Ph.D.  He served as rabbi in a series of cities in North America, the latest being Albany, New York.  He was the founder and director of “Mizrachi-bet hamidrash lemorim” (Mizrachi academy for teachers); served as general secretary of the Mizrachi organization in America; was a professor of Hebrew Bible, Jewish history, and philosophy at the Hebrew Theological College in Chicago; and served as a guest professor at Bar Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, and at a series of other colleges.  He debuted in print with a string of articles on Jewish life in Russia for the Hebrew-language weekly newspaper Haolam (The world) in New York (1905), and from that point he was a contributor to many newspapers and magazines in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English in America and other countries.  He placed pieces in such places as: Hazman (The time), Haolam, Hayom (Today), Hadoar (The mail), Bitsaron (Fortress), Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), and Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people)—in New York; Idisher kuryer (Jewish courier) and Indritses yontef bleter (Indritse’s holiday sheets) in Chicago.  In English he wrote for: Jewish Chronicle, Congress Weekly, Historical Review, and Jewish Forum, among other serials.  He also wrote for the encyclopedic Philosophical Dictionary and Jewish Past and Present (vol. 3), in which he wrote about Hebrew and Yiddish language and literature, as well as Jewish philosophy and ethics.  He authored two treatises concerned with Yiddish and Hebrew literature in Encyclopedia Britannica (1953 and 1954).  Vaksman also published the following works in Hebrew and English: Dor dor u-meḥankhav (Generations of educators) (New York, 1928), 64 pp.; Don yitsḥaḳ abarbanel (Don Isaac Abarbanel) (New York, 1938), 35 pp.; Mishle yisrael (Proverbs of Israel), a wide-ranging anthology of over 6,000 aphorisms (Jerusalem, 1933), 318 pp.; Ketavim nivḥarim (Selected writings), a selection of his most important essays and monographs which were published in the periodical press, 2 vols. (New York, 1943), 293 pp.; Galut ugeula besifrut yisrael (Exile and redemption in the literature of Israel) (New York, 1952), 311 pp.; Shevile hasifrut vehamaḥashava haivrit (Pathways to Hebrew literature and thought) (Tel Aviv, 1951), 192 pp.—for which he was awarded the Lamed Prize for the year 1957.  In English: A History of Jewish Literature from the Close of the Bible to Our Own Days, 4 vols. (New York, 1930-1941), 3569 pp. which included notes on writers in Yiddish[1]; A Handbook of Judaism, as Professed and Practiced through the Ages (New York, 1947), 210 pp., second edition (Chicago, 1953).  He also produced a number of pamphlets, such as: The Philosophy of Don Hasdai Crescas (New York, 1920, 1926), 162 pp.; The Ethnic Character of the Jews (New York?, 1913?), 16 pp.  He translated into English Rom und Jerusalem by Moses Hess (New York, 1918), second edition (New York, 1938).  Vaksman was also the editor of books on important Jewish issues in Hebrew and English.  He died in Miami Beach, Florida.

Sources: Ben-Tsiyon Ayzenshtat (Benzion Eisenstadt), Dorot haaḥaronim (The last generations), vol. 1 (New York, 1913), p. 124; P. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 15, 1935); Dr. Sh. Feygin, in Tsukunft (New York) (November 1937); I. Yoyel, in Hadoar (New York) (November 16, 1945); Ḥ. Lif, in Hadoar (Av 12 [August 9], 1957); Dr. Y. Rozental, in Bitsaron (New York) (Elul [August-September], 1957); A. Pen, in Der tog (New York) (October 19, 1957); Dr. Y. K. Miklishanski, in Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn H” (New York, 1957), p. 162; Miklishanski, in Hadoar (Sivan 27 [July 3], 1959); Sh. Izban, in Forverts (New York) (May 16, 1958); A. Menes, in Forverts (March 1, 1959); Ts. Sharfshteyn, in Hadoar (March 20, 1959); Who’s Who in World Jewry (New York, 1955); Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 10.

[1] More volumes appeared after this entry was first written—six volumes in all.  (JAF)

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