Monday 18 April 2016


YANKEV-MORTKHE VOLFZOHN (1867-January 22, 1929)
            He was born in Aleksandria (Oleksandria), Volhynia.  His father, Volf Kasir, who was a Hassid but had at the same time become infected with ideas from the Jewish Enlightenment, gave him Hebrew pamphlets to read and allowed him to study Russian and German with private tutors.  He also read storybooks in Yiddish and at age fifteen began to translate Mapu’s Ayit tsavua (The hypocrite) into Yiddish.  He married at eighteen and became a shopkeeper, and he also tried to write in Yiddish.  In 1886 he published in Tsederbaum’s Yidishes folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper) his first feature piece, entitled “The Shopkeeper in Aleksandria”: thereafter, he published in that newspaper stories—one of which, “Di ungliklikhe muter” (The unhappy mother), also appeared in book form—as well as Jewish legends in verse, such as “Nokhum ish gamzu” (Nokhum, a man of Gamzu), and reviews.  In 1891 he moved to the United States, peddled wares among the farmers of Missouri, while writing for: Yudishe prese (Jewish press) and Filadelfyer shtot-tsaytung (Philadelphia city newspaper), edited by Khayim Malits—both in Philadelphia; and Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper) and Abend-blat (Evening newspaper)—in New York.  In 1894, in partnership with Pinkhes Tomashevsky (Boris Tomashevsky’s father), he founded the weekly St. luizer gazeten (St. Louis gazette), which soon thereafter folded.  In 1895 he settled in Chicago, where he became editor of Shikagor yidishes vokhenblat (Chicago Jewish weekly newspaper), published by Sorezohn and Son; this is apparently the same item as that mentioned in Volfzohn’s entry in Zalmen Reyzen’s Leksikon.  One should not confuse this with Shikagor vokhenblat (Chicago weekly newspaper) which until 1904 was published as a weekly by the daily Yidisher kuryer (Jewish courier) in Chicago.  In the same year, 1895, according to Z. Reyzen, he would have been assistant editor of the daily Chicago paper Yudishe gazeten fun der vest (Jewish gazette of the West).  From August 1896 he was editing the Chicago daily Der teglikher yudisher kuryer (The daily Jewish courier).  In September 1906 he was invited to St. Louis, Missouri, to serve as editor of the daily newspaper Der forshteyer (The representative).  He returned to Chicago in 1909 and became a close contributor to Yidisher kuryer until 1915, and from that point he edited the daily newspaper Teglikher yudisher kol (Daily Jewish voice) which had been founded in 1900, edited then by L. Zolotkof, shut down on July 19, 1901, later apparently revived under Volfzohn’s editorship.  In June 1918 he became editor of the Chicago weekly Der idisher rekord (The Jewish record), which had begun publication in March 1910 and closed down in 1922.  Aside from his regular literary work with all of these newspapers, he published sketches, features, poetry, and Jewish legends in verse in: Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper) in New York; Yudisher odler (Jewish eagle), a weekly published in Boston by Sorezohn and Son in 1894; the weekly Yudishe prese in Philadelphia (1892-1894, edited by Johann Palay), in which he wrote a weekly notice in a satirical form, using the pen name “Der kiker.”  His longer works of journalism would include: “Unzere barimte idishe froyen” (Our celebrated Jewish women), detailed biographies (arranged alphabetically) of well-known Jewish women from the era of the Hebrew Bible through the present, in Yidisher kuryer; “Di idishe khronologye” (Jewish chronology), the most important events in Jewish history, in Yidisher rekord; “Historishe ferfirerins” (Historical seductresses), biographies of women who seduced great men with their beauty, in Yidisher kuryer.  He also published informative yearbooks concerning Jewish events in Chicago, entitled Shikagor idishe direktori un calendar (Chicago Jewish directory and calendar) for the years: 1913-1914 (100 pp.); 1914-1915 (96 pp.); 1915-1916 (112 pp.), with Kh. Fayershteyn.  He also dramatized Mapu’s Ahavat tsiyon (Love of Zion) under the title Tsiens tekhter (Zion’s daughters).  He died in Chicago

Sources: B. Ts. Ayzenshadt (Benzion Eisenstadt), Ḥakhme yisrael baamerika (Jewish sages in the United States) (New York, 1903), p. 37; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; M. Ḥizkuni, in Pinkes shikago (Records of Chicago) (1952), pp. 55, 56; L. Mishkin, in Pinkes shikago, pp. 64, 66; Forverts (New York) (January 23, 1929); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 15, 1929).
Yitskhok Kharlash

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