Tuesday, 31 May 2016
LEYB VILSKER (1919-1988)
He was philologist and bibliographer, born in the town of Shumsk, Ternopol district, Ukraine. He served in the Red Army from 1940 until the end of WWII. He graduated from Leningrad University in 1950 in Semitic languages and Hebrew studies. For several years thereafter he ran the Semitics department of the Saltikov-Shchedrin Leningrad Open Library. In 1970 he successfully defended his dissertation and became an academician in philological sciences; he published it in 1974 in book form. He published a number of articles in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland), some of which were republished abroad, in particular those works concerning Yehuda Halevi. He was also the author of: Samarityanskii yazik (The Samaritan language) (Moscow: Nauka, 1974), 94 pp.; Antdekte oytsres (Treasures discovered), notices of literary research, vol. 1 (Moscow: Sovetski pisatel, 1981), 59 pp., vol. 2 (1985), 63 pp.
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 246. 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), p. 133.
SHEBSL VAYTSNFELD (1896-1981)
An author on current events, he was born in Vilna, into a family of a compositor. He studied in a Jewish workers’ evening school in Vilna and worked in the office of a paper company. For his participation in the labor movement, he was arrested on several occasions and thrown in jail. In 1921 he left for the Soviet Union. In 1925 he graduated from Moscow’s Communist University of National Minorities of the West, and then was living in Kharkov and working in the head office of the Yevsektsye (Jewish division) of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, while also taking up journalism. From 1926 he was editor of the newspaper Der yidisher poyer (The Jewish farmer) and later of Dos sotsyalistishe dorf (The socialist village). He also published articles in Emes (Truth) and Der shtern (The star). He fought at the front during WWII, and after demobilization settled in Moscow, publishing jottings, historical treatments, and memoirs in the Moscow journal Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland).
He wrote several books dedicated to the collectivization of the Jewish village and about cultural work in Jewish regions: e.g., Der dorfrat un di durkhoysike kolektivizatsye (The village council and thorough collectivization) (Moscow-Minsk: Central Publ., 1920), 20 pp.
Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 245; 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. 140-41.
Monday, 30 May 2016
He was a current events writer, demographer, and sociologist, born in the town of Derazhnya, Podolia (now, Khmel'nyts'ke region), Ukraine. In the latter half of the 1920s, he was a teacher in technical high schools in Kharkov and Kiev; over the years 1928-1931, he was a member of the presidium of the Institute for Jewish Culture in Kiev, leader of the socio-economic section of the Institute, and a member of the editorial board of its publications. He published articles of a sociological and demographic character, primarily in connection with Jewish colonization, in Emes (Truth) in Moscow, Shtern (Star) in Kharkov-Kiev, and Oktyabr (October) in Minsk, among others. As described in the memoirs of those who worked with him in those years, he was a very serious scholar and a fun-loving man. He was one of the finest specialists to address the social-economic conditions of the Jewish shtetl. He was the author of books which were subsequently withdrawn from circulation by the Soviet authorities, among them: Derazhne, dos itstike idishe shtetl, monografye fun a idishe shtetl in ukraine (Derazhnya, the contemporary Jewish town, monograph on a Jewish town in Ukraine), with forewords by A. Larin and the author (Moscow-Leningrad: State Publ., 1929), 119 pp.—a social cross-section of a small Jewish town in the Soviet Union, as well as a picture of the spiritual crisis of the Jewish population there. Portions of this work, with a postface by the editorial board and with a note by the author, were published in the weekly Vokh (Week) 8-9 (1929) in New York. Under the conditions of the Stalinist totalitarian regime, this was dangerous work, because the Party organs were attentive to what might be characterized as various and sundry “deviations.” Vaytsblit’s articles aroused sharp discussions. And what’s more: they qualified as “Trotskyism,” “leftist deviation,” and “nationalism.” And, he was indeed one of the first victims of the Stalin terror. According to some bits of information, he was arrested in early 1933 and nothing further was ever heard.
He also wrote: Vegn altn un nayem shtetl (On the old and the new [Jewish] town) (Kharkov, 1930), 30 pp.; Di dinamik fun der yidisher bafelkerung in ukraine far di yorn 1897-1926 (The dynamic of the Jewish population in Ukraine for the years 1897-1926), with an introduction by the “Presidium of the Institute for Jewish Culture” which proclaims the importance of Vaytsnlit’s work (Kharkov: Literatur un kunst, 1930), 190 pp., including a “list of 350 settlement points in the Ukrainian S.S.R.” indicating population figures for 1897, 1920, 1923, and 1926; Agrarizatsye oder industryalitatsye, di vegn tsu gezuntmakhn di yidishe oremshaft (Agrarianization or industrialization, the ways to cure Jewish poverty) (Kharkov: Ukrainian State Publishers, 1930), 141 pp., with a foreword from Motl Kiper and an introduction by the author who points out that “after the Revolution the Jewish population in the old Jewish colonies decreased by 5%, while the general village [population] grew overall by 50%,” and thus “one must refuse to canvass on behalf of urban Jewish poverty so as to settle them on the land.” In another place the author notes that “there are no déclassé [elements] among the Jews who would be qualified for Birobidzhan.”
Sources: A. Tshemerinski, in Emes (Moscow) (October 6, 1929); Vokh (New York) 8-9 (1929); R. Dunyets, In kamf af tsvey frontn (In battle on two fronts) (Minsk, 1932), p. 66; oral information from Al. Pomerants in New York.
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), p. 140.]