ELEMEYLEKH VEKSLER (December 15, 1843-1920)
He was born in Krivoye Ozero, Balte (Balta) district, southern Russia. On his father’s side he was a descendant of R. Gershon Kitever, brother-in-law of the Baal Shem Tov. At age twelve he was orphaned on his father’s side and was educated in Uman by his uncle, a poor itinerant teacher. He studied a great deal and gained the reputation of a prodigy. He married at seventeen. The Jewish Enlightenment movement had already at this time, however, reached him, and the surrounding zealously Hassidic environs suppressed this in him; at age twenty-three he departed for Zhitomir. He entered the rabbinical seminary there, but his family compelled this “heretic” to turn around and come home. Veksler then left for Odessa where he remained for the rest of his life, aside from the time he lived in Paris with his son, the famous bacteriologist Alexandre Besredka. Using the pen name “Ish Naami,” he made a name for himself in Hebrew literature as a splendid stylist who wrote satirical and critical essays in Hatsfira (The siren), Haboker or (Good morning), Hakarmel (The garden-land), and Haasif (The harvest), among other serials. He began writing in Yiddish for Kol mevaser (The herald), edited by M. A. Belinson; he was closely tied to the circle of Y. Y. Lerner and Y. Y. Linetski, and he actively contributed to the publications: Di kleyne yudishe biblyotek (The small Yiddish library), “a collection of poems, feature pieces, stories, and information from the Jewish colonies in the land of Israel” (“published in Odessa,” 1899, 32 pp.); and Der kleyner veker (The small alarm), “a collection of various articles and poetry, published by the good friend of the Yiddish language in Odessa” (Odessa, 1890, 64 pp.). He published in the latter, edited by Lilienblum and Ravnitski, an allegorical article, entitled “Der hon un di bney-odem” (The rooster and the human beings), opposing the assimilationist tendencies of Jewish intellectuals. Paltiel Zamoshtshin in his letter to Sholem-Aleykhem—in Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) 11 (1937), p. 39—characterized Veksler as a writer: “Elemeylekh Veksler (Ish Naami), among the older writers at Kol mevaser, is a knowledgeable man, with a heart, with a head, and with a pen.” He wrote in Yiddish in a fine style, but his attitude toward Yiddish was one with the Jewish Enlightenment—namely, no belief in the future of the language. In the last years of his life, he published two small religious works involving research on Tanakh.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); E. R. Malachi, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1930), pp. 333-37; M. Graydenberg, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 5 (1931), pp. 208-9.