MARK VISHNITSER (WISCHNITZER) (May 10, 1882-October 16, 1955)
He was born in Rovno, Volhynia, into a well-to-do family. He studied in religious elementary school, graduated from a high school in Brod (Brody), Galicia, and at the same time privately deepened his knowledge of Talmud and medieval Hebrew literature. He then went on to study the history of philosophy at the Universities of Vienna, Göttingen, and Berlin. The topic of his dissertation was: Die Universität Göttingen und die Entwicklung der liberalen Ideen in Russland im ersten Viertel des 19. Jahrhunderts (Göttingen University and the development of liberal ideas in Russia in the first quarter of the nineteenth century), for which he received his doctoral degree from the University of Berlin in 1906 (published in revised form in Berlin in 1907). In 1907 he began publishing in Russian and German periodicals articles about the influence of Western European thought on Russian intellectuals. In late 1907 he settled in St. Petersburg. Over the years 1908-1913, he served as editor for the European period of Jewish history in the Russian-language Jewish encyclopedia, in which he published a series of original works. He contributed, 1909-1914, to the Russian Jewish journals, Evreiskaia starina (The Jewish past), Perezhitoe (The past), and Minuvshie gody (Years gone by), in which he published a number of historical monographs, the majority of them based on archival materials. In the eleventh volume of the collection Istoriia evreiskago naroda (History of the Jewish people) (1914), he wrote, in addition to a monograph on the Frankist movement, a series of works on the economic history of Jews in Poland, including: “The Structure of Jewish Guilds in Poland, Lithuania, and Byelorussia in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries”—a work that affirmed the author’s reputation as a pioneer in the field of the history of Jewish artisans. He compiled there as well the bibliography for the history of Jews in Poland and Lithuania. He was a committee member of the Jewish Ethnographic Society and gave lectures in courses for Orientalists, established by Baron D. Günzburg in St. Petersburg.
After the Russian Revolution of October 1917, Vishnitser settled in Berlin where he served as secretary of the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (Aid society of German Jews), as well as editor of the publisher Rimon which, aside from several books in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and Russian, published (1922-1924) a periodical for art and literature entitled Milgroym (Pomegranate) in Yiddish and Rimon (Pomegranate) in Hebrew (six issues appeared); 312 pages formatted as an art journal with 120 images, thirty-six of which were in color—the finest publication in Yiddish with respect to technical artistic execution. The art editor at the publishing house and for the journal was Vishnitser’s wife, Rokhl (Rachel) Vishnitser Bernshteyn. In 1926 he was selected as one of the editors of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (in German), and he was later one of the creators of the Algemeyne yidishe entsiklopedye (General Jewish encyclopedia), published by the Dubnov Fund; in the first volume on the “Jews” (Yidn alef) of the latter (Paris, 1939), he published a piece on “Yidishe aleyn-farvaltungen” (Jewish self-management), pp. 563-85. On a mission for the Joint Distribution Committee in 1940, he traveled to San Domingo to organize there a relief operation for Jewish refugees. In 1941 he moved to the United States. He contributed work to: Tog (Day), Tsukunft (Future), Bitsaron (Fortress), and Talpiyot (Citadel). He also wrote for the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia and for a number of other English-language Jewish publications. In 1948 he was appointed professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York. In 1950 he served as one of the editors of the fourth volume “Jews” (Yidn dalet) of the Algemeyne yidishe entsiklopedye in Yiddish. His writings are scattered through many different periodicals. He published in book form: Ber bolekhovers zikhroynes (The memoirs of Ber Bolekhov), with an introduction and explanation by Vishnitser (Berlin: Klal-farlag, 1922), 152 pp., Hebrew and English editions also appeared; Yidishe bal-melokhe tsekhn in poyln un in lite (Jewish trade guilds in Poland and Luthuania) (Berlin: Klal-bibkyotek, 1922), 30 pp.—this appeared as “Di struktur fun yidishe tsekhn in poyln, lite un vaysrusland” (The structure of Jewish guilds in Poland, Luthuania, and Byelorussia) in Tsaytshrift (Periodical) 2-3 (1938) in Minsk; Die Juden in der Welt: Gegenwart und Geschichte des Judentums in allen Ländern (Jews in the world, the present situation and the history of Jews in all countries) (Berlin: E. Reiss, 1935), 426 pp., a reference work covering Jewish history, politics, statistics, and the press throughout the world; To Dwell in Safety: The Story of Jewish Migration since 1800 (Philadelphia: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1949), 368 pp.
In the later years of his work for the Hilfsverein der Deutschen Juden (1921-1938), dozens of Jewish families, thanks to his assistance, were able over these years to leave Germany. He visited Rhodesia on assignment from the Hilfverein with the goal of making arrangements there for Jewish refugees from Nazi lands. Over the years 1938-1940, he worked in Paris in the European division of the Joint. In New York he chaired the historians’ group at YIVO, was a consultant for the Jewish Federation of Welfare Funds, and served as chairman of the association of Russian Jews in New York. In August 1955, Dr. Vishnitser traveled to Israel to assist in preparing a collective work on the history of Russian Jewry. He became ill there and died in Tel Aviv.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Dr. Y. Shatski, in Dos naye lebn (New York) (June 1923); Ben Tsien Kats, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1933); Dr. P. Fridman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (October 25, 1949); A. Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (November 2, 1955); A. Menes, in Forverts (New York) (November 6, 1955); obituary notices in Yivo-bleter (New York) 39 (1955), New York Times (October 18, 1955), Tog-morgn zhurnal (October 18, 1955), Forverts (October 18, 1955), and elsewhere; M. Ginzburg, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (October 24, 1955); M. Dukhovni, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (April 14, 1957); G. Svet, in Hadoar (New York) (October 28, 1957); Dr. Sh. Adelberg, in Shevile haḥinukh (New York) (Winter 1955-1956); N. M. Gelber, in Gesher (Jerusalem) (Adar B [=March-April] 1959], pp. 159-60.