Tuesday 26 July 2016


LEON ZOLOTKOF (May 15, 1866-July 31, 1938)
            He was born in Vilna, Lithuania.  He received a thorough Jewish education and thereafter attended a Russian senior high school.  From late 1883 until the autumn of 1885, he lived in Paris where he was an early auditor at the Sorbonne and at the same time was engaged in a variety of trades, for a time as well working in a publishing house.  In those years, he began to write poetry in Russian and Hebrew.  He debuted in print with “A Letter from Paris,” in which he described the sad condition of Jewish immigrants in Paris and the work of Alliance Israélite, for the Russian monthly Evreiskoe obozrenie (Jewish review) in St. Petersburg (March 1884)—in which he also published under such pen names as L. Zolotkovich and Ben-Zev.  At the beginning of 1886, he returned to Russia, worked for a time on the editorial board of Hayom (Today) in St. Petersburg (writing under the pen name “Zaken gadol” or big elder), and then late that year again left Russia and headed for London, where he purchased the small publishing house from which he produced Der arbayter fraynd (The workers’ friend), became a friend of B. Feygenboym who enlisted him in the Jewish labor movement, and together with Feygenboym wrote Di sotsyalistishe hagode shel peysekh (The socialist Passover Hagada) (London: Berner Street Club, 1888).  That same year he emigrated to the United States and settled in Chicago.  He was at first active in the Jewish socialist movement and was well-known as a political speaker and lecturer.  After graduating from university with a doctoral degree, he practiced as a lawyer and also assumed the post of prosecutor, simultaneously turning his attention to writing, and with his friend and fellow townsman Perets Vyernik, he began to publish various periodicals in Hebrew and Yiddish.  He was one of the pioneers in the Yiddish (mainly, conservative) press in America.  In 1911 he moved to New York, was active in the Labor Zionist party, later moved over to general Zionism, and was one of the founders of the organ Knights of Zion in Chicago in 1898.
            Zolotkof began writing when he was still a youth, producing Hebrew poetry for Hamelits (The advocate) and Hatsfira (The siren).  He debuted in Yiddish (under the pseudonym “Yener” or “that one”) with “A vig lid fun an arbayter froy” (A lullaby for a worker’s wife) in Arbayter fraynd in London (September 1886); and thereafter he published features, poetry, and impressions of laboring life in the same serial.  He would later contribute to virtually the entirety of the Yiddish press in America.  He published current events articles, feature pieces, stories, poems, images, and newspaper novels (his own and translations from French) in: Nyu yorker yudishe folkstsaytung (New York Jewish people’s newspaper) (1886-1889), Tsukunft (Future), Morgn zhurnal (Morning journal), Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), Di yudishe gazeten (The Jewish gazette), and Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people)—in New York; and Der idisher kuryer (The Jewish courier), Der toglikher yudisher kol (The daily Jewish voice), and Keren haor (The ray of light)—in Chicago.  In Morgn zhurnal in which he placed in 1924 his major work, “Der mensh un di velt” (Man and the world), a popular treatise on the principal facts of civilization in connection with Jewish history, he also was in charge (under the name Dr. Klorman) of a daily column of answers and advice for readers.  At various times, he served as editor of: the Hebrew monthly Keren haor (Chicago, 1889); Der idisher kuryer (Chicago, from 1887, with M. Melamed); Yidishes tageblat (Chicago edition, four numbers each week; Di yudishe gazeten (New York); Dos idishe folk (New York, 1909); and the daily newspaper Der toglikher yudisher kol (Chicago).  He was the author (under the pen name Ben-Zev) of the pamphlet Der tsvek fun der tsien bevegung (The goal of the Zion movement), “a brief explanation in questions and answers” (Chicago, 1901), 36 pp.  He also wrote the following books: Blut shvaygṭ nit, a mayse fun yidishe tsores in di regirungs tsayṭ fun aleksander III (Blood will not be silent, a story of Jewish troubles in the era of the government of Alexander III) (Chicago, 1902), 66 pp.; Der biterer tropen, a komedye in dray akten (The bitter drop [of alcohol], a comedy in three acts) (New York, 1924), 61 pp.; Mayn eytse, entfers af problemen velkhe entshtehen in dem yidishn lebn in amerike (My advice, answers to issues that arise in Jewish life in America) (New York, 1931), 352 pp.; an autobiographical novel, From Vilna to Hollywood (New York, 1932), 234 pp. (initially published in Yiddish in Morgn-zhurnal).  From his novels which he published over the course of many years in the press, the following were published in book form: Tsvishn libe un milyonen, oder durkh fayer un ayzerne keytn (Between love and millions, or through fire and iron chains) (New York, 1899), 414 pp.; Di shvartse hand oder der goyel hadam (The black hand or the avenger of blood) (written under the pen name L. Zolotarofski) (Brooklyn, 1901), 428 pp.; Di velt-banditn (The world bandits) (New York, 1919), 476 pp.  He translated Adolf Friedemann’s Teodor hertsels lebn (The life of Theodor Herzl [original: Das Leben Theodor Herzls]) (New York, 1915), 141 pp., with his own preface.  His two plays were performed in the Yiddish theater in America.  In the collection Der yidish-amerikaner redner (The Jewish American speaker) (New York, 1908), edited by G. Zelikovitsh, a number of pieces by him (under the pen name Ben-Zev) were published which reflect Jewish life in America at that time.  He also published in Russian under such pseudonyms as Z. Zolotkovich.  He died in Long Island, New York.

Sources: Zalman Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Dovid Eydelsberg, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 25, 1931); Yorbukh fun amopteyl (Annual from the American branch [of YIVO]), vol. 1 (New York, 1938), pp. 256-80; A.-R, in Hadoar (New York) (August 12, 1938); K. Marmor, Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (The beginning of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1944), see index; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1942); E. Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), p. 90; Y. Khaykin, Yidishe bleter in amerike (Yiddish newspapers in America) (New York, 1946), see index; P. Vyernik, “Fun vilne biz nyu york” (From Vilna to New York), Morgn-zhurnal (October 10-December 23, 1951); M. Khizkuni, in Hadoar (4 Sivan [= June 5], 1954); Khizkuni, in Pinkes shikago (Records of Chicago) (1954), p. 75; Khizkuni, in Metsuda 7 (1954); L. Shpizman, in Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung fun tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist labor movement in North America), vol. 1 (New York, 1955), see index.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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