Sunday 24 July 2016


YISROEL-KHAYIM ZAGORODSKI (May 10, 1864-February 5, 1931)
            He was born in Pahost (Pohost)-Zagorodski, Minsk district, Byelorussia, into a family of rabbis and scholars.  He studied until age thirteen with his father, and thereafter he was a student of the extraordinary scholar and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, Yisroel Basevitsh, in the town of Stolin, and there he caught the Enlightenment bug and left in 1880 for Dubno which was at the time a center for the Jewish Enlightenment movement in Volhynia.  There he turned his attention to secular subjects and foreign languages and for a time was himself a teacher of languages.  Stimulated by A. B. Gotlober who was then living in Dubno, Zagorodski began writing in Hebrew and published his first poem in Hamagid (The preacher) in Lik (Ełk); one of his poems from this era, honoring Gotlober on his birthday, was later included in the collection, Kol shire mahalalel (All poems in praise of God) (Warsaw, 1890).  He also translated into Hebrew from the French original at this time Israël Michel Rabbinowicz’s Législation civile du Talmud (Civil law in the Talmud) which was entitled Mavo hatalmud (Introduction to the Talmud) and which appeared later (1890) in Vilna.  In 1884 he was invited by Shmuel Ashkenazi to Zamość to teach Hebrew to his sons and to Y. L. Perets’s son Lucian.  The closeness of the home of the great writer, which was by this time already a center of Jewish intellectuals in the city, provided Zagorodski with material for his work on Perets, published in Luaḥ aḥiasaf in Warsaw in 1903, and in Moment (Moment) in Warsaw in 1916: “Der dikhter in zayn heym” (The writer in his home).  At the end of 1885 he moved to Warsaw where he worked as a Hebrew teacher, while at the same time serving a community leader and Zionist advocate.  A frequent visitor at the literary apartment of Nokhum Sokolov, he later became one of his close collaborators and for a time his personal secretary.  He also contributed to Sokolov’s Haasif (The harvest) and Sefer shana (Yearbook), in which he published biographies of Jewish personalities, memoirs concerning Gotlober, and chronicle of the community.  He was also the principal contributor to Sokolov’s lexicographic Sefer zikaron (Book of remembrance) (Warsaw, 1889) and of the daily Hatsfira (The siren) in Warsaw, of which he served as editor during Sokolov’s travels abroad.  He published there a series of articles concerning social hygiene which was later included in his volume Ḥayenu veorekh yamenu (Our life and longevity), with a preface by Dr. Gershon Levi (Warsaw, 1898), 114 pp.  Using the pen name “Y. Z-g,” he wrote “Mikhtavim mivarsha” (Letters from Warsaw) for Hamelits (The advocate) in Odessa-St. Petersburg.  In 1906 he was editor of Hayom (Today), published by the Yiddish daily Der veg (The way) by Tsvi Prilucki in Warsaw.
            Hi literary activities in Yiddish began with a report on Jewish life published in Sholem-Aleykhem’s Yudishe folks-biblyotek (Jewish people’s library) 1 (1888), and with a biography of Menasseh Ben Israel in volume 2 of the same periodical.  He also contributed to Perets’s Yudishe biblyotek (Jewish library) (Warsaw, 1891), M. Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd (House friend) (Warsaw, late 1880s-early 1990s), Der yud (The Jew) (Cracow, 1899), Epfelbergs varshever yudisher calendar (Epfelberg’s Warsaw Jewish calendar) (annual, Warsaw, 1888-1899), and the monthly Di yudishe familye (The Jewish family) (Cracow, 1902).  In this last year he became editor and principal contributor to the second small edition of Der yud (Warsaw-Cracow), in which he published historical treatises, translations, biographies, and critical essays on religious and secular texts.  When this newspaper folded, he left to go abroad and for a time lived in Berlin and Paris.  He later returned to Warsaw, became a contributor to Sokolov’s Telegraf (Telegraph) (Warsaw, 1905-1906), and thereafter, with the rise of the Yiddish press in Poland, he was one of its creators.  He was cofounder and main contributor to the daily newspaper Unzer lebn (Our life) (Warsaw, 1907-1908, edited by Sh. Hokhberg); with M. Spektor he was the founder and co-editor of the daily Di naye velt (The new world) (Warsaw, 1909); and after it merged with Moment (Moment) (Warsaw, 1910), he was a principal contributor until his death.  He published journalistic articles on current events, press reports, reports from the Polish Sejm, monographs, and adapted novels from foreign languages.  He also edited the sections “Day in History” (on motifs from Jewish history), “Life in Warsaw,” and others.  His books include: translations of Émile Zola’s novel Pariz (Paris) (Warsaw: A. Tsukerman, 1898), Hall Caine’s Der anarchist (The anarchist), also entitled Di eybike shtot (The eternal city [original: The Eternal City]) (Warsaw, 1904), Togbukh fun der kroynprintsesin luiza (Diary of the Crown Princess Louisa) (Warsaw, 1908); and a description of the Dreyfus trial entitled “Der emes iz aroys” (The truth is out).  He was also the author of the biographies: Profesor h. grets, zayn lebn un verk (Professor H. Graetz, his life and work) (Warsaw, 1912), 32 pp.; Dem Rambam’s lebens beshraybung, zayn leben, zayne sforim un zayn virkung oyf der idishn natsyon (Description of the Rambam’s life: His life, his writings, and his influence on the Jewish people) (Warsaw, 1914), second edition (New York, 1921), 32 pp.  He was also a contributor to E. N. Frenk’s “Monografye-biblyotek” (Monograph library) in Warsaw and to its work Di familye davidzon (The family Davidzon), according to Frenk, with an introduction by Zagorodski and a foreword by Frenk (Warsaw, 1924), 105 pp. and 28 pp.  He also published under the names: Y. Kh. Zap and Ben-Meyer, among others.  He died in Warsaw.  He left in manuscript a series of important works in Yiddish and Hebrew, among them memoirs of the first years of the Yiddish press in Warsaw and about his contributions to Hatsfira.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Tsvi Prilucki, Hillel Tsyatlin, and Sh. Stupnitski, in Moment (Warsaw) (February 6, 1931); Vilner tog (Vilna) (February 8, 1931); Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (February 13, 1931); Hadoar (New York) (February 13, 1931); Y. D. Berkovitsh, in Forverts (New York) (June 26 and August 7, 1932); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), vol. 3 (Vilna, 1935), p. 184; M. Turkov and Avrom Rozenfeld, in Der “moment”: spetsyele oyfgabe tsum 25 yerigen yubiley (Moment, special publication on its 25th year jubilee) (Warsaw, 1935); M. Y. Fried, Yamim veshanim, zikhronot vetsiyurim mi-tekufa shel hamishim shana (Days and years, memoirs and depictions from an era covering fifty years), part 2 (Tel Aviv, 1939); A. Almi, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 29, 1945); Dr. Y. Shatski, Geshikhte fun yidn in varshe (History of the Jews in Warsaw), vol. 3 (New York, 1953), see index; M. Turkov, (The last of a great generation) (Buenos Aires, 1954), pp. 64, 86, 90; B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; Dr. A. Mukdoni, In varshe un in lodzh (In Warsaw and in Lodz), vol. 1 (Buenos Aires, 1955), p. 25.
Khayim Leyb Fuks

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