Friday 19 August 2016


            He was the editor of Eys ledaber (A time to speak), one of the oldest Yiddish publications in Romania.  This newspaper was published in 1859 in Bucharest, once or twice each week, and is now a rare item.  In the YIVO library in New York, they have preserved numbers 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 10 of the newspaper, which were published between May 12 and June 30, 1859.  The editor, apparently, himself filled out his four-page paper which was to include (according to the notice appearing on the front page of issue no. 3): “News in short from all parts of the world, news that touches upon Jews, Jewish history, art, and scholarship, useful information for craftsmen and for everyone, announcements that our good government need to make known.  And, many items that are useful to Jews.  Also, jokes, stories, and aphorism included.”  On page 1 of each issue, the editor offered the following words to describe the character of the newspaper: “A community newspaper for well-spoken people, published for the benefit of all, for whom secular and religious life are valued.”  The newspaper also published poetry and other items in Hebrew.  Announcements (known as mezaten) appeared as a portion of the text at the end of page 4.  The newspaper carried a great deal of news from around the world, often illuminated politically by the editor, who, for example, had an outspoken pro-Garibaldi inclination in the fight that the latter was then waging in Italy.  It remains unknown just how long the newspaper appeared in print.  It is clear from reading the newspaper, though, that the preserved issue no. 10 was not the last number of Eys ledaber.  Later, the same Arye Zilbershteyn apparently moved—for a time to London and from there to New York where he was living in the 1870s.
            In 1874 the volume Dos leben und todt fon yeshue hanotsri (The life and death of Jesus of Nazareth), “taken from Sefer toldot yeshua hanotsri [The story of Jesus of Nazareth] with additional material from Sefer tam umoed, translated and published by A. Zilbershteyn, London, 1873/1874, printed by Shmuel bar Yehoshua the distiller” (72 pp.).  This booklet appeared in New York—according to K. Marmor, Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (The beginning of Yiddish literature in America)—in 1877 and would possibly have been published (or republished) in America.  In an advertisement for the booklet, writes Marmor, the New York newspaper Di yudishe gazetten (The Jewish gazette) explained that it was written in an easy and intelligible Yiddish and was “exceedingly wonderful for the unbelievable stories and fables and tales, as well as interesting tall tales or 1,001 nights….”  From this one can divine a moral as to just “how far people can go fooling themselves and allowing themselves to be deluded.”  In truth, Zilbershteyn’s booklet was written in a starkly Germanized Yiddish and the contents were not of such great value.  The Forverts (Forward) wrote of the booklet: “Many ancient peoples had a hatred toward the Jews in the name of different beliefs, but now since, thank God, all the European peoples have had their eyes opened, and it is apparent that we are all brothers, Jesus of Nazareth himself and all his apostles were all Jews.”  The author thus means that we, Jews, and also they, the Gentiles, are obliged “to love and esteem” and to pray to God on their behalf.  It would appear that this “foreword” was supposed to serve as a compensation for the ridicule of the Christ story in the book.  Zilbershteyn was also the author of a description, entitled Der tsurikgeshikter imigrant (The immigrant sent back), published by S. Shenker in New York.

Sources: M. Unger, in Zamlbukh lekoved dem tsvey hundert un fuftsikstn yoyvl fun der yidisher prese 1686-1936 (Anthology in honor of the 250th jubilee of the Yiddish press, 1686-1936), ed. Dr. Y. Shatski (New York, 1937), pp. 304-25; Moyshe Shtarkman, in Yorbukh (New York) (1943-1944), p. 92; Der onhoyb fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (New York, 1944), pp. 15-16, 19; Shmuel Niger, Dertseylers un romanistn (Storytellers and novelists), vol. 1 (New York, 1946), p. 88 (footnote).
Yitskhok Kharlash

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