Monday 19 September 2016


            He was born in Mir, Minsk district, Byelorussia, to impoverished parents.  He studied in religious primary school and Talmud Torah, later in the Mir Yeshiva.  In 1902 he moved to the United States, where in his first years there (in New York) he worked as a tailor and wrote at night.  He debuted in print with a story entitled “Blondzhendik” (Wandering) in Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor), edited by Sh. Yanovski, in New York (1905), and thereafter he published other stories there as well.  He wrote critical treatments of books that had recently appeared, especially by younger writers, for: Der idisher kemfer (The Jewish fighter), Dos idishe folk (The Jewish people), Di tsukunft (The future), and Dos naye land (The new land), among others.  He also translated works from world literature.  With Yoyel Entin and M. Shmuelzon, he was a co-editor of the first anthology from Di yugend (The youth) in 1907-1908, and with Entin and Yoyel Slonim of the collection Literatur (Literature) in 1910 in New York.  He quickly became a leading figure in the New York-based, young Yiddish writers group which included the subsequently famous fiction writers and essayists: D. Ignatov, A. Raboy, Y. Opatoshu, and Y. Entin, among others.  “None of these writers around the journal Di yugend, though,” wrote N. B. Minkov, “so markedly demonstrated at that time a distinct individualism, as the perceptive and richly spiritual novelist and essayist M. Y. Khaimovitsh.”  With Opatoshu, Y. Y. Shvarts, Y. Rolnik, and Slonim, in 1914 he prepared for publication the collection Di naye heym (The new home), in which he published his novel Afn veg (On the road), describing the life of the Jewish intellectual at that time in America.  He also published writings in New York’s Varhayt (Truth) (1916-1917) and Tog (Day) (1919-1924), in which for some time he published a story each week.  He was highly creative and, although he happened often to be living in great need, he continued over the course of many years with no occupation other than literature.  His fictional works were spread over a great number of newspapers and magazines, and in the large number of articles published on the occasion of his fortieth or sixtieth birthday, it was estimated that they would take up roughly thirty-five volumes.
            His published books include: Tsvey ertseylungen (Two stories)—1. “In geburst-shtedtl” (In the town of [my] birth); 2. “In groyen likht” (In gray light)—(New York, 1911), 23 pp. and 26 pp.; Afn veg (New York: Literarisher ferlag, 1914), 119 pp.; Arum dem man fun natsres (Around the man from Nazareth) (New York: Kultur, 1924), 158 pp.—in this book, there was also included a short sketch entitled “Yokhonen ben skharye” (Yoḥanan ben Zakharia), an innovative interpretation of the story of John the Baptist and Shulamith; Artur shnitsler, ophandlung (Arthur Schnitzler, treatment) (New York: Jewish Book Agency, Inc., 1919), 47 pp.; Karusel, dertseylungen (Carousel, stories) (New York, 1946), 220 pp.; Yor 1666-426, shaptse-tsvi in stambul (The year 1666 [426], Shabbatai Tsvi in Stambul) (New York, 1946), 220 pp.  Zalmen Reyzen assessed Khaimovitsh as “one of the most gifted, young, Yiddish prose writers in America, who excels with varied gallery of characters in his work, both in the old Jewish country and in the new environs of the United States, as well as the historical past, and with his fine sensibility for the nature and life of the big city, as well as for the psychology of the modern Jewish woman.”  Because of a severe, incurable illness, which compelled him to remain in bed for the last fifteen years of his life, he was not more active in the literary world.  He died, virtually forgotten, in a home for the chronically ill in the Bronx, New York.  “Khaimovitsh surely enriched Yiddish literature with many new motifs,” wrote Yankev Glatshteyn, “and his longer works on Jesus and Shabbatai Tsvi, as well as the novel of his youth, Afn veg,…possess numerous positive qualities which demonstrate for us the authentic wandering of a significant Yiddish author of fiction….  Khaimovitsh will become one of the builders of American artistic prose.”

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Ben-Yakir, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1908); E. (Epshteyn) and Sh. (Shakhne), in Tsukunft (October 1910); B. Rivkin, in Tsukunft (September 1914); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1928); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (January 1930; July 1930); A. Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1942 and 1949); R. Granovski, in Shikago (Chicago) (November-December 1935); B. Grobard, A fertlyorhundert, esey vegn der yidisher literatur in amerike (A quarter century, essay on Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1935), pp. 31, 50, 83, 84, 169, 170; Z. Vaynper, in Yidishe shriftshteler (Yiddish writer), vol. 2 (New York, 1936); Sh. Tenenboym, in Nyu yorker vokhnblat (New York) (September 13, 1930; September 29, 1939) and 228 (1945); Tenenboym, in Proletarisher gedank (New York) (June 1946); Tenenboym, Shnit fun mayn feld (Cut from my field) (New York, 1949), pp. 66-74, 290-93, 527; N. B. Minkov, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (January 1939; December 1946); Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (May 1942); A. Grinberg, Moyshe leyb hapern (Moyshe-Leyb Halpern) (New York, 1942); M. Vityes, in Fraye arbeter shtime (New York) (July 13, 1945; March 14, 1947); M. Dantsis, in Tog (New York) (May 23, 1948); Y. Rolnik, Zikhroynes (Memoirs) (New York, 1954), p. 163; Shloyme Bikl, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (Passover issue, 1954); D. Ignatov, Opgerisene bleter (Torn off sheets) (Buenos Aires, 1957), p. 70; Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (July 18, 1958); Glatshteyn, in Di idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (August 3, 1958); obituary in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 14, 1958); A. Glants, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (June 18, 1958); Glants, in Idisher kemfer (November 14, 1958); Der Lebediker, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (November 16, 1958); Khaimovitsh issue of Nyu yorker vokhnblat (July 31, 1959).
Zaynvl Diamant

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