DANIEL CHARNEY (TSHARNI) (September 15, 1888-July 1, 1959)
A poet, current events writer, and the younger brother of the literary critic Shmuel Niger and the journalist and editor Borekh Vladek-Charney (Tsharni), he was born in the town of Dukor (Dukora), Minsk district, Byelorussia. His father Zev-Volf Tsharni (Charney) died at age thirty-seven from tuberculosis when Daniel was scarcely one and one-half years of age. His mother Brokhe (née Hurvits), who was a descendant of the Shelah Hakodesh [R. Yeshaya Hurvits, ca. 1555-1630], supported the family with a poor leather goods shop which she inherited from her husband, and raised her five sons and only daughter through self-sacrifice, striving with all her strength to give them a good Jewish and general education. Her youngest Daniel (or Donye), however, was often sick as a child and, because of his illnesses, was never able to receive a systematic education. At age fourteen he moved to Minsk to join his two older brothers, and he later settled in Vilna where he was under the care of the local doctors, studied as an external student, and through his brothers, Shmuel and Borekh, became familiar with Vilna’s political and literary circles. It was at this time that he began to write love poems, and one of them was published in H. D. Nomberg’s Hanukkah magazine Vinter-bleter (Winter leaves) in 1907; in 1908 he published his first story in the Vilna daily newspaper, Di tsayt (The times). From that time forward—using such pen names as: D. Sherman (numerologically equivalent to “D. Tsharni”), Leonid (anagram [in Yiddish] of Daniel), A Lezer, and A Moskver—over the course of five decades, he published poetry, stories, essays, children’s stories, critical treatises, and translations in: Tsukunft (Future), Dos naye lebn (The new life), Oyfkum (Arise), Tog (Day), Forverts (Forward), Kinder-zhurnal (Children’s magazine), Kinder-tsaytung (Children’s newspaper), Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor), Byalistoker shtime (Voice of Bialystok), Byalistoker lebn (Bialystok life), and others in New York; Folksblat (People’s newspaper) in Kovno; Vilner tog (Vilna day), Di tsayt, Di vokh (The week), Ovnt-kuryer (Evening courier), and Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees), among others in Vilna; Roman-tsaytung (Fiction newspaper), Vokhnblat (Weekly newspaper—supplement to Dos lebn [The life]), Fraynd (Friend), Dos naye lebn (The new life), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), and Bikher-velt (Book world), among others in Warsaw; Argentiner beymelekh (Little Argentinian trees) and Di prese (The press) in Buenos Aires; Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper) in Lodz; Petrograder togblat (Petrograd daily newspaper); Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz leavesleaves); Parizer bleter (Parisian pages); Parizer haynt (Paris today); Kultur un bildung (Culture and education) in Moscow; and many other Yiddish newspapers and journals around the globe.
In 1909 he moved from Vilna to Vienna and from there to Berne, Switzerland, in order to recover from his chronic illnesses. He returned to Russia in the summer of 1914. With the outbreak of WWI, he took an active part in the relief work for Jews made homeless by the war and were driven from their homes in the western regions of the Russian provinces by the Tsarist regime. He arrived in Moscow in August 1915, where he organized the first Jewish children’s home in the Moscow suburb of Mar'ina Roshcha. For a time he worked in the Moscow “OPE” (“Courier of the Society for the promotion of enlightenment” [among the Jews of Russia]). In 1916 he moved to Petrograd and worked there for the aid society for war victims—Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”). At the end of 1916, he was mobilized into the Tsarist army, and he served until the outbreak of the revolution in February-March 1917. Charney then returned to Moscow, where he served initially as secretary of the Jewish Folks-partey (People’s party), and then from May 1918 he worked in the publishing division of the Jewish Commissariat (The Jewish division in the Commissariat for Minority Affairs); from August 1918 until February 1919, he served on the editorial board of Der emes (The truth) in Moscow, and he was editor (1918-1920) of the Moscow journals Di komunistishe velt (The Communist world) and Kultur un bildung; and when the Soviets rule came to Vilna (1919), he was also editor of the revived Vilna children’s magazine, Grininke beymelekh. He contributed poetry and articles to the anthologies Kunstring (Art circle) 2 and Zalbefert (All four [with Moyshe Broderzon, Gershon Broyde, and Menashe Heylperin]) (Moscow: Lebn, 1918). In that period, he began to write his autobiographical work Mishpokhe-khronik (Family chronicle).
In late 1922 Charney left Moscow for Berlin to seek a cure from the specialist doctors there, and from there he sent to various Yiddish newspapers around the world a series of articles on the condition of Jews in the Soviet Union. In the autumn of 1923 he returned to Moscow, and in late 1924 he was back once again in Berlin, never again to return to Moscow. In late 1925 he attempted to go to the United States, but due to his illnesses he was detained at Ellis Island and sent back to Europe—he described it in New York’s Tog in a series of articles entitled “Fun eyrope keyn elis aylend un tsurik” (From Europe to Ellis Island and back). Back in Berlin he worked with Dovid Bergelson’s pro-Soviet journal In shpan (In line) in 1926, was the press chief for Emigdirekt (emigration directorate) over the years 1927-1929, and co-edited with Elye Tsherikover Di yidishe emigratsye (Jewish emigration), a publication of Emigdirekt. In early 1928 he became a member of the executive of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society)-Emigdirekt, and in the spring of 1929 he made a study trip through the Jewish communities of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia. At the time Charney was publishing in New York’s Tog and other American and European newspapers a series of articles about the condition of Jews in those countries, and thus he acquainted Yiddish readers in the distant Jewish communities throughout the world with an array of new Yiddish writers who had emerged in the European countries. He was hence anointed with the title: “Ambassador of Yiddish literature.”
After Hitler came to power, Charney in late 1934 had perforce to leave Berlin. He moved to Riga, but there he fell under a semi-fascist regime and could not remain for long. In January 1935, he made his way to Vilna, but from there as well as later from Warsaw he was expelled, because he was a Soviet citizen. In late 1936 he moved to Paris and there made contact with the Joint Distribution Committee, HICEM (HIAS-ICA Emigration Association), and ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades). To honor him in 1948, Charney’s double jubilee—his fiftieth birthday and thirty years of literary activity—a Daniel Charney Committee was formed in a number of countries, and the central jubilee committee brought out Danyel tsharni-bukh (Daniel Charney volume), edited by Moyshe Shalit, with articles by over eighty writers.
In April 1941 Charney arrived in New York, and there in 1944 he was secretary for the Y. L. Perets Writers’ Union; in 1946-1947, he was secretary for the Yiddish PEN Club and permanent secretary of the jury for the Louis Lamed Fund; and he compiled the monthly bibliographic heading “In der yidisher un hebreisher literatur” (In Yiddish and Hebrew literature) and “Nay dershinene bikher” (Newly published books) for Tsukunft. From 1947 he was living in a therapeutic institution—initially, the Workmen’s Circle sanitarium for those suffering from tuberculosis in Liberty, New York, and in later years in a sanitarium in Boston, Massachusetts. Ignoring his weak health, he maintained his writing activities in these institutions. He died in Boston and was buried in the cemetery of the Workmen’s Circle in New York.
His books include the following: Laykhte ferzn, 1908-1918 (Light verses, 1908-1918), poems written over this time period (Riga: Kultur, 1925), 71 pp.; Mishpokhe-khronik (memuarn), ershter teyl kinder-yorn 1888-1901 (Family chronicle, memoirs, first part, childhood years, 1888-1901) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1927), 61 pp.; Untervegs, lider (Pathways, poems) (Berlin: n.p., 1929), 18 pp.; Barg-aroyf, bletlekh fun lebn (Uphill, pages from life), part 1 “Family chronicle,” part 2, “Party chronicle” (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1935), 291 pp.; A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York: CYCO, 1943), 331 pp., awarded the Louis Lamed Prize in 1943; Lider (Poetry), drawings by Benn (Paris: A. B. Tserata, 1950), 61 pp.; Dukor, memuarn (Dukor, memoirs) (Toronto: Tin un feder, 1951), 320 pp.; Afn shvel fun yener velt: tipn, bilder, epizodn, lider (At the threshold of the other world: types, images, episodes, poems), poetry written over the period 1904-1946 (New York: n.p., 1947), 209 pp., awarded the Tsvi Kessel Prize in Mexico City in 1948; Vilne, memuarn (Vilna, memoirs) (Buenos Aires: Central Publisher for Jews in Argentina, 1951), 319 pp.; Libe refleksn, 1907-1952 (Love reflexes, 1907-1952), poetry (Brooklyn: Farlag yerushalmi, 1952), 47 pp.; A litvak in poyln (A “Lithuanian Jew” in Poland) (New York: World Jewish Congress, 1955), chapters from a diary and memoirs (New York: World Jewish Culture Congress, 1955), 140 pp. In Hebrew translation: Shenot yaldut, pirke zikhronot (Childhood years, chapters of memoirs), trans. Shlomo Dameshek from Mishpokhe khronik, edited and with a preface by Daniel Perski (New york, 1954), 90 pp. His stories for children, both original ones and translations: Di farkishefte kretshme (The enchanted tavern) (Vilna: Grininke beymelekh, 1915), (Odessa: Blimelekh, 1918), and (Vilna: Central Jewish School Organization, 1921), 18 pp.; Der koter in shtivl (Puss in boots), freely adapted from Zhukovski (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1915), 13 pp.; Der gold-dorshtike keyser (The emperor thirsty for gold) (Moscow: Khaver, 1918), 26 pp.; Vi azoy ikh kum oyf der levone, a rayze in di shveytsarishe berg (How I come to the moon, a trip in the Swiss mountains) (Vilna: Grininke beymelekh, 1926), 53 pp.; and from the Brothers Grimm, Di farkishefte bas malke (The enchanted princess) (Vilna: Kinder biblyotek), 12 pp.; from Edmondo De Amicis, A meydele vos hot geratevet a tsug (A young girl who saved a train) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin), 15 pp.; A gvure fun a shnayderl (Might of a tailor); A mayse mit dray brider (A story with three brothers); Shneyfederl (Snow feather); Der foyler fuks un der kluge hun (The lazy fox and the wise hare) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1919), 22 pp.; and others as well. Charney also translated the Communist Manifesto of Marx and Engels into Yiddish: Komunistishe manifest (Vilna: Tsukunft, 1906), 43 pp.; and Boris Savinkov’s Emigrantn (Emigrants). And, he published poetic translations from Pushkin, Lermontov, Heine, Nietzsche, Verlaine, and Anacreon in: Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye lebn, the anthology Fremds (Abroad) (Moscow, 1918), and Di idishe velt (The Jewish world) (Vilna, 1915). In 1930 he published serially in Folksblat (Kovno) a novel entitled Di velt in kaylekhdik (The world in a globe).
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Af di khurves fun milkhomes un mehumes, pinkes yekopo (On the ruins of wars and turmoil, records of Yekopo), ed. Moshe Shalit (Vilna, 1931), cols. 749-51; M. Basin, Antologye, 500 yor yidishe poezye (Anthology, 500 years of Yiddish poetry) (New York, 1917), pp. 274-75; A. Avtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 25, 27-29; Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 6, 1935); M. Kitai, Unzere shrayber un kinstler (Our writers and artists) (Warsaw: Jewish Universal Library, 1938), pp. 158-61; Moyshe Shtarkman, in Tog (New York) (January 28, 1939); Danyel tsharni-bukh (Daniel Charney volume), ed. Moyshe Shalit (Paris, 1948), 288 pp.; Y. Glants, in Der veg (Mexico City) (April 22, 1944; July 11, 1959); A. Beyzer, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (September-October 1947); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (New York) (1947; 1948); Y. Y. Sigal, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 12, 1948); Zaynvl Diamant, in In gang (Rome) (May-June 1948); Diamant, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 37 (1953); Diamant, in Fun noentn over (New York) 4 (1958); Daniel Perski, in Hadoar (New York) (May 21, 1954; September 11, 1959); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (April 19, 1954); A. Leyeles, in Tog (December 10, 1955); Leyeles, Velt un vort (World and word) (New York, 1958); Der Lebediker, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 4, 1955); Professor S. Kahan, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1956); Y. Shprintsak, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (September 16, 1956); Y. Varshavski, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (January 29, 1956); N. Y. Gotlib, in Keneder odler (May 3, 1957); M. Elkin, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (November 29, 1957); Y. Yonasovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (May 22, 1958); A. Aleksander, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (June 6, 1959); obituary notices in Tog-morgn-zhurnal and Forverts (New York) (July 3-4, 1959); Y. Botoshanski, in Di prese (July 4, 1959; August 6, 1959); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (July 13, 1959); G. Svet, in Hadoar (July 17, 1959); M. Ginzburg, in Keneder odler (July 19, 1959); Dr. A. A. Robak, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (July 19, 1959); Robak, in Afn shvel (New York) (November-December 1959); B. Y. Byalostotski, in Forverts (July 19, 1959); N. Vital, in Der shpigl (Buenos Aires) (August 1959); S. Dingol, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (August 1, 1959); Elye Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (August 1, 1959); Y. Zilberberg, in Der idisher kemfer (New York) (August 14, 1959); “A brivl fun farshtorbenem d. tsharni” (A message from the late D. Charney), in Fraye arbeter-shtime (September 15, 1959); Sh. D. Zinger, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (October 1959); Zinger, Dikhter un prozaiker (Poet and prose writer) (New York, 1959), pp. 153-58; Yedies fun yivo (New York) (1960), concerning Charney’s letter collection; The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York), vol. 3.
Zaynvl Diamant[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 165-66.]