YEKHIEL YAKHINSON (1887-1937)
He was a teacher, current events writer, and literary historian, born in Ukraine. He was a pupil in the seminars organized by “Mefitse haskala” ([Society for the] promotion of enlightenment) schools in Grodno, Slonim, and Kharkov. In 1913 he took part in the Odessa meeting of Yiddish teachers in Russia, Poland, and Lithuania, defended the standpoint of a public school in Yiddish, and was elected onto the administrative bureau of the teachers’ group. He was a fierce believer in Yiddish as a language of instruction, and from 1918 when he joined the Bolsheviks until his arrest in 1937, he was a teacher in the local Jewish schools and a lecturer on literature, natural science, and pedology in the pedagogical institutions for teachers. He began writing with an article in Russian—on folk knowledge in the Jewish public school—published in the organ of the Mefitse haskala society, Vestnik ope (OPE herald)—“Courier of the Society for the promotion of enlightenment” [among the Jews of Russia] in St. Petersburg (1910). The article was “the first and a successful effort in Yiddish pedagogy” (Khayim-Shloyme Kazdan). From the late 1920s through the first half of the 1930s, he worked with the pedagogical section at the Kiev Institute of Jewish Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. He was as well a contributor to a majority of the pedagogical publications in Russia and one of the main contributors to the journals: Pedagogisher byuletin (Pedagogical bulletin) in Kiev (1923); Af di vegn tsu der nayer shul (On the oaths to the new school) in Moscow (1924); and Ratnbildung (Soviet education) in Kiev-Kharkov (1928-1935). He also placed work in Di royte velt (The red world) and Prolit (Proletarian literature) in Kharkov, as well as other serials. He was the author of a significant number of textbooks which were used in Jewish schools in the Soviet Union. In 1927 his anthology Mendeles epokhe (Mendele’s epoch) appeared in print, for which he selected thematic fragments from the work of Mendele Moykher-Sforim with his own introduction and commentary. In 1929 he published his anthology Sotsyal-ekonomisher shteyger bay yidn in rusland in 19tn y”h (The socio-economic condition of Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century); that same year, he brought out another anthology, entitled Sotsyal-ekonomisher shteyger bay yidn in rusland in 20tn y”h (The socio-economic condition of Jews in Russia in the twentieth century). The selection of materials for both volumes was provided with explanations and linguistic interpretations. Yakhinson evinced a special interest in pedology. In numbers 11-12 of the Kharkov journal Di royte velt for 1929, he presented a major work entitled “Sovetishe pedologye” (Soviet pedology), in which he explained this science. That same year he published in Kiev his book Praktishe pedologye, metodn fun kinder-forshung (Practical pedology, methods of research on children). In subsequent years pedology became the basic issue of his scholarship. On July 4, 1936, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union enacted a regulation “Concerning the Pedological Crippling in the System in the People’s Commissariat of Education,” in which pedology was rebuked as a “bourgeois science.” In 1937 Yakhinson was arrested and charged with defending the prohibited science and, as an addition, for Jewish nationalism. According to Avrom Golomb, he was liquidated. Like many others at this time, he simply disappeared.
Among his writings: Geyog nokh shpayz, shmuesn fun kultur-geshikhte far der arbeter-shul (Rush after food, chats on cultural history for the workers’ school) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1924), 68 pp.; Mit genite hent, geshikhte fun halboshe (With experienced hands, history of attire) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1925), 108 pp.; Ba der erd, kultur-geshikhte fun erd-arbet (By the earth, cultural history of agriculture) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1925), 158 pp. and 3 pp., with maps; Binyonim un tsaytn, geshikhte fun voynung un boy-kunst (Buildings and times, history of residence and the art of construction) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1926), 192 pp.; Kultur-geshikhte, lernbukh far der hekherer shul (Cultural history, textbook for high school), two volumes (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1924), 240 pp. and 296 pp.; Mendeles epokhe, antologye, “with an explanation of Mendele’s Hebrew expressions in Yiddish” (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1927), 199 pp.; Sotsyal-ekonomisher shteyger bay yidn in rusland in 19tn y”h, kvaln-bukh fun memuarn un kinstlerisher literatur (The socio-economic condition of Jews in Russia in the nineteenth century, a sourcebook from memoirs and artistic literature), with a preface entitled “Di sotsyal-ekonomishe evolutsye fun di yidishe masn far di letste 100 yor af der teritorye fun gevezenem tekhum” (The socio-economic evolution of the Jewish masses over the last 100 years in the territory of the Pale) (Kharkov: Central People’s Publisher, USSR, 1929), 407 pp.; Sotsyal-ekonomisher shteyger bay yidn in rusland in 20tn y”h (Kharkov: Central People’s Publisher, USSR, 1929), 403 pp.; Praktishe pedologye, metodn fun kinder-forshung (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1929), 437 pp., with a foreword by Professor K. Makulski.
He also edited Arbet-bukh af naturvisnshaft (Workbook for natural science), part 1, materials on agriculture (“extracted from food, farming, horticulture, and economic animals”) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1926), 299 pp., part 2, materials on industry (“volume and weight, construction materials, metals, fumes, heating, fires, temperature, measurements, and calorimetry”), with a vocabulary list by Khave Kalker (Kiev, 1926), 163 pp.
He translated from Russian: D. Roytman, Der erd-keylekh (The Earth), on astronomy (Kiev, 1925), 100 pp.; Lydia Terkhova, Geografisher lernbukh (Geography textbook), for elementary school, second part, fourth school year, with illustrations (Kiev, 1933), 140 pp. and 3 pp.; A. Y. Kabakov, Anatomye un fizyologye fun menshn (Anatomy and physiology of people), textbook for middle school, eight school year (Kharkov-Kiev, 1934), 218 pp., with illustrations; Y. A. Tetyurev, Naturvisnshaft, lernbukh far der shul fun veynikredike (Natural science, textbook for those with little reading ability) (Kharkov, 1934), 128 pp., with illustrations.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4 (in the biography of A. Rozentsvayg); M. Levitan, Af di vegn tsu der nayer shul (Moscow) 6-7 (1924); Sh. Rives, in Emes (Moscow) (October 17, 1924); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928), see index; A. Dameshek, in Literaturishe bleter (Warsaw) (March 9, 1928); A. Riterman, in Ratnbildung (Kiev-Kharkov) 9-10 (1928); Kalmen Marmor, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (June 7, 1931); Y. Anilovitsh and M. Yafe, in Shriftn far psikhologye un pedagogik (Writings on psychology and pedagogy) (Vilna, 1933), pp. 465-528; Y. Slyozberg, in Shtern (Kharkov) 35 (1935); N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetn-farband in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union in 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935) (Kharkov), see index; Sh. Gilinski, in Naye yidishe shul u”n y. l. perets (Mexico City) (October 1954), p. 19; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), p. 360; A. Golomb, A halber yorhundert yidishe dertsiung (A half-century of Jewish education) (Rio de Janeiro, 1957), p. 52.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[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. 172-73.]