YOYSEF TSHERNIKHOV (DANIELI) (February 23, 1882-June 1941)
He was born in Slonim, Byelorussia, into a commercial-industrial family. From age thirteen he was studying in Pinsk, and later, in 1903, he graduated from the commercial school in Zgerzh (Zgierz), near Lodz, where he also began his illegal revolutionary activities as a follower and propagandist of Zionist socialism. In 1904 he was one of the pioneers in the Socialist Territorialist movement. That year he arrived at Berne University, but in 1905 he returned to Russia, where he was one of the most active campaigners for the Socialist Territorialist Party. With “a face like Jesus and a temperament like Vesuvius” (as B. Vladek characterized him at the time), he was a great hit with the public at large. He soon distinguished himself as well as a writer and theoretician for the party. He published (using the party name Danieli) the party’s theoretical pamphlet, Unzere kritiker (Our critics) (Vilna: Tsukunft, 1906), 89 pp.; in Russian, O seime︡ i po povodu seima, concerning the Polish Sejm. He also contributed work to Vilna-based organs of the party: Der nayer veg (The new path), Dos vort (The word), and Unzer veg (Our path)—weekly newspapers which appeared in 1906-1907, each one after the previous one, changing their names as the Tsarist authorities closed them each down—and he wrote primarily on economic issues. In late 1906 and early 1907, he visited the United States and Canada on assignment from the party, appearing in dozens of Jewish communities with great success. He returned to Russia in the summer of 1907 and moved to Kharkov where studied in the law faculty of the local university (graduating in 1911). In the interim when there were no classes, he traveled around on a party assignment (he was now a member of the central committee), and in 1910 he was in Vienna where he took part (with Latsky-Bertoldi, Dr. Shats-Anin, and others) in preparing the party publication, Dos yudishe frayland (The Jewish Freeland). In 1911 he made a research trip to Israel. In 1912 he settled in Vilna, practicing there as a lawyer and also founding and editing the daily newspaper Der tog (The day). After the outbreak of WWI, he returned to Kharkov and from there traveled on to Petrograd where he took part in the “democratic unity” from which in the spring of 1917 arose the Jewish Folkspartey (people’s party), led by Tshernikhov, Y. Efroykin, Latsky-Bertholdi, and Nokhum Shtif (Tshernikhov left a brief memoir about his wartime activities in Haynt-yubiley-bukh, 668-688, 1908-1928 [Jubilee volume for Haynt, 668-688, 1908-1928], Warsaw, 1928). At the time of the Kerensky government in 1917, he was an official with special assignments for the Interior Ministry in Petrograd. In late 1917 he moved to Kiev where he was (in 1918) one of the principal speakers in the national Jewish assembly. Over the years 1919-1921, he was living in Kharkov where he appeared as a defender in the revolutionary tribunals; he later described a series of his trials in Warsaw’s Haynt (Today) in 1925, and later still in 1932 these came out in book form under the title In revtribunal, zikhroynes fun a parteydiker (In the revolutionary tribunal, memoirs of a party man) (Vilna, 1932), 254 pp. In the autumn of 1921, he moved to Kovno, served there as director of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society), was a member of the “National Council,” and for a time edited the daily newspaper Nays (News)—after the departure of Dr. A. Mukdoni who with Ben-Adir and Shtif founded the newspaper in 1921. While in Kovno, he wrote for other Yiddish publications, and for the anthology Arbet (Labor) (Kovno: ORT, 1924) he wrote a treatise on the Jewish community’s aspirations and movements over the previous century and one-half. In 1924 he moved again to Vilna where he turned to working as a lawyer and (with Dr. Shabad and H. D. Nomberg) established the journal Frayer gedank (Free thought)—six issues appear (1926-1927)—in which he published a series of journalistic works on economic and cultural topics. He was also a member (sent by the Democratic People’s Party) to the Vilna city council and community administration (in 1936 he was chair of the Jewish community council); he worked closely with the central educational committee which ran the Jewish schools in Vilna; he was (1925) a member of the first commission that produced the Vilna theses for a Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO); he was an official speaker at the opening meetings of YIVO conferences (1925 and 1935), a member of the council of YIVO (1920), and made trips on assignment from YIVO (1929-1930 to Romania, 1931 to Estonia, 1933 to Israel). Over the period 1933-1934, he carried out a fundamental revision of his folkist perspective, returned to the position of territorialism of the Zionist socialist kind, and was a cofounder of the Freeland League in Poland, chairman of its central committee, and a member of its world council. In those years he published ideological works: “Tsvey aynshtelungen” (Two positions), in the monthly journal Frayland (Freeland) 3.4 (1934); “Vegn mizrekh-eyropeisher yidishkeyt” (On Eastern European Judaism), in Haynt (the jubilee volume for Haynt [Warsaw, 1939]); in Afn sheydveg (At the crossroads) (Paris) in 1939, and in the second collection a longer work entitled “Di lage fun der ershter emansipatsye” (The conditions surrounding the first emancipation)—on the 150th anniversary of the French Revolution; and in Vilner tog (Vilna day), numerous journalistic articles and longer works. In 1937 he contributed to the preparation and the meeting of the First World Jewish Culture Congress in Paris, which established IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association), although he was politically far from the leftist initiators of the congress. In the 1930s he published in book form: In revtribunal, zikhroynes fun a parteydiker (see above); and Dray artiklen vegn “bund” un bundizm (Three articles on the Bund and Bundism) (Vilna, 1939), 60 pp.
Shortly afterward, the Soviet army occupied Vilna (September-October 1939), and Tshernikhov was placed under arrest (at the same time as Zalmen Reyzen, A. Tsintsinatus, Anna Rozental, Y. Zheleznikov, and others were arrested), and incarcerated in the prison of Alt-Vileyka. According to Sh. Katsherginski, Tsvishn hamer un serp (Between hammer and sickle) (Paris, 1949)—based on a personal conversation with a Jew from Kobilnik by the name of Gilman who was in the same prison cell as Tshernikhov—Tshernikhov remained in this prison until Hitler’s forces marched on Russia, and when the arrested men and women were driven on foot to Russia (late June 1941), Tshernikhov was unable to go with them, and the Soviet guard shot him near Borisov, Byelorussia.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; A. Volobrinski, Fashizirter yidishizm (Fascist Yiddishism) (Minsk, 1930), p. 12; Pinkes fun yekopo (Records of Yekopo [Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”]) (Vilna, 1931), see index; Sh. Dreyer, in Vilner tog (Vilna) (January 22, 1932; January 29, 1932; February 12, 1932); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), Barg-aroyf, bletlekh fun lebn (Uphill, pages from life) (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1935), pp. 184, 192-93, 200; Charney, Vilne (Vilna) (Buenos Aires, 1951), pp. 152, 251; Charney, A litvak in poyln (A Lithuanian in Poland) (New York, 1955), p. 24; A. V. Yasni, Geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter bavegung in lodzh (History of the Jewish labor movement in Lodz) (Lodz, 1937), p. 317; Ershter alveltlekher yidisher kultur-kongres (First World Jewish Culture Congress) (Paris, 1937), pp. 34, 155-63, 192-93, 263; L. Kahan, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (July 3, 1940); Toyznt yor pinsk (1000 years of Pinsk) (New York, 1941), p. 161; P. Shvarts, Azoy iz geven der onheyb (That was how it began) (New York, 1943); “Yizker” (Remembrance), Yivo-bleter (New York) 26 (1945); Elye Shulman, in Afn shvel (New York) (September-October 1945); Shmerke Katsherginski, Tsvishn hamer un serp (Between hammer and sickle) (Paris, 1949), pp. 16-19, 96; Yankev Pat, in Forverts (New York) (May 23, 1950); F. M., “Fun folk tsu folk” (From people to people), Forverts (July 5, 1950); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Lite (Lithuania), anthology, vol. 1 (New York, 1951), p. 1097; Vitebsk amol (Vitebsk as it was), anthology (New York, 1956), p. 343; Kh. Abramovitsh, Farshvundene geshtaltn (Disappeared figures) (Buenos Aires, 1958), pp. 74-79.