Thursday 15 December 2016


            He was born in Popelyan (Papilė), Kovno district, Lithuania.  In his youth he was already steeped in ancient Jewish wisdom (Tanakh, Talmud, Midrash, the commentators) and secular Jewish knowledge (Hebrew language and literature, Jewish history and philosophy, Yiddish literature), as well as a general education (Russian and German languages and literatures, mathematics, physics, and the like).  He later traveled to Germany to continue his education, and there (in either Berlin or Heidelberg) he completed his studies in engineering; he then traveled on to South Africa (1908-1909), there to begin practicing his specialty.  However, he was never able to find work.  He then became a teacher of Hebrew and Tanakh, and for many years gave a Talmud lesson (a page of Talmud or a chapter of Mishnah) in the evening in the synagogue study hall, and he wrote for the local Jewish press in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.  Himself a Hebraist and a Zionist (later joining the Revisionist wing of the movement), he nonetheless had a close and warm relationship with Yiddish throughout his life, gave lectures on Yiddish literature, on the language question among Jews, and on Yiddish writers at the former “Jewish Literary and Dramatic Association” in Johannesburg, and he contributed to nearly all Yiddish publications in the country, especially in Johannesburg—some of them (on his own or with others) he also edited.
            Just after his arrival in South Africa, he forged ties to the Yiddish weekly newspaper in Johannesburg, Di yudishe fohn (The Jewish banner), then edited by Bentsien-Zundl Hersh; in it between 1909 and 1913 he published, aside from articles, a translation of a Russian novel which had originally been published in the major Russian journal Mir Bozhii (God’s world).  In 1913 he published and edited in Johannesburg Di naye heym (The new home), which came out five times each week between January 22 and March 3, and in it he published a translation of Yeḥiel Levontin’s Hebrew-language novel Shimon etsyoni (Shimon Etsyoni).  In 1914 he edited the monthly Yiddish supplement to Johannesburg’s Zionist Record-Der tsienist (The Zionist)—four numbers appeared: April, May, June, and August—in which, among other items, he published in installments a lengthy treatise, “Di fir epokhes fun di yidishe shprakhn” (The four epochs of Jewish languages).  In 1915, following the death of Y. L. Perets, he published a long appreciation of Perets in Zionist Record (June 15, 1915), a news report for the Anglophone Jewish press in South Africa.  In the 1920s he contributed to Hyman Polsky’s weekly newspaper Der afrikaner (The African) and edited (from Elul [August-September] 1924 to Iyar [April-May] 1925) the Yiddish supplement to the English Ivri Ounouchi (I am Jewish [Ivri anokhi])—both in Johannesburg.  In April 1931, he became co-editor of the Johannesburg weekly Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper), left the newspaper two years later, edited on his own (and co-edited) the weekly Der idisher ekspres (The Jewish express) in 1934-1935, and thereafter came back to contribute to Afrikaner idishe tsaytung.  Over the course of decades, he was a close collaborator with the Johannesburg Hebrew monthly journal Barkai (Morning star).  His numerous articles on an assortment of topics, especially writers and personalities who played a role in the life of the Jewish community in South Africa and elsewhere, were spread throughout the English-language, Hebrew, and Yiddish publications of the country in general, but mainly in Johannesburg.  Yudelovitsh’s works of special value concern the history of the Jewish press in South Africa, such as: a survey of the Jewish press in the year 1914-1915), in the Rosh Hashanah issue of South African Jewish Chronicle (Cape Town, 1915); “Tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher prese in dorem-afrike” (On the history of the Jewish press in South Africa), Dos naye vort (The new word) (Johannesburg monthly) 5-6 (December 1916); “The Jewish Press in South Africa,” in The South African Jewish Yearbook (Johannesburg, 1929), pp. 249-56; “Di ershte yidishe teglekhe tsaytung un ir redactor” (The first Jewish daily newspaper and its editor), Dorem-afrike (South Africa) (Johannesburg monthly) (April-July 1950).  In September-October 1949 and 1959, the South African Jewish publications (in all three languages) published congratulatory articles on his seventieth and eightieth birthdays.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Leybl Feldman, Yidn in dorem-afrike (Jews in South Africa) (Johannesburg-Vilna, 1937), p. 66; Feldman, Yidn in yohanesburg (Jews in Johannesburg) (Johannesburg, 1956), pp. 3, 170, 200-3, 231, 245; Rabbi-Professor L. Y. Rabinovitsh, in Afrikaner yidishe tsaytung (Johannesburg) (September 16, 1949); Barkai (Johannesburg) (September 1949; November 1949); M. Ben-Moyshe, in Dorem-afrike (Johannesburg) (October 1949); Afrikaner yidishe tsaytung (September 23, 1959).
Yitskhok Kharlash

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