Sunday 4 December 2016


YOYSEF YAFFA (1853-1915)
            He was born in a town in Mohilev district, Byelorussia.  In 1870 he moved to Germany.  He then returned to Russia and lived in Odessa.  His literary activities began in Russian newspapers: Odesskii listok (Odessa paper), Odesskii vestnik (Odessa herald), and Maiak (Beacon).  He traveled around through various European countries.  In the 1880s, he lived in Paris, worked as a house painter, and was active in the Jewish Socialist Labor Union.  He was one of the pioneers of the anarchist movement among Jews.  His first article in Yiddish—a semi-fictional depiction contrasting the lives of householders and their laborers—was published in Arbayter-fraynd (Workers’ friend) in London (November 1885).  He also published there correspondence pieces from Paris (signed: J. J.).  In 1887 he departed for London and there became co-editor of Arbayter-fraynd.  In early 1889 he was invited by the New York anarchist group “Pioneers of Freedom” (Pyonere der frayhayt) to come and edit their journal Di varhayt (The truth).  His editing, however, elicited dissatisfaction and they added him to the co-editors: M. Katz, H. Zolotarov, R. Luis, and Y. A. Merison.  With the collapse of Di varhayt in 1890, he became co-editor of Der morgenshtern (The morning star), founded by Froym London.  That same year (1890) he worked as editor of the weekly newspaper, Der litvakel (The little Lithuanian).  He also wrote for Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) in New York.  In 1893 he brought out the weekly newspapers: Der kritiker (The critic), five issues; and Der vekhter (The watchman), eight issues.  He was one of the initiators of the “Zhargon literatn-farayn” (Yiddish literary association) in 1889.  He “freely translated and freely adapted” a series of works from German, Russian, French, and English.  In book form, he published: Der vikuekh, eyne interesante un belehrende unterhaltung tsvishen eyn alten un yungen man (The debate, an interesting and instructive conversation between an old and a young man), from French (London, 1888), 34 pp.; Lopatins lebns-beshraybung (A description of Lopatin’s life), translated from the Russian of Pyotr Lavrov (London, 1888), 48 pp.; Napoleon der 1ter oder di geheymnis fon frantsoyzishen hoyf (Napoleon I or the secret of the French court) (New York, 1890s), 527 pp.; Der graf fun pariz oder der rusisher yunger mantshik (The count from Paris or the tiny young Russian) (New York, 1891), 208 pp.; Alexandre Dumas, Graf monte kristo (The Count of Monte Cristo [original: Le Comte de Monte-Cristo]) (New York, 1899), 418 pp.; Johann Most, Di gottes pest (The God pestilence [original: Die Gottespest]), from German (London, 1888), 418 pp.; Harriet Beecher Stowe, Onkl toms kebin, oder di shvartse shklaven in amerika (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, or the black slaves in America) (New York, 1911), 514 pp.  In the final years of his life, he had virtually nowhere to get published and drew his sustenance from business.  In 1912 Avrom Reyzen published in Di literarishe velt (The literary world) several of Yaffa’s mythological stories.  Later, when B. Rivkin became editor, he published Yaffa’s translation of an essay by Émile Ludwig on plagiarism.  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1 (with a bibliography); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO) (New York) 1 (1927-1928); Shtarkman, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 4.4-5 (1932); Rudolf Rocker, In shturem (In the storm) (Buenos Aires, 1952); Sh. Yanovski, Ershte yorn fun yidishn frayhaytlekhn sotsyalizm, oytobiografishe zikhroynes fun a pyoner un boyer fun der yidisher anarkhistisher bavegung in england un amerike (The first years of free Jewish socialism, autobiographical memoirs of a pioneer and builder of the Jewish anarchist movement in Europe and America) (New York, 1948); Elye Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 90, 98; Shulman, in Yorbukh fun amopteyl (Annual from the American branch [of YIVO]), vol. 1 (New York, 1938), pp. 256-80; Kalmen Marmor, Der onhoyb fun a yidisher literatur in amerike (The beginning of a Jewish literature in America) (New York, 1944); Y. Khaykin, Yidishe bleter in amerike (Yiddish newspapers in America) (New York, 1946), p. 424; B. Ts. Ayzenshtadt, in Dor rabanav vesofrav (A generation of rabbis and authors), vol. 6 (New York, 1905); Ayzenshtadt, in the anthology 75 yor yidishe prese in amerike (Seventy-five years of the Yiddish press in America) (New York, 1945); Avrom Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1930).
Zaynvl Diamant

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