Sunday 8 January 2017


BERL KAGAN (KOHEN) (November 8, 1911-April 19, 1993)
            He was born in Telts (Telz), Lithuania.  He studied in religious elementary school and in the preparatory school for the Telts Yeshiva.  In 1930 he graduated from the Hebrew teachers’ seminary in Kovno, and over the course of four years he was a religion teacher in Tarbut schools in Lithuania.  He was general secretary of the Zionist Socialist Party and of the “League for Working Israel” in Lithuania; he was also a delegate to the Zionist congresses in Lucerne (1935) and Geneva (1939).  From 1930 he published articles in Di tsayt (The times), organ of the Zionist Socialist Party in Kovno.  Over the years 1935-1940, he was a replacement editor for the Kovno Zionist socialist daily Dos vort (The word).  During the Soviet occupation (1940-1941), he was forced, due to his earlier political activities, to live illegally.  Later, under the Nazis, he remained confined in the Kovno ghetto until 1943, and he was a member of the underground central committee of the Zionist Socialist Party and of the Zionist central committee of Bematsok (On a cliff).  He was then successful in escaping to join the partisans, with whom he remained until the Red Army, in August 1944, liberated Lithuania from the Nazis.  From the end of 1945 until 1950 he lived among the survivors in Italy.  He was active in the Center for the Organization of Refugees,” edited Baderekh (On the road) in Yiddish, and contributed to In gang (In progress) which was published by the Jewish writers association in Italy.  In 1950 he moved to the United States.  Over the years 1951-1954, he worked as a teacher in Yiddish-Hebrew supplementary schools in New York.  From 1955 he worked together with the YIVO library in New York.  In the early 1960s he worked on the editorial board of Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) in New York, for which he wrote under such pen names as: B. Reynus, D. Prister, and G. Zilber.  From 1967 to 1980, he was a librarian at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  He edited the “Holocaust in Lithuania” section of the anthology Lite (Lithuania), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), 800 pp., and he co-edited the entire collection.  In book form: A yid in vald, bletlekh fun a togbukh (A Jew in the woods, pages from a diary) (New York: World Jewish Culture Congress, 1955), 153 pp.  He also took part in a large project in the collection, Haḥinukh ṿehatarbut haivrit beeropa ben shete milhamot haolam (Jewish education and culture in Europe between the two world wars), edited by Tsvi Sharfshteyn (New York, 1957).  He was editor of remembrance volumes: Yizker-bukh suvalk un di arumike shtetkekh (Remembrance book for Suwalk and surrounding towns) (New York, 1961), 826 cols.; Shidlovtser yizker-bukh (Remembrance book for Szydłowiec) (New York, 1974), 912 + 22 pp.; Sefer yizkor lekehilat luboml (Remembrance book for the community of Luboml) (Tel Aviv, 1976), 390 pp.; and Zvorlin yizker-bukh (Remembrance book for Zwoleń [Radom]) (New York, 1982), 564 + 112 pp.  Other works of his include: Seyfer haprenumerantn, vegvayzer tsu prenumerirte hebreishe sforim un zeyre khoysmim fun 8,767 ḳehiles in eyrope un tsofn-afrike (Book of subscriptions, guide to the subscribed Hebrew religious works and their seals from 8767 communities in Europe and North Africa) (New York: Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, 1975), 12 + 384 + 20 pp.; Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers, mit hesofes un tikunim tsum leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, un 5,800 psevdonimen (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers, with appendixes and improvements to the Biographical Dictionary of Modern Yiddish Literature, and 5800 pseudonyms) (New York, 1986), 812 cols.; co-editor of Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical Dictionary of Modern Yiddish Literature), vol. 8 (New York, 1981), of which he wrote hundreds of these biographies.  He prepared for publication: Borekh Merin, Fun rakev biz kloge, bilder fun a khorever velt (From Rakowa to Klooga, pictures from a world destroyed) (new York, 1969), 192 pp.; Rakhmil Briks, Di antloyfers, fun gsise tsum lebn, memuarn fun getos un katsetn (The escapees—from death agonies to life, memoirs from ghettos and concentration camps) (New York, 1975), 264 pp.; Yankev Glatshteyn, Prost un poshet, literarishe eseyen (Plain and simple, literary essays) (New York, 1978), 454 pp.; Volf Shnayder, Literarishe un historishe eseyen (Literary and historical essays) (New York, 1984), 245 pp.; Arye Litvinovski, Fun fargangene tsaytn, zikhroynes un rayoynes (From times gone by, memories and thoughts) (New York, 1985), 116 + 88 pp.; Dr. Lazar Goldshteyn-Golden, Fun kovner geto biz dakhau (From the Kovno ghetto to Dachau) (New York, 1985), 125 + 140 pp.; Dov-Ber Varshavski, A shpigl fun undzer tsayt, natsyonal-religyeze eseyen (A mirror of our history, national-religious essays) (New York, 1986), 350 pp.  He also helped prepare for publication Chaim Grade’s two-volume collection of poems and elegies.

Borekh Tshubinski

[Addition information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 308-9.]

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