Sunday 29 January 2017


MEYER KHARATS (September 23, 1912-1993)

            He was a poet, born in the village of Shuri (Zgurița), Bessarabia, and grew up in the Jewish colony of Markulesh (Mărculești), near Belz, in Bessarabia. In 1934 he moved to Czernowitz, where he worked in a variety of trades, while at the same time continuing his education. There he graduated from a teachers’ seminary for Yiddish literature and linguistics. At the start of the Nazi occupation (July 1941), he fled to Central Asia, and from there at the end of 1945 he traveled to Moscow. He spent the years 1946-1948 back in Czernowitz, and then together with other Jewish writers was arrested by the Soviet authorities and sent to a Soviet camp in the Gulag from 1949 through 1955; after Stalin’s death, when he returned once more to Czernowitz and began an intensive period of composing poetry and writing literary critical essays especially for Folks-shtime (Voice of the people) in Warsaw. From 1972 he was living in Jerusalem after making aliya.

He began writing poetry in his school years, and he debuted in print in 1934 in Yiddish periodicals in Bessarabia. His poems, “Don kishot” (Don Quixote) and “A yidene afn osyen-mark” (A Jewess at the autumn market), which he published in Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz leaves) in 1935, made an impression for their quiet tone and authentic sadness, and they afforded him a place of honor among the young group of Moldovan Jewish writers (Motl Saktsyer, Yankl Yakir, Herts Rivkin, and others). From that point in time he published poems in: Shoybn (Glass panes) in Bucharest; Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Naye folkstsaytung (New people’s newspaper), and Foroys (Onward) in Warsaw; and other literary journals in Romania, Poland, and the United States. From 1940 he contributed poetry and reportage pieces to: Eynikeyt (Unity) and the almanac Heymland (Homeland) in Moscow; Der shtern (The star) in Kiev; Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan star); Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings) and Folks-shtime in Warsaw; Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York; Parizer shriftn (Parisian writings); and other serials.

Later an agitation along the old Soviet lines was directed at him. In the Ukrainian-language newspaper in Czernowitz, Radianska Bukovina (Red Bukovina) of March 3, 1961, there was an article written by the Soviet Jewish writers Hirsh Bloshteyn and Khayim Melamud accusing Kharats of “bourgeois nationalism” which they detected in his poems “Der vanderer” (The wanderer), published in Yidishe shriftn (December 1960), and “Friling” (Spring) and “Leyendik sholem-aleykhem” (Reading Sholem-Aleichem), published in Folks-shtime (April 1957 and February 1959). The poet sings in these works about the old Jewish religious texts which he took out of a book chest, about the joy of reading Sholem-Aleichem in our soft language; about his wish that his spring song in Yiddish might also be sung by children with all the hundreds of songs in other languages. He published numerous poems in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) (1961-1970). He wrote for numerous Yiddish publications in Israel, as well as in: Tsukunft (Future) and Afn shvel (At the threshold) in New York; Kheshbn (Accounting) in Los Angeles; and others. From 1973 he edited (with Yoysef Kerler) Yisroel-almanakh (Israel almanac). He published twelve collections of poetry. His literary activity was noted by the Manger Prize, the Artur Award in 1975, and the Fikhman Prize in 1976.

His published books would include: In fremdn gan-eyden (In a foreign Garden of Eden) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1974), 335 pp.; Himl un erd, lider (Heaven and earth, poetry) (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1974), 283 pp.; Lider tsu eygene (Poems for myself) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1975), 212 pp.; Shtern afn himl (Stars in the sky (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1977), 239 pp.; Dos finfte rod, lider (The fifth wheel, poetry) (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1978), 192 pp.; Griner vinter, lider; Markulesht (Green winter, poetry; Mărculești, poem) (Jerusalem: Yiddish Cultural Association, 1982), 263 pp. which includes Griner vinter on pp. 227-63; Geklibene lider un getseylte poemes (Selected and numbered poems) (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1983), 474 pp.; Nokhn sakhakl (After a summing up), vol. 1 (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1987), 159 pp., vol. 2 (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1990), 127 pp., vol. 3 (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1992), 256 pp., vol. 4 (Jerusalem: Eygns, 1993), 272 pp.; Anfas un profil un hinter di pleytses (Full face and profile and behind the back) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1994).

Sources: Y. Yonasovitsh, in Di naye tsayt (Buenos Aires) (January 28, 1954); M. Izraelis, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (August 26, 1960), concerning the article in Radianska Bukovina; Y. G., in Der veg (Mexico City) (February 11, 1961); Elye Shulman, in Der veker (New York) (August 1, 1961).

Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 314-15; and 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. 184-85.]

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