Sunday 22 January 2017


MORTKHE KATZ (July 13, 1885-March 18, 1954)
            He was born in Shkimyan, Kovno district, Lithuania.  His grandfather was the saintly man and mystic Rabbi Itsi Boltushover.  He studied in religious primary school and with the rabbi in town, later in the Vilkomir (Ukmergė) yeshiva, where he surreptitiously was reading Hamelits (The advocate) and Hebrew books, later still going on to study at yeshivas in Vilna.  At age seventeen he mastered Russian and began reading works of Russian literature.  In 1905 he participated in the Zionist socialist party in Vilkovishki (Vilkaviškis), before moving to Lodz, where he was employed as a Hebrew teacher.  During WWI he moved to Moscow and from there across Siberia and Japan to the United States.  He taught at the Bet Sefer Leumi (National [Hebrew] school) in New York and attended Columbia University from which he received his doctoral degree for a dissertation on “Protection of the Weak in the Talmud” [later published in New York, 1966].  He began writing in 1904 in Hatsfira (The siren) in Warsaw, and later in: Peraḥim (Flowers) in Warsaw; Hayom (Today) in St. Petersburg; and Hazman (The times) and Had hazman (Echo of the times) in Vilna.  In America he was a regular contributor to: Haivri (The Jew), Hatoran (The duty officer), Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people), Der amerikaner (The American), Gerekhtikeyt (Justice), Millers’ Vokhnshrift (Weekly writing), as well as in the English-language Jewish press in New York.  In the daily Hadoar (The mail) he wrote journalist pieces, and he adapted popular scientific articles as a contributor to Yidishe tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), in which he ran the division: “In der velt fun visnshaft un erfinderung” (In the world of science and invention).  For twelve years he served as editor of Der idisher kuryer (The Jewish courier) in Chicago.  For a time he was also managing editor and secretary of the monthly Bitsaron (Fortress), in which he published memoirs concerning Jewish life in Lithuania.  In the anthology Lite (Lithuania), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), pp. 1364-75, he published descriptions of Jews in Lithuania of bygone days.  Among his pen names: Mortkhe Shkimyaner, Shkimyanoy, M. Sharf, and M. Kolombyan, among others.  He died at the home of Dr. A. Mukdoni in Miami Beach, Florida.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; G. Zelikovitsh, in Yidishes tageblat (New York) (February 5, 1926); Gershom Bader, in Yidishes tageblat (March 4, 1926); Dr. Y. Bril, in Yidishes tageblat (May 18, 1926); Ts. Kohen, in Dos yudishe folk (New York) (February 26, 1926); P. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 28, 1926); Tsviyon, in Forverts (New York) (April 3, 1926); B. Smolyar, in Idisher zhurnal (Toronto) (July 20, 1926); Ḥ. L. Gordon, in Sefer hayovel shel hadoar (Jubilee volume for Hadoar) (New York, 1927), pp. 24-27; Kalmen Marmor, in Frayhayt (New York) (February 20, 1927); D. Perski, in Tsukunft (New York) (Febryary 1946); Perski, in Hadoar (New York) (November 27, 1936; March 26, 1954); obituary notices in Forverts and Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 21, 1954).

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