MOYSHE KATZ (September 24, 1885-June 3, 1960)
He was a journalist, literary critic, and community leader, born in Dokshits (Dokshytsy), Minsk district, Byelorussia, to a father who was a tailor and was involved in community affairs. When he was two years old, he moved with his parents to Nikolaev, where until age nine he studied in religious elementary school and with a private tutor, later at a Russian Jewish state public school. As an external student, in 1903 he graduated from the Nikolaev high school and later from a university. From his youth he was involved in the revolutionary movement, and he and his father were arrested that year for belonging to an illegal Zionist educational association. After the Kishinev pogrom, he joined the first Zionist socialist groups in southern Russia. In May 1905 he was arrested in Uman for handling weapons for Jewish self-defense groups against the Black Hundreds. He would later serve time for revolutionary activities in Vilna, Warsaw, Zhytomyr, Minsk, and other cities. He lived in Israel and Egypt, 1908-1910, before returning to Russia and until late 1912 was active in party affairs in St. Petersburg and Warsaw. In the summer of 1913 he was forced, for political reasons, to flee Russia for the United States, and from there in June 1917—after the February Revolution—he returned home. He settled in Kiev after the October Revolution and until 1920 held positions in local Jewish cultural and community life. He was a founder of the Jewish Culture League in Ukraine and representative of the Jewish division of the Kiev state publishing house (1919); one of the spokesmen for the Fareynikte (“United”) party (Zionist socialists and Jewish socialist workers) in Ukraine and Russia, and at the Warsaw conference of the party in 1920 he spoke publicly against his party uniting with Jewish Communists. That year he again traveled to New York and approached the Forverts (Forverts), in which he published a string of articles about Soviet Russia, but at the time of the split in the Jewish Socialist Federation (1921), he joined the Salutski-Olgin group, and from there switched to the Jewish Communist movement in America; he was later one of the main activists in the field of Yiddish culture, literature, and school work. He was the creator of a number of Communist-tinged institutions. He was the first chairman of the leftist Yiddish writers’ union in New York—the Proletpen—and a presidium member of IKUF (Jewish Cultural Association) and other groups. In the middle 1920s he returned once again to Soviet Russia and lived in Moscow from 1926 until 1933. He returned to New York in 1933 at the invitation of Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom). In May 1960 he returned again to Moscow, his last trip there, to see his daughter and grandchild and died in early June.
He began writing in Russian with several articles in the Russian Jewish weekly newspaper Budushchnost' (Future) in St. Petersburg (1904). In 1905 he switched to Yiddish. He was one of the main contributors to the Zionist socialist organs: Der nayer veg (The new way), Unzer veg (Our way), Dos vort (The word), and Profesyonele bavegung (Trade union movement)—in Vilna; and Unzer veg in Warsaw (1905-1907). He published a variety of pieces in the hectographically produced weekly newspaper Di tsayt (The times) in Cairo (1907-1908, twenty-four issues). In 1910 he became the internal contributor for the daily newspaper Der fraynd (The friend) in Warsaw. He contributed as well to other Yiddish periodicals which at the time were being published in Russia. In America he served on the editorial board of Dr. Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye leben (The new life) in New York (1913), while at the same time serving as New York correspondent for Di yudishe fon (The Jewish banner) in Johannesburg, South Africa, Di yudishe velt (The Jewish world) in Vilna, and for the Russian-language Novyi golos (New voice) in St. Petersburg and Kievskaia misl' (Kievan thought) in Kiev. In 1914 he was a regular contributor to Der tog (The day) in New York. Over the years 1915-1917, he edited the weekly Unzer vort (Our word) in New York. When he was living in Kiev (1918-1920), he edited there the daily organ of the “United” party—Di naye tsayt (The new times) and the children’s magazine Shretelekh (Elves). In 1921 he was literary editor of Fraye arbeter-shtime (Free voice of labor) in New York, and with the founding of the Communist newspaper Frayhayt (Freedom)—later, Morgn-frayhayt—in early 1922 until his death, he published in this newspaper thousands of articles, feature pieces, travel narratives, essays on Jewish and general literature, translations, popular chats about history and Marxism, and more. He was also one of the principal contributors to; Frayhayt almanakhn (Frayhayt almanacs), the monthly journal Hamer (Hammer), Signal (Signal), Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), Proletarishe-dertsiung (Proletarian education), and Zamlungen (Collections), among others—in New York; Kultur (Culture) in Chicago; Vokhenblat (Weekly newspaper) in Toronto; and other Communist and pro-Communist periodicals in the United States and other countries. In the years he lived in Russia, he was also a regular contributor to: the Soviet Yiddish Emes (Truth) and Eynikeyt (Unity) in Moscow; Shtern (Star) in Kharkov-Kiev; Der apikoyres (The heretic) in Moscow; Oktyabr (October) in Minsk; and elsewhere. He also worked as editor for the publishing house “Shul un bukh” (School and book). He also placed written work in: Di literarishe bleter (The literary leaves) in Warsaw; Yidishe shriftn (Yiddish writings), Folksshtime (People’s voice), and Dos naye lebn (The new life)—in Lodz-Warsaw; and Naye prese (New press) and Parizer shriftn (Parisian writings)—in Paris. His translations include: poetry by Heinrich Heine and Richard Dehmel, published in Avrom Reyzen’s Eyropeyishe literatur (European literature) in Warsaw (1910-1913); and Baron von Münchhausen’s stories, published in various collections.
His books include: Di idishe gmine (The Jewish community) (Warsaw, 1911), 16 pp.; Nikolay lenin, zayn lebn un virkn (Nikolai Lenin, his life and impact) (New York: Naye velt, 1920), 160 pp.; Di ershte yidishe oytonome regirung (The first Jewish autonomous government), concerning Birobidzhan (New York, 1934), 16 pp.; Kirovs mord, proletarishe gerekhtikeyt kegn vays-gvardishn teror (Kirov’s murder, proletarian justice against White Guard terror) (New York: Id-byuro, 1934), 24 pp.; Shturm iber palestine, ver hot gebrakht tsu di itstike gesheenishn un ver iz in zey shuldik (Storm over Palestine, who caused the current events and who is to blame for them) (New York: Idbyuro, 1936), 63 pp.; Der ershter mai 1937, mit vos mir kumen tsu im un vos mir fodern (May First, 1937, what we bring to it and what we demand) (New York: Idbyuro, 1937), 32 pp.; Ayer kind (Your child) (New York: Jewish section, International Workers Order, 1939), 23 pp.; Der sovetn-farband un finland (The Soviet Union and Finland) (New York: IKOR, 1940), 15 pp.; Yitskhok-leybush perets (Yitskhok-Leybush Perets) (New York: Jewish section, International Workers Order, 1940), 35 pp.; Unzer sholem-aleykhem (Our Sholem-Aleichem) (New York: Zuntog arum tish, 1941), 111 pp.; A dor, vos hot farloyrn di moyre, bleter zikhroynes fun arum 1905 (A generation that lost its fear, memoirs from around 1905) (New York: Moyshe Kats Jubilee Committee, 1956), 308 pp. Book-length translations include: Rudyard Kipling, Vunderlekhe mayses (Wonderful tales) (Kiev, 1919), 62 pp., second edition (Warsaw, 1921); Wilhelm Jerusalem, Filozofye (Philosophy) (New York, 1920), 282 pp.; S. Herbert, Evolutsye (Evolution) (New York: Di heym, 1920), 330 pp.; Joseph Stalin, Der marksizm un di natsyonale frage (Marxism and the national question), a collection of selected articles and speeches (Moscow, 1935), 293 pp. + 4 pp.; Earl Browder, Teheran, unzer veg in krig un fridn (Teheran, our path in war and peace) (New York: Morgn frayhayt association, 1944), 136 pp. Katz was also the author of Politish un ekonomish verter-bikhl (Short political and economic dictionary), initially written for ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) in Kiev in 1919 (Minsk, 1926), 53 pp. He was a member of the editorial board for the Yiddish translation in six volumes of Oysgeveylte verk fun v. lenin (Selected works of V. Lenin) (Moscow: Emes, 1933); Khurbn daytshland (The destruction of Germany) (New York: Proletpen, 1938), 32 pp.; and of Sholem Levin’s Untererdishe kemfer (Underground fighters) (New York: IKUF, 1946), 381 pp. His last article, written a day prior to his departure for Russia, concerned Shmuel Halkin, published in Zamlungen (January 1961). He left behind in manuscript a series of literary essays and translations. Among the pen names under which he published: F. Raynland, M. Abramovitsh, M. Avitsh, Sh. Abramson, A. Mitsri, A Diletant, and A Zamler.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Yoysef Nayman (Olgin), in Tsukunft (New York) (April 1915); Dr. A. Ginzburg, in Di tsayt (New York) (1920); Y. Leshtshinski, in Forverts (New York) (October 23, 1931); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (New York) (July 7, 1933); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (February 26, 1935); R. Yuklson, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (July 17, 1935); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Tsukunft (October 1935); Y. Anilovitsh, Shriftn far psikhologye un pedagogik (Writings on psychology and pedagogy), vol. 2 (Vilna: YIVO, 1940), p. 325; M. Sh. Shklarski, in Yorbukh tsh״g (Yearbook for 1942/1943) (New York, 1943); H. Vaynraykh, Blut af der zun (Blood on the sun) (New York, 1950), p. 46; Sh. Grodzenski, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (April 8, 1949); B. Kleyn, in Folksshtime (Warsaw) (May 22, 1954); Dr. A. Mukdoni, In varshe un in lodzh (In Warsaw and in Lodz) (Buenos Aires, 1955), pp. 180, 273; Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung fun tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist labor movement in North America), vols. 1 and 2 (New York, 1955), see index; Sh. Shtern, in Morgn-frayhayt (March 15, 1955; March 15, 1959); Sh. Almazov, in Morgn-frayhayt (December 15, 1955); Y. B. Beylin, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (January 1956); Morgn-frayhayt (June 26, 1960), dedicated to the memory of Moyshe Katz; N. Mayzil, B. Grin, and Mirl Katz, in Yidishe kultur (August-September 1960); Meylekh Epshteyn, in Tsukunft (September 1960); E. Almi, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (October 15, 1960); Moyshe kats bukh (Volume for Moyshe Katz) (New York, 1963), p. 355.
Khayim Leyb Fuks
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 311; 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. 321-22.]