Wednesday 11 January 2017


YANKEV COHEN (JACOB KAHAN) (November 3, 1900-December 1973)
            He was born in Biała Podlaska, Poland.  He studied in religious elementary schools, with individual teachers, and in a small Hassidic synagogue.  For secular subject matter, he had private tutors, and he attended a Polish Hebrew high school.  At age fourteen, he lost his father.  At a youth he joined the Mizrachi movement.  Over the years 1919-1922, he served in the Polish army, and he later wrote of his experiences there in a volume (see below).  After returning from the army, he aligned himself with the Revisionist wing of Zionism.  He took part in the founding of Podlyaser lebn (Podlaska life).  He debuted in print with a correspondence piece in Warsaw’s Haynt (Today), and with poetry in Tsvit (Blossom) in Berestechko and in Oykum (Arise) in New York.  He wrote as well for Emes (Truth) and Nayer veg (New path) in Warsaw.  He assumed leading positions in the Revisionist organization in Bialystok.  At the time of the rift in Calais, he went over the Jewish State Party.  He was chairman for the Kolonial brand of food and an intimate of the central small business association in Poland for Bialystok.  In Bialystok he organized the anti-Hitler boycott committee.  He wrote for local publications and published two books over the years 1930-1932.  With the entry of the Soviets into Bialystok (in 1940), he was employed as a salesman, later as a manager, of a bread store.  He was then arrested, spent three months in the Bialystok jail, and in 1940 was deported to the Kandalaksha concentration camp in the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic, and thereafter to the distant north.  After the amnesty for Polish citizens, he wandered through Central Asia until he arrived at Zhambyl, Kazakhstan, where he was a night watchman and during the daytime worked at the Zhambyl post office.  He returned to Poland in 1946 and in Bialystok became a leading figure in culture and propaganda for the Bialystok Jewish regional committee.  He was chairman of “Iḥud” (Unity), of the coordination of all Zionist parties, and of other Zionist institutions.  In 1948 he moved to Paris, where he was active in Zionist work.  In 1954 he moved to the United States, where he contributed to the Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur (Biographical dictionary of modern Jewish literature).[1]  He also contributed to: Dos naye leben (The new life), Undzer lebn (Our life), Gut morgn (Good morning), and M. Visotski’s Shtime (Voice)—in Bialystok; Unzer vort (Our word), Tsienistishe shtime (Zionist voice), Der veg (The path), and Unzer shtime (Our voice)—in Paris; Dos naye lebn (The new life), Opinia (Opinion), and Mosty (Bridges)—in Lodz-Warsaw; Shtime in Bergen Belsen; Undzer veg (Our way) in Munich; Tsukunft (Future), Oyfsnay (Afresh), Der amerikaner (The American), Nyu-yorker vokhnblat (New York weekly newspaper), Der yidisher bukh-almanakh (The Jewish book almanac) 16 (1958), and Byalistoker shtime (Voice of Bialystok), including the special jubilee issue (April 16, 1961)—in New York; Byalistoker vegn (Bialystok pathways) in Buenos Aires; Yontef-bleter (Holiday sheets) in Johannesburg; Tsienistishe shtime in Mexico City; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; and others.  In book form, he published: Dray yor in poylishn militer: 24.10.19-22.11.1922, memuarn (Three years in the Polish military, October 24, 1919-November 22, 1922, memoirs) (Bialystok: Pruzhanski, 1930), 100 pp., including a glossary of foreign words and artistic drawings by the saint of Bialystok, the painter Tinevitski; In un arum tsienizm (In and around Zionism), essays and treatises (Bialystok, 1932), 128 pp.; Fun eygenem gortn (From one’s own garden), aphorisms and prose poetry (Paris: Obetse, 1949), 112 pp.; Af di vegn fun yidishn kiem, natsyonal-filozofishe batrakhtungen (On the pathways of Jewish existence, national philosophical considerations) (Paris: Tserata, 1950), 130 pp.; Labirintn fun gedank, aforizmen un shprikhverter (Labyrinths of thought, aphorisms and sayings) (Paris: Tshapnik, 1951), 129 pp.; Folk, gayst un land, eseyen (People, spirit, and nation, essays) (Paris: Tshapnik, 1952), 126 pp.; Lebn un trakhtn, eseyen (Life and thoughts, essays) (New York: Biderman, 1957), 165 pp.; Der goyrl funem yid erev khurbn, roman (The fate of the Jew on the eve of the Holocaust, a novel) (Tel Aviv, Perets Publ., 1960), 157 pp.; Unter di sovyetishe himlen, iberlebungen fun tfise, lager un fun der sovyetishe fray (Under Soviet skies, experiences in jail, camp, and in Soviet freedom) (Tel Aviv, Perets Publ., 1961), 481 pp.; Di mishpokhe erlikh (The family Erlikh), a novel (Tel Aviv: Nay lebn, 1964), 227 pp.; In fam fun dorn, poemes un lider (In the flame of thorns, poetry) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1965), 103 pp.; Beynashmoshes, lider in fraye ferzn (Twilight, poems in free verse) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1966), 127 pp.; Dray yor in poylishn militer: 24.10.19-22.11.1922, memuarn (Three years in the Polish military, October 24, 1919-November 22, 1922, memoirs), reissue (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1967), 174 pp.; Zayn un tsuzamenzayn, pruv fun an etik, eseyen (To be and to be together, an attempt at an ethic, essays) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1968), 101 pp.; In gerangl fun tsayt, eseyen (In the struggle of the times, essays) (Tel Aviv: Measef Yisrael, 1970), 160 pp.; Vaytn (Far away) (Tel Aviv: Nay lebn, 1972), 96 pp.; Malkhes byale, oytobyografishe dertseylung (The realm of Biala, autobiographical story) (New York, 1973).  He died in New York.

Sources: Literarishe bleter (on his memoir, Dray yor in poylishn militer) (Warsaw) (August 22, 1930); Byalistoker leksikon (Bialystok handbook) (Bialystok, 1935); Y. Borenshteyn, in Dos naye lebn (Lodz) (August 31, 1947); L. Domankevitsh, in Unzer vort (Paris) 227 (1950); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (September 1951); Glatshteyn, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1952); L. Leneman, in Di tsienistishe shtime (Paris) (January 1952); F. Fridman, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (September 1955); Der Lebediker, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (October 16, 1955); Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn 5” (New York, 1957), p. 157; Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (New York) (March 8, 1956; March 9, 1961); E. Neks, in Fraye arbeter-shtime (New York) (November 15, 1958); Y. Vinyetski, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (May 16, 1959); N. Sumer, in Oyfsnay (New York) (May 25, 1959); A. Khit, in Yontef-bleter (Johannesburg) (Shavuot 1961), pp. 13, 18; Sefer bila podlaska (Biała Podlaska volume) (Tel Aviv, 1961), pp. 198, 244, 344, 361, 362; S. Khatskin, in Byalistoker shtime (September 1961), p. 26.

[Addition information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 309.]

[1] Translator’s note.  Namely, the very biographical dictionary being translated here. (JAF)

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