Friday 24 March 2017


            He was born in Dokshits (Dokshytsy), Vilna district, into a poor family.  With help from local Dokshits leaders, he made his way to Vilna, where he studied in the design school at the “Help through work” trade school and was active in the community in religious Zionist circles.  In 1927, before he departed for South Africa, he published (under the name Arye ben Arye) the pamphlet: Yidishizm un zayn tendentsyeze praktik (Yiddishism and its tendencies in practice) (Vilna: Kreynes un Kovalski, 1927), 20 pp., in which he attempted from a naïve point of view to come out against “Zhargon, which the Yiddishists give the name Yiddish and want to transform into national language.”

Source: L. Ran, in 25 yor yung vilne (Twenty-five years of Young Vilna), anthology (New York, 1955).
Leyzer Ran


ZH. (SHNEUR-ZALMEN) LEYBNER (b. September 28, 1880)
            He was born in Pantshe (Panciu), Romania, the son of a businessman.  He studied in religious elementary school and later in a high school.  Early on he became interested in literature and in Yiddish literature.  In 1898 he began journalistic activities with Bucharest’s Revista Ideei (Idea magazine), edited by P. Muşoiu, in which he also published Romanian translations of Perets, Mendele, and Sholem-Aleykhem.  In 1903 he moved to the United States and studied for two years at Industrial College in Leclaire, Illinois.  In 1904 he moved to Chicago, where together with Leon Zolotkof and H. L. Meytus he founded the Yudishe rekord (Jewish record), a weekly newspaper (1910). But his principal activity as a writer was tied to Chicago’s Idisher kuryer (Jewish courier) (from 1915).  For a time he also left the newspaper, but in 1918 he returned, initially as a news editor and later as executive editor.  He wrote—using such pen names as Ben-Dovid, Shneur-Zalmen, and others—articles, sketches, and images drawn from life.  His weekly features, “Der yid mit di nislakh” (The Jew with the nuts) and “Tsharli der polismen” (Charlie the policeman), and his column “Koolshe bime” (Community pulpit), were well known among the readership.  “Leybner…writes in a fluid style…,” noted Tashrak, “possessing a striking intuition, a clear eye.”  Over the years 1933-1938, he served as editor of the Chicago weekly, Der ekspres (The express).  He translated Ronetti-Roman’s play Menashe (Manasse), which was staged in 1904 by a Yiddish troupe in Chicago.  In 1926 he celebrated in Chicago the twenty-fifth anniversary of his journalistic career.  Leybner was also president of the Chicago Y. L. Perets Writers’ Union from 1926, “Commissioner of the Style Normal Schools in Illinois,” and also know by the English name of James Bernard Loebner.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); M. Ḥizkuni (Shtarkman), in Pinkes shikago (Records of Chicago) (1951/1952); H. L. Meites, History of the Jews of Chicago (Chicago, 1924), pp. 361-64; P. P. Bregstone, Chicago and Its Jews (Chicago, 1933), pp. 334, 336-38; Who’s Who in American Jewry, vol. 3 (1938-1939), p. 678.
Zaynvl Diamant


DANIEL LEYBL (LEIBEL) (November 20, 1891-1967)
            He was born in Dembitse (Dębica), western Galicia, to a father who was a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment and a “lover of Zion” (Ḥovev-tsiyon, early Zionist).  In 1899 he moved with his family to Torne (Tornów), where he studied in religious elementary school and in a Polish public school; he later studied Talmud in the synagogue study hall.  In 1909 he entered the fifth class of high school, but one year later he was expelled “for Zionism and socialism.”  Thanks to the influence of Yankev Kener, from his early youth he was active in the Labor Zionist youth movement, and he was strongly influenced by Dr. Yitskhok Shiper.  During the census in Austria in 1910, he took part in the struggle for the rights of Yiddish.  In 1914 he was studying in Dębica and received his baccalaureate degree.  He went on to study law at the University of Vienna, but he was primarily interested in Semitic philology; he began turning his attention to Yiddish linguistics and wrote a piece on the topic of “The Vocal Composition of Prague Yiddish at the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century,” but during WWI this essay was lost.  In 1917 he debuted in print in Der yudisher arbayter (The Jewish laborer) in Vienna with a polemical article against Dr. Nosn Birnboym (Nathan Birnbaum).  In 1919 he moved to Warsaw, where he became secretary of the editorial board of the Labor Zionist organ Arbayter-tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper) and editor of the youth periodical Der yunger kemfer (The young fighter), in which he introduced most of the rules of modern Yiddish spelling.  He was an instructor in the teachers’ course of study of the Central Jewish School Organization (Tsisho) and a member of the Tsisho executive.  When the Labor Zionist party split, he remained with the left wing.  He wrote political articles, literary criticism, and treatments of topics in Yiddish linguistics.  As the sitting editor of Arbayter-tsaytung, he spent several months in the Mokotów (Monketov) Prison in Warsaw and was freed after bail of one-quarter million Polish marks was provided by the Jewish literary association and Leybl’s friends in Torne.  In 1923 on his way to Israel, he spent eight months in Berlin.  In May 1924 he made aliya to the land of Israel on a Nansen passport made out in the name of Aleksander-David—thereafter, his party name was “Aleksander.”  He worked initially in field surveying.  He was the first editor of Kol hapoel (The voice of labor), the first journal of the left Labor Zionists in Israel, and he edited the publications Eyns (One) and Tsvey (Two) brought out by the Yiddish literary association in Tel Aviv.  With the founding of Davar (Word), organ of the Histadrut Haovdim (Federation of Labor), he became proofreader and later stylistic editor of the newspaper.  He was also editor of the weekly Nayvelt (New world), published by the left Labor Zionists.  Himself a Hebrew writer and poet, he was active in the fight for the rights of Yiddish in Israel.  He was injured during an attack by extremist young Hebraists from “Gedud megine hasafa” (Battalion of the defenders of the language).  He belonged to the council of the Mifleget poalim meuḥedet (MAPAM, United workers’ party), when his own party Aḥdut haavoda (Union of labor), with the left Labor Zionists, was united with Hashomer Hatsair (The young guard).  He was a member of the control commission of Histadrut.  Over the years 1945-1948, he was a member of the secretariat of the Tel Aviv workers’ council.  In 1939 he was a delegate to the Zionist congress in Geneva, the last congress before WWII, and in 1946 to the congress in Basel, the first congress after the war.  He was also a delegate to Asefat Hanivḥarim (Assembly of Representatives).  He was a cofounder of the Hebrew journalists’ association, “Agudat Haitonaim.”  From 1956 he was friend and advisor to the Academy of the Hebrew Language and contributed to its publications, Leshonenu (Our language) and Leshonenu laam (Our language for the people), as well as Shenaton (Yearbook) of Davar, and to: Tarbits (Academy), Yediot haḥevra laḥkor haatikot (News of the society to study antiquities), and Bet mikra.  He composed lyrical poetry in Yiddish and in Hebrew—the Hebrew poems under the pen name “M. Seter”—in: Haoved (The worker) in Warsaw (1921); Haolam (The world) (1923-1924); and Hapoel hatsair (The young worker) (1925).  In book form: In grinem lompen-shayn (In the green lamp light) (Warsaw, 1922), 24 pp.  Into Yiddish he translated Stanisław Wyspiański’s Danyel (Daniel) (Warsaw: Di tsayt, 1922), 42 pp. and Wyspiański’s Rikhter (Judges [original: Sędziowie] (Warsaw: Arbeter-heym, 1922).  His Hebrew translation of Juliusz Słowacki’s Anheli (Anhelli) was published in two editions (Mitspe, 1929) and (Jerusalem: Tarshish, 1962).  He also translated into Yiddish the first act of Maria Konopnicka’s dramatic poem Prometeus un sizif (Prometheus and Sisyphus [original: Prometeusz i Syzyf].  His Yiddish research included the works: “Mizrekh-yidisher ur-dyalekt” (Eastern Yiddish’s original dialect), in the collection Unzer lebn (Our life), on the third anniversary of the death of Ber Borokhov (Warsaw, 1921); and the addendum to Max Weinreich’s “Kurlender yidish” (Courland Yiddish), in Landoy-bukh (Volume for Landau), vol. 1 of Filologisher shriftn fun yivo (Philological writings from YIVO) (Vilna, 1926).  When he withdrew from working at Davar (after thirty-two years), and more generally from party activities, as well as thereafter, on his seventieth birthday, there were published in the press essays about him.  He also edited the anthology Sefer dembits (Volume for Dębica) (Tel Aviv, 1960), 204 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Sefer haishim (Biographical dictionary) (Tel Aviv, 1937), p. 304; Dov Sadan, Kearat tsimukim (A bowl of raisins) (Tel Aviv, 1950); Sadan, Kearat egozim o elef bediha ubediha, asufat humor be-yisrael (A bowl of nuts or one thousand and one jokes, an anthology of humor in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1953), see index; Torne (Tornów) (Tel Aviv, 1953/1954); Sefer hashana shel haitonaim (The annual of newspapers) (Tel Aviv, 1954/1955), p. 222; D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 4 (Tel Aviv, 1950), pp. 1881-82; B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; D. L. (David Lazar), in Maariv (Tel Aviv) (Tevet 3 [= January 5], 1957); M. Kaplyus, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (1957); Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), pp. 221-22; M. Vaykhert, Varshe (Tel Aviv, 1960/1961), see index; Sh. Shakharya, in Unzer veg (New York) (November 1961); Rikuda Potash and Y. Ts. Shargl, in Di shgtime (New York) (December 1961).


            He was born in Ponevezh (Panevėžys), Lithuania.  In 1929 he moved to South Africa.  He traded goods in small sites around Johannesburg.  He published his first story in Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper) in Johannesburg (1931), and then he went on to write a series of stories for the monthly Foroys (Onward), a publication of the Jewish cultural association in Johannesburg (1938-1939).  For Dorem-afrike zamlbukh (South Africa anthology) (Johannesburg, 1945), he wrote his longer story “Bere” (Flooded roadway).  The subject matter encompassed the lives of Blacks in the area.  He also published in Dorem-afrike (South Africa), a monthly periodical of the cultural federation in Johannesburg.  He was last living in Johannesburg.

Source: Dorem-afrike zamlbukh (South Africa anthology) (Johannesburg, 1945), p. 142.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


TSVI-HIRSH-YOYSEF LEYBOVITSH (1863-November 20, 1885)
            He was born in Botoșani, Romania.  He studied in religious primary school and yeshiva, and he then became a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment.  He was active in the Ḥibat Tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement.  He cofounded the first Zionist association Moriya in Botoșani.  He traveled around the Romanian hinterland, giving speeches on behalf of the Jewish settlement in the land of Israel.  He began writing in both Yiddish and Hebrew: correspondence pieces for Ivri anokhi (I am Jewish) in Brod (Brody) in 1881, later writing for: Ḥavatselet (Daffodil) in Jerusalem, Hamelits (The advocate) in Odessa, and the Romanian Jewish Israel (Israel).  He was editor of the biweekly serial Hatokea (The trumpeter), “a newspaper for the Jewish people” which bore the motto: “And he blows the shofar to warn the people” [Ezekiel 33.3].  He translated from French the children’s play, Shever gaon (Pride before a fall) (Czernowitz, 1881), 30 pp.  He also wrote under the pen name Tsl”tsl.  During his travels he became ill, barely managed to reach Botoșani, and died there.

Sources: Dr. M. Ernprayz, in Ivri anokhi (Brod) (December 4, 1885); E. R. Malachi, in Pinkes fun amopteyl fun yivo (Records of the American division of YIVO) (New York) 2 (1929), pp. 84-85; Sh. Roman, in Filologishe shriftn (Vilna) 3 (1929), p. 529; Dr. Joseph Klausner, Ḥibat tsiyon beromaniya (Love of Zion in Romania) (Jerusalem, 1958), pp. 167, 259; Y. Yosef Kahan, in Areshet (Jerusalem) 3 (1958-1959), pp. 336-37.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


MIKHL LEYBOVITSH (b. December 20, 1906)
            He was born in Warsaw, Poland.  He graduated from a business school and studied at the Free Polish University.  In 1923 he moved to Argentina.  He returned in 1925, continued his education in business, and then received his doctoral degree in England.  In 1938 he ran an English-language course in Warsaw for emigrants with the Warsaw HIAS, and he also held a position at the Argentinian consulate-general in Warsaw, but he then returned to Argentina and there he remained.  Politically, he was active in the Hitaḥdut (the “union” of young Zionists [Tseire-tsiyon]).  He began publishing in 1925 in Lemberg’s Folk un land (People and land); and he wrote articles for Argentinian publications of the day: Unzer gedank (Our idea), Unzer tsayt (Our time), Di naye tsayt (The new times), Unzer veg (Our way), and Pagines juveniles (Youth pages), a publication for young people in Spanish.  He served on the editorial board (1941-1942) of the daily Morgentsaytung (Morning newspaper), and he placed work as well in the journal Davke (Necessarily) and edited and published (with Y. Horn and M. Koyfman) the monthly Nay lebn (New life) (thirty-four issues over the years 1944-1946).  He translated into Yiddish from W. Somerset-Maugham, Mazoles (Destiny [original: First Person Singular]), six stories (Buenos Aires, 1954), 330 pp.  He was last living in Buenos Aires.

Sources: Volf Bresler, Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Jewish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), p. 936; A. A. Robak, in Ilustrirte literarishe bleter (Buenos Aires) (November-December 1954); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Ilustrirte literarishe bleter (May-June 1955).
Benyomen Elis


M. LEYBOVITSH (b. ca. 1880)
            He hailed from Lithuania.  In 1900 he arrived in South Africa.  He worked as a village peddler, at the same time writing poems and publishing them in the weekly Der idisher advokat (The Jewish advocate), edited by Dovid Goldblat (Cape Town, 1904-1907).  He also contributed to Hakokhav (The star) (1903-1907) and Idishe prese (1904) in Johannesburg.  In 1908 he returned to Russia, and from that point in time there has been no further information about him.  In M. Basin’s anthology, 500 yor yidishe poezye (Anthology, 500 years of Yiddish poetry) (New York, 1917), p. 153, Leybovitsh’s poems, “Der trevler” (The traveler) and “Dos vegl” (The trail), appear in print.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; L. Feldman, Yidn in yohanesburg (Jews in Johannesburg) (Johannesburg, 1956).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

Thursday 23 March 2017


LEYZER LEYBOVITSH (b. March 15, 1906)
            He was born in Poshvetin (Poshvityn, Pašvitinys), Lithuania.  During WWI he traveled with his parents to Melitopol, Russia.  He returned to Lithuania in 1918.  He studied at Hebrew high schools, 1925-1926, in Kovno and Shavel (Šiauliai), and in 1927 attended the Kovno Tarbut teachers’ seminary.  At the end of that year, he emigrated to South Africa.  He submitted correspondence pieces from South Africa to Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice) in Kovno.  He published prose works and poetry, among them poems about Bantu folklore, in: Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper) in Johannesburg; the monthly Dorem-afrike (South Africa), in which he published in May 1962 the story “Zizi,” a description of life in the province of Eastern Cape; and the English-language Zionist Record.  Over the years 1950-1953, he edited the English-language Eastern Province Jewish Reporter.  He visited the state of Israel, Soviet Russia, and Western Europe, and published travel impressions in Afrikaner idishe tsaytung.  He was last living in Fort Elizabeth, South Africa.
Benyomen Elis


            He was born in Vilna.  Over the years 1907-1910, he worked with the Strashun Library in Vilna.  At that time he began to write (mainly on bibliography and Jewish library systems) for Der fraynd (The friend) in St. Petersburg-Warsaw.  He spent 1910-1913 studying in Belgium and France.  He wrote for Di tsayt (The times) in St. Petersburg (1912), and later he returned to Vilna, worked in the library of “Mefitse haskala” ([Society for the] promotion of enlightenment), assisted in collecting materials for A. Kirzhnits’s Yorbukh far yidishe biblyotekn (Yearbook for Jewish libraries) (Vilna, 1914).  He served as editor of the trimonthly Der yudisher biblyoteker (The Jewish librarian) (Vilna, 1914), in which he published bibliographical criticism calling attention to new books.  From 1918 he was the representative of “OPE” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]), “Kultur-lige” (Culture league), and M. Winchevsky’s library in Kiev.  From 1929 he worked with the Institute for Jewish Proletarian Culture at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences and technical-stylistic overseer of published Yiddish materials in Ukraine, especially textbooks for Jewish schools.  He was the author of a number of works on the development of Jewish library systems in the Soviet Union (published in scholarly works in Ukraine).

Sources: YIVO archives (New York); A. Kirzhnits, foreword to Yorbukh far yidishe biblyotekn (Yearbook for Jewish libraries) (Vilna, 1914); Kirzhnits, Di yidishe prese in der gevezener rusisher imperye, 1823-1916 (The Yiddish press in the former Russian empire, 1823-1916) (Moscow, 1930), see index; information from Dr. M. Weinreich in New York.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


KHAYIM LEYBOVITSH (b. October 10, 1902)
            He was born in Novogrudek (Navaredok), Byelorussia.  He studied in a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school), later in a Hebrew course of study.  He was secretary of the Novogrudek workshops in ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) and a member on the Jewish community council of Novogrudek.  During WWII he was active in the Novogrudek underground movement and among the partisans.  In 1945 he moved to Italy, where he was secretary general of all-European Association of Partisans and Front Fighters, an officer in the Labor Zionist secretariat, and a YIVO representative.  In 1950 he moved to the United States.  He published (using the pen name “Observator”) in 1931 feature pieces for Novogrudek lebn (Novogrudek life), and he was later a co-editor of this newspaper.  Over the years 1946-1949, he was editor of Farn folk (For the people) and, 1947-1948, of the Labor Zionist journal Unzer vort (Our word) in Italy.  He also published articles and correspondence pieces in: Baderekh (On the road), organ of the Holocaust survivors in Italy; Tsayt (Time) in London; Parizer vort (Parisian word); and Tog (Day), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), Der amerikaner (The American), and various remembrance volumes—in New York.  He was last living in Brooklyn, New York.
Benyomen Elis


MIRIAM LEYB (1905-August 1944)
            She was born in Lodz, Poland, into a laboring family.  She studied in a secular Jewish public school, later becoming a worker herself.  She debuted in print with a poem, “Groy” (Gray), in the literary magazine Vegn (Paths) in Lodz (1922), and later she published poems and sketches in: S’feld (The field) in Lodz (1922-1925); Der fraytog (Friday) in Lodz-Warsaw (1924-1925); Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper) and Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper) in Lodz.  She was confined in the Lodz ghetto, from which she was deported to Auschwitz and there murdered.

Sources: Ezra Korman, Yidishe dikhterins (Jewish women poets) (Chicago, 1928), pp. 133, 348; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 244.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


AVROM-MORTKHE LEYB (b. July 20, 1898)
            He was born in Lodz, Poland.  He had a traditional Jewish education.  He studied in a Russian school and mastered a number of European languages.  In 1922 he arrived in the United States.  He taught in Workmen’s Circle schools and later in International Labor Order schools.  He wrote children’s stories in: Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) in Vilna; and later in Yungvald (Young forest) and Proletarishe dertsiung (Proletarian education) in New York; and Argentiner beymelekh (Little Argentinian trees) in Buenos Aires.  He wrote numerous children’s plays, some of which were performed and a number were also published: Mir forn in artef-teater (We are going to Artef [Communist-inspired Yiddish theater]) (New York, 1931), 5 pp.; Kolektiv (Collective), in Morgn frayhayt (Morning freedom) (New York) (January 8, 1933); In di gasn tsu di masn (In the streets to the masses), in Morgn frayhayt (June 18, 1933); Tsu gast (Visitor) (New York: Royte fedim, 1934), 16 pp.; Der kluger rikhter (The wise judge), in Yungvald (May 1939); Yidn fun amerike (Jews of the United States), in Yungvald (November-December 1939); A sod (A secret), in Yungvald (January 1945).

Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater) (New York, 1934).

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 332-33.


YOYSEF LITITSHEVSKI (August 10, 1890-January 31, 1960)
            He was born in Krementshug (Kremenchuk), Ukraine.  He worked in a publishing house in Ekaterinoslav.  In 1910 he moved with his parents to Copenhagen, Denmark, and he worked there for the first six months in a Danish publishers and brought out a Yiddish newspaper for Jews living in Scandinavia.  After overcoming numerous material and technical difficulties, he acquired some Jewish type and a small hand machine, found among the Jewish immigrants from Russia some young folks with a desire to write, and with their help right at the deadline of May 21, 1911, published the first issue of Vokhen blat (Weekly newspaper), “independent weekly writing, first Yiddish newspaper in Scandinavia” (before this, he had produced two issues of the newspapers in Yiddish in Romanization).  Initially the newspaper was edited by Ben-Avrom and M. Kats, and Lititshevski was listed as the publisher; later, for a short period of time, H. L. Bregman served as editor.  In 1911 Kalmen-Arn Kohen (Arn Kohen) edited twenty issues, and from issue 14, Y. M. Brender (later to become editor) began to actively contribute.  On May 21, 1912, a commemorative issue of Vokhen blat was published: “one-year jubilee number,” in which was recounted how the newspaper became popular, how Danish Jews in particular had learned Yiddish in order to read this newspaper, and how the founder, Lititshevski, and his family made great sacrifices to make it possible for Vokhen blat to exist.  In 1914 Vokhen blat was published in both Yiddish and Danish (Mosaisk Ugeblad [Mosaic weekly newspaper]), and as editors it listed Lititshevski and Y. Mikhoelson.  He published and edited Vokhen blat until the early 1920s, and he later tried to publish other Yiddish newspapers, but they had no longevity to speak of.  He died in Copenhagen.

Sources: Y. Lititshevski, “Vi azoy ikh hob gegrindet dos vokhen blat(How I founded Vokhen blat), in the one-year commemorative issue of Vokhen blat (Copenhagen) (May 21, 1912); Jul Margolinsky, Jødisk Samfund (Jewish community) (Copenhagen, 1954); written information from Letitshevski’s daughter in Denmark, through the mediation of Y. Zilberberg in New York.
Zaynvl Diamant


MENAKHEM-NOKHUM LITINSKI (September 29, 1852-ca. 1900)
            He was born in Vinitse (Vinnytsa), Podolia.  He studied with the rabbi in the city, R. Yoysef-Yoske Linetski (Yitskhok-Yoyel Linetski’s father).  In his youth he already demonstrated a special inclination for Jewish history.  From age fourteen he was writing essays for: Hamelits (The advocate), Hamagid (The preacher), Hatsfira (The siren), Haivri (The Jew), Haḥavatselet (The daffodil), and Hakol (The voice).  In 1874 he was invited to Bucharest as a contributor to the Yiddish newspaper Hayoets (The advisor), published by his father-in-law.  In 1877 he published in Jassy (Iași) a periodical entitled Shabes oybs (Sabbath fruit), with a supplement in Hebrew entitled Hahelekh (The wayfarer).  In separate publications, he authored: Yiftaḥ (Yiftaḥ), a theatrical tragedy in six acts; Shire mn”l (The poetry of Menaḥem-Naḥum Linitski) and Yalkut mn”l (Compilation of Menaḥem-Naḥum Linitski), commentaries on the weekly portions of the Torah; Gibore yisrael (Heroes of Israel), historical tales from Jewish antiquity (Odessa, 1883), 24 pp.  In Yiddish he published: Der tants tsum toyt (The dance of death); Di betribte kale (The sad bride); Di geheymnise fun vinitsa (The secrets of Vinnytsa); Der batlen (The idle man); Di hagode (The Passover prayer book); Dos rusishe kind (The Russian child); Kuki riki, oder yudishe fayer-tage: satirishe, humoristishe, moralishe un kritishe folks lider (Satirical poems, or Jewish fire days: satirical, humorous, moralistic, and critical folk poetry) (Odessa, 1883), 32 pp.  He also wrote about the history of the Jews in Podolia for Sholem-Aleykhem’s Yudishe folks-biblyotek (Jewish people’s library), vol. 1, and for Spektor’s Hoyzfraynd (House friend) 3; this work appeared in Hebrew under the title Korot podoliya vekadmoniyot hayehudim sham (History of Podolia and the Jewish antiquities there) (Odessa, 1885), 68 pp.; he published in verse: Der falsher meshiekh (The false messiah) (1875).  He left in manuscript a series of stories in Hebrew and in Yiddish, historical treatments entitled “Seder hadorot” (Order of the generations); and Hamadrikh (The instructor), a teaching method for Hebrew, Russian, and German.  He died in Mohilev (Mogilev).

Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2.
Benyomen Elis


            A relative of Menakhem-Nokhum Litinski, he was born in Mohilev (Mogilev), Byelorussia.  He studied in religious primary school and in synagogue study hall.  He went on to work as an elementary school teacher in Minsk and Berdichev.  In 1905 he made his way to the United States.  He worked there as a primary school teacher, a peddler, and the director of a Talmud Torah, but he did not prosper and returned to Russia.  He authored a number of pamphlets, such as: Der krizis oder di tsen bank bilyetn (The crisis or the ten bank tickets), “a story of contemporary bad times” (Berdichev, 1905), 12 pp.; Dos bisel yudishkeyt in amerike (The bit of Jewishness in America) (Berdichev: Kh. Y. Sheftil, 1908), 24 pp.; Reshkhoydesh tamuz far meshugoim (First of Tamuz for lunatics), “a humorous sketch with songs in text (the poor man and the rich man)” (Berdichev, 1908), 32 pp.

Source: Dr. Y. Rivkind, Yidishe gelt (Jewish money) (New York, 1959), see index.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


ARYE LITVINOVSKI (April 22, 1860-February 11, 1937)
            He was born in Nova Praha, Ukraine.  He shortened his surname to Litvin.  He studied in religious primary school and yeshiva.  He moved with his family to Elizavetgrad, where he experienced the first great pogrom in Russia (April 22, 1881).  In 1924 he emigrated to the United States and settled in New Haven, Connecticut.  In book form: Fun farlofene tsaytn (From times obscured) (New York, 1985), 88 + 116 pp., in Yiddish and English.  He also author one part of Hillel Cohen’s Mayne zikhroynes un mayne iberlebenishn (My memoirs and my experiences) (London, 1949), pp. 59-125.  He died in New Haven.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 332.]

Wednesday 22 March 2017


LEYB LITVINOV (b. March 28, 1899)
            Pseudonym of Leyb Gurevitsh, he was born in Minsk, Byelorussia.  From 1917 he was working as an actor on both the Russian and Yiddish stage in Russia.  He led dramatic circles and studios in Minsk and other cities.  He published articles about theater in Shtern (Star) and Oktyabr (October) in Minsk, as well as the Homel-based Russian newspaper Polyeskaia pravda (Polesian truth).  Together with A. Kh. Avin, he composed the play Tsen teg in trest, a kino-satire in 19 epizodn (Ten days in Trieste, a movie theater satire in nineteen episodes) (Minsk: Central Council of Trade Unions in Byelorussia, 1925), 47 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), with a bibliography; Shtern (Minsk) (February 1927).
Yankev Kahan


MORTKHE LITVIN (LITVINE) (September 6, 1906-1993)
      He was born in the town of Shavel (Šiauliai), Lithuania.  He received a secular Jewish education.  He studied humanities at Kovno and Berlin Universities.  He lived for a number of years in Germany and spent 1934-1937 in Nazi prisons.  From 1939 he was living in Paris.  During the Nazi occupation, he was a partisan in the French resistance movement in the south of France.  After the war he returned to Paris where he was active (until 1958) in the cultural institutions in leftist circles and contributed to their press publications; in Di naye prese (The new press) in Paris (1944-1958), he published literary critical essays and theater reviews, as well as translations from French, Russian, and German literature.  He published his own and translated poetry in Parizer shriftn (Parisian writings) in 1946, and contributed as well to: Yizker-bukh fun 14 umgekumene yidishe shrayber (Remembrance volume for fourteen murdered Jewish writers) (Paris, 1946); the monthly journal Oyfsnay (Afresh) in Paris (1947-1948), for which he also served as co-editor; Parizer tsaytshrift (Parisian periodical) (1953-1958), in which he published translations of Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Arthur Rimbaud, and Émile Verhaeren, among others, and served as editor (1954-1958); Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) (Tel Aviv) 40 (pp. 110-17) published a translation by him of fragments of the poem “Shmol zaynen di shifn” (Narrow are the vessels [original: “Étroits sont les Vaisseaux”]) by the Nobel laureate Saint-John Perse; Yidishe kultur (Yiddish culture) in New York, in which (July 1962) he published a translation of five poems by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko.  In 1958 he left Communist circles.  He co-edited, with M. Lerman, Dos bukh fun lublin (The book of Lublin) (Paris, 1952), 680 pp.  He wrote for: Unzer kiem (Our existence) and Unzer vort (Our word) in Paris; and he published essays on French poets and translations of their works, as well as on Yiddish poets in Goldene keyt.  Books include: Frantseyzishe poezye, iberzetsungen un komentarn (French poetry, translations and commentaries) (Paris: Unzer kiem, 1968), 42 + 462 pp.  In 1973 he received the Manger Prize.  The jury’s resolution noted inter alia: “M. Litvin has created for us an illusion, that we are not confronting professional translations, but the actual source, the original, a Yiddish creation itself.”  Among his pen names: M. Valder.

Source: B. Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Warsaw) (October 1954).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 331-32.]


A. LITVIN (1862-March 6, 1943)
            Pseudonym of Shmuel Hurvits, he was born in Minsk, Byelorussia, to poor parents.  Until age twelve he studied in a religious primary school, before turning his attention to secular education.  He worked a teacher, but out of an ideological love of physical work, he left teaching, was a street-paver, later worked in carpentry and carving, was a typesetter, an employee in a business, a bookkeeper, and a street peddler.  In 1901 he arrived in the United States, where he worked in a shoe factory, delivered newspapers, and also was a contributor to radical newspapers in New York.  He began his literary activity with poems in the Russian weekly magazine Rodina (Homeland) in St. Petersburg in the 1890s, later contributing to other Russian-language periodicals.  He also wrote in Hebrew.  His first work in Yiddish was an article entitled “Erets-yisroel un ire heldn” (The land of Israel and its heroes) in Der yud (The Jew) (Warsaw-Cracow) which was founded in 1890.  After coming to America, he was a frequent contributor to Forverts (Forward) and other radical newspapers and magazines in New York.  He published poems, sketches, journalistic pieces, and popular scientific articles, principally on topics in Jewish history.  In 1905 he returned to Russia, living mainly in Warsaw and Vilna.  From May 1909 until the end of 1912, he published in Vilna the “social-literary and popular-scientific” monthly journal Leben un visnshaft (Life and science), with special publications from the journal: the anthologies Shtrahlen (Beams [of light]) in 1909 and Leben un visnshaft in 1911.  The main goal of the journal was to illuminate the most important issues of the day in both general and Jewish life, to create among Jewish youths an optimistic outlook on the world, and to awaken them to active work for their own improvement and the benefit of the people.  The journal published, among other items, characterizations of well-known Yiddish-Hebrew and general writers (such as A. M. Dik, Isaac Baer Levinsohn, Shomer, Linetski, Mapu, Dickens, Tolstoy, and Nekrasov, among others); translations from Bialik, Byron, Shelley, Longfellow, and others; historical works, folklore research, as well as writings by young writing talent in Yiddish, such as Dovid Eynhorn, Shmuel Niger, Leyb Naydus, and others.  He published in Fraynd (Friend) (1911-1912), then still in Warsaw, a series “Notitsn fun a rayzndn iber poyln” (Notes from a traveler through Poland) on Jewish economic life; this was the result of a research trip that he made, beginning in 1905, through the Jewish communities of Poland, Lithuania, and Galicia.  The immense quantity of materials that he amassed over the course of a year-long research project, he then adapted and published in his chief work: Yudishe neshomes (Jewish souls).  When he made his second visit to the United States in 1914, he became editor of a publishing house called “Kapitlekh historye” (Chapters of history).  At the same time, he placed work in various Yiddish newspapers and magazines, such as: Forverts (Forward), Der fraynd (The friend), the Labor Zionist daily Tsayt (Time) in 1920-1922, Der idisher kemfer (The Jewish fighter), Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal), and Tsukunft (Future), among others.  Litvin assembled all manner of folk creations, anecdotes, songs, and folktales.  He was interested in the complex issues in Jewish education, consumer and credit cooperatives, and in making the Jewish masses economically productive and socially healthy.  His greatest accomplishment, though, consists of his six-volume Yudishe neshomes (New York: Folksbildung, 1916-1917), second and third edition (1922)—a work with enormous value for our cultural history through its reflections on hundreds of types and images from all corners of Jewish life from the past, near and far.  He published a portion of his collected folksongs and stories in newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets, but many of his folklore collections remained packed in crates which—together with his own writings and the prepared third volume, Yidishe neshomes in amerike (Jewish souls in America)—were transported to the Yiddish Scientific Institute (YIVO).  Another of his major collections of folktales and old Jewish storybooks was transported to the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.  One volume of Litvin’s Yudishe neshomes also appeared in 1943/1944 in Hebrew translation by Avraham Kariv as Neshamot beyisrael (Tel Aviv: Am Oved).  Litvin was also a community and cultural leader.  He was a cofounder of the first Labor Zionist circle in Minsk and one of the pioneers of Labor Zionism in America.  He had also participated in the first circles of the Bund and in the years of Leben un visnshaft was in contact with illegal Bundist groups in various cities of the Jewish Pale of Settlement in Russia, but he remained closer to the Zionist direction in the Jewish labor movement.  He also stuck to his idea of making Jewish life productive, and he was the founder of the Jewish cooperative labor colony “Harmonia,” near Plainfield, New Jersey, and of the first Yiddish “forest” school in the colony.
            In book form, he published: Di monarkhistishe un parlamentarishe zelbsthershung (The monarchic and parliamentary self-governance) by Karl Kautsky, translated [by Litvin] from the German (Warsaw: Progres, 1906), 34 pp.; In arbayt un noyt, lider un gedikhte (In labor and need, poetry) (Vilna, 1908), 87 pp.; Funem kheydershen pinkes (Records from the elementary school) (Vilna: Di velt, 1908), 87 pp.; In der nayer heym, bilder fun nyu yorker geto (In the new home, images from the New York ghetto) (Vilna: Di velt, 1908), 87 pp.; In podryad, poeme (In the matzo factory, a poem) (Vilna: Leben un visnshaft, 1909), 45 pp.; Shomer un zayn roman (Shomer and his novel) (New York, 1910); Ayzik-meyer dik (Ayzik-Meyer Dik) (New York, 1911); Unzer naye shul, khrestomatye (Our new school, a reader), by Y. Levin, Y. Lukovski, and Sh. Hurvits (Litvin) (Warsaw, 1913), 230 pp.; Momentn un perzonen in der yidisher geshikhte (Moments and persons in Jewish history) (New York: Folksbildung, 1915), 173 pp.; Akhashveyresh, purim-shpil, folks-operete in dray akten (Ahasuerus, Purim play, folk operetta in three acts) (New York: Literarisher farlag, 1916), 32 pp.; Yudishe neshomes, six volumes—1. “Lite” (Lithuania); 2. “Lite”; 3. “Lite”; 4. “Poylen” (Poland); 5. “Galitsyen” (Galicia); 6. “Baym rebns tish” (At the rebbe’s table)—(New York: Folksbildung, 1916-1917); Neshamot beyisrael (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1943/1944), vol. 1, 194 pp., translated from the Yiddish by A. Kariv; Lekoved peysekh, yontefdike zamlung fun literarishe, kultur-historishe un folkloristishe artiklen (folks-mayses, vitsn, anekdotn) far shul un heym (In honor of Passover, holiday collection of literary, cultural historical, and folkloristic articles—folktales, jokes, anecdotes—for school and home) (New York, 1938), 62 pp.  Litvin led a reclusive life in America, moving around for many years through Jewish farms, never speaking about his personal life, and living in a poor room in the neighborhood of Coney Island, where he ended the days of his life all alone.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Yoyel Entin, Yidishe poetn (Jewish poets), part 2 (New York, 1927), p. 42; Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life) (Vilna, 1929), part 1, p. 169; A. Reyzen, in Tsukunft (New York) (February 1931); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Tsukunft (January 1931); Charney, Barg-aroyf, bletlekh fun lebn (Uphill, pages from life) (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1935), pp. 226-29; A. Frumkin, in Forverts (New York) (March 19, 1932); H. Meyerson (Y. Kisin), in Tsukunft (November 1932); H. Rogof, in Forverts (June 23, 1935); Sh. Rabinovitsh, in Tsukunft (September 1935); G. Solomon (Sh. Grodzenski), in Idisher kemfer (New York) (March 12, 1943); B. Y. Byalostotski, in Tsukunft (May 1943); Byalostotski, Kholem un vor, eseyen (Dream and reality, essays) (New York, 1956), pp. 409-16; Sholem Levin, Untererdishe kemfer (Underground fighter) (New York, 1946), pp. 323-25; Geshikhte fun der tsienistisher arbeter-bavegung in tsofn-amerike (History of the Zionist workers’ movement in North America), 2 vols. (New York, 1955), see index; Talush, Yidishe shrayber (Yiddish writers) (Miami Beach, 1955), pp. 179-84; Shlomo Shreberk, Zikhronot hamotsi laor (Memoirs of a publisher) (Tel Aviv, 1954/1955), pp. 111-12; Y. A. Rontsh, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (New York, 1960); B. Tsukerman, in Idisher kemfer (Rosh Hashanah issue, February 23, 1962 [?]).
Mortkhe Yofde

Tuesday 21 March 2017


MOYSHE LITVAKOV (1879-December 1937)

            He was a literary critic, current events writer, and editor, born in Tsherkas (Cherkasy), Ukraine, to a father who was a religious primary school teacher who had moved there from Lithuania. He studied Talmud in religious elementary school and synagogue study hall until age seventeen. Proficient in Talmud, commentators, and responsa literature, at age seventeen he became a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, turned his attention to secular topics of learning, and sat as an external student for the examinations to the eighth class at high school. Over the years 1902-1905, he lived in Paris, studying philosophy, history, and literature at the Sorbonne. His political and social activities began in the latter half of the 1890s as a follower of Aad-Haam’s national and Zionist ideas, but soon he became one of the first leaders of “proletarian Zionism” (Labor Zionism or workers’ Zionism), and together with Yankev Leshtshinski, Shimen Dobin, and other participants in the Rovno Conference (spring 1903), he belonged to the group of Zionist socialists who organized the “Vozrozhdenye” (Rebirth) conference. In the winter of 1904 at a conference in Odessa, when Vozrozhdenye crystalized into the Zionist-Socialist Party, Litvakov (then still in Paris) was selected onto the central committee of the new party. In 1905, after the first Russian Revolution, he returned to Russia, became one of the ideologues and one of the most important leaders of the Zionist-Socialist Party, and (using the pseudonym Nitsuts) contributed to all of the publications of the party. Under the pen name Simenzon, he published for the first time in 1903 two short articles for the Russian-language Vozrozhdenye (nos. 3-4) concerning political matters. In 1906 he edited in Vilna the party’s organs in Yiddish: Der nayer veg (The new way), Unzer veg (Our way), and Dos vort (The word). At that time, he also published a pamphlet: Der tsienizmus un di ugande-frage (Zionism and the Uganda question) (Warsaw: Medina, 1907/1908), 34 pp. At that time he was writing articles [in Hebrew] for Hazman (The times). In 1908 he became a regular contributor to the highly influential Russian daily newspaper Kievskaia mysl' (Kievan thought), in which he primarily wrote (under the pen name M. Lirov) on Russian and Western European literary topics, as well as on Jewish social issues. He also placed work in the anthology Fun tsayt tsu tsayt (From time to time) (Kiev: Kunst farlag, 1911-1912) and elsewhere.

During WWI he devoted his attention to aid work for Jewish refugees from the front zones, and he contributed to an inter-party aid meeting in St. Petersburg (in 1916), where together with representatives of the Bund, he administered the principle of “aid through work” for the homeless. After the February Revolution in 1917, he played an important role in founding the “Fareynikte” (United socialist party), and he was a co-editor of the daily organ of the party, Di naye tsayt (The new times), in which, aside from topical political articles, he also published significant treatments of problems in Jewish community life, Jewish national autonomy, and the like. He was a cofounder of the Kultur-lige (Culture league) in 1918; one of three directors of the “Litkom” (All-Ukrainian literary committee); and head of the Yiddish section of Litkom. He edited the collection Baginen (Dawn), which the Jewish section published in Kiev in 1919, and he contributed to the collection Eygns (One’s own), to the journal Bikher-velt (Book world), and to virtually all Yiddish publications in Kiev in this violent period.

            One of the most active members in the central Ukrainian “Rada” (provisional parliament), Litvakov was ideologically approaching Bolshevism ever more. After a series of efforts to create from the Fareynikte and the Bund one joint party, when the Red Army invaded Ukraine in early 1919, Litvakov brought about a split in the Fareynikte and, as leader of the splinter left wing, joined the Communist Bund—or “Kombund”—which embraced the name of “Komfarband” (Communist Union). In May of that year, the Komfarband became an integral part of the Ukrainian Communist Party, and from that point on, over the course of more than a decade and one half, Litvakov played an exceptionally important role in Jewish life in the Soviet Union—as an authoritative force in the Jewish section of the All-Russian Communist Party: the Yevsektsye (Jewish section). Around 1921 he moved to Moscow where in 1924 he became editor of Der emes (The truth), the Yiddish-language organ of the Communist central committee in Soviet Russia. In his daily articles for the newspaper, he concentrated on “Octoberizing” Yiddish literature in Russia, while he served as steward of anti-religious campaigns in the country, contributing to the Russian-language Bezbozhnik (Atheist) and assaulting with the profound sharpness of his biting satire the “hardened ideology of the Jewish people” also outside Russia. An ideologue of “traditional Jewish revolutionism” even before he became a Bolshevik, in his post-October period he strove to establish Yiddish literature in the service of “Jewish revolution,” and he became the spokesman for the so-called “proletarian critic” in Yiddish literature. He devoted much attention as well to Yiddish theater, and his name was closely linked to the development and revival of the Moscow State Chamber Theater (with Aleksey Granovski as the director).

            The great majority of his journalistic articles and literary critical writings remain scattered through Soviet Yiddish newspapers and journals, with only a portion of them collected in book form: In umru (In anxiety), vol. 1 (Kiev: Shul un bukh, 1918), 120 pp., a selection of Litvakov’s articles from the years 1906-1918 which include, among others, “Yidishlekher revolutsyonizm” (Traditional Jewish revolutionism), “A bisl sotsyal-psikhologye” (A little social psychology), articles on Mendele Moykher-Sforim, Sholem-Aleykhem, Perets, Sholem Asch, A. Vayter, Bergelson, and others, with Litvakov’s important preface; Finf yor melukhisher idisher kamer-teater, 1919-1924 (Five years of the Yiddish State Chamber Theater, 1919-1924) (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1924), 144 pp.; In umru, second volume (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1926), 219 pp.; Af tsvey frontn, zamlung artiklen (On two fronts, collection of articles) (Moscow: Central People’s Publishers, USSR, 1931), 175 pp. Litvakov was a member of the Institute for Jewish Culture at the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences, later professor of Yiddish literature and Jewish history in the Jewish division of the pedagogical institute in Moscow. Over the years 1924-1928, he was also director of the “Shul and bukh” (School and book) publishing house in Moscow. He was editor of Emes-zhurnal (Truth magazine), an illustrated biweekly journal which appeared between January and May 1928 in Moscow. He frequently pointed out problems with Soviet Yiddish literature and led highly polemical battles with foreign Yiddish writers.

            He was a tragic figure in the history of Yiddish literature and culture generally. Necessarily, because he never so much as doubted the justice of his sentence, he could not avoid outrageous conflicts. However ingenious, it was not his brilliant mind, and however severe it was not his judgments as a writer—his written work and stories—he could nevertheless not foresee how Yiddish literature would develop in the Soviet Union and what sacrifices it bring to the altar of history and among them—including himself, Moyshe Litvakov. The last time that his name was mentioned as editor of Der emes was the issue published on October 15, 1927. From 1931 a systematic struggle against Litvakov suddenly erupted in the Soviet Yiddish press. They charged that he was undermining organized proletarian Yiddish literature, that he defended nationalist-Menshevik conceptions of the “cultural heritage,” and that he was guilty of intuition, among other things. He defended himself with all the vigor of his fighting character. He thrashed right and left, not to allow the literary slander against him and then to repent, to admit errors he committed, regret them, and deny his earlier positions. This saved him in 1932. He was returned to his editorial post at Der emes, from which he had been removed for a time. But the attacks on him continued coming. In the 1930s, during the wild Stalinist terror, his enemies in Soviet Yiddish literature incriminated him for Trotskyist tendencies in his writings. He was arrested with the sadly well-known “nighttime visits” in the summer of 1937, and, according to an officially published report, this “enemy of the people” would have died in prison shortly after his arrest.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Shmuel Niger, Lezer, dikhter, kritiker (Reader, poet, critic) (New York, 1928), vol. 1, pp. 129-47, vol. 2, pp. 479-92; Niger, Kritik un kritiker (Criticism and critic) (Buenos Aires, 1959), pp. 59-67, 221-27; M. Shalit, Lukhes in undzer literatur (Calendars in our literature) (Vilna, 1929), pp. 40-41; A. Gurshteyn, in Visnshaftlekhe yorbikher (Scholarly annuals) (Moscow, 1929), vol. 1; Yankev Leshtshinski, Tsvishn lebn un toyt (Between life and death), vol. 1 (Vilna, 1930); M. Kiper, in Di royte velt (Kharkov) (June 1930; September-October 1931); Y. Bronshteyn, in Atake (Attack) (Moscow, 1931), pp. 298-300, 319-31; Bronshteyn, Problemen fun leninishn etap in der literatur-kentenish (Problems of the Leninist stage in literary knowledge) (Minsk, 1932), pp. 28, 91ff; Kh. Dunets, Di iberdikhtung-teorye fun kh. litvakov (The poetic theory of Comrade Litvakov) (Minsk, 1932); Dunets, in Di royte velt (March 1932; May 1932); A. Abtshuk, Etyudn un materialn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur bavegung in FSRR (Studies and material for the history of the Yiddish literature movement in the Soviet Union) (Kharkov, 1934), pp. 48-49; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Vokhnshrift far literatur (Warsaw) (March 4, 1932); Kazdan, in Foroys (Warsaw) (November 11, 1938); Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), see index; A. Litvak, in Tsukunft (new York) (May 1932); Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 2, 1933; February 20, 1935); Mukdoni, in the anthology Lite (Lithuania), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), pp. 1073-74; B. Glazman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (October 4, 1940); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), A yortsendlik aza, 1914-1924, memuarn (Such a decade, 1914-1924, memoirs) (New York, 1943), pp. 295-97, 311-12, 314-20; Charney, Vilne (Vilna) (Buenos Aires, 1951), pp. 149-52; Al. Pomerants, in Dovid edelshtat gedenk-bukh (Dovid Edelshtot memory book) (New York, 1953), see index; Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1961), p. 481; Ben-tsien Kats, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (August 7, 1955); Zalmen Shneur, Ḥ. n. bialik uvene doro (Ḥ. N. Bialik and his contemporaries) (Tel Aviv, 1958), pp. 340-48; Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation) (New York, 1958), pp. 287-304; N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher arbeter in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Jewish worker in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), see index; Y. Kohn, Baym rand fun onhoyb (At the edge of the beginning) (New York, 1960), pp. 218ff; Y. Lifshits and M. Altshuler, comps., Briv fun yidishe sovetishe shraybers (Letters of Soviet Jewish writers) (Jerusalem, 1979/1980), pp. 233-39.

Borekh Tshubinski

[Additional information from: 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. 206-7.]


MEYER LITVAK (1861-1932)
            He was born in Kremenits, Volhynia.  He graduated from a Russian public school and a Russian high school, and later he studied medicine.  During the Russo-Japanese War, he was a military doctor at the front, in Harbin, and in Khabarovsk, and he received the rank of general.  He was again mobilized as a military doctor during WWI.  He was a pioneer in the Zionist movement in his home city, and for many years he was chairman of Volhynia Zionist organization, a member of the executive of TOZ (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia [Society for the protection of health]), and chair of the doctors’ association of Kremenits.  He published articles in the weekly newspapers: Vohliner leben (Volhynia life), Voliner shtime (Voice of Volhynia), and Kremenitser leben (Kremenits life).  In 1928 he visited the United States on a community assignment.  He died in Kremenits.

Sources: Obituary in Voliner shtime (Rovne) 15 (1932); M. Sambirer, in Pinkes kremenits (Records of Kremenits) (Tel Aviv, 1953), pp. 360-62.
Benyomen Elis


A. LITVAK (LITWAK) (1874-September 20, 1932)
            The pseudonym of Khayim-Yankl Helfand, he was born in Vilna.  About his origins and childhood, Litvak wrote in an autobiographic note: “My paternal grandfather was a peddler.  He and my grandmother traveled until they were very old with horse and buggy over the swamps and forests of Polesia.  My maternal grandfather was a fisherman, and with his boats he plied the rivers of Lithuania.  As far as I can remember, I have lived in a world of stories of horse and buggy, fishing nets and boats.  In his youth my father was a wagon driver; later, he worked with a wheelbarrow and spade along the train line between Vilna and Pinsk.”  At age four Litvak encountered a misfortune.  He was running to take a peek at a wedding, fell down a flight of stairs, and broke his hipbone.  He lay sick in bed for four years and was left limping for the rest of his life.  Until age twelve he studied in religious elementary school, later attended Rameyle’s yeshiva in Vilna, as well as the yeshivas of Eyshishok (Eišiškės), Volozhin, Slonim, and Slutsk.  At the same time he read voluminously and studied Russian.  For a time he was a teacher in rural communities and a preacher in the small synagogues of craftsmen.  In 1893 when he came to Vilna, he became acquainted with several former fellow yeshiva students who were now connected with “illegal” sorts.  Before Passover that year, he and a friend, a laborer, went to work in a matzo-producing plant.  Witnessing the overwhelming need of the women workers in the matzo bakery, Litvak described their hardship in a leaflet, and he and two friends pasted these leaflets in synagogue study halls.  This leaflet introduced him to pioneer Jewish socialist circles, from which later emerged the Bund.  At that time, he and his closest friends (Bobrov, Levinski, and B. Kletskin—the later publisher) established in Vilna an illegal Jewish library for workers.  At the same time Litvak penned his first literary work in Yiddish.  He dubbed it “Tolerants” (Tolerance), but Mortkhe Spektor, to whom Litvak sent this piece to publish in one of Spektor’s literary volumes, entitled it “Hert un veyst” (Hear and know) and brought it out in Der lamtern (The lantern) in Warsaw (1894).  This first published piece—an adaptation of a midrashic legend—was signed with the pseudonym “Khaye Zeldes,” whose initials were that of his own name, Khayim-Yankl Helfand, and that of his mother Zelde.  In the spring of 1894, Litvak was very close to the leader of the socialist circles Gozhanski and translated for him from Russian a series of articles used as explanatory material in these circles.  In the winter of 1894-1895, he was back teaching and he then translated from Russian Sh. An-ski’s “The Story of a Family” which appeared in early 1895 under the title in Yiddish: “Di milkhome farn lebn” (The war for life), with the translator’s name not given.  That year in Vilna, with help from Dovid Pinski and the Vilna group of Jewish social democrats, there was established the “Zhargonisher komitet” (Yiddish committee), whose goal was to publish and disseminate popular scientific and fictional literature in Yiddish and to found Yiddish libraries in the provinces.  Over the course of the three years of its existence, this committee published (with the publishing house of A. Kotik and A. Bresler) eight pamphlets, two of them by Litvak entitled Vinter abenden (Winter evenings), written under the pseudonym Khaye Zeldes again.  He wrote the first part in the winter of 1895-1896, when he was working again as a teacher, and he completed the second part in political prison in Vilna, where he sat from June 1896 until the end of May 1897.  He was then extremely active in the nascent socialist movement, had traveled through a number of towns in which he organized Jewish workers (his arrest in 1896 took place while he was on an assignment organizing the tanners in Oshmene [Oszmiana] or Smorgon [Smarhon]).  After spending a year behind bars, Litvak was exiled administratively to Ekaterinoslav.  From there he sent articles for the illegal Bundist Arbayter-shtime (Voice of labor), which just then began to appear in print.  He was arrested once again in 1900 and in February 1902 deported to Siberia, and from there he returned in December 1904—and he soon returned to party work.  He wrote for Arbayter-shtime, whose last issues he composed virtually entirely by himself.  In the very last number (40) of the newspaper, he used his pseudonym A. Litvak for the first time in an article entitled “Unzere shtrayt-fragn” (Issues in our conflict), about the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.  From that point on, Litvak was ever more tied to the Bund in all his activities.  In January 1905 he traveled to Warsaw where he edited the Bundist organ, Der varshever arbayter (The Warsaw worker), published legally, and in July 1906 he edited in Warsaw the Bundist serial Der glok (The bell), this time illegally.  Litvak wrote a great deal at the time for the legal organs of the Bund which were published in Vilna: Der veker (The alarm) (1905-1906) and Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) (1906-1907).  He occupied a special place in both newspapers, as he was at the time the most accomplished man of letters in the Bund.  In November 1907 when they attempted to publish Di hofnung (The hope) in Vilna (in place of the now closed down Folkstsaytung), the police arrested all of the members of the editorial board, among them Litvak, who then spent eight months in the Lukishker Prison in Vilna.  In 1908 he edited the literary-community weekly Der tog af shabes (Today, on the Sabbath) and a collection Fayerlekh (Little fires) to honor Hanukkah (published by “Di velt” [The world] in Vilna).  Over the years 1908-1911, he contributed to various anthologies that the Bund was then publishing: Di yudishe velt (The Jewish world) (Vilna, 1908); Tsayt-fragn (Issues of the day) (Vilna, 1910); Di naye tsayt (The new times) (Vilna, 1910); Di yudishe folksshtime (The voice of the Jewish people) (Warsaw, 1911); and Fragen fun leben (Questions of life) (St. Petersburg, 1911).  Litvak was also on the editorial board of the weekly Lebens-fragen (Life issues) (Warsaw, 1912, closed by the authorities after its first issue).  He was also a frequent contributor to Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg, and when the editor of that newspaper, Sh. Rozenfeld, left in 1908 for the United States, Litvak served as editor for three months.  In 1909 he was a delegate from the Bund to the conference of Jewish representatives in Kovno.  When in 1912 the Bund began to publish in St. Petersburg the weekly Di tsayt (The times) and a great number of the members of the editorial board were located in Vienna, Litvak was among the Vienna group on the board.  From Vienna, he moved to Switzerland, where he participated in the activities of the foreign committee of the Bund.  With the outbreak of WWI in August 1914, he decided to move to the United States.
            In early April 1915 Litvak arrived in New York and soon became active in the Jewish socialist movement in America.  He was regular contributor to the organ of the Jewish Socialist Federation, Di naye velt (The new world), and later one of its editors.  He appeared at numerous conferences, gave lectures throughout the country, and served as a member of the editorial board of the journal Di tsayt (published by the Socialist Federation) as well as the anthologies Dos idishe yorbukh (The Jewish yearbook) (New York, 1917) and Dos revolutsyonere rusland (Revolutionary Russia) (New York, 1917).  After the 1917 Revolution, Litvak returned to Russia, arriving in St. Petersburg at the time when the Bolsheviks were leading their fight against the Kerensky government.  He was then writing for the revived organ of the Bund in St. Petersburg, Di arbayter-shtime, and soon (September 1917) he moved to Minsk where he became a co-editor of the central organ of the Bund, Der veker.  He wrote a great deal for the newspaper (under a variety of pen names) and at the same time traveled through various cities of Byelorussia and everywhere had the audience spellbound both with his propaganda speeches and with his lectures on Jewish and general literature.  When the Germans occupied Minsk in 1918, he left for Kiev where he became one of the leaders of the anti-Bolshevik wing of the Bund.  There, he was also active in “Kultur-lige” (Culture league) and co-edited the monthly Baginen (Dawn) in 1919 and the collection Der royter pinkes (The red records), vol. 1 (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1920).  At this time Litvak’s work Yitskhok-yoyel linyetski, kultur-historishe shtrikhn fun der haskole-epokhe (Yitskhok-Yoyel Linetski, cultural historical features of the era of the Jewish Enlightenment) (Kiev, 1919), 55 pp. appeared in print.  He also edited the Bundist social-democratic publications: Di hofenung (The hope) in Kiev (March 1920); Frayhayt (Freedom), an anthology, in Kiev (1920); and others.  When the social-democratic Bundists in April 1920 in Moscow abandoned the twelfth conference of the Bund and established a special organization entitled “Algemeyner yidisher arbeter bund, sotsyal-demokrat” (General Jewish labor Bund, social-democrat), Litvak was selected onto the central committee of it.  After the Bolsheviks closed down Kultur-lige in Kiev, Litvak traveled through Russia, was arrested in Moscow and then in Minsk, and made his way eventually to Vilna.  The Bundist movement had by then split apart, and Litvak remained with the social-democratic Bund.  The organization began then to bring out a weekly entitled Unzer tsayt (Our time)—the first issue appeared on January 14, 1922—and he served on its editorial board together with Y. Okun, Y. Kharlash, Rivke Epshteyn, and Dr. P. Anman-Rozental.  When the Polish authorities closed down the newspaper with its twenty-fourth issue and the social-democratic Bund brought out in its stead the weekly Unzer gedank (Our idea), Litvak was chief editor.  In those years, he would travel between Vilna and Warsaw.  He was among the active leaders in the Warsaw Kultur-lige, taking a prominent position in Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization), and contributing to the Warsaw collections Der royter pinkes, the annual Bundist Arbeter-luekh (Workers’ calendar), and other serials.  He was also editor of the journal Kultur (Culture), published by the Kultur-lige, and a contributor to Bikher-velt (Book world), also a product of the Kultur-lige; he wrote for the daily Bundist Folkstsaytung, mainly on literary and community cultural matters, as well as for Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw.  In 1925 he again traveled to the United States, initially on a lecture tour, but he remained there until his final days.  He wrote for: Veker (Alarm) and was editor of it for a time, Tsukunft (Future), Fraynd, and Forverts (Forward), among others, in New York.  He contributed to an array of anthologies and attempted to publish his own periodical: Bleter far problemen fun sotsyalizm un kunst (Pages for problems of socialism and art), only two issues.  On September 20, 1932, Litvak died in New York after a long illness.
            Litvak’s journalistic literary activities were not limited solely to articles on timely issues; some of his writings were highly important contributions to the history of the Jewish labor movement and to the cultural history of the Jews in the nineteenth century.  These would include, first and foremost: “Di zhargonishe komitetn” (The Yiddish committees); “Arn zundelevitsh” (Arn Zundelevich); “Lobuzes, ganovim un kombinatorn” (Malicious types, thieves, and schemers), published in the volumes of Royte pinkes; “Afn feld fun kultur” (In the field of culture); “Di yidishe literatur in 1924” (Yiddish literature in 1924); and “Der bund in varshe, 1905” (The Bund in Warsaw, 1905), in Arbeter-luekh (Warsaw, 1922, 1925, and 1926).  In addition to those mentioned above, other works by him in book form include: Vinter-abenden (Warsaw, 1897, 1912), reprinted six times (1905 edition, 112 pp.); Der kleynbirgerlekher sotsyalizm (Petit bourgeois socialism) (Warsaw: Di velt, 1906), 32 pp., written under the pen name “Levi”; Bay di bregn fun temze (By the banks of the Thames), a report from the London conference of the Russian Social Democratic Workers’ Party (Vilna: Di velt, 1907), 231 pp., written as “Levi” together with D. Zaslavski-Bogrov; Shvartse kuntsn oder di poylish-yidishe farshtendikung (The black arts or the Polish-Jewish arrangement) (Warsaw: Di velt, 1923); Vos geven, etyudn un zikhroynes (What happened, studies and memoirs) (Vilna-Warsaw: B. Kletskin, 1925), 287 pp.; Vert sotsyalistn, andere megen dos zayn, arbeter muzn dos zayn (Become socialists, other may be, workers must be [socialists]) (New York: Yidishe sotsyalistishe farband, 1930), 32 pp.; Literatur un kamf, literarishe eseyen (Literature and struggle, literary essays) (New York: Yidishe sotsyalistishe farband, 1933), 272 pp., published posthumously; Ma shehaya (What happened), Hebrew translation by Sh. Ben-Avraham of Vos geven, with an array of items that were not included in the Yiddish work, with prefatory words from L. Levita (Tel Aviv: Histadrut, 1945), 256 pp.; Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings), published with the assistance of Branch 90 of the Workmen’s Circle, Trenton, New Jersey, on the fortieth anniversary of the branch (1945), 496 pp.—the last work here was prepared for publication by Kh. Sh. Kazdan who also wrote Litvak’s biography and including as well a bibliography of Litvak’s work.  He also wrote under such pen names as: Levi, A. Muk, A. Gurski, Ben Yokhed, Borekh, B. Riger, and Y. Grin.  “I have known him for a long time,” wrote A. Liessin, “and am aware of his frailties….  He was already seriously ill at the time….  And I saw him in extreme heat, as he lay absent-mindedly with his heavy body on a one chair, with his sickly foot on a second chair, with great globs of sweat on his forehead, with a thick year’s worth of Tsukunft right before his nearsighted eyes, and I thought to myself how nature can tinker with us—such harmony in disharmony, such subtlety in crudity, so many people, ‘ordinary folk,’ chosen and conspicuous.”  “Litvak’s socialism,” noted Leybish Lehrer, “preceded everyone else’s and was more ethical and substantive than all others.  Scientific prophesying about a society that ought to come inspired him less than prophetic prophesying about a society that had to come….  When he stood at the podium and spoke, he used no facial gestures….  His language flowed smoothly, purely, like a clear river.  The sharpness of his gaze shot through his eyeglasses and stuck right into the mood of the audience….  His impact on followers was truly phenomenal.”  “He was the best Jewish socialist publicist,” wrote A. Mukdoni, “[and] his articles were clear and to the point, not a superfluous word, no detours getting to the theme.  He always had the most direct and therefore the shortest route to handle a question.”  “Despite the fact that nature disabled his foot and made it physically difficult for him,” observed Dovid Eynhorn, “he was….a veritable whirlwind, a quicksilver who never rested in any one spot, never sought any calm, never had a home, always wandering.  A wishing ring that would suddenly disappear and then emerge where you least expected it.”

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; P. Anman-Rozental, in the anthology 25 yor (Twenty-five years) (Warsaw, 1922), pp. 67ff; Anman-Rozental, in Royte pinkes (Warsaw) 2 (1924), pp. 7ff; N. Mayzil, Noente un vayte (Near and far), vol. 2 (Warsaw: Kletskin, 1926), pp. 154-59; N. A. Bukhbinder, Di geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter-bavegung in rusland, loyt nit-gedrukte arkhiṿ-materyaln (The history of the Jewish labor movement in Russia, according to unpublished archival materials) (Vilna, 1931), see index; N. Khanin, in Forverts (New York) (September 21, 1932); Khanin, in Der veker (New York) (October 1, 1949); Dr. A. Khoralnik, in Tog (New York) (September 23, 1932); Sh. Rabinovitsh, P. Gelibter, Y. Vaynberg, and Kh. Kantorovitsh, all in Der veker (October 1, 1932); R. Abramovitsh, in Forverts (October 8, 1932); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (October 8, 1932); Niger, Habikoret uveayoteha (Inquiry and its problems) (Jerusalem, 1957), p. 351; D. Eynhorn, in Der veker (October 29, 1932); Eynhorn, in Forverts (October 2, 1948); Leybush Lehrer, in Idish (New York) 17 (1932); Kh. L. Poznanski, Memuarn fun a bundist (Memoirs of a Bundist) (Warsaw, 1938), pp. 127, 238; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, “Der lebns-veg fun a. litvak” (The life path of A. Litvak), in A. Litvak, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (Trenton, 1945), pp. 9-159; Kazdan and Shifre Kazdan, “A. litvak-biblyografye” (A. Litvak bibliography), in Litvak, Geklibene shriftn, pp. 483-95; Kh. Sh. Kazdan, in Unzer tsayt (New York) (September 6, 1952); Kazdan, Fun kheyder un shkoles biz tsisho (From religious and secular primary schools to Tsisho) (Mexico City, 1956), see index; Z. Segalovitsh, Tlomatske 13, fun farbrentn nekhtn (13 Tłomackie St., of scorched yesterdays) (Buenos Aires, 1946); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Hadoar (New York) (Sivan 4 [= May 23], 1947); V. Shulman, in Tsukunft (New York) (May 1947); D. Naymark, in Forverts (October 11, 1952); A. Liessin, Zikhroynes un bilder (Memoirs and images) (New York, 1954), pp. 272ff; P. Kurski, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings) (New York, 1952), see index; Y. Sh. Herts, Di yidishe sotsyalistishe bavegung in amerike, 70 yor sotsyalistishe tetikeyt, 30 yor yidishe sotsyalistishe farband (The Jewish socialist movement in America, seventy years of socialist activity, thirty years of the Jewish Socialist Union) (New York, 1954), see index; Dr. A. Mukdoni, In varshe un in lodzh (In Warsaw and in Lodz) (Buenos Aires, 1955), see index; Abram der Tate, Bleter fun mayn yugnt, zikhroynes fun a Bundist (Pages from my youth, memoirs of a Bundist) (New York, 1959), pp. 221, 259; Di geshikhte fun “bund” (The history of the Bund), vol. 1 (New York, 1960), see index; Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Workmen’s Circle builders and leaders) (New York, 1962), pp. 210-11.
Mortkhe-Velvl Bernshteyn