Friday 24 March 2017


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).


  1. Dear Joshua, thank you very much for this article on Daniel Leibel. Please be informed that Daniel Leibel was the editor of the Sefer Dembitz - his hometown (see: As I am a researcher interested in the history and culture of Jews in Debica (Dembitz), I would appreciate any photograph or portrait of Daniel Leibel. Do you think I can find my way to any of Daniel Leibel's relatives in Israel? Please let me know. Best regards, Ben Goldberg

    1. Thank you. I'm afraid contacting the relatives of Mr. Goldberg id beyond me, but I wish the best of luck.

    2. If you have not already found them, I can put you in touch.

      David Leibel (London, Uk)