Monday 13 March 2017


KHAYIM LIBERMAN (June 1892-1991)
            He was born in Pleshtshinyets (Plyeshchanitsy), Minsk district, Byelorussia, into a family of Chabad Hassidim.  He studied in religious elementary school in Lyozna and in Lubavitcher yeshivas.  Over the years 1925-1950, he was secretary and confidante to the Lubavitcher rebbe, Rabbi Yosef-Yitzchak Schneerson, and together they underwent all the harrowing experiences from Rostov to New York.  When the Cheka in 1927 arrested the Lubavitcher rebbe, Liberman and the rebbe were jailed in the Leningrad prison, later sentenced to Tambov to serve a three-year term, but freed one year later.  Together they left Russia.  In 1928 they reached Riga, and thereafter lived in Otvosk (Otwock) and Warsaw.  In 1930 he visited the United States, then returned to Poland where he lived until WWII and for a short time under the Nazis; then, with great difficulty, he escaped to Riga and from there via Stockholm made his way to the United States in the summer of 1940.  In New York he turned to rebuilding the library of the Lubavitcher rebbe, which he filled consistently with rarities of great bibliographic value, among them highly important editions of the old stylized Yiddish literature.  He was a bibliographer and great lover of the Yiddish language; he unearthed treasures of Yiddish from forgotten generations and brought them alive through his commentaries.  From 1927 he was a contributor to Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), initially in Vilna and later in New York, in which among other items he published: “Vegn der oysgabe fun shivkhe be”sht in yidish” (On the edition of In Praise of Baal Shem Tov in Yiddish); “Der blumengortn, an umbakante yidishe tsaytshrift” (The flower garden, an unknown Yiddish periodical); “R. nakhmen braslaver un di umaner khsidim” (Rabbi Nakhmen of Braslav and the Uman Hassidism); “Vegn dem mekhaber fun yidishn far peysekh” (On the author of Yiddish for Passover); “Tsu der frage vegn der batsiung fun khsides tsu yidish” (On the issue of the connection between Hassidism and Yiddish); and “Legende un emes vegn di khsidishe drukerayen” (Legend and truth about the Hassidic publishing houses); among others.  In the “Biblyografishe bamerkungen” (Bibliographic remarks) section of Yivo-bleter, he wrote: “Tsu der biblyografye fun a. m. dik” (On the bibliography of A. M. Dik).”  His essay “Der opshtam fun sider un tsu der genealogye fun sidurim” (The origin of the daily prayer book and the genealogy of prayer books) was lost.  He was also a regular contributor to: Yidishe shprakh (Yiddish language) in New York, in which he published explanations of Yiddish words found in old Yiddish religious works and booklet by forgotten writers; Kiryat sefer (Republic of letters) in Jerusalem, in which he published research on writings for wedding entertainers, Hebrew and Yiddish publishing houses, a bibliographic work on the pamphlet Milin derabanan (Words of the rabbis), and the like.  In Sefer hayovel lekhvod prof. aleksander marks (Commemorative volume honoring Prof. Alexander Marx) (New York, 1943), pp. 15-22, he published some bibliographic notes: “Letoldot r’ levi-yitsḥak miberditshov” (Toward a biography of Rabbi Levi-Yitskhok of Berdichev), “Letoldot hadefus berusya” (Toward the history of publishing in Russia), and “Letoldot hadefus bevarsha” (Toward the history of publishing in Warsaw).  He also placed work in Bitsaron (Fortress), such as the essay: “Ketsad ḥakarim ḥasidut beyisrael” (How Hassidism is studied in Israel), which earned admiration for “his foundational analysis and internal knowledge of [the subject’s] nature” (Shmuel Niger).  He worked later in the YIVO library in New York, collecting rescued religious texts and books from the Strashun Library in Vilna.  One later work: Ohel raḥel (The tent of Rachel), part 2 “In the antechamber of Hassidism, literary-historical matters, in the field of Jewish research” (New York, 1980), 568 pp.—the first and third parts of this work appeared in Hebrew.  He was last living in Brooklyn.  “Rabbi Khayim Liberman,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “the Lubavitcher rebbe’s librarian, with his mastery of old (and not only old) religious works, is one of a kind.  A researcher, a scholarly researcher, with a justifiably earned proficiency, hammers away at our secular scholars—principally those who write about Hassidism and Hassidim—with their own weaponry: with historical, bibliographic, biographical, and other realms of knowledge.  He stands on guard for the Hassidic, pious tradition, and he is armed with modern weaponry.”

Sources: Di yesurim fun libavitsher rebn in sovet-rusland (The sorrows of the Lubavitcher rebbe in Soviet Russia) (Riga, 1930), pp. 49-50; Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 5.3-5 (1933); Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog (New York) (July 18, 1952); N. Gordon, in Tog (July 20, 1952); M. Kosover, in Bitsaron (New York) (Sivan-Tamuz [= May-July] 1952); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (December 18, 1955); Y. Rivkind, Yidishe gelt (Jewish money) (New York, 1959), see index; Rivkind, in Hadoar (New York) (Tamuz [= July] 1962); Rivkind, R. ḥaim liberman ish hasefer haḥabadi (Rabbi Ḥaim Liberman, man of the Chabad book) (New York, 1961/1962), 16 pp.; M. Unger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (March 19, 1961); Groyser verterbukh fun der yidisher shprakh (Great dictionary of the Yiddish language), vol. 1 (New York, 1961), pp. 24, 25; In Jewish Bookland (New York) (November 1962).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 329.]

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