Wednesday 26 April 2017


YANKEV HALEVI LIPSHITS (January 2, 1838-October 2, 1921)
            He was born in Vilkomir (Ukmergė), Lithuania, son of the Vilkomir preacher Leyzer-Lipman Lipshits.  He attended yeshiva in Keydan (Kėdainiai).  His pious articles in the style of Orthodox essayists in opposition to the Jewish Enlightenment appeared in Halevanon (The Lebanon), Maḥzike hadat (Supporters of the faith), and other serials earned him a reputation in Lithuania, especially in devout circles.  In 1870 he became an elementary school teacher in the Kovno Talmud Torah, later secretary to the Kovno rabbi, Yitskhok-Elkhonen Spektor, and over the course of twenty-six years he served as the rabbi’s right-hand man.  With a string feeling for community matters, he was an important leader in the Orthodox world and led the struggle against followers of the Jewish Enlightenment, the adherents of the “Tikunim bedat” (Religious reformers), and later also against the modern Jewish movements.  As one of the leaders of the “Halishka hasheḥora” (The black bureau), he contributed to all the rabbinical assemblies and conferences in Russia and Europe.  Aside from articles in the Orthodox press—such as: Hakerem (The vineyard), Hapeles (The balance), and Hatsfira (The siren), among others—he also published scholarly texts, translated into Hebrew Samson-Raphael Hirsch’s Neunzehn Briefe über Judentum (Nineteen letters on Judaism) as Igrot tsafon.  In Yiddish he published the religious text, Goen-yitskhok, di tolade (lebns-geshikhte) fun rebeynu hagoen hagodl… (The brilliant Isaac, the story [life history] of our rabbi, the brilliant, great… [Yitskhok-Elkhonen Spektor]) (Vilna: Romm, 1899), 191 pp.  After being expelled from Kovno, he lived in Ukraine.  In the late summer of 1921, he returned to Kovno where he soon thereafter died.  He left behind in Hebrew-language manuscript his memoirs, which covered over fifty years of his activity and is of immense cultural historical interest.  These memoirs, Zikhron yaakov (The memory of Jacob), were published in three parts (Frankfurt-Kovno, 1924-1930).  His son Note Lipshits published the first part in Kovno-Slobodka (1924), 242 + 31 pp.  It carries approbations from many rabbis.

Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 337.]

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