Wednesday 24 May 2017


YITSKHOK LEVIN (ISAAC, IZAK LEWIN) (January 14, 1906-August 24, 1995)
            He was born in Wieliczka, near Cracow, western Galicia (Poland), the son of the Reyshe (Rzeszów) rabbi, R. Arn Levin, and the grandson of the Lemberg rabbi, R. Yitskhok Shmelkis.  He studied Jewish subjects with his father and with the Nayshtat rabbi, and later he received ordination into the rabbinate from the Krasin rabbi.  He received his secular education in a Polish state high school in Sambor (Sambir).  He studied philosophy, history, and law in the Universities of Lemberg, Vienna, and Vilna.  In 1932 he graduated from the philosophy department in Vienna and in 1937 received his law degree from the University of Vilna for his dissertation on the history of the legal profession in premodern Poland.  From his student years forward, he was an active leader in Jewish community life, primarily in Agudat Yisrael, and was a member of its central world council.  In 1936 he settled in Lodz where he served as a member of the city council (1937 and 1939), representing Orthodoxy.  At the beginning of WWII, he was in Warsaw on a community assignment and, not knowing if he could return to Lodz, headed for Vilna, where until late 1940 he remained active in the relief work for the refugees from Poland.  In March 1941 he made his way to the United States via Russia and Japan.  He was the founder and leader of the Research Institute for Religious Matters in New York.  From 1944 he was professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University in New York, and from 1948 principal of the central yeshiva high school for girls in Brooklyn.  As one of the main leaders of Vaad Hatsala (The Rescue Committee), he visited (1945-1946) displaced persons’ camps in Germany and Austria, as well as in Eastern Europe.  He was in Israel on several occasions.  From 1948 he was the Agudat Yisrael representative and councilor on the economic and social council at the Union Nations.  He was an active leader with the Joint Distribution Committee, at the Claims Conference (a member of the executive), and with other institutions of American Judaism.  He began writing in 1922, publishing journalistic essays in the Polish-language Chwila (Moment) in Lemberg and Nowy dziennik (New daily) in Cracow, as well as in the Yiddish-language Togblat (Daily newspaper) and Der morgen (The morning) in Lemberg.  He went on to contribute articles, travel narratives, and scholarly treatments to: Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper), Beys yankev zhurnal (Beys Yankev journal), and Miesięcznik żydowski (Jewish monthly)—in Lodz; Dos yudishe togblat (The Jewish daily newspaper), Ortodoksishe yugend-bleter (Pages of Orthodox youth), Darkhenu (Our path), Deglanu (Our banner), Echo żydowskie (Jewish echo), Promień (Ray), Nowe życie (New Life), and Yidn in bafraytn poyln (Jews in liberated Poland)—in Warsaw; Pamiętnik Historyczno-Prawny (Hisorical-legal notebook) in Lemberg; and Monatschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums (Monthly journal of history and Scholarship on Judaism) in Breslau; among others.  After WWII he contributed work to: Tog (Day), Tsukunft (Future), Der amerikaner (The American), Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice), Poylisher yid (Polish Jew), Hapardes (The orchard), Nasha tribuna (Our tribune), and Peysekh almanakh (tshkh”a) (Passover almanac for 1960/1961)—in New York; Di vokhentsaytung (The weekly newspaper) in London; Landsberger lager-tsaytung (Landsberg Camp newspaper); and various publications of Agudat Yisrael in the camps.  He ran a column entitled “Fun vokh tsu vokh” (From week to week) in Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York.  In book form: Rozwód wiedeński, dzieje sporu o ważność rozwodu warunkowego wedle prawa żydowskiego w Polsce w XVII wieku (Viennese divorce, the history of the dispute concerning the validity of conditional divorce according to Jewish law in Poland in the seventeenth century) (Lemberg, 1931), 47 pp.; Udział Żydów w wyborach sejmowych w dawnej Polsce (Jewish participation in parliamentary elections in former Poland) (Warsaw, 1932), 20 pp.; Kla̜twa żydowska na Litwie w XVII i XVIII wieku (Jewish clergy in Lithuania in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries) (Lemberg, 1932), 150 pp.; Prawo rozwiązywania ciał ustawodawczych, studjum z prawa konstytucyjnego (Law of dissolving legislative bodies, a study of constitutional law) (Lemberg, 1933), 87 pp.; Przyczynki do dziejow i historii literatury Zydow w Polsce, Beitrage zur Geschichte und Literatur der Juden in Polen (Contribution to the history and literature of the Jews in Poland) (Lemberg, 1935), 87 pp.; Palestra w dawnej Polsce (The legal profession in former Poland) (Lemberg, 1936), 124 pp., his doctoral dissertation; Fun amol un haynt, gezamlte maymorim (From then and now, collected essays), historical essays, holiday features, travel impressions, and speeches before the Lodz city council (Lodz, 1939), 170 pp.; The Protection of Jewish Religious Rights by Royal Edicts in Ancient Poland (New York, 1943), 23 pp.; Religious Freedom: The Right to Practice Shehitah, Kosher Slaughtering (New Yor, 1946), 290 pp.; Nokhn khurbn, gezamlte maymorim (After the Holocaust, collected essays), articles and U. N. speeches (New York, 1950), 304 pp.; Religious Jewry and the United Nations: Addresses before the United Nations (New York, 1953), 136 pp.; In the Struggle Against Discrimination: Addresses before Various Organs of the United Nations and the Congress of the United States (New York, 1957), 148 pp.; In Defense of Shehitah (New York, 1958), 34 pp.; Late Summer Fruit: Essays (New York, 1960), 174 pp.; Tsu der geshikhte fun agudes yisroel (Toward the history of Agudat Yisrael) (New York: Orthodox Library, 1964), 158 pp.; War on War (New York, 1969), 188 pp.; Ten Years of Hope (New York, 1971), 105 pp.; The Jewish Community in Poland: Historical Essays (New York, 1985), 247 pp.; and many more.  He edited: Ela ezkera (These I remember), monographs on murdered religious Jewish leaders and writers during the years of the Holocaust (New York, 1957-1960), 5 vols., each roughly 320 pp., including a monograph he wrote about his father, Toldot hagaon rabi aharon levin (Biography of the brilliant Rabbi Aharon Levin), which also appeared separately in print (New York, 1957), 32 pp.; Ḥomer lesheelat hitkonenut ṿesidur hamedina hayehudit al-pi hatora (Material for the question of preparation and arrangement of the Jewish state according to the Torah) (New York, 1948), 32 pp.; with Jacob Apenszlak, The Black Book of Polish Jewry: An Account of the Martyrdom of Polish Jewry under Nazi Occupation (New York, 1943), 343 pp.; Yidn in altn poyln, historishe eseyen (Jewish in ancient Poland, historical essays) (Buenos: Poylishe yidn, 1962), 184 pp.

Sources: Dr. M. Balaban, in Chwila (Lemberg) (July 12, 1937); Balaban, in Nasz Przegląd (Warsaw) (July 18, 1937); Dr. M. Alter, in Miesięcznik żydowski (Lodz) 3 (1937); Z. Zilbertsvayg, in Der amerikaner (New York) (August 15, 1947); Dr. Philip Fridman, in Der amerikaner (July 1, 1949); Sh. Rotshteyn, in Der amerikaner (July 28, 1950); Sh. D. Leder, Reysher yidn (Rzeszów Jews) (Washington, 1953), pp. 289-91; M. Prager, in Talpiyot (New York) (Tevet 3-4 [= January 1-2], 1952), pp. 873-74; Hilel Zaydman, in Talpiyot (Iyar [= April-May] 1955); M. Shvartsman, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (January 6, 1958); Y. Fridnzon, in Dos idishe vort (New York) (December 1960); Y. Mishael, in Hadoar (New York) (Iyar 8 [= April 24], 1961); Rabbi Arn Ben-tsien Shurin, in Forverts (New York) (November 25, 1960); Sh. Izban, in Der amerikaner (August 18, 1961); Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (August 25, 1961); Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York: YIVO and Yad Vashem, 1962), see index; Rabbi Meyer Shvartsman, in Keneder odler (May 13, 1963); Ts. Kohen, “Pilpul af yidish” (Casuistry in Yiddish), Forverts (May 19, 1963).
Khayim Leyb Fuks

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 347.]

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