Friday 23 June 2017


RUVN LERNER (1902-1972)

            A Soviet Jewish linguist, folklorist, and candidate in “philological science,” he came from the town of Yanov (Yaniv), Ukraine. From 1933 he was a researcher at the Institute for Jewish Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev; he specialized in issues concerning Jewish history. His first scholarly work was dedicated to “the discovery of America” (according to Y. Campe’s Entdeckung von Amerika). Over the years 1936-1941 and 1945-1949, he was a senior scholarly contributor to the Kiev Office of Jewish Culture. In 1947 this office sent him to visit numerous cities and towns in Podolia, and he recorded seventy unknown Yiddish tales and eighty-six folk poems. With the musicologist Moyshe Beregovski, he researched Yiddish folk creations from the years of WWII; he adapted and prepared for publication the first collection of “Folklor fun der foterlendisher milkhome” (Folklore from the war of the fatherland [WWII]), with ghetto and concentration camp songs and battle songs. He worked with the linguist Ayzik Zaretski on a dictionary of Yiddish orthography, and with a group of linguists from the Kiev Office, led by Elye Spivak, including Khayim Loytsker, Moyshe Maydanski, and Moyshe Shapiro, and together they completed the work on the great Russian-Yiddish dictionary (ed. Spivak, ultimately published in 1984). He was purged in 1949, released in the mid-1950s, but he did not return to scholarly work in his field of Yiddish linguistics. He published in the compendia Afn shprakhfront (On the language front): “Der genezis funem genitiv-posesiv” (The origin of the genitive possessive) 1 (Kiev, 1937), pp. 126-49; “Tsu der geshikhte fun der literarisher shprakh obheyb 19tn yorhundert” (On the history of the literary language, beginning of the nineteenth century) 3 (Kiev, 1937), pp. 165-90; and “Intonatsyonal-stilistishe bazunderkeytn fun sholem-aleykhems shprakh” (Inflection-stylistic peculiarities of Sholem-Aleykhem’s language) 4 (Kiev, 1937), pp. 101-26.

Sources: Y. Mark, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 16.1 (1940), p. 31, and 16.2 (1940), pp. 154-57; “Yidisher folklor” (Yiddish folklore), Eynikeyt (Moscow) (October 2, 1945); “A groyser oyftu in antviklen di yidishe kultur un visnshaft” (A great feat in developing Jewish culture and scholarship), Eynikeyt (April 2, 1946); “Naye folkslider” (New folksongs), Eynikeyt (October 23, 1947); P. Novik, Eyrope tsvishn milkhome un sholem (Europe between war and peace) (New York, 1948), pp. 269-70.

Zaynvl Diament

[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), p. 221.]

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