Monday 7 August 2017


DOVID MATS (b. 1902)

            He was a writer on current events and a community leader, born in Minsk, Byelorussia, into a working-class family. He graduated from a pedagogical technical school. From 1922 he was active in the Jewish section of Byelorussian Komyug (Communist Youth League) in Minsk, where he also worked as a teacher in a senior Jewish educational institution. He later lived in Moscow, Kharkov, and Kiev. His written work—articles, interventions, reviews, and other materials—were published in Yiddish newspapers there, such as Ratnbildung (Soviet education) (1928-1937), Shtern (Star), Afn shprakhfront (On the language front), and Di royte velt (The red world). He was one of the editors of: Der pyoner-veker (The pioneer alarm) and Af di vegn tsu der nayer shul (En route to the new school) (1927) in Minsk; and, earlier, the children’s monthly magazine Freyd (Joy) in Kharkov (1922-1923). He was a leading figure in the Jewish division of the Ukrainian People’s Commissariat for Education. He later transferred to Byelorussia. In 1924 he was one of the organizers of the first All-Soviet Jewish Education Conference, at which he presented a plan to strengthen the work in Jewish schools, to prepare teachers and cultural leaders, and to publish Yiddish books on a variety of topics with a broader range of fields of learning: philology, history, and ethnography. None of this came to fruition, as he was soon accused of “Yiddishist inclinations” and removed from all of his leading posts.

            Under his editorship, in 1927 there was published a community literary reader Der yunger arbeter (The young laborer) for the second and third classes of evening schools (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers), 178 pp. He published articles as well in: Der yunger pyoner (The young pioneer) (1926-1928) and the newspaper Oktyabr (October) in Minsk; Der emes (The truth), Yungvald (Young forest), and Pyoner (Pioneer) in Moscow; and almost all Yiddish journals. He was arrested in Minsk in the latter half of the 1930s. From 1937 there has been no further information about him.

Sources: Der yunger pyoner (Minsk) 17 (1927); Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO) (Warsaw, 1928), see index; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index.

Khayim Leyb Fuks

[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. 226.]

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