PEYSEKH MAREK (March 24, 1862-March 1920)
He was born in Shadeve (Shadov), Kovno district, Lithuania. He was the son of a Hebrew teacher and follower of the Jewish Enlightenment who published a lengthy poem in Hashaḥar (The dawn). He graduated from the law faculty of Moscow University. He was cofounder of the Moscow association “Bene-tsiyon” (Children of Zion). He worked as a bookkeeper in a soap factory and in his free time carried out research in the field of Jewish cultural history. He debuted in print with a piece on the history of Jewish publishers in Russia in the Russian Jewish serial Voskhod (Sunrise) in 1888. Together with Shoyel Ginzburg, he published the monumental work Di yidishe folkslider in rusland (Jewish folksongs in Russia). On an assignment for “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]), he visited the Jewish Pale of Settlement and collected a wealth of material on popular Jewish education and Jewish history generally, and reworked some of it in his Russian-language work, Ocherki po istorii prosvi︠eshcheniia evreev v Rossii (Studies in the history of Jewish education in Russia) (Moscow, 1909), 288 pp., which concerned the era from 1844 to 1873. He also published historical articles in Evreiskaia starina (The Jewish past), Perezhitoie (The past), and elsewhere. At his initiative the Moscow publisher Mir (World) began to publish a large-scale Jewish history and monographs by various scholars. He devoted an especial degree of attention to work on the “Vaad arba aratsot” (Council of Four Lands) and put together a special map of the Jewish communities that were part of one or another council. WWI disrupted his work on the first volume. After the October Revolution, he completely abandoned scholarly work, and due to hunger he moved to Volsk (Vol’sk), Saratov district, where he picked up and continued reworking his material. In Russian he wrote a work on the history of the Jewish intelligentsia, the rise of Hassidism, and the religious struggle in the eighteenth century, but it remained unpublished. In his bequest were also discovered several poems in Yiddish, among them a poem entitled “Di letste minutn fun besht” (The last minutes of the Besht [Bal-Shem-Tov]), which he wrote just before his death, and a Yiddish lullaby. He died in Saratov. After his death, a Marek Committee was established in Moscow to translate and publish his works in Yiddish and Hebrew. Of his stories in Yiddish that he published in Fraynd (Friend), he brought out in book form: Tsvey gezeyres (Two evil decrees), from the era of Catherine II (St. Petersburg, 1908), in connection with the false accusation levelled by Catherine’s favorite Semyon Zorich about fake bank notes. In the story he describes the lifestyle of Russian Jews at that time, as well as the commotion that the Hassidic movement aroused among the Jewish masses.
Source: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2.
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