Thursday 28 September 2017



            He was a linguist, teacher, and literary scholar, born in the town of Polonne, Ukraine, where he received a traditional Jewish upbringing and education. As a Soviet Yiddish linguist, he served as a scholarly contributor at the Office of Jewish Culture in the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences in Kiev in the late 1920s. In his many years of scholarly activity, he worked in two main areas: language-teaching methodology and linguistic-literary research. The former was connected to school curricula in the 1920s and 1930s. He worked on textbooks regarding syntax, orthography, and punctuation, the same issue that dominated the research work that one finds in his articles for Afn shprakhfront (On the language front). The syntax of a simple sentence was the subject of his dissertation for candidature, which he worked on during the years of WWII while an evacuee. He concentrated a series of works on problems of translation (specifically on the translations of Taras Shevchenko’s Ukrainian poems into Yiddish and Sholem-Aleichem’s work in Russian [see examples below]). He published his writings in scholarly anthologies, journals, newspapers, and books, such as: “Der novi” (The prophet), in the collection Tsum yortsayt fun taras shevtshenko (Toward the anniversary of the death of Taras Shevchenko) (Kiev, 1920); with L. Prusman, Lenins ruf (Lenin’s call), “textbook for illiteracy liquidation posts” (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1925), 76 pp.; Lenins ruf, lernbukh far veynik-ivredike (Lenin’s call, a textbook for the nearly illiterate), part 2, “by a group of teachers, including Zingerman, Safyan, Faynerman, Kruglyak, and Ravinski, edited by Yankl Kantor and M. Maydanski” (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1926), 223 pp., second edition (1928), 120 pp., third edition (1929), 128 pp.; “Problemen fun shprakh-unterrikht in shtifs arbetn” (Problems in language instruction in Shtif’s works), Afn shprakhfront (Kiev) 2 (1935), pp. 39-69; “Vegn di lernbikher af shprakh” (On the language textbooks), Afn shprakhfront 4-3 (1935), pp. 230-48; with Moyshe Shapiro, Alef-beyz far dervaksene (The alphabet for adults) (Kharkov-Kiev, 1933), 58 + 2 pp.; Ortografye un punktuatsye (Orthography and punctuation), “collection of rules and exercises, auxiliary text for middle school” (Kiev: Ukrainian State Publishers for National Minorities, 1936), 159 pp. (several editions appeared, the fifth in 1941, 144 pp.); with Khayim Loytsker and M. Shapiro, Leyenbukh far yidishe shuln (Textbook for Jewish schools) (Kiev-Kharkov, 1936), 68 pp.; “Vegn dem epitet bay sholem-aleykhemen” (On the epithets used by Sholem Aleichem), pp. 67-80, and “T. g. shevtshenkos dikhtung in yidish” (T. G. Shevchenko’s poetry in Yiddish), pp. 163-206, in Afn shprakhfront 4 (1939). During WWII Maydanski was not mobilized into the army because of his age, and he continued his work in the office in which, from 1932, he led the seminar on Yiddish at the Institute of Ukrainian Linguistics. In 1942 he worked on a dissertation entitled “Problemen fun yidishn sintaks” (Problems in Yiddish syntax) and, together with Kh. Loytsker and Elye Spivak, on a work entitled “Etyudn vegn der yidisher literarisher shprakh, vegn ir geshikhte un haynttsaytikn tsushand” (Studies concerning the Yiddish literary language, on its history and contemporary state). He held the title “candidate in philological science.” In 1943 he prepared a piece: “Der sintaks fun eynfakhn zats” (The syntax of a simple sentence).

At the beginning of 1945, Maydanski and the Soviet Jewish folklorist Moyshe Beregovski traveled around the western regions of Ukraine, collecting new Yiddish folkloric materials concerned with WWII, and later they went to the cities and towns of Bukovina, at the behest of the Kiev office of Jewish culture, to collect folkloric material from the Jewish ghettos of Transnistria and to attend a writers’ conference in Czernowitz in 1945. He demonstrated the materials they had collected on phonograph albums there. Together with M. Shapiro, Kh. Loytsker, and R. Lerner, in 1946 he prepared for publication a major Russian-Yiddish dictionary. He helped in compiling the history of the Holocaust, especially the Jewish tragedy in Kiev (Babi Yar) and the Kiev region. He contributed to a book on the Jewish partisans. He also wrote a work on “the Russian and Ukrainian translations of Sholem Aleichem.” There was no news concerning his fate during and after the murder of Yiddish writers (1948-1952), but he went on to publish a series of works in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland).

Sources: Biblyografishe yorbikher fun yivo (Bibliographic yearbooks from YIVO), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1928); Dos yidishe bukh in f.s.r.r. (The Yiddish in the Soviet Union), for the years 1917-1921 (Kiev, 1930); N. Rubinshteyn, Dos yidishe bukh in sovetnfarband in 1933 un 1935 (The Yiddish book in the Soviet Union in 1933 and 1935), (Minsk, 1935); Yudel Mark, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 16.2 (1940), pp. 157-60; A. Kahan, in Eynikeyt (Moscow) (April 5, 1943); Emkin, in Eynikeyt (March 3, 1945); P. Novik, Eyrope tsvishn milkhome un sholem (Europe between war and peace) (New York, 1948), p. 269; N. Mayzil, Dos yidishe shafn un der yidisher shrayber in sovetn-farband (Jewish creation and the Yiddish writer in the Soviet Union) (New York, 1959), p. 130; Anon., “In cabinet far yidisher kultur” (In the office of Yiddish culture), Eynikeyt (July 15, 1942; January 4, 1945); Anon., “A groyser oyftu in antviklen di yidishe kultur un visnshaft” (A great accomplishment in developing Yiddish culture and scholarship), Eynikeyt (April 2, 1946); the cultural chronicle in the anthology of Afn shprakhfront (Kiev) and Tsukunft (New York) (April 1945); Sovetishe biblyografye (Soviet bibliography) in the YIVO archives.

Zaynvl Diamant

[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. 238.]

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