YANKEV MEYTLIS (JAKOB MEITLIS) (1900-August 17, 1984)
He was born in the town of Medzheyov, near Sosnovits (Sosnowiec), Poland. He studied in religious elementary schools and secular subject matter with private tutors. He later graduated from middle school as an external student. During WWI he was active in Zionist youth organizations, and together with Zalmen Merkin (Max Erik), he worked for Hashomer Hatsair (The young guard) in Sosnowiec. In 1918 he was a delegate to the first Tseire Tsiyon (Young Zionist) conference in Warsaw. He left for Berlin in 1919, where he studied at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Higher Institute for Jewish Studies), and later at the Universities of Basel and Zurich (Switzerland) and Jena (Thuringia) from which he received his doctoral degree summa cum laude for a dissertation on the Old Yiddish Mayse-bukh (Story book). For a time he was an assistant to the well-known theologian at the University of Jena, Professor Willy Stern. As a writer, he debuted in print with an article in German, “Die erste Revolution” (The first revolution), Jüdische Rundschau (Jewish review) in Berlin (1921), at which he remained a regular contributor until the Nazi pogrom in Berlin (November 9, 1938). He also published articles in the German-Jewish: Israelitisches Wochenblatt (Jewish weekly newspaper) in Hamburg; Jüdische Pressezentrale (Jewish press center) in Prague; Der Israelit (The Israelite) in Zurich; Selbstwehr (Self-defense) in Frankfurt-am-Main; Wochenblatt (Weekly newspaper) in Erfurt; Israelitisches Wochenblatt in Zurich; Der Morgen (The morning), a monthly, in Darmstadt; and Orientalische Literaturzeitung (Eastern literature newspaper) in Berlin-Leipzig; among others. He began writing in Yiddish in the early 1920s. He published—also using such pen names as: Yankev Mem, Y. M., Dr. Rifoel, Dr. Y. Karmeli, and Yankev Shlomtsien, among others—articles in Lodzer folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper); Der mizrekh-yud (The Eastern Jew) in Berlin, “Jewish weekly, central organ of the association of Eastern Jews in Germany”; Di yidishe velt (The Jewish world) in Berlin; Di tsayt (The times) and Loshn un lebn (Language and life) in London; Kiem (Existence) in Paris; Idisher kemfer (Jewish fighter) and Di tsukunft (The future) in New York; Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) in Tel Aviv; Davke (Necessarily) in Buenos Aires; and Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; among others. In Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO) in Vilna, he published the essays: “Der bodleyaner ksav-yad Libs-briv, a farhaskoledike reform shrift” (The Bodleian’s manuscript Libs-briv, a reform work from before the Jewish Enlightenment) 2.4-5 (December 1931), pp. 308-33; “An umbakant altyidish makhzer in britishn muzey” (An unknown Old Yiddish holiday prayer book in the British Museum) 4 (1932), pp. 285-87; “Shimen ginzburg un yitskhok roytlingens ksav-yad” (Shimon Ginzburg and Yitskhok Roytlingen’s manuscript) 4 (1932), pp. 84-86. His piece “Daytshe yidn in england” (German Jews in England) was published in Haynt-yoyvl-bukh, 1908-1938 (Jubilee volume for Haynt, 1908-1938) (Warsaw, 1938), pp. 273-76, and his “Tsu der kharakteristik fun der yidisher folks-mayse” (On the character of the Jewish folktale), in the anthology Yidish london (Jewish London) (London) 2 (1939), pp. 100-9. He also published work in Metsuda (Citadel) and Tarbut (Culture) in London; and in English in: Zionist, Jewish Chronicle, Polish Jewish Observer, Review (published during WWII), Jewish Observer and Middle East Review—all in London—and Jewish Frontier in New York; among others. In book form he published: Das Ma’assebuch, seine Entstehung und Quellengeschichte, zugleich ein Beitrag zur Einführung in die altjiddische Agada (The Mayse-bukh, its origins and source history, as well a contribution to the introduction to the Old Yiddish Agada) (Berlin, 1933), 152 pp.; The Ma’asseh in the Yiddish Ethical Literature (London, 1958), 30 pp.; Di shvokhim fun rabi shmuel un rabi yude khosid, a tsushtayer tsu der yidisher folklor-forshung (Exempla of Rabbi Shmuel and Rabbi Judah the pious, a contribution to Jewish folklore research) (London: Kedem, 1961), 148 pp., with an English abstract of 8 pp.—for which he received an award from the Parisian division of the Jewish World Congress in 1961; In gang fun doyres, eseyen vegn tanakh, folklor un literatur (In the course of generations, essays on Tanakh, folklore, and literature) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1975), 340 pp.; Fun vaytn amol biz haynt (From once far away until today) (Tel Aviv: Yisroel-bukh, 1981), 388 pp.; and a series of offprints of his works in Yiddish and English. He also published an edition of the Mayse-bukh (Story book) with annotations, sources, and motifs (Buenos Aires, 1969), 364 pp.; and Midrash lefirke avot beyidish kamait (Commentary an Ethics of the Fathers in Old Yiddish) (Jerusalem, 1978), 42 + 232 pp. (from Anshel Levi’s [sixteenth century] manuscript), together with Ḥaim Shvartsboym. He died in London.
Sources: Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (March 27, 1932); Y. Ribkind, in Di tsukunft (New York) (1932), pp. 306-10; Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (December 4, 1961); Yontef Levinski, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 42 (1962); M. V. Bernshteyn, in Forverts (New York) (September 9, 1962); Who’s Who in World Jew (1955).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 372.]