Sunday 12 November 2017


GINA MEDEM (1886-January 29, 1977)
            She was born in Brzóstówka, Tomashov (Tomaszów) district, Poland, into a commercial, semi-assimilated family.  Her maternal grandfather, Gavriel Faynberg, was the rabbi of Memel (Klaipėda).  She studied in a private Polish school and a Polish high school.  Under the influence of the Polish writers, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Eliza Orzeszkowa, and Maria Konopnicka, she began writing very early short stories about children’s lives.  After her high school years, she joined the revolutionary circles in Lodz.  In 1904 she pursued her studies at the University of Berne.  Over the years 1905-1907, she was active in the Bundist organization in Lodz and, on an assignment from the Bund, she undertook work in various provincial towns in the Lodz region.  She spent months in the Lodz jail.  In 1908 she returned to Switzerland to continue her studies.  In Geneva she met up with Vladimir Medem for the second time, and the two were married.  They lived in Vienna, 1912-1913.  In 1921 she and Medem arrived in the United States, and from 1923 (following Medem’s death) until 1926 she worked for the Amalgamated Bank of New York, while at the same time giving lectures at leftist workers’ clubs on the role of the Soviet woman and on the condition of Jews in Soviet Russia.  She visited Soviet Russia in 1926 and acquainted herself with the lives of farmers in the Jewish colonies of Kherson and Crimea.  That same year she was in the land of Israel and other countries.  Between 1929 and 1935, she visited Birobidzhan several times.  She gave speeches about Birobidzhan in Latvia, South Africa, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Latin America, and the United States.  She lived in Spain, 1937-1938, as a correspondent for the New York-based magazine, New Masses.  She gave talks in Yiddish on the radio in Madrid.  She composed reportage pieces and descriptions of the Spanish Civil War, which were published in her book: Lender, felker, kamfn (Countries, peoples, fights) (New York, 1963), 332 pp., which was a sequel to her autobiographical notes, A lebnsveg (A life path) (New York, 1950), 243 pp.  She also participated in: IKOR (Yidishe kolonizatsye organizatsye in rusland [Jewish colonization organization in Russia]), “Agroyid” (Polish Jewish organization devoted to agriculture colonization in Birobidzhan), and various leftist cultural community organizations in America.  Her memoirs of Vladirmir Meder were initially published in Tsukunft (Future) in New York in 1923.  She contributed correspondence pieces and articles to: Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom), Ikor yorbukh (IKOR yearbook) of 1932), and Idishe kultur (Jewish culture), as well as other Yiddish publications outside the United States.  Her published books include: Dos kind in der velt (The child in the world) (Buenos Aires, 1936), 16 pp.; Di froy in der heym, in fabrik, in gezelshaftlekhn lebn (The woman in the home, in the factory, and in community life) (New York, 1937), 31 pp.; Los judíos, voluntarios de la libertad (un año de lucha en las Brigadas Internacionales) (Jews, volunteers for freedom, one year of the fight among the International Brigades) (Madrid, 1937), 78 pp.; A lebnsveg, autobiographical notes (New York, 1950); Lender, felker, kamfn (New York, 1963).  She died in Los Angeles.

Sources: Vladimir Medem, Fun mayn lebn (Of my life), vol. 2 (New York, 1923); R. Kahir, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (May 2, 1932); M. Gerts, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (February 1, 1932); Antologye fun der yidisher literatur in argentine (Anthology of Jewish literature in Argentina) (Buenos Aires, 1944), p. 931; Y. B. Beylin, on the occasion of her seventieth birthday, in Folks-shtime (New York) 5031 (1957); A. Bik, in Morgn-frayhayt (January 13, 1963); P. Novik, in Morgn-frayhayt (February 30, 1963); Ber Grin, Yidishe shrayber in amerike (Jewish writers in America) (New York, 1963), pp. 179-82.
Benyomen Elis

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