Thursday 9 November 2017


HIRSH MELAMED (b. November 1885)
            He was born in Dvinsk (Dinaburg, Daugavpils), then Byelorussia and later Latvia.  He studied with itinerant school teachers (later with his grandfather, the master of the “Torah crowns”) the Talmud and commentators.  Under the influence of his father, a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment, he also studied Russian initially with private tutors and later in the Lyutsin region school.  In 1910 he founded the first Jewish school in Lyutsin and worked as a teacher there.  He subsequently lived in Vilna.  After WWI he became interested in Jewish economics and cooperatives and (using the pen name “Deriker” [Mainly]), he published articles on these topics in Vilner tog (Vilna day).  In the monthly Unzer hilf (Our aid), organ of the local committee of Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”) in Vilna, edited by Moyshe Shalit, he published the articles: “A tsentral-byuro far konsum-faraynen” (A central office for consumer associations) 1-2 (1921); and “Vi darf men boyen a kooperative?” (How should one build a cooperative?) 4-5 (1921).  His piece “Yidishe kooperatsye in vilne” (Jewish cooperatives in Vilna) appeared in Pinkes far der geshikhte fun vilne in di yorn fun milkhome un okupatsye (Records for the history of Vilna in the years of war and occupation), edited by Zalmen Reyzen (Vilna, 1922), columns 701-14.  In the 1920s and 1930s, he published—in Frimorgn (Morning) in Riga and in Folksblat (People’s newspaper) in Kovno—literary essays on Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Teuda beyisrael (Testimony in Israel) by Yitskhok Ber Levinson, Y. L. Perets, Y. Dinezon, N. Oyslender, Y. Y. Trunk, and others.  Under the pen name “Ben Gamla,” he published humorous features in the Riga weekly Unzer vort (Our word) and children’s tales from the Latvian epic in Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees) in Vilna.  They were later published by Sh. Bastomski in book form.  He also wrote (using the pen name Olyenev) articles on pedagogy.  In the literary almanac Riger shriftn (Riga writings) (Riga, 1936), he placed the works: “Hundert yor Mendele” (One hundred years of Mendele), pp. 3-5; “Shimen dubnov, tsu zayn 75-yorikn yoyvl” (Shimon Dubnov, on his seventy-fifth birthday), pp. 7-10; and “Di brider bay yoysefon” (The brothers in the hands of Yossipon) (a chapter from his historical novel Yoysef in mitsraim [Joseph in Egypt]), pp. 39-45.  He contributed work as well to Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw.  In the 1930s he worked as a teacher in Rezhitse (Rēzekne), Latvia.  In book form, he published: the two pamphlets, Vos iz azoyns kooperatzye? (Just what is a cooperative?) and Statutn (Charters), both (Vilna: Vilna Nutrition Committee, 1919); Di revolutsyonern fun yisroel, dos lebn un shafn fun di neviim (The revolutionaries of Israel, the life and works of the Prophets) (Riga, 1930), 143 pp.; Der bilbul oyfn rambam, der mishpet tsum 800 yorikn yoyvl fun rambam (1135-1935) (The accusation against Maimonides, the judgment on the 800th anniversary of Maimonides, 1135-1935) (Riga, 1935), 35 pp.  This last booklet was written in the form of a judgment with a prosecuting attorney, a defense attorney, and judges.  Thanks to Professor Sh. Dubnov, he also published “Vos hot durkhgekukt der ksavyad un mikh gemutikt in der arbet” (How examining the manuscript encouraged me in my work), Tsukunft (Future) in New York (April 1935); Knaan un mitsraim, roman (Canaan and Egypt, a novel), part 1 (Riga: Yungbukh, n.d.), 137 pp., cover design by B. Danenhirsh; Knaan un mitsraim, part 2 (Riga, 1937), 107 pp.  Shortly before the outbreak of WWII, there was published in Europe his In baginen (A dawn) (Riga, 1939), 103 pp., which tried to characterize three persons from the Tanakh: Joseph, Moses, and King Saul.  Melamed’s fate during the war years and the Holocaust are unknown.

Sources: M. Shalit, di khurves fun milkhomes (On the destruction of war and turmoil) (Vilna, 1930), cols. 345ff; A. Pekler, “Biblyografye” (Bibliography), in Oyf di khurves fun milkhomes un mehumes, col. 958; M. Gerts, 25 yor yidishe prese in letland (25 years of the Yiddish press in Latvia) (Riga, 1933), p. 58; Dr. A. Mukdoni, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (April 17, 1935); Shmuel Niger, in Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (February 1938); Yahadut latviya (Judaism in Latvia) (Tel Aviv, 1953), p. 300; documents and letters from H. Melamed to Zalmen Reyzen and to the Vilna Jewish Literary Association, archives held in YIVO in New York.
Zaynvl Diamant

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