Wednesday 15 November 2017


SHIMSHON MELTSER (February 19, 1909-August 27, 2000)
            He was born in Tłuste, eastern Galicia.  His father, Shmuel Shapse, was a timber merchant.  Shimshon attended religious elementary schools, synagogue study hall, and had private tutors; later, he studied at the Lemberg Polish-Hebrew teachers’ seminary, from which he graduated in 1931.  At age fifteen he began to write poems in Yiddish and in Hebrew, some of them written in both languages.  In 1930 he debuted in print with poetry in the literary pamphlet Baderekh (On the road), published by the Lemberg teachers’ seminary, as well as his poem “Shoen” (Hours) which appeared in Dos fraye vort (The free word) in Lemberg.  He went on to published in: Shtegn (Paths) in Stanislav; Oyfgang (Arise), Der morgen (The morning), Togblat (Daily newspaper), and Hasolel (The paver) in Lemberg; and Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw.  In 1933 he made aliya to the land of Israel together with his wife, settled in Tel Aviv, where he worked for a time building houses, and was a sign painter, a school teacher, and a private tutor.  Over the years 1936-1953, he was an editorial contributor to: Davar (Word), at which he was for the first seven years a reporter, translator, and chronicle editor, and later he edited its supplement Davar laole (Word for the immigrant), the entirety with vowel points, and for seven years Davar leyeladim (Word for children).  He published poems, literary critical essays, biographies, articles, and reviews of books and theater in: Orḥa (Traveling troupe), Bedidut (Isolation), Davar, Davar-hatsaharaim (Word at noon), Hege (Helm), Omer (Speech), Davar lagola (Word for the diaspora), Davar hapoelet (Word for the female worker), Gazit (Hewn stone), and Hapoel hatsayir (The young worker), among others.  Together with Dr. Ben-Tsiyon Ben Shalom, over the years 1954-1958 he edited: Atidot (Futures), a monthly and quarterly work for young people, in Jerusalem; and Karmelit (The Carmelite) in Haifa (1959/1960).  From 1959 he was language editor for the publishing house Sifriya Tsiyonit (Zionist literature).  He was the author of the books: Beshiva metarim, shirim uvaladot (On seven strings, poems and ballads) (Tel Aviv, 1939), 96 pp.; Meir haklezmer naase komisar (Meir the musician becomes a commissar), a poem (Tel Aviv, 1940), 68 pp.; Asara shearim, shirim uvaladot (Ten gates, poems and ballads) (Tel Aviv, 1942/1943), 192 pp.; Alef, pirke zikhronot min hazeman harishon baḥeder (One, memoirs of the first term of religious elementary school) (Tel Aviv, 1945), 228 pp., second edition, 1955/1956; Sefer hashirot vehabaladot (Volume of poems and ballads) (Tel Aviv, 1949/1950, 1950/1951, 1952/1953, 1955/1956), 311 pp. (winner of the Tsvi Kessel Prize in Mexico City and the Ḥolon Prize for the second edition); Shirot im baladot (Poems with ballads) (Tel Aviv, 1954/1955, 1955/1956), 168 pp.; Or zarua, sefer hashirot vehabaladot hashalem (Light is sown, complete poems and ballad) (Tel Aviv, 1958/1959, 1966), 556 pp. (winner of the Arthur Ruppin Prize in Haifa); Devarim al ofnam (Words and their forms) (Jerusalem, 1961), 268 pp.  He translated into Hebrew a great number of works from the following Yiddish writers: Kol kitve y. l. perets (The complete writings of Y. L. Perets), including Mipi haam (From the people), Ḥasidut (Hassidism), Bemishkenot oni (In the slums), Shalom-bayit (Domestic tranquillity), Bamaḥaze (In view), Mashal vedimyon (Parable and resemblance), Even vaeven (Double standard), Avne pina (Cornerstones), Zikhronotai (My memoirs), Shirim (Poems), Tosafot (Additions), and Mikhtavim (Letters) (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1962), ten volumes (winner of the Tshernikhovski Prize in Haifa); Shmuel Niger’s monograph, Y. l. perets veyitsiro (Y. L. Perets and his creations) (Tel Aviv, 1960/1961); Dovid Pinski’s Bet noaḥ edon, roman (The home of Noah Edon, a novel [original: Hoyz noyekh edon]) (Tel Aviv, 1955/1956), 356 pp.; Pinski’s Meshiḥim, dramot (Messiahs, dramas [original: Meshikhim, drames]) (Tel Aviv, 1952), 342 pp.; Y. Y. Zinger’s Mishene evre havisla, sipurim (From both sides of the Vistula, stories) (Jerusalem, 1945), 269 pp.; B. Demblin, Vest said (West side) (Tel Aviv, 1964), 215 pp.; N. Gros (Gross), Shiva maasot (Seven stories) (Tel Aviv, 1944), 112 pp.; M. Unger, Moadim lesimḥa (Happy festival!) (Tel Aviv, 1950s), 110 pp.; L. Kusman, Omanim uvonim (Artists and builders) (Tel Aviv, 1955), 158 pp.; Y. Metsker, Bisedotav shel saba, roman (In grandpa’s fields, a novel [original: Afn zeydns felder, roman]) (Merḥavya, 1959), 395 pp.; Yekhiel Lerer, Bet aba (Father’s house [original: Mayn heym (My home)]) (Tel Aviv, 1946), 204 pp., with drawings by Arye Merzer and a preface by Dov Sadan; Avrom Lev’s poem, Leibel heḥaluts (Leybl the pioneer [original: Leybl kholets]) (Tel Aviv, 1941/1942), 64 pp.; A. Glants-Leyeles’s dramas, Osher lemlen (Osher Lemlen) and Shloyme molkho (Solomon Molkho); Y. Pat, Siḥot im sofrim yehudiyim (Chats with Jewish writers [original: Shmuesn mit yidishe shrayber]) (Tel Aviv, 1959), 294 pp.; Itzik Manger, Shir, balada, sipurLid, balade, dertseylung (Poem, ballad, story [bilingual original]) (Tel Aviv, 1962), 121 pp.; Al naharot, tisha maḥazore shira misifrut yidish (By the rivers, nine cycles of poetry from Yiddish literature), an anthology of seventy-six Yiddish poets in Meltser’s own translation, with a preface by Dov Sadan and biographical notes by Moyshe Shtarkman (Jerusalem, 1956), 441 pp.  He also translated Y. L. Perets’s plays: Shalshelet hazahav (The golden chain [original: Di goldene keyt]); Befalish al hashalshelet (In the synagogue anteroom [original: In polish af der keyt]); and Balayla bashuk hayashan (In the old market at night [original: Baynakht afn altn mark]).  He left in manuscript a translation of Perets Hershbeyn’s Befina nidḥa (In a forgotten corner [original: A farvorfn vinkl]) and Avrom Goldfaden’s Shulamit (Shulamis)—both were staged in the theater “Ohel” (Tent) in Tel Aviv.  He also translated two collections of Yiddish folklore.  He contributed translations to: Sefer heḥaluts (The pioneer book), Bereshit hatsiyonit hasotsialistit (The beginning of Zionist socialism), Ketuvim shel Avraham levinson (The writings of Abraham Levinson), and Sefer lita (Volume for Lithuania), among other Hebrew publications.  His poetry was represented as well in Mortkhe Yofe’s Tsen yisroel-dikhter fun der hebreisher poezye (Ten Israeli poets from Hebrew poetry) (Tel Aviv, 1958), 90 pp., and his Antologye fun der hebreisher poezye (Anthology of Hebrew poetry) (New York, 1948-1951), 2 vols.  “Shimshon Meltser,” wrote A. Oyerbakh, “is a master of the narrative poem in Hebrew.  He derives his balladic images from the Galician town.  He forms them lyrically, in a folk manner, and with a holiday learning.  In many of his ballads he interweaves entire stanzas in Yiddish, but even his Hebrew has a popular air to it, almost Yiddish-like.  Meltser is one of the few poets in modern Hebrew poetry who is able to happily marry Hebrew with Yiddish.”  “Shimshon Meltser has achieved,” noted Shloyme Bikl, “a great deal for the spread of the creative Yiddish word in Israel, and in this regard he has demonstrated an exceptional labor power and gift.”  “Sh. Meltser, the Hebrew poet and translator, transformed Hebrew literature,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “with his creative translations from Yiddish.”  Meltser’s Hebrew poetry was also translated into Yiddish and published in a variety of Yiddish venues in the state of Israel and other countries.  He was a member of the Agudat Hasofrim (Writers’ association), Israel Federation of Labor, and the Hebrew Language Academy.  After living for seven years in Haifa, he moved in 1962 back to Tel Aviv where he settled.  He edited the yearbook Seyfer horodenke (Volume for Horodenka) (Tel Aviv, 1963), 432 pp.  In his Hebrew translation, there appeared H. Leivick’s Shisha shirim min hakarmelZeks lider funem karmel (Six poems from the Carmel), in a bilingual edition (Haifa, 1963), 16 pp.

Sources: A. Kariv, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (March 10, 1939); Sh. Y. Pnueli, in Davar (June 23, 1939); Dov Sadan, in Davar (July 17, 1939); Sadan, in Hagalgal (Tel Aviv) (October 11, 1944); Sadan, Kearat tsimukim (A bowl of raisins) (Tel Aviv, 1950), see index; Sadan, Ben din leḥeshbon (Between law and accounting) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 105-11; Y. Cohen, in Moznaim (Tel Aviv) (Nisan [= March-April] 1942); Y. Keshet, in Davar (January 15, 1843); Raḥel Kressel-Likhtenshteyn, in Davar hatsaharaim (Tamuz 24 [= July 5], 1945); Mortkhe Yofe, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (January 27, 1946); Yofe, in Haboker (Tel Aviv) (June 15, 1956); A. Tsofnes, in Dos fraye vort (Paris) (July 5, 1947); Y. Likhtenboym, in Hadoar (New York) (Kislev 17 [= December 18], 1959); Likhtenboym, in Tekuma (Resistance), anthology (Tel Aviv, 1958); Aba Aḥimeir, in Ḥerut (Tel Aviv) (April 24, 1950); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (May 26, 1950); Shtarkman, in Pyonern-froy (New York) (March 1952); Shtarmkan, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 36 (1952), pp. 262-67; Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Der veg (June 4, 1950); Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 13, 1956; October 14, 1956; July 17, 1959; March 21, 1964); G. Shofner, in Yediot aḥaranot (Tel Aviv) (June 8, 1956; June 15, 1956); Ḥ. Toran, and M. Robinzon, in Sifrutenu haifa (Our beautiful literature) (Jerusalem, 1953/1954), pp. 366-67; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), pp. 268-69; Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (April 1963); Y. Pat, in Di tsukunft (New York) (December 1959; June 1962); A. Lis, Khayim un doyer (Life and duration) (Tel Aviv, 1960), pp. 164-68; A. Vayzel, in Forverts (New York) (February 7, 1960); Arn Tsaytlin, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (February 12, 1960; January 1, 1965); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (February 24, 1961; March 8, 1963); Y. Emyot, in Der idisher zhurnal (Toronto) (February 19, 1961); Emyot, In mitele yorn (In middle age) (New York, 1963), pp. 166-68; M. Ungerfeld, in Moznaim (Shevet [= January-February] 1962); Y. Varshavski, in Forverts (February 6, 1962; May 6, 1962); Sh. Izban, in Di tsukunft (March 1962); Sh. Shaḥriya, in Hapoel hatsayir (Tel Aviv) (Av 16 [= August 6], 1963); A. Grin, in Hapoel hatsayir (Tevet 19 [= January 15], 1963).
Benyomen Elis

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