Wednesday 3 January 2018


YISROEL NARODITSKI (October 4, 1874-October 4, 1942)
            He was born in Zhitomir, Ukraine, into a poor family.  Together with Ḥaim-Naḥman Bialik, he studied in the Volozhin Yeshiva and both were devoted to the idea of “Ḥibat Tsiyon” (Love of Zion).  Unbeknownst to Bialik, at the time Naroditski sent Bialik’s first poem, “El hatsipor” ([Ode] to the bird), to Ravnitski, and the latter published it in Pardas (Orchard) in 1891—see Bialik’s letter from Volozhin (1891) and the letter from Y. Ḥ. Brenner (1898) in Kneset (Assembly) in Tel Aviv (1935/1936).  Until age fifteen, Naroditski studied at the Volozhin Yeshiva, later entering the Zhitomir rabbinical seminary while making a living by giving Hebrew lessons.  On his own he studied secular subject matter, becoming a typesetter in a print shop so as to be able to earn a living.  At that time he began writing Hebrew and Yiddish poetry and stories, some of which were published in Hamelits (The advocate) in St. Petersburg and Hatsfira (The siren) in Warsaw, among other publications.  He was the Ukrainian agent for Ruvn (Reuven) Brainin’s journal Mimizra umimaarav (From the east and from the west).  In 1891 he planned to bring out in Yiddish a collection of articles by various personalities to campaign on behalf of “Ḥibat Tsiyon.”  He himself typeset the articles included, edited them himself, and (with Berta Gleksner) published Dos heylige land (The holy land) (Zhitomir, 1891), 286 pp., which contained articles, poems, and stories about the settlement in the land of Israel.  He published his own propaganda essay, “Tsu di lezer” (To readers), a story, “Der frumer kolonist” (The pious colonist) (38 pp.) under the pen name “Y. Kehili,” and notices under the pen name “A yud” (A Jew).  Until 1893 he was active in the “Ḥibat Tsiyon” movement in Zhitomir.  When news reached Zhitomir of the “gold rush” in South Africa, he decided to go there, get rich, and place his estate at the disposition of the “Ḥibat Tsiyon” movement.  He arrived in London that year, at first worked as a typesetter, and later opened a small Jewish print shop and a Yiddish-Hebrew publishing house, while at the same time publishing work in the Labor Zionist Londoner yud (London Jew) and other newspapers and serials of the Labor Zionists (edited by Kalmen Marmor) and in Zev-Volf Metshik’s newspapers, as well as elsewhere.  For a certain amount of time, he was close to the anarchist group of Rudolf Rocker and contributed to the anarchist serial Zherminal (Germinal), but he later returned to the Zionist movement.  He devoted his home, his publishing house, and his possessions to helping Russian and Jewish socialists who escaped from the Tsarist regime to London, as well as the victims of pogroms.  When Y. Ḥ. Brenner came to London, he stayed at the home of Naroditski who taught him the typesetting trade and helped him publish Hameorer (The awakening), to which Naroditski also contributed.  He did the same for the Hebrew storyteller Uri-Nisn Gnesin, concerning whom Naroditski’s feature—“Di fantazye, a shekl-tog in yor trf”g” (The fantasy, a shekel-day in the year 1922/1923), published in Shivat-tsiyon (Return to Zion) in London (May 17, 1903)—established his name (see Kalmen Marmor’s memoirs).  For many years he turned his attention to his work Hayahadut vehanotsrut (Judaism and Christianity) (London, 1908).  He authored a series of pamphlets of a Zionist bent (1908-1912), signed with the initials “Y. N.”  He translated (pseudonymously) from English into Yiddish a string of stories and published them in Yiddish periodicals in London (1895-1912), from which was published in book from only the translation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Doktor dzhekl un mr haid (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde) (London, 1911), 98 pp.  From 1912 he published Yiddish and Hebrew works in London, writings which, his troubles aside, earned him money—as Professor Shimen Ravidovitsh put it: “Naroditski’s publisher was no less important for Jewish London than were the most famous publishing houses of the Soncino Brothers in Italy and Romm Publishers in Vilna, among others.”  In his last years, he worked to bring out a pointed edition of the Mishnah in pocketbook format.  He gave his children biblical names: Bar-Kokhba, Zerubavel, Karmel, Shoshana, and Shulamit.  Before his death he notified his children (who were publishing Yiddish and Hebrew books with their “Narod Press”) that they should continue publishing without pay Nokhum Shtentsl’s London monthly Loshn un lebn (Language and life).  He died in London on Simchat Torah (1942), while the Nazis were bombing the city.  In his memory was published a special issue of Shtentsl’s Loshn un lebn (entitled “A yidisher farleger” [A Jewish publisher]) on December 15, 1943 (32 pp.) with articles, appreciations, memoirs, and poems dedicated to him.

Sources: Y. L. Perets, Literatur un lebn (Literature and life) (Warsaw, 1894), pp. 180-95 (written in 1891); Loshn un lebn (London) (December 15, 1943); Kalmen Marmor, Mayn lebns-geshikhte (My life history) (New York, 1959), vol. 1, pp. 587-88, vol. 2, p. 625; Rudolf Rocker, In shturem (In the storm) (Buenos Aires, 1952), see index; information from Sh. Horendorf in London and from various archives and London periodicals
Khayim Leyb Fuks

No comments:

Post a Comment