SHOYEL SAPIR (SAUL SAPHIRE) (December 15, 1895-August 15, 1974)
He was born in Vilna. He attended religious elementary school, the butchers’ synagogue in Vilna, and later the Lida yeshiva. In 1916 he arrived in the United States, lived initially in Seattle, Washington, moved from there to Springfield, Massachusetts, where he worked as a Hebrew teacher, and later still he moved to New York and worked as a Hebrew teacher and school director in Brooklyn. Over the years 1922-1926, he studied in the history and philosophy departments at Columbia University in New York. He began writing back in Vilna in 1913. He debuted in print with a story in the Hebrew-language newspaper Hazman (The times). In America he published in Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper), and later in Der amerikaner (The American) and Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York, in which he placed stories, novels, and articles. In 1926 he became a contributor, and later an editor, of Der amerikaner. From 1950, when Morgn-zhurnal merged with Tog (Day), Sapir began working for Forverts (Forward) in New York, in which aside from fiction, he also wrote a weekly column entitled “Barimte mentshn un epizodn in der yidisher geshikhte” (Celebrated people and episodes in Jewish history). Starting in 1939, his novels were reprinted in Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires. He also wrote under such pen names as: Ben-Kish and Sh. Ripas. In book form, he published: Der kalif fun kordova, historisher roman fun der yidisher ‘goldene epokhe’ in shpanye unter di muren (The Caliph of Cordova, a historical novel of the Jewish “Golden Age” in Spain under the Moors) (New York, 1927), 286 pp.—translated into English as The Caliph of Cordova: Historical Romance of Moorish-Spain during the Golden Age of Abdul-Rahman III (New York: Bloch Pub. Co., 1929), 204 pp.; Tsvishn roym un yerusholaim, historisher roman fun der tsayt fun khurbn fun dem tsveyten bes-hamikdesh (Between Rome and Jerusalem, historical novel from the time of the destruction of the Second Temple) (New York, 1929), 512 pp.—translated into English as A Challenge to Caesar: A Historical Romance (New York, 1938), 384 pp.; Dovid hameylekh, historisher roman fun der tsayt fun di ershte idishe mlokhim (King David, a historical novel from the era of the first Jewish kings), 2 vols. (New York, 1930), 628 pp.—translated into English as A Tale of Two Kings: A Modern Novelization of the Lives and Times of David and Saul, Kings of Israel, Whose Loves and Lusts, Triumphs and Defeats, Are Indelibly Engraved in the Annals of History (New York: United Pub. Co., 1935), 355 pp.; translator of Norbert Jacques, Doktor mabuze, roman (Doctor Mabuse, a novel [original: Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler (Dr. Mabuse, the gambler)]) (Warsaw: S. Goldfarb, 1930), 351 pp.; Der prints fun mitsraim, biblisher roman fun yoysef un zayne brider (The prince of Egypt, biblical novel of Joseph and his brothers), 2 vols. (New York, 1931), 706 pp.; Shloyme hameylekh, historisher roman (King Solomon, a historical novel) (New York, 1931), 512 pp.; Avroms eyniklekh, biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun di oves (Abraham’s grandchildren, a biblical novel from the time of the forefathers) (New York, 1931), 615 pp.; Ester hamalke, biblisher roman (Queen Esther, a biblical novel) (New York, 1932), 349 pp.; Di tokhter fun midber, origeneler biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun moyshes yugend un goles mitsraim (The daughter of the desert, original biblical novel from the era of Moses’ youth in Egypt) (New York, 1934), 236 pp.; Fertsik yor in midber, origineler biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun “yetsies mitsrayim” un di vanderung fun di iden in dem midber (Forty years in the desert, an original biblical novel of the era of the “exodus from Egypt” and the wandering of the Jews in the desert) (New York, 1934), 366 pp.; Kolombus der id, origineler historisher roman fun der tsayt fun der inkvizitsye, geyresh shpanyen un entdekung fun amerika (Columbus, the Jew, original novel of the era of the Inquisition, expulsion from Spain, and the discovery of America) (New York, 1934), 415 pp.—translated into Hebrew as Kolumbus hayehudi (Columbus the Jew) (New York, 1948), 272 pp.; Moyshe rabeynus nokhfolger (shiye), origineler biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun eroberung fun erets yisroel (Our teacher Moses’ successor, Joshua, original biblical novel from the era of the conquest of the land of Israel) (New York, 1935), 330 pp.; Rambam, rabeynu moyshe ben maymen, origineler historisher roman fun 12ten yorhundert (Rambam, Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, original historical novel from the twelfth century) (New York, 1935), 496 pp.; Shimshn hagiber, origineler biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun di shoftim (Samson the strong man, original biblical novel from the era of the Judges) (New York, 1935), 304 pp.; Dvoyre, biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun di shoftim (Deborah, biblical novel from the era of the Judges) (New York, 1936), 199 pp.; Rus, biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun di shoftim (Ruth, biblical novel from the era of the Judges) (New York, 1936), 293 pp.; Yiftokh un zayn tokhter, biblisher roman fun der tsayt fun di shoftim (Yiftaḥ and his daughter, biblical novel from the era of the Judges) (New York, 1937), 324 pp.; Der dikhter fun toledo, historisher roman fun der tsayt fun di ershte idishe natsyonale dikhter fun shpanyen, rabi yude haleyvi un avrom ibn ezre (The poet of Toleda, historical novel from the era of the first national Jewish poets from Spain, Rabbi Judah Halevi and Abraham Ibn Ezra) (New York, 1938), 270 pp.; Der ger-tsadek fun vilne, historisher roman (The holy convert from Vilna, a historical novel) (New York, 1942), 336 pp.; Der vilner balebesl, origineler historisher roman fun nayntsenter yorhundert (The little Vilna householder, an original historical novel of the nineteenth century), 2 vols. (New York, 1947), 730 pp.; Der bal-tshuve, origineler historisher roman arum der tsayt fun vilner goen un dem bal shem tov (The penitent, an original historical novel around the time of the Vilna Gaon and the Baal-Shem-Tov) (New York, 1948), 339 pp.; Shloyme maymon, historisher roman (Solomon Maimon, a historical novel) (New York, 1954), 428 pp. He also wrote in English (together with Donovan Fitzpatrick) a novel entitled Navy Maverick: Uriah Phillips Levy (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1963), 273 pp. He died in Miami Beach, Florida.
Sources: P. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 10, 1931; November 22, 1931; April 10, 1932; November 20, 1932; November 11, 1934; December 30, 1934; March 24, 1935); A. Hamer, in Morgn-frayhayt (New York) (January 16, 1935).