SHMUEL-ABE SOYFER (November 16, 1897-August 1943)
He was born in Horodenko, eastern Galicia, into a family of scribes and intimates of the court of the Vizhnitser rebbe. He graduated from a six-year public school and later studied at Polish and German high schools, before graduating from Czernowitz University. He was a teacher in the Czernowitz middle school, but he abandoned teaching because of anti-Semitism. He was an official in the Jewish national council of Romania. He debuted in print in 1919 with a Hassidic story in the Czernowitz weekly newspaper Frayhayt (Freedom), organ of the Labor Zionists in Bukovina (edited by Fayvl Shternberg), in which he would later publish “Legenden funem ari” (Legends from the Ari), “Legenden funem barditshever rov” (Legends from the rabbi of Berdichev), poems in prose, and translations from Tanakh (Lamentations, Job), of Henri Barbusse’s In fayer (In fire [original: L’enfer (Hell)]), and of Josef Popper-Lynkeus’s “Fantazyes fun a realist” (Fantasies of a realist [original: Phantasien eines Realisten]), among others. In the Czernowitz collection entitled Kultur (Culture) of 1921, he published “Mayse fun yisroel bal-shem-tov un dem tvues-shor” (Story of Israel Bal-Shem-Tov and the Tvues-Shor). He was a contributor, later an editor (from 1922), of the Czernowitz weekly Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), organ of the right Labor Zionists in Romania. He published a dictionary “of all Aramaic, Hebrew, and Syriac words, phrases, and names which occur in Yiddish,” with a Yiddish explanation (Czernowitz: Frayhayt, 1920), 118 pp., but due to technical and editorial errors, he withdrew the dictionary from the book market and prepared an improved and enlarged edition. Over the years 1928-1938, he published and edited 300 issues of Tshernovitser bleter (Czernowitz pages), which appeared three times each month, for which he wrote essays, articles, and literary criticism, and he encouraged a number of young writers to publish their works and helped them financially. He also contributed to: Bafrayung-arbeter shtime (Liberation voice of labor) in Warsaw; and Sovetishe literatur (Soviet literature) in Kiev (1940). For many years he directed the Cooperative Joint Bank in Czernowitz. He was a leader in the Jewish community and active in general Jewish community life in Czernowitz. With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, he assisted Jewish refugees who were fleeing from Poland into Romania. Following the German invasion of Russia in June 1941, he arrived with his family to the Borshchiv ghetto (Ukraine), where he was involved in the Jewish committee for social assistance. For a time he went into hiding, but in August 1943 he was shot in the street with his wife and two daughters. The older daughter BRITA SOYFER was also a poet. Her poetry, composed in the Borshchiv ghetto, was published in Seyfer borshtshiv (Borshchiv volume) (Tel Aviv: Y. L. Perets Library, 1960), pp. 226-30.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Bukareshter zamlbikher (Bucharest anthologies), remembrance section (1947); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, “Der oyev yisroel” (The friend of the Jews), Idishe kultur (New York) (October 3, 1947); Bikl, Eseyen fun yidishn troyer (Essays of Jewish sorrow) (New York, 1948), pp. 180-89; Bikl, in Di tsukunft (New York) (February 1956); Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 4, 1960); Bikl, Rumenye (Romania) (Buenos Aires, 1961), pp. 336-41; M. Soyfer, in Seyfer borshtshiv (Borshchiv volume) (Tel Aviv: Y. L. Perets Library, 1960), pp. 277-83; Izrael Szajn, Bibliografye fun oysgabes aroysgegebn durkh di arbeter-parteyen in poyln in di yorn 1918-1939 (Bibliography of works published by workers’ parties in Poland over the years 1918-1939) (Warsaw, 1963); Seyfer horodenko (Volume for Horodenko) (Tel Aviv, 1963), pp. 38, 348-49.