MOYSHE-YITSKHOK SEVITS (November 1896-October 24, 1939)
He was born with the surname Shayevitsh in Trishki (Tryškiai), Kovno district, Lithuania. He attended religious elementary school and the Telts (Telz) yeshiva. At age fifteen he made his way to South Africa. He lived in Johannesburg, where he was (1913) a cofounder of the Jewish Literary and Drama Society. During and after WWI, he actively contributed to the relief fund for Jewish war- and pogrom-victims, as well as to the movement to bring to South Africa orphans from Ukraine and Poland. He was also active in Johannesburg’s ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) and Gezerd (All-Union Association for the Agricultural Settlement of Jewish Workers in the USSR). He was chairman and one of the most active leaders of the Johannesburg Jewish Cultural Association, as well as one of the pioneers in organizing the secular Jewish community cultural life in South Africa. He was one of the most dedicated leaders of the secular Jewish public school in Johannesburg. His literary activities began in the Johannesburg weekly Di yudishe fohn (The Jewish banner), edited by Ben-Tsien Z. Hersh, and he later published poetry, stories, reportage pieces, articles, feature pieces, and one-act plays in: Dos naye vort (The new word), the first literary monthly journal in South Africa, which started appearing in 1916, Der afrikaner (The African), Der shtrom (The current), Unzer veg (Our way), Unzer onhoyb (Our beginning), and Dorem-afrike (South Africa), for which he was for a time co-publisher and co-editor. He was also co-publisher and co-editor of the monthly journal Idishe tribune (Jewish tribune). He was a member of the editorial board of Foroys (Onward), edited by Y. Kharlash, published by the Jewish Cultural Association in Johannesburg (1937-1942). “In a number of his stories,” wrote Y. M. Sherman, “the frightening events in the lives of Jewish immigrants, coming to South Africa from Lithuania, Poland, and other Eastern European countries are depicted.” He died in Johannesburg.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Y. M. Sherman, in Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (Johannesburg) (October 27, 1939); Sherman, “Af alte literarishe shlyakhtn” (On old literary battles), Dorem afrike (Johannesburg) (May 1952; November 1952; October 1953); Sh. Kartin, in Foroys (Johannesburg) (November 1939).
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