AVROM EPSHTEYN (ABRAHAM EPSTEIN) (August 18, 1880-December 8, 1952)
He was born in Slutsk, Minsk district, Byelorussia. Until age seventeen he studied in Slutsk yeshivas, and thereafter he became an external student. He read with considerable diligence the great Russian critics Vissarion Belinski, Dmitry Pisarev, and Nikolay Dobrolyubov—and he was especially taken with Belinsky. Together with Y. D. Berkovitsh and Meyer Vaksman, he published a hand-printed work entitled Hatsayir (Youth). His essay in it concerned Émile Zola. In 1902 he began to publish poetry and children’s stories in the periodicals: Haperaḥim (The fruits), Hashaḥar (The dawn), Ben shaḥar (Son of dawn), and Shetilim (Seedlings)—in the last of these, a lengthy poem about the Messiah son of Joseph. Over the years 1911-1915, he published poetry and stories in the revived Hatsfira (The siren) and contributed to Vilna’s Hazman (The times). His first essay appeared in the anthology Erets (Land) in Odessa (1917), and he also wrote for: Barkai (Morning star) in Odessa, edited by Y. Klausner and later by A. Litay). His work appeared as well in: Reshumot (Gazette); Haolam (The world) in Berlin; and Hadoar (The mail), Bitsaron (Fortress), Shevile haḥinukh (Pathways in education), and Sefer hashana (Yearbook) for “Histadrut ivrit” (Hebrew federation)—in America. He arrived in the United States in 1925, worked as a teacher of literature in the Herzliya seminary in New York and at the Yeshiva of Flatbush in Brooklyn. He was a co-editor of Slutsker sheygets (Slutsk smart alec), a humorous magazine of satire—he himself contributed poems, features, and the like. When he lived for a short while in Kishinev, he wrote for the local newspaper Unzer tsayt (Out time). His book-length works include: Sofrim (Writers) (New York, 1934), 232 pp., essays about Y. L. Gordon, Sh. Ben-Tsiyon, Ḥ. N. Bialik, Sh. Chernikhovsky, and Z. Shneur, among others; Mikarov unmeraḥok (From near and far) (New York: Ohel, 1943), 261 pp., with a foreword and afterword—among the essays here are two which concern Yiddish: “Modernizm basifrut haidit beamerika” (Modernism in Yiddish literature in America), pp, 208-19; and “Yaakov Glatshteyn” (Yankev Glatshteyn); Sofrim ivrim beamerika (Hebrew writers in America) (Tel Aviv: Devir, 1952), 2 vols., 442 pp. Among his pen names: Aba and Aba Arikha. He was among the most respected critics in American Hebrew literature. He also enriched literary criticism in Yiddish with a series of important literary studies published in Tsukunft (Future) in New York. He died in New York.
Sources: Pinkas slutsk (Records of Slutsk), Slutsk memorial volume (Tel Aviv, 1962), pp. 389-402; G. Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit badorot haaḥaronim (Handbook of modern Hebrew literature), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv, 1965), cols. 137-38.
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