Tuesday 21 August 2018


NOYEKH PRILUTSKI (NOAH PRYŁUCKI) (October 1, 1882-August 12, 1941)
            The son of Tsvi Prilutski and husband of Paula R., he was born in Berdichev, Ukraine, into a prominent family.  He spent his childhood years in Kremenets (Krzemieniec), studying Hebrew with Hirsh Hirshfeld, a student of the Ribal (Rabbi Isaac Baer Levinsohn), and Jewish history with his father.  While quite young, he became interested in Jewish issues, as people often were discussing such items in his father’s home.  He began writing when he was eight years of age, and at age ten he penned an article in Hebrew on Jewish colonization in Argentina.  At that time he had entered the municipal school where he studied for four years.  In 1898 he graduated from a school in Tsoyzmer (Sandomierz) and entered the fifth-year class of Number Three High School in Warsaw.  When he graduated high school with a gold medal, he went on to study law at Warsaw University.  In the summer of 1902, he took part in the first meeting of the “Jewish Association of Friends” (the task of this group was to support Jewish students from Poland, who were studying abroad), at which he gave a speech on the topic of “The National Movement of the Nineteenth Century.”  He was arrested in 1903 for organizing a demonstration in the Polish drama theater during a performance of the anti-Semitic play Złoty Cielec (Golden calf).  In 1904 he was thrown in the Pawiak Prison in Warsaw for taking part in a meeting of left-leaning students.  He was active (1904-1905) in the Zionist movement as a member of the student association Kadima (Onwards) and of the committee “Tsiyone-tsiyon” (Zionists of Zion) which led the campaign against the territorialists’ Uganda project.  He traveled through various and sundry cities, giving speeches, and gradually he began to appear with speeches in Yiddish in early 1905; he was expelled from Warsaw University for participating in a student meeting which passed a resolution calling for a Yiddish school in the state’s budget.  In 1907 he entered Petrograd University and in 1909 completed his studies there to become a lawyer.  He wrote his thesis on a topic involving business concerns.  He settled in Warsaw at the end of 1909 and worked there as a lawyer.
            During his student years (1908), he took part in the Czernowitz Yiddish Language Conference.  He was selected to be a member of the “commission of seven” which worked out the resolution concerning Yiddish as a national language of the Jewish people.
            Pryłucki’s first literary efforts were in Russian (fiction), and later he published scholarly articles in Yiddish (using the pen names: Student, Analyzn, and Hofman, among others) in Leon Rabinovitsh’s Bleter fun a togbukh (Pages from a diary) of 1900.  He also contributed several articles to Hamelits (The advocate) in 1901 and a novella to Hatsfira (The siren) in 1905.
            He began his manifold journalistic activities as a contributor to Veg (Path) under the editorship of his father.  For a time he was also the effective editor of the newspaper.  He later wrote for Unzer lebn (Our life) a letter from St. Petersburg, as well as literary and journalistic articles, under such pen names as Optaka, Aleksander Ts., and Iks.  At the same time, he intensively began to turn his attention to research into Yiddish and Jewish folklore.  He emerged in this period as a Yiddishist and began his own independent work on the Yiddish language and Yiddish literature.  In September and October 1908, he published in Lemberger togblat (Lemberg daily newspaper) and Warsaw’s Teater velt (Theater world) articles on the historical role of the Czernowitz Conference.
           In 1908 he published a collection of erotic poetry entitled Farn mizbeyekh, gedikhte (Before the altar, poems) (Warsaw: Hatsfira), 32 pp.  At the time he was also editing Goldene funken (Golden sparks) and the literary anthologies Der yunger gayst (The young spirit) and Moderne zamlbikher far literatur, kunst, kritik un biblyografye (Modern collections for literature, art, criticism, and bibliography) 1 (Warsaw, 1909).  Young Yiddish authors in Poland were assembled in these two anthologies: Moyshe Taytsh, Z. Segalovitsh, Paula R. (his wife), Menakhem Boraysho, Yoyne Rozenfeld, Moyshe Stavski, Hillel Tsaytlin, and Yoyel Mastboym.  In Goldene funken may be found poems and a longer article (28 pp.) by him in which he polemicizes sharply against Joseph Klausner’s stance against Yiddish literature.  In Lebn un visnshaft (Life and science), published by A. Litvin in Vilna, Pryłucki placed important studies, such as “Materyaln far yidisher gramatik un ortografye” (Materials for Yiddish grammar and orthography) (September 1909).
            In 1910 Pryłucki founded the daily newspaper Der moment (The moment).  He remained one of its most important contributors throughout its entire existence (until September 1939).  He published hundreds and hundreds of articles in Der moment on political, social, and cultural issues, as well as essays on theater and literature, art, and philosophy.
            With the outbreak of WWI (August 1914) and during the German occupation, Pryłucki began to play an immense role in Jewish political, social, and cultural life.  At the time of the first elections to the Warsaw city council in 1916, Pryłucki—at the initiative of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists—stood at the head of the then-created Jewish Democratic Election Committee and scored a victory in the elections.  He was elected to the city council which was then an important political and social defender of the people in Poland.  With his appearances on behalf Jewish interests, the Yiddish language, and secular Yiddish schools, he aroused great interest amid Jewish democratic society, intellectuals, and labor.  At that time he founded the Jewish Folks-partey (People’s party)—and became its principal leader.  He was also one of the most important founders of the “Association for Yiddish schools and popular education,” an organization that established a large number of secular Yiddish schools.  In March 1917 he ran the first Jewish Culture Conference in Poland.  At the same time he organized the Jewish craftsmen and retailers who constituted the main foundation of the Folks-partey.  In the summer of 1918 he was coopted into the only just created “state council,” and following the proclamation of Polish independence, he entered the first Polish Sejm as a deputy.  He persistently defended all rights of Jews in Poland, and he intervened on behalf of the Jewish population when it concerned every persecution and excess.  In April 1919 he contributed to the Sejm commission which at his initiative was sent to Pinsk to investigate the tragedy of the thirty-five Jews who were shot without a trial.  At the time of the Bolshevik invasion of Poland in 1920, he became extraordinarily active.  He fought against the expulsions of entire Jewish communities, against “excesses,” against espionage, false accusations, and against court-martials, and through personal interventions he saved numerous innocent Jews who had been sentenced to death.
            As the sole representative of the Folks-partey, he led a fight for recognition and equal rights of secular Yiddish schools.  In 1921 he visited the United States and launched a campaign there on behalf of the homeless, pogrom victims, in Ukraine and Byelorussia.  He was received by President Warren G. Harding.  He was also selected onto the central council of the Jewish World Relief Conference.  In 1922 he established a number of secular Yiddish schools and libraries.  In the fall of 1925 he took part in the congress for national minorities in Geneva and gave a welcoming speech in Yiddish.  Throughout this time, he wrote many journalistic pieces under the title “Af der vakh” (On guard) in Moment and was editor or co-editor of the popular Dos folk (The people), which appeared, with interruptions, over the course of the years 1916-1925.  In 1926 a split took place in the Folks-partey.  This weakened Pryłucki’s political work.  In addition, conditions in Poland became more severe—and party work suffered as a result.  Pryłucki thus turned his attention more to his scholarly research and cultural work.  He contributed to the activities of YIVO and gave lectures for the research students in the Tsemakh Shabad program there.  He also frequently gave lectures on his research.  He also became ever more focused on Jewish folklore and with the study of Yiddish dialects.  He took part in a conference at YIVO (1929) at which he read a paper on Yiddish dialectology and at the world conference of YIVO in Vilna (1935).  Pryłucki represented the Yiddish Pen center at the sixteenth Pen congress which was held in Prague in 1938.  Following a proposal he made, the congress unanimously passed a resolution to condemn anti-Semitism and racism.  Together with Dr. Max Weinreich and Zalmen Reyzen, he founded the journal Yidishe filologye (Yiddish philology), “bimonthly writings for linguistics and ethnography” (1926-1942).  Together with Shmuel Lehman, he brought out Arkhiv far yidisher shprakhvisnshaft, literaturforshung un etnologye (Archive for Yiddish linguistics, literary research, and ethnology) (Warsaw and Buenos Aires, 1926-1933).  On the eve of WWII in 1938, YIVO began to publish the journal Yidish far ale (Yiddish for everyone) under Pryłucki’s editorship.  Fourteen issues appeared between March 1938 and July 1939.  In Yidishe filologye, Yidish far ale, Arkhiv far yidisher shprakhvisnshaft, Yivo bleter (Pages from YIVO), and Filologishe shriftn (Philological writings), Pryłucki published an innumerable number of articles, such as: “Mikoyekh di yidish robinzon oysgabes” (Concerning Yiddish editions of Robinson [Crusoe]); “Vi azoy di rusishe tsenzur hot gebalebatevet in der bovo-mayse” (How the Russian censor dealt with the Bovo tale); “Af krume vegn” (Along curvy roads), a 64-page essay on Mizes’s work on Yiddish; “Mortkhe un ester” (Mordechai and Esther); “A historishe tkhine” (A historical prayer [in Yiddish] for women); “Di umbakante alt-yidishe dikhterin yente bas yitskhok” (The unknown Old Yiddish poetess, Yenta daughter of Isaac); “Shpet-loshn” (Language of ridicule); “Sinonimen un asosyatsyes” (Synonyms and associations); “Dyalektologishe forarbetungen” (Dialectological work); and “Yidishe dyalektologye” (Yiddish dialectology), among others.
            When WWII broke out, Pryłucki reached as far as Vilna, and there he continued his research work and occupied himself with cultural activities.  He persuaded the Lithuanian government to grant him permission to give talks (Pryłucki had the status there of a foreigner).  Together with Y. Y. Trunk and Y. Raban, he edited the anthology Untervegns (Pathways); when it was typeset, Lithuania had already gained independence, but shortly afterward it became a part of the Soviet Union.  Thus, to the collections was added a “Marxist” introduction.  In this work was Pryłucki’s long essay “Farvos iz dos yidishe teater oygekumen azoy shpet?” (Why did Yiddish theater arise so late?), which also appeared under a separate imprint.  There he described the Purim plays and their role in the emergence of Yiddish theater.  In the anthology Bleter (Leaves), which was published in Lithuania in 1941, he published an essay concerning Y. L. Perets.  In August 1940, Pryłucki gave a course in phonetics for the students in the Hebrew schools who were preparing to become teachers in the secular Yiddish schools.  The lectures were published in book form as Yidishe fonetik (Yiddish phonetics), elementary course for teachers, with four tables and drawings (Vilnius, 1940), 65 pp.  He was also appointed a lecturer in the department of the Yiddish language and literature which was established at the University of Vilnius (Vilna), and he served as the department’s administrator.  He also gave courses in the department on the Yiddish language, a history of Yiddish literature, and a special course on Y. L. Perets.  Following the appointment coming from the presidium of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences, Pryłucki became director of YIVO.  YIVO was to become a central institute which would incorporate the Strashun Library in the historical-ethnographic museum named for Sh. An-ski.  Pryłucki established relations with Yiddish researchers and with existing Jewish academic institutions.  When he became administrator of the new YIVO, he received the title of professor.
            The Germans invaded Russia in June 1941, while Pryłucki was ill with a lung inflammation.  He thus had no way to evacuate.  As A. Sutzkever reported in his book Vilner geto (Vilna ghetto) (Buenos Aires, 1947), Pryłucki was arrested on August 1, 1941.  He was commissioned to put together a list of the Yiddish incunabulae held in the Strashun Library.
            Recovered official materials on Pryłucki in the central state archives of Lithuania reveal that on July 1, 1941 he was removed from his professorial position at Vilna University.  He was arrested by the Gestapo on July 28, 1941 and murdered by the Gestapo on August 18.
            Aside from the anthologies he edited and the books mentioned above, he published in book form the following works: Yidishe folks-lider, 1: religyezishe un yontefdike (Yiddish folksongs, vol. 1, religious and holiday ones) (Warsaw, 1911), 159 pp.; Yidishe folks-lider, 2: lider un mayselekh fun toyt, balades un legendes mit un on a muser-haskl (Yiddish folksong, vol. 2, songs and stories of death, ballads and legends with and without a moral) (Warsaw, 1913), 176 pp.; Noyekh prilutskis zamlbikher far yidishn folklor, filologye un kulturgeshikhte (Noyekh Pryłucki’s anthologies of Yiddish folklore, philology, and cultural history), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1912), 144 pp., vol. 2 (Warsaw, 1917), 212 pp., new edition (Warsaw, 1920); Noyekh prilutskis ksovim, (Noyekh Pryłucki’s writings), vol. 1, Barg-aroyf (Uphill) (Warsaw, 1917), 323 pp., vol. 2, Sholem-yankev abramovitsh (Sholem-Yankev Abramovitsh [Mendele Moykher-Sforim]) (Warsaw, 1920), 190 pp., vols. 3-4, Yidishe teater (Yiddish theater) (Bialystok, 1921), 180 pp. and 126 pp., vol. 5, In poyln, kimat a publitsistik togbukh, 1905-1911 (In Poland, almost a journalist’s diary, 1905-1911) (Warsaw, 1921), 305 pp.; Der yidisher konsonantizm (Yiddish consonants) (Warsaw, 1917), 2 vols.; Dialektologishe paraleln un bamerkungen (Dialectological parallels and comments), studies of Yiddish vocalism (Warsaw, 1921); Tsum yidishn vokalizm, etyudn (Studies of Yiddish vocalism) (Warsaw, 1920), 64 pp.; Mame-loshn, yidishe shprakhvisenshaftlekhe forarbetn (Mother tongue, Yiddish linguistic research) (Warsaw, 1924), 162 pp.; Dos gevet, dyalogn vegn shprakh un kultur (The wager, dialogues on language and culture) (Warsaw, 1923), 159 pp.; Noyekh prilutskis redes in varshever shtot-rat (Noyekh Pryłucki’s speeches before the Warsaw city council), first series (Warsaw, 1922), 96 pp.—the same enlarged volume was published in Polish, entitled Mowy wygłoszone (Speeches delivered) (Warsaw, 1919), 176 pp.; Bay di kehile-valn (The community elections) (Warsaw, 1936), 62 pp.; Dialektologishe forarbetn (Dialectological research) (Vilna: YIVO, 1937), 234 pp.  In separate offprints, the following essays were also published: Vegn di mekoyrim fun shmuel-bukh, metodologishe bamerkungen (On the origins of the Shmuel bukh, methodological remarks), initially appearing in Yidishe velt (Jewish world) in Warsaw (October-November 1928); and Oys der alt-yidisher dikhtung (From Old Yiddish poetry), R’ arye yude leyb soyfer als dikhter (R’ Arye-Leyb Sofer as a poet), Yokhonen oybeshits un di yidish veltlekhe literatur (Yohanen Eybeschuts and secular Yiddish literature), and Shloyme ibn gavirols toykhekhe af yidish (Solomon Ibn Gavirol’s curses on Yiddish)—all originally in Shriftn (Writings) in Warsaw (1937-1938).  Pryłucki translated and published Leonid Andreyev’s story Di zibn gehangene (The seven who were hanged [original: Rasskaz o semi poveshennykh]).
Noyekh Pryłucki’s library, archive, and manuscripts remained in Warsaw, and it would appear that all were lost.  A portion of the materials from his archive that was held in YIVO in Vilna was saved and hidden by Herman Kruk.  The fate of the other portion of his archive remains unknown.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Di ershte yidishe shprakh-konferents (The first Yiddish language conference) (Vilna, 1931); Yivo biblyografye (YIVO bibliography) (New York, 1943), vol. 2 (New York, 1955), see index; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945), pp. 164-76; Y. Mark, in Yivo-bleter (New York) (September-October 1945); Kh. Sh. Kazdan, Di geshikhte fun yidishn shulvezn in umophengikn poyln (The history of the Jewish school system in independent Poland) (Mexico City, 1947); A. Sutzkever, Vilner geto, 1941-1944 (Vilna ghetto, 1941-1944) (Buenos Aires, 1947); Shmerke Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947); Dr. M. Dvorzhetski (Mark Dvorzetsky), Yerusholayim delite in kamf un umkum (The Jerusalem of Lithuania in struggle and death) (Paris, 1948); E. Almi, Momentn fun a lebn (Moments in a life) (Buenos Aires, 1948); B. Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954); M. Turkov, Di letste fun a groysn dor (The last of a great generation) (Buenos Aires, 1954); Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 3 (New York, 1959), pp. 1879-83; Herman Kruk, Togbukh fun vilner geto (Diary from the Vilna ghetto) (New York, 1961), pp. 35-36, 535; A Zak, In onheyb fun a friling (In the beginning of spring) (Buenos Aires, 1962), pp. 99-101; Nakhmen Mayzil, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (November 1964), pp. 1-11; L. Beder and M. Yelin, in Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 3 (March 1965), pp. 146-48.
Elye (Elias) Shulman

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