YOYEL-BERISH FALKOVITSH (JOEL BERISCH FALKOWITCH) (d. 1870s)
He was born in Dubne (Dubno), Volhynia. He was highly adept at Talmud, philosophical speculation, and Kabbala, and in his youth he turned his attention to secular education. He mastered several European languages and was one of the pioneers of the Jewish Enlightenment movement in Volhynia. As a fine Hebrew stylist, he adapted in Hebrew Lessing’s Philotas, which he published under the title Avinadav (Odessa, 1868), 28 pp. He lived the last years of his life in Odessa, where for an unknown reason he converted to Christianity, after which he remained even closer to Jewry. To the anti-Semitic publication of the editor of Varshavskiy Dnevnik (Warsaw journal), he wrote in German an apologia entitled “Wort zur Zeit” (Word of the times), which he also translated into Hebrew; with the mediation of Gavriel Ravitsh, it was published in Radkinson’s Hakol (The voice) (1876/1877) under the title “Davar beito,” in which he argued against all the accusations and calumnies against Jews. He also appeared at several blood-libel trials and demonstrated under oath the falsehood of the calumnies. Dr. R. Kulisher, who was in correspondence with him, did not mention his conversion, but commended him strongly as a meritorious fighter for the Jewish Enlightenment and for his extraordinary knowledge of Hebrew literature. According to Kulisher, Falkovitsh was a proponent of popularizing science in Hebrew, which he held higher than the useless, fictional, florid language of Hebrew writers. In addition to essays in Hebrew-language journals, he published in Yiddish: Reb khayiml der katsin (Reb Khayiml the leader), a theater piece in four acts (composed in St. Petersburg, 1864 or 1866), published in Odessa (1867), 166 pp.; and Rokhele der zingerin (Rokhele the singer), a theater piece in four acts (Zhitomir, 1868), 125 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzin, Leksikon, vol. 3; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 3 (New York, 1959); Y. Dobrushin, in Tsaytshrift (Minsk) 2-3 (1928); Noyekh Pryłucki, Mame-loshn, yidishe shprakhvisenshaftlekhe forarbetn (Mother tongue, Yiddish linguistic research), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1924), p. 113; Yisroel Tsinberg, Kultur-historishe shtudyes (Cultural historical studies) (New York, 1949), p. 163.