BENYOMEN FEYGENBOYM (BENJAMIN FEIGENBAUM) (August 12, 1860-November 10, 1932)
He true first name was Simkhe-Bunem, and he was born in Warsaw into a Hassidic family. Raised in the Hassidic spirit, at age twenty-two he left it behind and began agitating among the yeshiva lads for the Jewish Enlightenment and education. In 1884 he left home for Antwerp and became active in the local socialist movement. He began writing for the Flemish organ of the Belgian socialist workers’ party, De werker (The worker). He took part in the struggle between socialists and anarchists, and he began writing in Yiddish with correspondence pieces in Yudisher folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper) in St. Petersburg (1886). At the same time, he was also contributing to Hamagid (The preacher) and Hayom (Today). At Krants’s invitation (Arbeter fraynd [Workers’ friend]), he moved to England. He lived for two years in London and Manchester, and he quickly became popular as an agitator, speaker, and socialist writer. He organized workers in the regional cities. In the spring of 1891, he began sending in “Brief fun mayrev leyam” (Letters from overseas), using the pen name “Der royter idl” (The little red Jew), to Arbeter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper) in New York. His socialist pamphlets, published in London—such as Geule, oder di idishe hilf, vi azoy kumt a id tsu sotsyalizmus (Redemption, or Jewish relief, how a Jew comes to socialism)—gave him a name in the United States. These pamphlets were also distributed illegally in Poland and Lithuania. In July 1891 he came to New York at the invitation of the socialist weekly Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper) and was received by Jewish laborers with great enthusiasm. Over the years 1900-1903, he served as the first secretary general of the Workmen’s Circle. From the founding of Forverts (Forward) in New York, he became tied up with this newspaper as one of its most important contributors. As one of the first popularizers of scientific socialism in Yiddish, he was primarily known for his struggle against the Jewish religion, traditional Judaism, and Zionism. As a fierce cosmopolitan and opponent of ethnic Jewish movements, he also fought against the Bund and contributed to Yiddish publications of the Polish Socialist Party. He thus made strong use of his learning and proficiency in Jewish religious literature in his controversy with Forverts; for a time he wrote for Morgn zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York and later returned to Forverts. In the latter he published a series of explanatory articles, also in Tsukunft (Future) in New York (of which he was editor in 1903) and elsewhere. Together with A. Lyesin and O’Neal, he wrote essays on selected writings in Yiddish by Eugene V. Debs (New York: Veker, 1927). In his last years, he withdrew from activist work due to illness. Among his pseudonyms: Shabes, Shabsovitsh, and Sh. Peshes. His books would include: Di sotsyalistishe hagode shel peysekh (The socialist Passover Hagada) (London: Berner Street Club, ca. 1888) (the first half was the work of L. Zolotkof); free translation and adaptation of Johann Joseph Most, Die Eigenthums-Bestie (The property beast) (London: Workers’ Press, 1888), 31 pp.; Vi kumt a yud tsu sotsyalizmus? (How does a Jew come to socialism?) (London: Knights of Liberty of England and America, 1889), 31 pp.; Elishe ben avuye (Elisha ben Avuya) (London: B. Ruderman, 188?), 18 pp.; Dos gezets der antṿiklung, oder der natirlikher sod fun mayse breyshes (The law of evolution, or the natural secret of the story of creation) (London, 1890), 48 pp.; Farshidene tsores (Various problems) (1892); Di geule oder vos iz di make un vos iz di refue? (The redemption or what is the scourge and what is the cure?) (New York, 1893), 48 pp.; Geld, gold un zilber, der a״b fun di geld-frage (Money, gold and silver, the ABCs of the question of money) (New York, 1896), 32 pp.; Dos gan-eydn hatakhtn (The earthly paradise) (New York, 1896), 31 pp.; Di hefḳer velṭ, un vi men ken fun ihr poter vern (The lawless world, and how one can be rid of it) (New York, 1897), 34 pp.; Darvinizmus oder darvin hot getrofn (Darwinism or Darwin hit upon it) (Warsaw: Progres, 1901), 30 pp.; Shteyner vos faln fun himl, a populere erklehrung vegn meteoriten, shṭernshnupfen un ḳomeṭen (Rocks that fall from the sky, a popular explanation of meteors, shooting stars, and comets) (Warsaw: Progres, 1901), 30 pp.; Der rambam, rabeynu moyshe ben maymun (maymonides), zayn lebn un zayne oyfthuungen far iden un far di velt (The Rambam, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, Maimonides, his life and his accomplishments for Jews and for the world) (New York, 1903), 31 pp.; Liebe un familyen-leben loyt yidishkeyt (Love and family life according to Jews) (New York, 1904), 71 pp.; Yomud, arbayṭer! ṿos di sotsyalisṭishe parṭey vil oyfthun (Stand up, workers! What the Socialist Party wishes to accomplish) (Chicago: Socialist Party in America, 1904?), 31 pp.; Der rekhter veg, a vikuekh vegen di poylishe sotsyalisṭishe partey un ihre foderungen (The right path, a debate concerning the Polish Socialist Party and its demands) (Lemberg, 1905); Di idishe inkvizitsye kedas rakhmonim bney rakhmonim (The Jewish inquisition according to the laws of the Jewish people) (Leeds, 1906), 100 pp.; Fun vanen shtamen di hayntige iden? oder, idishe melukhes in rusland un arabyen (Where do today’s Jews come from? Or, Jewish states in Russia and Arabia) (London: The Radical Publishing Company, 1907), 39 pp., second edition (London: B. Ruderman, 1910); Ver hot ayngefirt yom kipper, un fun vanen shtamt di toyre (Who instituted [the custom of] Yom Kippur, and where did the Torah come from), third edition (London: Frayhayt, 1907), 20 pp.; Khivi habalkhi, lebens-beshraybungen fun idishe fraydeynker fun di eltste tsaytn on (Ḥiwi al-Balkhi, lives of Jewish freethinkers from ancient times forward) (London: B. Ruderman, 191?), 20 pp.; Vashington, a beshraybung fun dzhordzh vashington, der ershter prezident in amerika (Washington, a description of George Washington, the first president of America) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1907), 114 pp.; Tsu vos toyg teater (What good is theater) (New York: Hebrew Publishing Company, 1909), 16 pp.; Kosher un treyfe un andere mitsves (Kosher and non-kosher and other commandments) (New York, 1909), 307 pp., second enlarged edition (New York: Forverts, 1919), 314 pp.; translation of August Bebel, Di froy un der sotsyalizmus (Women and socialism [original: Die Frau und der Sozialismus]) (New York: Forverts, 1911), 773 pp., second edition (New York: Forverts, 1916); Idishkeyt un sotsyalizmus, in tsvey teyln (Jewishness and socialism, in two parts) (New York, 1914), 130 pp.; free translation with notes of Friedrich Engels, Di familye, amol un haynt (The family, then and now [original: Der Ursprung der Familie, des Privateigenthums und des Staats (The origins of the family, private property and the state)]) (New York: Forverts, 1918), 353 pp.; Zayt ir a sotsyalist? (Are you a socialist?) (New York: Veker, n.d.), 8 pp.; A hagdome fir sotsyalistn (A preface for socialists) (New York: Social-Democratic Party, n.d.), 32 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; K. Frumin, in Tsukunft (New York) (February 1904); Dr. A. Ginzburg, in Tsukunft (July 1904); A. Litvin, in Tsukunft (October 1904); F. Krants, in Tsukunft (December 1904); Y. A. Hurvitsh, in Tsukunft (March 1908; April 1908); Dr. Hofman, in Tsukunft (June 1908); Bal-Makhshoves, in Populer-visnshaftlekhe literatur (Popular scientific literature), vol. 2 (Vilna, 1910), pp. 76-83; Tsvien, in Tsukunft (July 1911); A. Sh. Zaks, in Tsukunft (July 1912); Zaks, Di geshikhte fun arbeter-ring, 1892-1925 (History of the Workmen’s Circle, 1892-1925) (New York, 1925); Zaks, in Forverts (New York) (November 14, 1932); Y. Milts, in Tsukunft (January 1912); D. Tirkl, in Pinkes (New York) 1 (1927-1928), p. 260; D. Sh. Bernshteyn, Beḥazon hadorot (In the vision of the generations) (New York, 1928), p. 124; H. Lang, in Tsukunft (September 1930); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (July 10, 1932); Niger, in Tsukunft (June 1940); L. Kobrin, in Tog (November 11, 1932); Ab. Kahan, in Forverts (November 11, 1932); Kahan, Bleter fun mayn lebn (Pages from my life), vol. 3 (Vilna, 1928), p. 229, vol. 4 (Vilna, 1929), pp. 465-66, 601; Y. Y. Zinger, in Forverts (November 12, 1932); L. Finkelshteyn, in Tog (November 12, 1932); M. Ivenskii, in Veker (New York) (December 10, 1932); A. Lyesin, in Tsukunft (December 1932); Moyshe Shtarkman, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 4 (1932), pp. 354-87; Shtarkman, in Tsukunft (May-June 1942; November-December 1962); Shtarkman, in Yorbukh fun yidishn bikher-rat (Yearbook of the Jewish book council) (New York, 1942/1943); Shtarkman, in Hadoar (New York) (May 23, 1947); A. Frumkin, In friling fun yidishn sotsyalizm (In the spring of Jewish socialism) (New York, 1940); Y. Kheykin, in Yorbukh (New York) (1944/1945); Elye (Elias) Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 64, 72-73; A. Litvak, Geklibene shriftn (Selected writings) (New York, 1945), pp. 435-38; M. Osherovitsh, Di geshikhte fun “forverts”, 1897-1947 (History of the Forward, 1897-1947) (New York, 195?), pp. 43-56; Y. Sh. Herts, 50 yor arbeter ring (Fifty years of the Workmen’s Circle) (New York, 1950); H. Vigderson, in Forverts (August 10, 1952); B. Tsukerman, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (1961/1962); Arbeter-ring boyer un tuer (Builders and leaders of the Workmen’s Circle), ed. Y. Yeshurin and Y. Sh. Herts (New York, 1962), pp. 312-13; D. Shub, in Forverts (May 10, 1964; May 17, 1964); H. Rogof, Der nayes fun forverts (The news from the Forverts) (New York, 1954).