MEYER-YANKEV FREYD (August 31, 1871-March 25, 1940)
He was born in Kalvarye (Kalvarija), Suwalk district, Lithuania. He studied in a “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school). He graduated high school in Mariampol (Marijampolė). In 1889 he settled in Warsaw and worked in a business office; he later opened an advertising office as well as a publishing house and a bookshop primarily selling Judaica and Hebraica. He contributed work to Hatsfira (The siren). Under Perets’s influence, he switched to Yiddish and published in Perets’s anthologies: Yidishe biblyotek (Yiddish library), Literatur un lebn (Literature and life), and Yontef-bletlekh (Holiday sheets). He wrote about the life of animals, the first of the genre in Yiddish literature. He corresponded from Warsaw for Velt (World) in Vienna and to Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg. He adapted in Yiddish a German-language, sensational novel about Dreyfus and thus the volumes of his Kapitan dreyfus (Captain Dreyfus) was dubbed: “an extraordinarily interesting novel of contemporary times,” five kopeks a copy (incidentally, the first Yiddish novel sold in booklets in Poland), and the printings hugely successful. They initially brought out as many as 25,000 copies. The novel was also translated into Russian and Polish. When L. Tsukerman began publishing a series of Yiddish books under the title “Tsukermans folks-biblyothek” (Tsukerman’s popular library) (Warsaw, 1889), Freyd adapted for the series: Di goldmakher, a emes interesante geshikhte…nokh haynrikh tshoke (The goldmakers, a truly interesting story…after Heinrich Zschokke [original: Das Goldmacherdorf (The Goldmakers’ village)]), 56 pp.; Shakespeare’s Der koyfman fun venedig (The Merchant of Venice), in the form of a story; Daniil Mordovtsev’s historical novel, Di heldn fun yerusholaim (The heroes of Jerusalem) (Warsaw: M. Spektor, 1898; Vilna, 1903), 104 pp. He penned a pamphlet entitled Di groyse tsienistishe asife in minsk (The great Zionist assembly in Minsk) (Warsaw: Folks-bildung, 1902). In Yud (Jew), among other items, he published a work entitled “Don yitskhok abravanel” (Don Isaac Abravanel) in 1899. In 1910 he began publishing an illustrated weekly entitled Der shtral (The beam [of light]), under the editorship of A. L. Yakubovitsh. Virtually every week, he wrote editorials, features, essays, and reviews of Polish and Yiddish writers, books, and theater, under such pen names as: A Fremder and Mi”f (Der shtral last fifteen months). He published several chapters of memoirs involving Yehoash, Mendele, Y. A. Leyserovitsh, and his Dreyfus novel in Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw (1927). He was an active Ḥovev-Tsiyon (Lover of Zion), later a political Zionist. He was one of the elected heads of the Warsaw Jewish community council. In 1924 he visited the land of Israel and in 1932 settled there. He established when he arrived a newspaper entitled Haoyle (The immigrant [to Palestine]) and started writing his memoirs which was to appear in five booklets, two volumes. The Hebrew edition was: Yamim veshanim, zikhronot vetsiyurim mitekufa shel ḥamishim shana (Days and years, memoirs and paintings from a period of fifty years) (Tel Aviv, 1938/1939), which was a translation from the Yiddish by Avraham Zamir. In Israel he published one further work in Yiddish: Vegvayzer un informator fun erets-yisroel (Guide and information to the land of Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1934), 66 pp.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (May 6, 1929); Sefer haishim (Biographical dictionary) (Tel Aviv, 1937); Nakhmen Mayzil, Y. l. perets, zayn lebn un shafn (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1931), vol. 1; yearbook of Polish Jewry (1940), pp. 57-59; Hadoar (New York) (August 2, 1940); Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (October 16, 1940); B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955); D. Tidhar, Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol.11 (Tel Aviv, 1961), p. 3786.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 550.]