Monday 28 January 2019


YOYSEF KAHAN (JOSEPH JACOB COHEN) (1878-September 28, 1953)
            He was born Byelorussia with the surname at birth of Kantorovitsh.  He studied in religious elementary schools and in the Mir Yeshiva.  He worked as a teacher in Minsk, and there he was drawn into workers’ circles.  From 1898 he served as a soldier in Grodno.  In the Grodno Garrison, he organized a reading circle for Jewish soldiers.  From 1903 he was living in Philadelphia, and there he became active in the anarchist movement.  In 1905 he established the Radical Library which played a major role among Jewish anarchists in America.  In Philadelphia he published and edited the anarchist weekly periodical Broyt un frayhayt (Bread and freedom)—nine issues appeared.  Over the years 1923-1932, he served as editor of Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor).  There and in other Jewish anarchist serials, he published numerous theoretical and literary critical articles.  He also wrote under the pen name: Y. Kantorovitsh.  In 1946 he moved to Mexico and later to Paris where he edited Der frayer gedank (The free idea).  In 1951 he returned to the United States.  His works include: Di yidish-anarkhistishe bavegung in amerike (The Jewish anarchist movement in America) (Philadelphia, 1945), XVI + 557 pp.; Der urshprung fun gloybn (The origin of belief) (Tel Aviv, 1950), 31 pp.; In Quest of Heaven (New York, 1957), XVI + 256 pp.  He died in Washington.

Sources: Biographical introduction to his In Quest of Heaven; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; A. Frumkin, “Sh. Yanovski” (Los Angeles, 1957); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Yekhezkl Lifshits


  1. Thank you! He is my great-grandfather. I knew this entry existed but didn't have a translation of it. May I ask what are the sources given? Were they in the entry or are they your own sources?

  2. You're more than welcome. Everything is from the original entry, unless otherwise noted. So, I can't say much more than what you see here. Enjoy.