HERSH KAMENETSKI (December 25, 1895-April 25, 1957)
He was a poet, born in the town of Tshermyavke (?), Minsk region. He came from a laboring family. He studied in religious elementary school and for a brief spell in a yeshiva. He worked as a wig maker in Borisov, Minsk district. He volunteered to fight in 1919 with the Red Army during the Soviet civil war. He returned from the front with tuberculosis, which later tormented him his entire life, and later entered Minsk State University. He lived by himself, without family, not joining either the Communist Youth (Komyug) or the Party. He worked for a certain period of time as an editor with the Byelorussian State Publishing House. He was purged in 1949 and deported to a camp in Siberia. After seven years he was rehabilitated and returned deathly ill to Borisov, where he died soon thereafter. He debuted in print in 1924 with poetry and placed work in the journal Der shtern (The star) in Minsk, and in the newspapers Oktyabr (October) and Der yunger arbeter (The young worker), as well as in Prolit (Proletarian literature), Tsaytshrift (Periodical), and other serials. Kamenetski’s poems were mostly about the Revolution and the civil war. His first collection appeared in print in 1933; critics noted at the time that he entered the world of literature as a mature poet, but he was not a declarative poet, economical in words and “more a poetic narrator than a ‘singer’” (Yashe Bonshteyn). In his work, he celebrated the role played by Jews in the Revolution and at the front. The poems were quiet, unassuming. His work appeared in such collections as: Kep, lider zamlung, gevidmet di korbones funem vaysn teror (Heads, poetry collection, dedicated to the victims of the white terror) (Byelorussian State Publishers, 1926), Atake (Attack) (Byelorussian State Publishers, 1934), Sovetishe vaysrusland (Soviet Byelorussia) (Byelorussian State Publishers, 1935), and Di bafrayte brider (The liberated brothers) (Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939)—all in Minsk; Revolutsyonerer deklamator (Revolutionary declamation) (International Labor Order, 1933) and Af naye vegn (Yidisher kultur farband, 1949) (Along new paths) in New York. With Zelik Akselrod, he edited Ordentregerishe vaysrusland, literarishe zamlbukh (Decoration-bearing Byelorussia, literary anthology) in Minsk (Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939), 245 pp.
His works include: Mitn glaykhn veg, lider (With an equal pathway, poems) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1933), 124 pp.; Lider (Poetry) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1938), 29 pp.; A bashtelung af yugnt (An appointment for youth) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1940), 98 pp.; Shtarker fun ayzn (Stronger than iron) (Moscow, 1948); Oysgeveylte lider (Selected poetry) (Minsk, 1960) which was also translated into Byelorussian. His translations include: Bruno Jasieński, Der mentsh bayt di hoyt (The man changes skin [original: Człowiek zmienia skórę]) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1936); Fyodor Ivanovich Panferov, Mitn festn trot (With a steadfast step [original: Tverdoi postupʹiu]) (Minsk: State Publishers, 1936), 408 pp.; Maxim Gorky, Kindheyt (Childhood [original: Detstvo]) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publishers, 1939), 238 pp. “Kamenetski has very few poems,” noted Yashe Bronshetyn, “in which the monotonic lyrical singing quality and the romantic lulling rhythmic quality predominate from the start. The romantic emphasizes the prosaic conversational character of his verse…. Kamenetski is more a poetic narrator than a ‘singer.’” “You sense an odd disquiet,” wrote Ber Orshanski, “…with the poet H. Kamenetski. He entered…modern poetry with his ‘Umet in freylekhe lider’ (Sadness in happy songs). But, in the first instance, there is more joy than sadness in them…. He emerged as a virtually mature poet. His subsequent path is a subsequent reinforcement of his poetry.”
Sources: Ber Orshanski, Di yidishe literatur in vaysrusland nokh der revolutsye, pruvn fun an oysforshung (Yiddish literature in Byelorussia after the revolution, attempt at an inquiry) (Minsk, 1931), pp. 91-92; Yashe Bronshteyn, Farfestikte pozitsyes (Published positions) (Moscow, 1934), pp. 186-204; Folks-shtime (Warsaw) (May 14, 1957), an obituary; Yisroel Emyot, Der birobidzhaner inyen, khronik fun a groyliker tsayt (The Birobidzhan affair, chronicle of a gruesome time) (Rochester: Sh. Bogograd, 1960), pp. 62-63; Aleksander Pomerants, Di sovetishe haruge malkhes (The [Jewish writers] murdered by the Soviet government) (Buenos Aires, 1962), pp. 423-34.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 473; Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 315-16.]
 Beider (p. 315) states he worked as a barber. (JAF)