YISROEL-YEKHIEL KOPELOF (ISADORE KOPELOFF) (September 15, 1858-September 23, 1933)
He was born in Babruysk, Byelorussia. He attended yeshivas and was extremely knowledgeable of Talmud, Tanakh, Hassidism, and Kabbala. Because of his socialism, he suffered persecution from the police, and he thus departed for the United States in 1882. He took up a variety of trades, until he reached a business which suited him. In America he was active in the Jewish anarchist labor movement. He helped to found the journal Fraye arbeter shtime (Free voice of labor). He was a Socialist Revolutionary, later joining the Jewish national-socialist movement. He helped to establish Chaim Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye leben (The new life) and later the Labor Zionist daily newspaper Di tsayt (The times). From 1888 he was contributing articles to Fraye arbeter shtime, Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), and from time to time Forverts (Forward), Varhayt (Truth), Dos naye leben, Tog (Day), and Di tsayt. Kopelof’s greatest achievement was three volumes of memoirs which he published under various titles: Amol is geven (It once was), memoirs of Jewish life in Lithuania in the years 1860-1882 (New York: Max N. Mayzel, 1926), 379 pp.; Amol in amerike, zikhroynes fun dem yidishn lebn in amerike in yorn 1883-1904 (Once upon a time in America, memoirs of Jewish life in America in the years 1883-1904) (Warsaw: Bzhoza, 1928), 464 pp.; Amol un shpeter, di letste yorn fun foriḳn yorhundert biz di tsvantsikste yorn fun heyntikn yorhundert in ameriḳe (Once and later, the last years of the previous century until the 1920s in America) (Vilna: Altnay, 1932), 412 pp. His book Amoliḳe yorn, iberlebungen fun a idish ingel in der alter heym (Years past, experiences of a Jewish boy in the old country) is a shortened version of his memoirs, published for young people (New York: Matones, 1931), 208 pp. Concerning Amol in amerike, Moyshe Zilberfarb wrote: “A treasury of Jewish customs, habits, and traditions, a life path which meanders from a religious elementary school in Babruysk through the Shklov yeshiva to the anarchist association in New York.” Moyshe Shalit noted: “A great deal of material possessing first-class significance.” He also wrote under the pen names Nakhbi Ben Vafsi and Khayim Shrayber. He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (May 2, 1926); Y. Shatski, in Tsukunft (new York) (November 1926); Moyshe Zilberfarb, in Bikher-velt (Warsaw) (July 1928); Moyshe Shalit, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) 22 (1932); H. Vyernik, in Morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 29, 1932); Fraye shriftn (Warsaw) 15 (1933); Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York); American Jewish Yearbook (New York, 1934).