Saturday 9 February 2019


YOYSEF KAMENETSKI (July 27, 1876-early August 1948)

            He was a journalist, translator, and teacher, born in Pinsk. At age fourteen he entered the Vilna Jewish teachers’ institute and for a short time studied at Berlin University. In 1896 he became a teacher in Nevel (Nyevyel'), Byelorussia, where he organized the first strike of local brush-makers. In 1902 he settled in Vilna and worked as a teacher of history and natural science. He was one of the organizers of the Jewish section of the Russian Teachers’ Association. Over the years 1908-1915, he took part in the literary and music society, translated poetry and one-act plays for children’s performances, and published articles on Jewish pedagogy. He was later active in the establishment of Jewish schools in a number of Russian cities and was arrested for this. He wrote several plays, staged Sholem-Aleichem’s Motl peysi dem khazns (Motl, son of Peysi the cantor), and translated into Yiddish works by classical Russian writers: Valentin Zhukovski, Mikhail Lermontov, Nikolai Nekrasov, and Fyodor Tyutchev, among others. He also graduated from the Petrov Agricultural Academy and worked as an agronomist in various positions. In late 1922 he was working in Moscow as a teacher of geography in a public school for laborers. He compiled a geography reader with original descriptions (based on a trip to the Caucasus, the Donbas, the Murmansk region, a string of cities on the Volga River, and Leningrad). He published popular scientific articles in Lebn un visnshaft (Life and science) in Vilna (using the pen name Y. Lider) and in Moscow’s Emes (Truth) and Af di vegn tsu der nayer shul (On the roads to the new school).

In book form: Der grins-gortn (The vegetable garden) (St. Petersburg: ORT, 1920), 116 pp.; Di erd, a verkshtub farn mentshn, a khrestomaṭye fun fizisher geografye, in tsuzamenhang mit der produḳtsye (The earth, a workshop for people, a reader on physical geography, in connection with production), 3 parts (Moscow: Central Publishers, 1925-1928); Der zig bam dnyeper (The victory at the Dnieper River) (Moscow: Emes, 1932), 100 pp.; Di natur-oytsres fun der yidisher avtonomer gegnt (The natural treasures of the Jewish Autonomous Region) (Moscow: Emes, 1937), 21 pp.; Di yidishe avtonome gegnt, ekonomish-geografisher etyud (The Jewish Autonomous Region, an economic-geographic study) (Moscow: Emes, 1939), 79 pp. He translated G. A. Ivanov’s Heftn far zelbshtendike arbetn af geografye (Notebooks for independent work in geography), 2 parts: 1. (Kiev, 1922), 2. (Moscow: Shul un bukh, 1927). He died in Moscow.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1961), see index; B. Hofman, ed., Toyznt yor pinsk (1000 years of Pinsk) (New York, 1941), p. 339.

Yekhezkl Lifshits

[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), p. 316.]

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