Sunday 10 February 2019


YUDE-LEYB KANTOR (April 27, 1849-May 5, 1915)
            He was Hebrew and Yiddish journalist and a feuilletonist, born in Vilna.  His father was a cantor.  He received a traditional education.  In 1873 he graduated from the Zhitomir rabbinical seminary.  He studied in Berlin and there received his medical degree.  In 1879 he settled in St. Petersburg, where he became the actual editor of Russkii Evrei (Russian Jew).  From 1890 he was rabbi of Libave (Liepāja), Vilna, and Riga.  He founded and edited the first Hebrew-language, daily newspaper Hayom (Today) (1886-1887).  He also wrote for Hashaar (The dawn) starting in 1873, Hashiloa (The shiloah), Hatsfira (The siren), and Haolam (The world).  In late 1887 he began his literary work in Yiddish with Yudishes folkblat (Jewish people’s newspaper), for which he served as editor after Alexander Tsederboym.[1]  Here he wrote editorials—many of them anonymously—literary historical articles, and political surveys, as well as feature pieces (using the pseudonyms: Moyshe Glezl, Velvl Tsaptserik, and others) and for Baylage tsum yudishen folkblat (Supplement to Yudishes folksblat), using the pseudonym Kolef Ben Yefune.  He co-edited Fraynd (Friend) for which he composed features under the title “Velt mit veltlekh” (World with little worlds), using the pen name Mimikri, and also on literary historical themes—in the monthly Dos leben (The life), among other items a long piece of Ayzik-Meyer Din, in Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people) in 1906, and elsewhere.  Kantor was one of the creators of the feuilleton genre in the Yiddish press.  He introduced Shimen Frug and Dovid Frishman to Yiddish literature, but he had no luck attracting his boss at Yudishes folksblat, Yisroel Levi, to enhance the station of the printed Yiddish word.  He contributed to the Russian Jewish encyclopedia (St. Petersburg, 1910) and to Russian-language Jewish periodicals.  “Kantor achievement,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “was not only that he helped others become writers, but that he was an editor with education, taste, and initiative….  He was himself an outstanding journalist, an independent writer and researcher.”  He died in Riga.

Sources: Kantor’s memoirs appeared in Hashiloa 1; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Meravya, 1967); Lidskis familyen almanakh (Lidski’s family almanac) (Warsaw, 1909/1910); Sh. L. Tsitron, Dray literarishe doyres (Three literary generations), vol. 2 (Warsaw, 1923), pp. 111-12, vol. 3, pp. 45-53; Tsitron, Geshikhte fun der yudisher prese prese fun yor 1863 biz 1889 (The history of the Yiddish press from the year 1863 until 1889) (Warsaw: Aisefer, 1923), pp. 52, 158-59; Yankev-Yude Mark, Gedoylim fun unzer tsayt, monografyes, kharakter-shtrikhn un zikhroynes (Great men of our time, monographs, character traits, and memoirs) (New York, 1927), pp. 334-39; Shoyl Ginzburg, Amolike peterburg, forshungen un zikhroynes vegn yidishn lebn in der residents-shtot fun tsarishn rusland (St. Petersburg of old, research and memories of Jewish life in the imperial capital of Tsarist Russia) (New York, 1944), pp. 203ff; Reuben Brainin, Fun mayn lebns-bukh (From my book of life) (New York: IKUF, 1946), pp. 330-35; Nakhmen Mayzil, Forgeyer un mittsaytler (Forerunner and contemporary) (New York, 1946), see index; Shmuel Niger, in Tog (New York) (December 24, 1949; December 31, 1949).
Berl Cohen

[1] This is according to Zalmen Reyzen and others.  Shmuel-Leyb Tsitron claims—in Geshikhte fun der yudisher prese prese fun yor 1863 biz 1889 (The history of the Yiddish press from the year 1863 until 1889), vol. 1 (Warsaw: Aisefer, 1923), p. 52—that Kantor had already written for Kol mevaser (Herald) at this point under the pen name “Shilshom Ben Yente,” which people have erroneously mistaken as the pen name of another writer: Yisroel Bernshteyn.

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