Thursday 28 March 2019


WILLIAM KAISER (KAYZER) (1872-January 13, 1940)
            He was a poet, born with the surname Izrael in Shavel (Šiauliai), Lithuania.  He studied in religious elementary school and the municipal Russian Jewish school.  He moved with his parents to Shants (Šančiai), which was later a suburb of Kovno.  He was arrested for revolutionary work.  In late 1893 he left for the United States, where he graduated as a pharmacist in 1901.  In 1934 he became paralyzed.  He debuted in print with a poem in Yudishe gazetten (Jewish gazette) in November 1893.  He published his own original poems and translations from Russian, German, and English in: Emes (Truth) in Boston (1895); Theater-zhurnal (Theater journal) (1901); Tsukunft (Future) (1903); Di idishe bine (The Yiddish stage); Folks-advokat (People’s advocate); Land-khokhem (Real wise man); Arbayter tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper); Abend-blatt (Evening newspaper); and Humor un satire (Humor and satire).  For a decade he was a regular contributor to Forverts (Forward) from its founding.  He published a great deal, 1893-1903, at a time when he was considered one of the most prominent Yiddish poets in America.  His last poem “Farvos” (Why) was published in 1906.  His poetry appears as well in: Morris Basin, 500 yor yidishe poezye (500 years of Yiddish poetry), vol. 2 (New York, 1922); and Nakhmen Mayzil, Amerike in yidishn vort (America in the Yiddish word) (New York, 1955).  In book form: Lieder un poezye (Poetry), vol. 1 (New York: N. M. Shaykevitsh, 1895), 16 pp.  Kaiser was one of the Yiddish poet-pioneers in America.  He had poems of individuals, but the majority had social content.  There were ethnic Jewish motifs in his poems as well—a rarity in his era of proletarian poetry.  “The theme of his poetry,” wrote N. B. Minkov, “was: need, protest, calls and awakenings to the struggle.”  He died in New York.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 3; Shmuel Niger, in Tsukunft (May 1942); Elye (Elias) Shulman, Geshikhte fun der yidisher literatur in amerike (History of Yiddish literature in America) (New York, 1943), pp. 181-85; N. B. Minkov, Pyonern fun der yidisher poezye in amerike, dos sotsyale lid (Pioneers of Yiddish poetry in America, the social poem), vol. 3 (New York, 1956), pp. 9-53; L. Kobrin, Mayne fuftsik yor in amerike (My fifty years in America) (New York, 1966), pp. 73-74; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Yekhezkl Lifshits

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