Sunday 26 May 2019


LEYZER RAN (February 7, 1912-mid-August 1995)
            He was born in Vilna and received a secular Jewish education in public school, high school, and People’s University.  He was one of the first research students in Vilna’s YIVO and among its youngest co-workers (1928-1935).  He was active in the leftist movement.  In 1936 he received a stipend from Moscow University for National Minorities (“Mayrevke”), ran into the mass arrests in the Soviet Union, and was arrested and deported to prisons and Gulag camps until 1946.  Over the years 1947-1953, he lived in Havana, Cuba, where he served as administrator of the ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) trade school and the Jewish center in Havana.  He was director and contributor to the Vilna YIVO archives in New York (1953-1958) and later worked as a typesetter.  In New York he organized the association “Nusekh vilne” (Vilna style).  He turned his attention to collecting and publishing materials concerning Yiddish literature and Yiddish theater and especially Jewish Vilna.  He debuted in print in 1928 with a reportage piece in Vilner tog (Vilna day)—several children’s poems of his were already published in 1920 in Grininke beymelekh (Little green trees).  As one of the leaders of “Bin” (Bee), the Jewish socialist scout movement in Vilna, he co-edited its Bin-bletlekh (Bee leaflets) (1929-1930) and its journal Moyern (Walls) (4 issues, 1934-1935).  He also brought out (using the name Leyzer) the pamphlets Bin and Yidishizm (Yiddishism)—both through the Bin-library (1934), 18 pp. and 16 pp., respectively.  He also wrote songs (text and music) for “Bin” and for the theaters “Davke” (Necessarily) and “Maidim.”  Some of these were published: Hent un tsigl (Hands and a little goat), musical leitmotif (Vilna, 1934), hectographically produced under the pen name Lazaranu; Zingendik, lider far yugent (Singing, songs for youth) (Vilna, 1936), 2 booklets, 16 pp. each, using the pen name Raley.  He wrote and produced scout plays: Bay nakht afn vinter-lager (In winter camp at night), Vi in lager iz geven (How it was in camp), and Gerotfreyd (Harvest fun), among others.  He translated for theatrical ensembles: Ridley (?), A tsug, a geshpenst (A train, a specter) (1929); Wolfie (?), Ikh hob bazigt dem krizis (I have subdued the crisis) (1935); Mihály István, Ikh bin 26 yor alt (I’m twenty-six years old) (1935/1936).  From translated Soviet humorous sketches, he dramatized eighteen scenes for Tsu gast in khotshitsa-kolitsa (A guest in Khochitsa-Kolitsa).  He contributed to the leftist weeklies: Kurts (Short), Nayes (News), Vokh (Week), and Tsaytung (Newspaper), and he co-edited the scholarly journal Etyudn (Studies) (1934-1935) and Oyfboy (Construction) (November 1934-January 1935).  After the war he edited the anthology Bleter fun vilne (Pages from Vilna) (Lodz: Vilner farband, 1947), 80 pp.  In Havana he published: “Ort” bulyetinen (ORT bulletins) (1948-1949); Ort-yoyvl almanakh (ORT celebration almanac) (1950), 64 double pages; and he edited: Vegn yidishe kinder-dertsiung in kuba (On Jewish children’s education in Cuba) (1947), 20 pp.; Hamshekh af kubaner erd (Hamshekh on Cuban soil) (1951), 172 double pages; Di legende perets (The legend of Perets) (1952), 52 pp. (Yiddish) and 24 pp. (Spanish), and a supplement for school children (1952), 16 pp.; Zog nisht keyn mol, yizker-shrift tsum…varshever geto (Don’t ever say, memorial work for the Warsaw Ghetto) (1952), 68 pp.  He compiled: Yoyvl zamlung fun der ley-kase baym yidishn froyen farayn in kuba, 1937-1952 (Anniversary collection for the loan office of the Jewish women’s association in Cuba, 1937-1952) (Havana, 1952), 104 pp.; and Mit der perets-fon, mit der shvartsman-traditsye, yidish-sovetishe shrayber in gezang un gerangl far folk un heymland, mitn fon, mitn biks, mit layb un lebn, kredos-antologye (With the Perets banner and the Schwartzman tradition, Soviet Yiddish writers in song and struggle for the people and homeland, with banner, with gun, with life and soul, Kredos anthology) (New York: Workmen’s Circle, 1982), 66 pp.  He also contributed to local Yiddish publications in Cuba and to Zalmen Zilbertsavyg’s Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater).  He served as secretary to the editorial board of Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn (Jews),” vol. 4-5.  Portions of Ran’s monograph on Jews in Cuba were published in the collection Hamshekh af kubaner erd and Algemeyne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), “Yidn,” vol. 4 (New York, 1957), pp. 421-35.  For the second (unpublished) volume of Arkhiv fun yidishn teater (Archive of the Yiddish theater), he submitted a work entitled “Yidn-daytsh teater in odes (1862-1872)” (Judeo-German theater in Odessa, 1862-1872).  A piece of a work being prepared for the publisher under the title Tsu der geshikhte fun yidish teater in vilne (On the history of Yiddish theater in Vilna) was published in Yidish teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yiddish theater in Europe between the two world wars), vol. 2 (New York, 1968), pp. 228-64, and a chapter on Hebrew theater in Vilna appeared in Hainukh vehatarbut haivrit beeyropa ben shete milamot haolam (Hebrew education and culture in Europe between the two world wars) (New York, 1957).  Together with Menakhem Flakser and Alexander Pomerants, he compiled for YIVO a bibliography of Yiddish literature in Soviet Russia, 1917-1948.  In manuscript he prepared a geographical index of Jewish communities in Europe, some of which material appeared in Der groyser yidisher verterbukh (The great Yiddish dictionary) (New York: 1961-).  He published a volume of Lider (Poems) by Leyzer Volf, with a preface by H. Leivick and an introduction and bibliography (New York, 1955), 204 pp.  He prepared lists of the murdered Soviet Jewish writers, artists, and painters, a part of which was published in Folks-mishpet (People’s judgment) (New York, 1956).  Ran discovered four variants of Y. L. Perets’s Monish and Kise shloyme (Solomon’s throne)—published in Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), special Perets issue (1937).
            In addition to the aforementioned works, he published: Ash fun yerusholaim delite (Ashes from Jerusalem of Lithuania), essays (New York: Vilner farlag, 1959), 366 pp.; Fun elye bokher biz hirsh glik, kartn-leksikon (From Elye Bokher to Hirsh Glik, a card biographical dictionary), covering 400 years of Yiddish literature (New York, 1963), 100 cards and a forty-page pamphlet; Hirsh Glik’s Der himn fun yidishn vidershtand (The hymn of the Jewish resistance), in eleven languages with music (New York, 1972), 16 pp.; Yerusholaim delite, ilustrirt un dokumentirt (Jerusalem of Lithuania, illustrated and documented), a thematic guide for 500 years of Jewish life and creativity in Vilna, with explanations in Yiddish, Hebrew, English, and Russian, and a multi-lingual, topical bibliography [in vol. 3] (New York, 1974-1975), 3 vols., 1000 pp. in album format.  Among his pen names: H. Reysh, Raley, Lazaranu, Leyzer, and L-n.  He died in New York.

Sources: Motl Minkov, Yoyvl-heft fun der yinglshul mefitse haskole (Jubilee volume from the Mefitse haskole boys’ school) (Vilna, 1933); Y. Varshavski [Bashevis], in Forverts (New York) (June 10, 1950; July 8, 1962); Y. Leshtshinski, in Aktuele yedies fun yidishn lebn (New York) 4 (1951); Khayim Shoshkes, in Tog (New York) (April 5, 1953); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (April 7, 1955); Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (November 16, 1956); B. Ts. Goldberg, in Tog (April 5, 1957); Mark Dvorshetski, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 38 (1960); Meylekh Ravitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1961); Khayim Liberman, in Forverts (July 19, 1961); Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, in Forverts (June 8, 1962); Avrom Shulman, in Forverts (December 8, 1974); Yudel Mark, in Di goldene keyt 86 (1975); Sol Liptzin, in Jewish Bookland (New York) (May 1963); Lucy Dawidowicz, in Commentary (New York) (October 1975); D. Levin, in Soviet Jewish Affairs (London) (1976), vol. 6.1.
Berl Cohen

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 500.]

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