Sunday 30 June 2019


KALMEN REYZEN (1848-July 11, 1921)
            He was born in Koydenev, Byelorussia, the father of Avrom, Zalmen, and Sore Reyzen.  He came from a wealthy and well-pedigreed family.  He taught himself German and received his first information in Russian from a teacher.  He was engaged in business in grain and lived for a short time in Podolia.  He later lived for the most part in Minsk, aside from 1910-1914 in Warsaw.  He began writing poetry and feuilletons (under the pen name Yakir) in Hebrew, and he even published a small collection of Hebrew poems under the title Yona homiya (Humming dove) (Berdichev, 1893/1894), 32 pp.  His first poems and sketches in Yiddish were published in Avrom Reyzen’s Dos tsvantsigste yohrhundert, zamelbukh fir literatur, visenshaft un kritik (The twentieth century, collection of literature, scholarship, and criticism).  He went on to published poetry, feuilletons, and sketches in Warsaw’s Veg (Way), Idishes vokhenblat (Jewish weekly newspaper), and Frihlings-bleter (Spring sheets) in 1910, among others.  The popular song “Hamavdil ben kodesh leol” (The separation between sacred and profane) was written by Reyzen and was mistakenly included in the collection of folksongs by Ginzburg and Marek, Di yidishe folkslider in rusland (Jewish folksongs in Russia), as well as in Yidishe folkslider (Yiddish folksongs) by Dobrushin and Yuditski (Moscow, 1940).  He died in Minsk.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Yeshurin archive, YIVO (New York).
Berl Cohen


LEYB REYZEN (b. October 20, 1910)
            He was born in Grodno.  During WWII he fled to join the partisans.  In 1948 he emigrated to New Zealand and in 1973 to Israel.  He began writing for Grodner lebn (Grodno life) in 1937.  He later published memoirs, humorous sketches and polemical articles in: Oystralishe yidishe nayes (Australian Jewish news) and Yidishe nayes (Jewish news) in Melbourne, Grodner opklangen (Grodno echoes) in Buenos Aires, and Folksblat (People’s newspaper), Heymish (Familiar), and Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv.  He was honored by Yad Vashem for his war memoirs (in manuscript).  His pen names: Ben Nosn, Reb Leyb, and A. Grodner.  He was last living in Ra’anana, Israel.

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 509.


ZALMEN REYZEN (October 6, 1887-1941?)
            A lexicographer and literary researcher, he was born in Koydenev (now, Dzyarzhynsk), Byelorussia, the brother of Avrom and Sore Reyzen.  His father Kalmen Reyzen was a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment who wrote poetry in both Hebrew and Yiddish.  As a child he lived with his parents, later with his sister in Mohilev and Vinitse (Vinnytsa), Ukraine.  He studied in various religious elementary schools.  He later moved to Minsk, where he studied in a Russian municipal school.  While still a student, he was impressed by articles by Avrom Reyzen and Chaim Zhitlovsky concerning Yiddish.  He settled in Vilna in 1915, and there he became active in an editor and fighter on behalf of Yiddish.  He campaigned in speeches, arguing that Yiddish was the sole language of Jews and must become the language of instruction in schools with Jewish children.  At that time, he became one of the main contributors to Letste nayes (Latest news), in which he introduced a modernized orthography.  He was editor (1919-1939) of Vilner tog (Vilna day), which changed its name several times due to frequent confiscations by the authorities.  Reyzen gave lectures on Yiddish and Yiddish grammar at the Jewish people’s university, at the Jewish teachers’ seminary, and in various teachers’ courses of study.  He was one of the founders of the Jewish historical-ethnographic society and of YIVO, which from 1925 he served as principal leader, contributor to Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), and editor of Yedies fun yivo (News from YIVO).  For a time he was chairman of the Vilna journalists’ and writers association and the Yiddish PEN Club, and in 1928 he was a delegate to the PEN Congress in Vienna.  At the invitation in 1930 of the Jewish Culture Association, he traveled to the United States, where he delivered a series of speeches.  In 1932 he visited Argentine on assignment for YIVO.  On September 18, 1939, when Vilna was occupied by the Red Army, he was arrested.  This was a huge mystery, because both he and his newspaper were consistently pro-Soviet.  In late October 1939, after turning Vilna over to Lithuania, the Soviets transferred him to the Alt-Vileyka prison, from whence he was deported, it would appear, (according to another version, he was deported from Bialystok) deep into Russia where he was shot to death somewhere in a Soviet prison.
            Reyzen was active as a journalist, as a grammatician, literary scholar, and builder of secular Jewish culture.  In addition to his newspaper, he contributed to: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) and Yidishe velt (Jewish world), among other serials.  Together with Avrom Reyzen, he published: Di muter shprakh, a metode tsu lezen un shrayben yudishe mit gramatikalishe klolim, baygeleygt ale hebreyishe verter, vos gehn arayn in der yudishe shprakh (The mother language, a method to read and write Yiddish with grammatical rules, with an attachment of all the Hebrew words that are included in the Yiddish language) (Warsaw, 1908), 78 pp., later editions (1912, 1914).  “Under the direction” of Zalmen, Yudishe ortografye, kaligrafishe metode (Yiddish orthography, the calligraphic method), compiled by a group of teachers (Warsaw, 1912/1913), 32 pp., was published.  In the first edition of his Yudishe gramatik (Yiddish grammar) (Warsaw, 1908), 99 pp., he wrote in the preface: “As it is neither strange nor unbelievable, there has not even been so much as an effort at a Yiddish grammar,…my grammar…only as a tryout will, it appears, demonstrate that Yiddish grammar is entirely possible and even rather easy to write up.”  An enlarged edition under the title Gramatik fun der yidisher shprakh, ershter teyl (Grammar of the Yiddish language, first part) was published in Vilna in 1920 (162 pp.), second edition (Vilna, 1921).  Among other things, in the introduction he writes: “The struggle for the Yiddish language, which has these past years flared up with such fervor in all the countries with Jewish communities, and the recognition of the great importance for our people, has brought to life national Yiddish philology which takes as its goal not only theoretical research into Yiddish, but places importance as well in the results that this very research provides in order to perfect our language, refine it, enrich and make it the instrument of modern Jewish culture in its disclosures.”  Chapters of the second part of his grammar were published in Yidishe filologye (Yiddish philology) in Warsaw 1-6 (1924); Filologishe shriftn (Philological writings) in Vilna 1-3 (1926); and Yidish far ale (Yiddish for everyone) in Vilna 1, 2, 6-8 (1938).
            In the realm of Yiddish literary research, Reyzen published: manuscripts by Itsik Aykhl’s (Isaac Euchel) Reb henokh, and the full text of the drama in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame (Archive for the history of Yiddish theater and drama) (Vilna) 1 (1930), pp. 85-146; Di broder zinger in lemberg (The Brod singers in Lemberg) of 1886; “Dovid zahik” (David Zahik), author of Di roze tsvishn derner (The rose amid thorns) in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame 1 (1930), pp. 45-458; and “A kapitl fun shomers a roman vegn yidishn teater” (A chapter from a novel by Shomer on the Yiddish theater), in Arkhiv far der geshikhte fun yidishn teater un drame 1 (1930), pp. 459-60.  Together with A. Fridkin, he published Avrom-Ber Gotlober’s Yidishe verk (Yiddish works) (Vilna, 1927), 257 pp.  Of great significance was Reyzen’s Fun mendelson biz mendele, hantbukh far der geshikhte fun der yidisher haskole-literatur mit reproduktsyes un bilder (From Mendelssohn to Mendele, handbook of the history of the Yiddish Enlightenment literature with reproduced texts and pictures) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1923), 418 pp., with an introduction and biographical materials about the writers.  A second piece entitled Fun elye bokher biz moyshe mendelson (From Elijah Levita to Moses Mendelssohn), prepared with Maks Erik and containing selections from Old Yiddish literature, had been typeset, but it was not published.  The only copy with hand-written additions to the text may be found in YIVO in New York.  Similarly unpublished was his 1910 planned (with Avrom Reyzen) reader, Di yidishe literatur in mustern fun ire verk (Yiddish literature in samples of its works); the plans may also be found in YIVO (New York).
            Among Reyzen’s longer works must be noted: “Di vaybershe kniplekh un zeyer mekhaber” (The wives’ nest eggs and their author), Yidishe velt (Warsaw-Vilna) 6 (1928), pp. 436-56; “Eynike mekoyrim tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher dertsiung in onheyb fun 19tn yorhundert” (Several sources on the history of Yiddish education at the beginning of the nineteenth century), Shriftn far psikhologye un pedagogik (Writings for psychology and pedagogy) (Vilna) 1 (1933), pp. 403-26; an essay on Sh. Chajes, Otsar beduye hashem (Thesaurus Pseudonymorum; Treasury of pseudonyms) in Vakhshteyn bukh, zamlbukh tsum ondenḳ fun d״r. bernhard vakhshteyn, 1868-1935 (Volume for Vakhshteyn, collection to the memory of Dr. Bernhard Vakhshteyn) (Vilna, 1939), pp. 585-618; “Psevdonimen in der yidisher literatur” (Pseudonyms in Yiddish literature), Yivo-bleter (Vilna) XII.7-8 (1939), pp. 3-36; his writings in Yivo-bleter about Elozer Shulman, Ber Borokhov, Jewish Enlightenment literature, and secular Yiddish literature were included in his Yidishe literatur un yidishe shprakh (Yiddish literature and Yiddish language) (Buenos Aires, 1965), 300 pp.  Aside from Yivo-bleter (from his Vilna period), he also co-edited: with Shmuel Niger, Vayter-bukh (Volume for A. Vayter), with a biography of Vayter by Reyzen (Vilna, 1920); Pinkes, far der geshikhte fun vilne in di yorn fun milkhome un okupatsye (Records, on the history of Vilna in the years of war and occupation) (Vilna, 1922), 872 columns; Yidishe filologye (Yiddish philology) (Warsaw) 1 (1924); Filologishe shriftn (Vilna) 1-3 (1926-1929); with Max Weinreich, Biblyografishe yorbikher (Bibliographical yearbooks) (Warsaw) (1928).
            Reyzen main work was his Leksikon fun der yidishe literatur, prese un filologye (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish literature, press, and philology) (Vilna, 1926-1929), 4 vols.  In the first edition, under the title Leksikon fun der yudisher literatur un prese (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish literature and the press) (Warsaw, 1914), 1 vol., edited with Shmuel Niger, there were included biographies of writers from Old Yiddish literature, Yiddish periodical publications 1686-1913, and a listing of anonymous works—all of this was left out of the four-volume publication of 1926-1929.  The Leksikon constituted an extraordinary achievement for Yiddish literary research.  A portion of material was provided by the authors, but the greatest part of the biographies was the result of Reyzen’s own research, and it provided not only biographical details, but critical evaluations as well.  There is also here major bibliographic material.  In the preface to the first volume (1926), Reyzen wrote that he was planning to publish volume 3 on Old Yiddish literature, but this did not come to fruition.  He, in fact, planned an additional volume which began to be set in type.  Two pages from the planned volume were reproduced in Zamlbikher (Collections) (New York) 8 (1952), p. 194.  A portion of the prepared materials may be found in the Reyzen archive in YIVO in New York.
            In addition to the aforementioned works, he also edited, co-edited, or published the following: Mendele moykher-sforim, zayn lebn un zayne verk (Mendele Moykher-Sforim, his life and his works) (Vilna: Kinder-velt, 1918), 48 pp.; Yitskhok-leybush perets, zayn lebn un zayne verk (Yitskhok Leybush Perets, his life and his works) (Vilna: Tsisho, 1921), 36 pp.; Arn Itsik, Zikhroynes, loyt dem yidish-daytshn tekst (Memoirs, following the Judeo-German text) (Warsaw: Levin-Epshteyn, 1922), 152 pp.; Finf megiles, akdomes un khad gadye (The five scrolls, Shavuot hymns, and “An Only Kid”), rendered into Yiddish by Y. L. Perets, compiled with all variants, with A. Fridkin (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1926), 345 pp.; Dos lebedike vort, khrestomaṭye farn IV un V lernyor fun folksshuln un mitlshuln (The living word, reader for the fourth and fifth school year of public schools and middle schools), with Shloyme Bastomski (Vilna: Naye yidishe folksshul, 1921), 320 pp., numerous subsequent editions.
            Reyzen translated works from world literature for Avrom Reyzen’s weekly newspaper, Eyropeyishe literatur (European literature) in Warsaw (1911), among them: Heinrich Heine, Hartsrayze (Harz journal [original: Die Harzreise]).  His translations in book form include: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Ferbrekhen un shtrof (Crime and Punishment [original: Prestupleniye i nakazaniye]) (Warsaw: Progres, 1912-1914), 726 pp., later printing (Warsaw: Tsentral, 1927); Lew Wallace, Yerusholaim un roym, historisher roman oys der tsayt fun beys sheni (Jerusalem and Rome, a historical novel from the time of the Second Temple [original: Ben-Hur]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1921), 493 pp.; Sh. An-ski, Di yidishe folks-shafung (Jewish folk creation) (Vilna: Tsisho, 1921), 36 pp., offprint from the journal Di naye shul (The new school); Ernst Trumpp, A kinig fun yude, historisher roman oys der tsayt fun khurbn beys rishon (A king of Judah, a historical novel from the time of the destruction of the First Temple) (Vilna: Unzer tog, 1922), 112 pp.; Guy de Maupassant, Geklibene noveln (Selected stories) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1923), 192 pp.; Selig Schachnowitz, In der medine fun di kuzarim, yidisher historisher roman fun dem akhtn yorhundert (In the country of the Kuzari, a Jewish historical novel from the eighth century [original: Im Judenstaat der Chasaren (In the Jewish state of the Kuzari)]) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1924), 285 pp.; Hans Christian Andersen, Der fliendiker kufert (The flying trunk [original: Den flyvende Kuffert]) (Vilna: Naye yidishe folksshul, 1931), 27 pp.
            “Zalmen Reyzen’s steps from 1908,” wrote Khayim Giniger, “with Folshtendige yudishe gramatik (Complete Yiddish grammar) [some of the editions published that year bore the word “Folshtendige” on the title page] were the first with a foundation in truly linguistic and Yiddish linguistic premises to enhance the language.”
            Concerning the Gramatik of 1920, Noyekh Prilutski (Pryłucki) noted: “This was a serious work, executed with great diligence and ardent love, which introduced to the reader the issue of Yiddish linguistic science.”
            “There was invested in Reyzen’s Yudishe gramatik,” commented Ber Borokhov, “a great deal of industrious work, immense love for the matter at hand, and a significant linguistic talent.”
            Concerning the Leksikon, Max Weinreich had this to say: An “immensely great work which brought Reyzen into contact with hundreds of people and made him, to a large extent, a central institution of the entire Yiddish writing world.  Yiddish was the central point of Reyzen’s interests—both in his scholarly and in his community activities.”
            “With his healthy folk sensibility,” wrote Hirsh Abramovitsh, “he felt that to celebrate Yiddish culture, we must begin from below….  Of first importance was to build a Yiddish public school, a normal one, which would encompass all elements of the best and the most beautiful that the Jewish people and other peoples have created.”
            Throughout his life, Zalmen Reyzen was involved in all realms of Jewish and Yiddish culture.  He built Jewish schools, teachers’ seminaries, and YIVO.  He encouraged Yiddish writers, and it was he who introduced the group “Yung yidish” (Youth Yiddish) into Yiddish literature.  He remained devoted to Yiddish, Yiddish literature, literary research, and cultural development his whole life.

Sources: Noyekh Prilutski (Pryłucki), in Almanakh tsum tsehn-yeriger yubileum fun moment (Almanac for the tenth anniversary of Moment) (Warsaw, 1921); Max Weinreich, Shtaplen (Rungs) (Berlin, 1923), see index; Weinreich, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (September 21, 1928); Yankev Shatski, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1924); Tsṿey yor arbet far dem yidishn visnshaftlekhn institute, a barikht far der tsayt fun merts 1925 biz merts 1927 (Two years’ work for the Yiddish Scientific Institute, a report for the period March 1925-March 1927) (Vilna: YIVO, 1927); Moyshe Shalit, in Bikher-velt (Warsaw) 5 (1928); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), vol. 1 (Vilna, 1929), pp. 95-96, 166-68, 291; Avrom Golomb, in Shriftn far psikhologye yun filologye (Vilna) 1 (1933), pp. 427-43; Altveltlekher tsuzamenfor fun yidishn visnshaftlekher institut, tsum 10-yorikn yoyvl fun yivo (World conference of the Yiddish Scientific Institute, on the tenth anniversary of YIVO) (Vilna, 1936), pp. 39, 67-93ff; Arn-Yitskhok Grodzenski, in Almanakh fun yidishn literatn- un zhurnalistn-farayn in vilne (Vilna) (1938), pp. 17-68; “Yizker” (Remembrance), Yivo-bleter (New York) 26 (1945), pp. 3-4’ Elye (Elias) Shulman, Yung vilne, 1929-1939 (Young Vilna, 1929-1939) (New York, 1946), pp. 8-12; Kultur un dertsiung (New York) (January 1946); Shmerke Katsherginski, Tsvishn hamer un serp (Between hammer and sickle) (Paris, 1949), pp. 16-20; Khayim Giniger, in Zamlbikher (New York) 8 (1952); A. A. Robak, Di imperye yidish (The empire of Yiddish) (Mexico City, 1958), see index; Hirsh Abramovitsh, Farshvundene geshtaltn (Disappearing images) (Buenos Aires: Farband fun poylishe yidn, 1958), pp. 171-81; Ber Borokhov, Shprakh-forshung un literatur-geshikhte (Language research and literary history) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1966), pp. 161-66; Dov Sadan, Heymishe ksovim, shrayber, bikher, problemen (Familiar writings, writers, books, issues) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1972), see index; Goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 98 (1979); Zalmen Reyzen archive and protocol volume of the association of Yiddish writers and journalists in Vilna, YIVO archives, New York.
Elye (Elias) Shulman

Saturday 29 June 2019


AVROM REYZEN (April 10, 1876-March 31, 1953)
            Poet, storyteller, and editor, he was born in Koydenov (now, Dzyarzhynsk), Byelorussia.  He was the son of Kalmen Reyzen and the brother of Zalmen and Sore Reyzen.  His father was a follower of the Jewish Enlightenment and an author of Hebrew and Yiddish poetry and sketches, including the book Yona homiya (Humming dove) (Berdichev, 1893/1894).  His mother was a reader of Yiddish religious texts.  Reyzen attended religious elementary school, later studying privately with his uncle, the Talmud teacher Hersh Reyzen.  With his father he studied Hebrew, Russian, and German, and with private tutors secular subject matter.  At age fourteen he himself became a teacher in the town.  Already at age nine he began composing verse, and under the influence of his father, he tried his hand at Hebrew poetry.  He read the writings of Mendele Moykher-Sforim, Sholem-Aleichem, and Mortkhe Spektor.  The lullaby of the powerful man’s deserted wife in Mendele’s Dos kleyne mentshele (The little fellow) made a strong impression on him.  The works of Turgenev, Gogol, Lermontov, and other Russian writers left an enduring influence on him.  With the encouragement of the Yiddish writer Yaknehoz [Shaye-Nisn Hacohen Goldberg], who had settled at the time in Koydenov, he published several correspondence pieces in Yudishes folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper) in St. Petersburg.  After reading Yankev Dinezon’s Even negef, oder a shteyn in veg (A stumbling block in the path), he began corresponding with Dinezon and Y. L. Perets, and both of them encouraged him to write.  Perets published one of his first poems, “Ven dos leben iz ferbitert” (When life becomes embittered), in Yudishe biblyotek (Yiddish library) 1 (1891).
Around this time, he was working as a teacher in the nearby town of Samkhvolevitsh (Samachvalavičy) and he lived for a short while in Minsk where he became acquainted with followers of the Jewish Enlightenment, external students, and pioneers of the Jewish socialist labor movement.  It was there that he composed his story, “A kapore der noz abi a goldener zeyger mit 300 rubl nadn” (Damn the nose, as long as there is a dowry of a watch and 300 rubles), published as a booklet by Y. L. Mats in Vilna in 1892.  In the winter of 1892, he was again a teacher in a town and then returned home.  With the emergence in 1892 of Sholem-Aleichem’s Kol mevaser (Herald), he submitted a number of poems.  Under the title Troyerike motivn gevidmet oreme layt (Sad motifs dedicated to the poor), these poems were published by Sholem-Aleichem in Philadelphia’s Shtodt-tsaytung (City newspaper) with an appended note in which he compared Reyzen with Shimen Frug who was at that time highly regarded.  At the same time, Perets published in Literatur un leben (Literature and life) in 1894 his poems: “Vos es tut zikh dort in himl” (What happens in heaven) after Heinrich Heine; and “Hor fun bord” (Hair of a beard) after Pushkin.  And, Spektor published his miniature “A zekhtsikst kheylek fun gan eydn” (One sixtieth portion of paradise) in Der lamtern (The lantern) (Warsaw, 1894) and his poems “Di zun un der vint” (The sun and the wind), “Yuden vilen nebekh esen” (Jews just want to eat), “Der gemore-nign” (The Talmud chant), and “Men fregt mikh: vorum biztu bleykh?” (People ask me: Why are you pale?) in Hoyz-fraynd (House friend) III (1894), later edition (1907/1908).
In 1895 he went to serve in the military in the musicians’ command in Kovno.  There he met Ayzik-Meyer Devenishski (A. Vayter) and Yitskhok-Yankev Propus.  From time to time, he wrote poems in the barracks, among them an elegy on the death of the Kovno rabbi Yitskhok-Elkhonen Spektor, entitled Di yudishe trer (The Jewish tear) (Kovno, 1896), 13 pp.  In the barracks he read a great deal from the works of Dostoevsky, Hamsun, Chekhov, Shevchenko, and Heine, whose writings had a major effect on him.  After being freed from the military, he returned to Minsk, and with the initial appearance of Der yud (The Jew) in January 1899, he published in it the poem “Mayn tsurikker aheym” (My return home).  He then left for Warsaw when, according to Zalmen Reyzen, “a new period in his literary activities commenced to which his previous efforts were merely a beginning.”  As Getzel Kressel put it: “Reyzen, Sh. Asch, and H. D. Nomberg were the three important writers of the post-classical generation.”  In Der yud, he published poems and stories, among them “A shmek tabak” (A pinch of snuff), “Der milkhiker tsholent” (The dairy cholent), and “Oys blote” (No more mud!).  Reyzen wanted to maintain the tradition of Sholem-Aleichem, Perets, and Spektor with the publication of a collection in which he would be able to include his own writings and works of new Yiddish authors.  He was also unhappy with Der yud, which advocated for Zionism and Hebraism.  As he noted in his memoir, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), he contemplated a collection “which had to be convincing about the living capacity and greatness of the Yiddish language, in the expression of its authors”; and it had to reflect the general ideals of the modern era.  In his memoir he explained that not everyone was clearly supportive of him at the time with regard to his planned journal: “To be sure, the idea that the collection had to convey as a red thread through it was not so clear to me.  On the one hand, I was following a socialist idea, while on the other I was also attracted to the currents then predominating in finer literature, which in many details ran counter to socialism and to the labor movement generally.  Not everything that I explained was kosher in the struggle of the awakening masses, and by the same token it was insufficient for the aesthetes.”  This collection appeared in 1900 in Warsaw under the title Dos tsvantsigste yohrhundert, zamelbukh fir literatur, visenshaft un kritik, redagirt durkh avrom reyzen, heroysgegebn durkh yoysef kaplan (The twentieth century, collection of literature, scholarship, and criticism, edited by Avrom Reyzen, published by Yoysef Kaplan), 140 pp.  This work begins with Reyzen’s “Dos naye lid” (The new poem) which was to become well known at a later date.  It went on to include: Y. L. Perets, A. Reyzen, Kalmen Reyzen, Hersh-Dovid Nomberg, Yitskhok-Yankev Propus, Dovid Pinski, and Yoysef Kaplan.  Reyzen criticized Der yud for publishing numerous pro-Hebrew articles.  The newly emerging Yiddishism found expression in M. Rubinshteyn’s article, “Zhargon als natsyonale shprakh” (“Yiddish” as a national language).  At that time Reyzen published in various illegal Bundist publications the poems: “Di vant” (The wall), “Kirkhen-gloken” (Church clocks), and “Hulyet, hulyet, beyze vintn” (Rampage, rampage, raging winds).  These poems became popular and were sung by the people.  At the same time, he was publishing poems and stories under the pen name M. Vilner in Di yudishe familye (The Jewish family) and Yudishe folks-tsaytung (Jewish people’s newspaper), helping Yankev Lidski to establish his publishing house “Progres” (Progress), and working (1902) in Avrom Kotik’s publishing house “Bildung” (Education) in Bialystok.  For “Progres” he translated Valerian V. Lunkevich’s popular scientific pamphlet Dunner un blits (Thunder and lightning) (Warsaw, 1902), 45 pp., and for “Bildung” he and Khayim Yoysef Brener translated a book on the history of Egypt.  In 1902 Reyzen’s own first collection appeared: Tsayt-lieder (Period poems) (Warsaw: Progres), 48 pp.  In the forward, written by Gershom Shofman (according to Zalmen Reyzen), we read inter alia: “One hears many new melodies among Jews in recent times, many new masterful songs…both in Hebrew and in zhargon [Yiddish].  Should we listen closely to our genuine quotidian suffering,…we would sense that all of these many and sundry songs are somehow not ‘that’ which the heart seeks.  Reading the short poems of this young poet, one is soon convinced that you are dealing here with a moving, deeply suffering soul that feels every pain, that responds to every sigh of the poor and dejected people….  Such booklets are the first swallows that announce to literature that spring has begun.”  In 1903 Reyzen’s first collection of stories was published: Ertsehlungen un bilder (Stories and images) (Warsaw: Progres), 80 pp.  In 1903 Reyzen became a close contributor to the newly founded, first daily Yiddish newspaper in Russia, Der fraynd (The friend), and in 1904 to the daily Der tog (The day)—both in St. Petersburg.  He was not, however, pleased with his association with the aforementioned newspapers or with other serial publications, as he later wrote in his Epizodn.  He thus began bringing out a series of collections and periodicals closer to him in spirit and attitude.  In these collections he aimed at presenting poetry, stories, articles on popular science, essays on literature, and articles on current problems.  The first in these collections were: Khanike, a zamlung fir literatur, visenshaft, kunst un humor (Chanukah, a collection for literature, science, art, and humor) (Warsaw: 1903/1904), 64 pp., with illustrations by A. M. Lilyen; Beymer (Trees) (Warsaw: 1903/1904), 32 pp.; and in honor of Purim, Di megile, a zamlung fir literatur, visenshaft un kunst (The scroll, a collection for literature, science, and art) (Warsaw: 1903/1904), 48 pp.  In these collections were published poetry and stories by: Reyzen, Sholem Asch, Y. L. Perets, Hersh-Dovid Nomberg, Dovid Frishman, Dovid Kasel, L. Shapiro, Yehoash, Yoysef Bovshover, Morris Rozenfeld, and others.  Reyzen’s holiday sheets played an important role, as they were a kind of proxy periodical which was a free and accessible tribune both by virtue of its own creation and for the newly emerging Yiddish writers.  He did not, though, wish to be satisfied with a thin holiday notebook and strove to bring out more substantial collections in which “one would be able to present arguments against the opponents of Yiddish,” he recorded in Epizodn, “who with the spread of the Yiddish press were becoming more indignant and active…[and in which one would be] more critical of new books about which practically the entire press remained silent.”  The publisher Yankev Lidski accepted Reyzen’s proposal to publish such a collection, and in 1904 he published it under the title Yohr-bukh progres, a zhurnal fir literatur, visenshaft un kritik, ershaynt yohrlikh (Progres annual, a journal for literature, science, and criticism, published annually) (Warsaw), 164 pp., with an appendix of Mendele Moykher-Sforim’s In yener tsayt (In those days [original: Bayamim hahem]), translated specially by Yankev Shteynberg.  In the collection were poems and stories by Y. L. Perets, Morris Rozenfeld, Yehoash, Sholem Asch, Dovid Kasel, and others, and by Reyzen himself: the poems, “Vos vil er der regn” (What does the rain want), “Di nakht” (The night), “Balebatishe muser” (Patrician moralizing), “Fargrobenes glik” (Buried happiness), and “Alter gloybn” (Old belief); the stories, “In krig” (At war) and “Men koyft nisht” (Can’t be bought); the comedy Di repetitsye (The repetition); and critical essays.  Alter Bresler and L. Shapiro were represented in the collection with militant Yiddishist articles.  Reyzen’s approach to Yiddish and Yiddishism was boldly expressed in the volume.  The articles and the spirit of “Progres” helped to prepare the soil for the Czernowitz Conference of 1908.  With the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, out of fear (as a reservist) of being mobilized into the Russian army, he left Warsaw and settled in Vienna.  There he gave speeches, appeared at literary evenings, and with Nosn Birnboym (Nathan Birnbaum) “received moral support for my exalted view of Yiddish” (Epizodn).  While in Vienna at that time, his poetry collection Yudishe motiven (Jewish motifs) was published (Cracow: Tsien, 1904), 64 pp.—which included, among other items, “Kirkhen-gloken” and the autobiographical poem “Mayn tsurikker aheym.”  Reyzen did not remain for long in Vienna.  The revolutionary unrest in Russia and the new, bolder tone in the press did not allow him to rest.  He thus left Vienna and settled in Cracow.  He planned, with help from Yankev Lidski, “to publish a weekly according to my literary tastes and my convictions, mainly to proclaim Yiddish as the national language of the Jewish people.”  In a prospectus for the planned periodical, to be entitled Dos yudishe vort (The Yiddish word), Reyzen wrote: “Yiddish is not only a means of educating the masses, but a goal in and of itself, for it will also serve the Jewish intelligentsia, and in this way reflects all the aspirations and currents of the wider world, so that Jewish intellectuals should not have to turn to other languages for higher matters, which are alien to the Jewish people.”  The prospectus both aroused interest and opposition.  On January 3, 1905 (marked as issue 1-2), the first number of Dos yudishe vort appeared in print.  Aside from the editor, the following men contributed to it: M. Y. Berditshevski, M. Rubinshteyn-Mikhelzon, Hersh-Dovid Nomberg, Sholem Asch, Avrom Koralnik, Y. Vaserman (a translation), A. L. Shulheys, and Nosn Birnboym.  Subsequent issues saw contributions from: A. Sh. Zaks, Bal-Makhshoves, L. Shapiro, Yehoash, H. Royzenblat, and others, and among a few other writers—Y. L. Perets and Yankev Dinezon.  Reyzen published a great number of poems and stories there, which constituted a significant portion of his creative output.  Using the pen name Ben-Kalmen, he published in it articles on writers and books, often full-fledged critiques.  The main thrust of this weekly was Yiddishism.  This ideology was expressed in various articles by M. Rubinshteyn-Mikhelzon, L. Shapiro, and Reyzen (in his reviews and remarks).  In all, twelve issues were published of Dos yudishe vort, a modern journal following the best methods of Russian and Western European periodical writings.  The journal provoked interest and enthusiasm and reverberated as far away as the United States, where Leon Kobrin published an essay about it in Tsukunft (Future) in New York (March 1905).  In 1905 Reyzen returned to Warsaw, where he wrote stories, poems, and critical articles for the daily Der veg (The way).  For a certain period of time, he lived in Vilna and Minsk and contributed to various periodical publications.  At that time, the following works of his were published: Di yudishe gas, ertsehlungen (The Jewish street, stories) (Warsaw, 1905), 24 pp., including: “Der boym” (The tree), “A drame iber finf kartofel” (A drama about five potatoes) [see below-JAF], “Di letste hofenung” (The last hope), and “Gloybn un hofenung” (Belief and hope); Der Lehrer, ertsehlung (The teacher, a story) (Warsaw, 1905), 11 pp., an apparently autobiographic piece; a translation of the Russian-Jewish poet N. Minsky’s Di belagerung fun tultshin, a hisṭorishe drame fun bogdan khmelnitski’s tsayten (The siege of Tulchyn, a historical drama from the time of Bogdan Chmielnicki), five acts (Minsk: Kultur, 1905), 88 pp.; and a translation of Vladimir G. Korolenko’s story, Di rege, ertsehlung (The moment, a story) (Minsk: Kultur, 1905), 16 pp.  In Warsaw in 1907 he brought out A bletl grins, a literarishe zamlung fir shvues (A sheet of greens, a literary collection for Shavuot), 10 pp.  Even Reyzen’s name is not mentioned, though it is known from the contents and the manner of editing that he was the editor.  The following authors had work in this serial: Y. L. Perets, Avrom Reyzen, Dovid Pinski, Dovid Kasel, Yehoash, and B. Morison.  Also there was Ḥaim-Naḥman Bialik’s poem “Tsu der gelibter” (To my beloved), translated from the Hebrew by Golde Shvarts, and Ben-Kalmen’s (Reyzen) critique of the newspapers of jokes: “It is truly difficult for me to find a name to express the obscene and obtuse nature of them….  They have argued that the Jewish masses are conscious in our stormy times—how can this audience, the conscious masses buy such newspapers of jokes?”  At that time, Reyzen published Yudishe khrestomatye, a leze-bukh far shul un hoyz, gezamelt fun di beste literarishe un visnshaftlikhe kvelen, nokh di nayeste metodes (Yiddish reader, a reader for school and home, assembled from the best literary and scientific sources, following the latest methods) (Warsaw: Progres, 1908), 171 pp.  This volume included poetry and stories by: Morris Rozenfeld, Avrom Liessin, Shloyme Etinger, Avrom Reyzen, Y. L. Perets, Ḥaim-Naḥman Bialik, and others.  Together with his brother Zalmen, they published Di muter shprakh, a metode tsu lezen un shrayben yudishe mit gramatikalishe klolim, baygeleygt ale hebreishe verter, vos gehn arayn in der yudishe shprakh (The mother language, a method to read and write Yiddish with grammatical rules, with an attachment of all the Hebrew words that are included in the Yiddish language) (Warsaw, 1908), 78 pp., later editions (1912, 1914).
In the summer of 1907 Reyzen departed from the Russian empire, lived for half a year in Berlin, and later settled in Cracow.  There he published the first collection of his works under the title Shriften (Writings), 4 vols. (Warsaw: Progres, 1908-1910?): (1) Gezamelte lieder (Collected poems); (2) Menshen un velten, ertsehlungen (Men and worlds, stories); (3) Geshtalten (Figures); and (4) Ertsehlungen un stsenes (Stories and scenarios).
            At that time, he also published: Gute brider, komedye in eyn akt (Good brothers, a comedy in one act) (Warsaw, 1909), 16 pp.; Di tsigaynerin un andere dertseylungen (The gypsy woman and other stories [= “Di tokhter” (The daughter) and “Ohn liebe” (Loveless)]) (Warsaw, 1909), 16 pp.  The year 1908 was a significant year in Jewish cultural life, in Yiddish literature, and in Reyzen’s life.  The Czernowitz Conference took place at this time; he published his Kultur un leben (Culture and life), and he visited the United States for the first time.  Shmarye Gorelik, A. Vayter, and Shmuel Niger published Literarishe monatshrift (Literary monthly), in which it was said, among other things, in the programmatic article that “literature can have no existence, cannot be free and grow, if it relies on scarcely developed readers, if it satisfies the spiritual-aesthetic need only of those who have no access to the culture of other peoples.”  The editors strove in their periodical to provide the modern and refined in literature.  With regard to Reyzen, Niger wrote therein: “In the future Jewish school, our children will repeat Reyzen’s poetry by heart, and use them to teach our people and our language, but Reyzen is not yet my poet.  His prayer book contains no prayer for me, none for us, for many of us intellectuals.  We hear his voice, satiated with sorrow and solitude, but our grief is different, our solitude is different.  Other voices summon us, and they open other wounds in our heart.”  Reyzen was not invited to write for Literarishe monatshrift.  His personal friend A. Vayter asked him privately to do so.  He sent in several items, but they were not published.  Reyzen was offended both because his work was not published and because of Niger’s criticism.  He thus decided to publish a serial that would be “worthy of competing with such a prestigious publication.”  The first issue under the title Kultur un leben appeared in June 1908 in Warsaw.  There was no question of competition with Literarishe monatshrift, because it ceased publication in May 1908.  Reyzen later wrote that he “couldn’t compete with a journal that had three editors.”  In all, four issues appeared and it excelled in its reliable approach to Yiddish literature.  He included in its important writers from that era, such as: Bal-Makhshoves, Gershom Shofman, Khayim Yoysef Brener with a long treatment of Literarishe monatshrift, and Reyzen himself with poems, stories, and criticism.  In the final issue, he published Y. L. Perets’ declaration about Yiddish which several newspapers had not correctly reported earlier, as well as an appeal from the office of the conference on the Yiddish language signed by Dr. Nosn Birnboym and Dovid Toybish.  Reyzen took an active part in the Czernowitz Conference.  During the discussion about Yiddish and Hebrew, Perets did not participate—he held that this ought not be treated—and Reyzen openly criticized him for this.  After the conference, Reyzen, Asch, Perets, and Nomberg made a tour through a string of cities in Galicia and Bukovina on behalf of the conference office, which was aimed at implementing the resolutions of the full assembly.
During his first trip to America in the fall of 1908, Reyzen was enthusiastically welcomed by Forverts (Forward) in New York, which had as early as 1902 published stories of his—such as “Shtile trit” (Quiet steps) and “Gmiles khesed” (Interest-free loan)—as well as later in 1905 and 1907.  Ab. Cahan praised these two stories, and Reyzen later wrote that this was “the first critical assessment of me generally” in Yiddish.  In the summer of 1909, he returned to Europe and settled in Warsaw.  He was then editing: Fraye teg, literarishe zamlung (Free days, literary collection), 1, n.s.: “Literarishe zamlung tsu peysekh” (Literary collection for Passover) (Warsaw, 1910), 48 pp.; Frihlings bleter, a literarishe zamlung tsu shvues (Spring pages, a literary collection for Shavuot) (Warsaw: 1910), 44 pp.; Dos yohr, literarishe zamlung (The year, literary collections) (Warsaw, 1911), 48 pp.; Familyen ḳalendar (Family calendar) (Warsaw, 1911); Sukes blat, literarishe zamlung (Sukkot sheet, literary collection) (Warsaw, n.d. [apparently 1910 from context]), 32 pp.  In all of these collections, Reyzen published his own poems, stories, and reviews, creations of earlier contributors and new writers such as Elye Izgur, Leyb Naydus, and Zusman Segalovitsh, original Yiddish poetry by the Hebrew poets D. Shimenovitsh (Shimoni) and Yankev Shteynberg.  In one collection, Frihlings-bleter, he wrote about a book of Lider (Poems) by H. Royzenblat and a volume of stories Veltelekh (Little worlds) by Moyshe Odershleger.  At that time, reviews of American Yiddish writers were a rarity in the Yiddish press in Europe—it was thus an achievement of Reyzen’s to announce Yiddish authors from America.  He contributed as well to Fraynd (Friend) in Warsaw and other Yiddish serial publications.  His major accomplishment at that time was the publication of the weekly paper Eyropeyishe literatur (European literature).  He understood that Yiddish literature had to free itself from self-sufficiency and link up with world literature.  Yiddish readers at the time were also interested in such a connection, and that such a journal of translated world literature would be a potent item.  In this weekly was published poems, stories, and novels by Peter Altenberg, Leonid Andreyev, Charles Baudelaire, Lord Byron, Charles Dickens, Mikhail Lermontov, Knut Hamsun, Heinrich Heine, Thomas Mann, Jakob Wassermann, and an array of other well-known writers.  The translators were: Zalmen Reyzen, L. Shapiro, Leon Kusman, Max Weinreich, Arn-Yitskhok Grodzenski, Moyshe-Leyb Tshudnovski, Yudl Tupman, Sh. Rotshild, and Yekhezkl Blaykher.  From issue no. 26, Reyzen began—at the request of readers—to also publish original works by Yiddish writers: Y. L. Perets, Dovid Eynhorn, Yitskhok-Dov Berkovitsh, Yoyel Mastboym, G. Shofman, H. D. Nomberg, A. Reyzen, and Yedidye Margolis, among others.  In total, thirty-six issues appeared in print: 1,872 pp.  This publication brought new textures into Yiddish literature, expanded its horizons, and afforded the Yiddish reader an opportunity to become acquainted with the writings of important writers in world literature.  From the remaining materials after the journal ceased publication, the publisher Progres brought out a collection Fraye erd (Free land) with original works and translations.  Afterword, Reyzen left Warsaw, traveled through Paris, Geneva, and London where he gave speeches and read from his own works.  In the Warsaw era, 1900-1910 (with interruptions), Reyzen greatly enriched Yiddish literature with his poems and stories, and he accomplished a great deal by publishing and editing various and sundry literary publications and by encouraging young Yiddish authors and stimulating the older ones.
In early 1911 he arrived for the second time in the United States.  He felt very much at home with the writers and his readership, contributed work to Forverts and Tsukunft, and with great speed on September 15, 1911 published a new literary weekly entitled Dos naye land (The new land).  From samples of his Dos yudishe vort, this was a bold move, because there was no precedent in America for a Yiddish literary weekly, but Reyzen with his enthusiasm, optimism, and enterprising character succeeded in publishing a serious literary journal.  Each issue included stories, poems, essays, articles, and literary news.  He provided the best of Yiddish literature in Europe and America.  As in all of Reyzen’s publications, the new journal was also Yiddishist.  Chaim Zhitlovsky came out in the weekly both for Yiddishism and for cultural pluralism.  Also published in the journal were works of such Jewish American writers as Dovid Ignatov, M. L. Halperin, Mani Leyb, Zishe Landau, Ruvn Ayzland, Fradl Shtok, Khaymovitsh, Yoyel Slonim, and other, older writers such as Chaim Zhitlovsky and Nakhmen Sirkin.  Publishing the poetry group known as the “Yunge” (Young ones) gave them prestige by assuming such an important place in Yiddish literature in America.  The European Yiddish writers who wrote for the journal were virtually the same as those who had written for Reyzen’s journals in Europe.  The new journal was welcomed by Morris Winchevsky and Ab. Cahan.  Thirty-two issues in all were published (the last on April 26, 1912).  Years later, Reyzen wrote: “If Dos naye land reached the thirty-second issue with great difficulty, it was thanks to my great love for the newspaper in general, and no sacrifice was too difficult for me to maintain its existence.”  As a bonus to the journal was published Yohrbukh dos naye land, a zamel bukh far literatur un visenshaft (Dos naye land yearbook, a collection for literature and scholarship) (New York, 1912), 100 pp.—of the same character as the journal and with the participation of the same contributors.  In this work it was announced that Reyzen “compiled and edited Hebreyishe literatur in mustern (Hebrew literature in specimens), from R. Yehuda Halevi to Bialik, conveyed in Yiddish.”  The anthology was not published, and the fate of the manuscript remains unknown.  After the discontinuation of Dos naye land, Reyzen found himself in a difficult bind, although he nonetheless had enough audacity to publish a new weekly serial, together with Arn Karlin, Di literarishe velt (The literary world)—first issue: December 14, 1912.  It bore the same character as all of Reyzen’s journals, with the same contributors, aside from several new ones, such as A. A. Robak, Moyshe Kats, and Fishl Gelibter, among others.  He edited Di literarishe velt through issue 7 (January 17, 1913) and then left it due to a critical article (in issue 1) concerning volume one of Shriftn (Writings) by the “Yunge.”  Because of the critique, the “Yunge” no longer wished to contribute to Di literarishe velt, but Karlin wanted to continue having their work, and Reyzen, it appears, thus departed.  He went on to write for Forverts, in which he published a story every week.  He also gave readings in New York and the hinterland.  He was able to stay on in America with his literary activities, but he had to pay a remaining debt from a loan taken out to publish Dos naye land.  And, there was no other way than to have a farewell evening for him.  The profits taken in from the evening were actually more than enough to cover the debt, and Reyzen then set off for Europe, stayed temporarily in London, and the settled in Paris, where he continued his writing and editing.  Concerning his time in America, he later wrote: “In the two and one-quarter years that I spent in my second sojourn in America, until June 1913, I fulfilled my duty to the Yiddish reader.  I published Dos naye land with a singular intensity to develop its literary taste.  I suffered both morally and materially, and left with the sole goal of paying a debt that I owed for a newspaper, founded for the masses, to raise them up to a more artistic and cultured conception of the world.”  In Paris, Brussels, Liège, and Ghent, he gave readings of his works and speeches.  In Paris he met Leo Kenig, Sholem Asch, Khayim Zhitlovsky, and Sholem-Aleichem who were visiting there.  As was his way, Reyzen soon began planning a new publication.  With his savings, contributions from lovers of Yiddish, and a loan, on October 17, 1913 he published the first number of Der nayer zhurnal, vokhnshrift far literatur, kunst, kritik un kultur (The new journal, a weekly for literature, art, criticism, and culture).  In it were published poetry, stories, essays on literature, journalistic articles on Jewish cultural issues, and essays concerning art and Jewish artists.  It also published notices of Yiddish literary events in France, Russia, and America, and the journal functioned as a kind of central organ for Yiddish literature—it actually appeared in Paris, Warsaw, and New York.  This weekly published writings by: Avrom Vevyorke, Yekhezkl Dobrushin, and Leo Kenig; by the Belgians, Yankev Kreplyak and Shiye Podruzhnik; by the visitors, Sholem-Aleichem, Sholem Asch, and Chaim Zhitlovsky; and by Yoysef Opatoshu, Morris Rozenfeld, Zalmen Reyzen, and Sore Reyzen.  There were also translations from world literature.  In journalism, he continued his fight on behalf of Yiddish and Yiddishism.  The eleventh and last issue of the journal appeared on January 2, 1914.  After the discontinuation of Der nayer zhurnal, Reyzen visited Copenhagen, Berlin, Katowice, and once again Berlin.  With the outbreak of WWI, he set out for the third time for the United States, where he would remain resident for the rest of his life.  He again wrote for Forverts and placed stories and poetry in it.  In Der groyser kundes (The great prankster), he published humorous sketches, and he contributed as well to Di feder (The pen) together with young authors.  In 1917 he switched to Tog (Day), for which he wrote stories and poems weekly.  Over the years 1922-1923, he published Nay-yidish, monat-shrift far literatur un kunst (New Yiddish, monthly journal for literature and art)—the first issue July 1922 and the last November 1923.  Reyzen later wrote that he thought of Nay-yidish “as a university in which one entered after have completed several classes in the school of [Di] feder.”  It was an international Yiddish journal which had an impact on Yiddish literary events in the United States and Europe.  It was different from his earlier periodicals in that the new journal published no articles on community issues.  Aside from his own writings, what appeared in published in Nay-yidish was poetry both by well-known poets such as Yehoash, Morris Rozenfeld, Uri-Tsvi Grinberg, Mani Leyb, and Arn Leyeles, and by such less well-known poets at the time as Yankev Glatshteyn, Zishe Vaynper, Meyer-Ziml Tkatsh, Y. Y. Sigal, and Khayim Krul, among others.  Also in the journal were: stories by Ayzik Raboy, Yitskhok-Dov Berkovitsh, and Avrom-Moyshe Fuks; essays by Yankev Shatski, Menakhem Boreysho, Yoyel Slonim, and others.  The journal provides an excellent picture of Yiddish creativity in America at the beginning of the 1920s.  Younger writers were especially well represented in it.  This was to be Reyzen last published and edited journal, although he retained a close relationship with Di feder, in which for many years he ran a section entitled “Literarishe revyu” (Literary revue).  Reyzen’s fiftieth birthday was celebrated in 1926 with organized events and through the press in which great enthusiasm was expressed him.  He was especially warmly received by the leftists, and he later moved to Frayhayt (Freedom), where he began writing his Epizodn and its sequel, Tsvantsik yor in amerike (Twenty years in America).  In late 1928 Reyzen made a tour through Western Europe, Poland, and Soviet Russia.  He was received everywhere with eager interest, especially in the Soviet Union where people displayed extraordinary friendship and he was often welcomed at receptions by representatives of the government.  He was also selected to be an honorary member of various institutions and literary organizations, and two Jewish colonies were named for him.  During his trip to Soviet Russia, a number of his books were published there: Lider un dertseylungen (Poems and stories) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1929), 79 pp. with a foreword by Kh. D. (Khayim Dunets); Dertseylungen (Stories) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1929), 318 pp.; In amerike (In America), short stories (Moscow: Tsentral felker-farlag fun f.s.s.r., 1929), 174 pp.; Amolike tsaytn (Past times) (Moscow: Tsentral felker-farlag fun f.s.s.r., 1929); Geklibene lider (Selected poems) (Moscow: Tsentral felker-farlag fun f.s.s.r., 1929).  After returning to America, he continued writing for Frayhayt, among other items a series of articles on his voyage to Soviet Russia.  In August 1929, he—along with M. Boreysho, H. Leivick, Leyb Faynberg, and A. Raboy—left Frayhayt in protest at the stance taken by the newspaper vis-à-vis the Arab pogroms in Israel.  Reyzen again became a writer for Forverts until the end of his life.  In it he published stories, poetry, and Epizodn fun mayn lebn in a fictional form.  In Di feder, he continued writing his “Literarishe revyu” in which he would fervently extol writers and their books.  These paeans aroused aversion, and critics sharply attacked him for this (for example: Yankev Glatshteyn, Prost un poshet [Plain and simple], 1978; and Shmuel Niger, in Tog [January 1933]).  Reyzen, however, did not change his way as a critic, especially as concerned younger writers.  Although he may have exaggerated his praises, he did encourage a number of writers, and they were to become well known.  Among them should be single out: Leyvi Goldberg, A. Lutski, and Khayim Pet.  Reyzen picked up his Epizodn fun mayn leyb, interrupted from its installments in Frayhayt, in Tsukunft, though in only a few issues (1930-1931).  Kletskin Publishers brought out Epizodn in three volumes (Vilna, 1929-1935).  These ended with the Czernowitz Conference of 1908.  Subsequent portions remain on the pages of Frayhayt and Tsukunft.  Also, the sections of Epizodn that appeared in Forverts (1944-1949) were never published in book form.  He later edited the volume Koydenov, zamlbukh tsum ondenk fun di koydenoṿer kdoyshim (Koydenov, collection to the memory of the Koydenov victims) (New York, 1955).
Jewish composers wrote music to accompany Reyzen’s poetry, and many of them were sung by people, such as the popular: “Hulyet, hulyet, beyze vintn,” “Kirkhen-gloken,” “May ko mashmo lon” (What does this mean to us?), and “Der gemore-nign,” as well as his translation of Bialik’s “Hakhnisini” (Take me under your wing) as “Zay a zhuts mir” (Protect me).  Reyzen’s version of a Russian poem, “Dos flaterl” (The butterfly), was also often sung.  His one-act plays—Gute brider, Dem shadkhns tokhter (The matchmaker’s daughter), A ruike dire (A quite apartment), and Di repetitsye—were performed by professional acting troupes as well as amateurs.  Several of the poems in Iser Ginzburg’s Yidishe denker un poetn in mitlalter (Jewish thinkers and poets in the Middle Ages), 2 vols. (New York, 1918-1919), were translated by Reyzen.  He also translated a portion of Lev Tolstoy’s Kinder yorn (Childhood [original: Detstvo]) (Moscow, 1918), 90 pp.  Many of Reyzen’s stories were published in Hebrew, but we have only three of his original stories in Hebrew (according to Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit [Handbook of Hebrew literature], vol. 2 [Meravya, 1967]).  Reyzen’s stories in Hebrew are translations by Bialik, Brener, Shteynberg, Yankev Fikhman, Shaya Bershadski, and Uriel Akavia.  In America, Reyzen was active in Jewish cultural life.  He frequently appeared at Yiddish literary-artistic evenings and was regular guest in Jewish schools where he was received with great affection from the children.  His poems and stories appear in a number of textbooks and anthologies.  He was an active leader in the Y. L. Perets writers’ association and in the Pen Club (of which he was president for several years).  He was also a cofounder of the World Jewish Culture Congress.  Participating at his funeral were not only the Jewish masses but also Jewish intellectuals, and a popular sorrow was expressed at the passing of this great poet.
Reyzen was one of the most highly creative and productive Yiddish writers.  In every place that he lived, he ceaselessly composed stories and poems.  As the author of stories, he developed an original style and perfected the short Yiddish story.  His stories excelled in austerity, concentration on the main theme, and for simplicity and truthfulness.  He succeeded in his stories in describing the surroundings and in introducing vivid figures in every detail and nuance.  He paints a gallery of Jewish men and women, wealthy and poor, simple tradesmen, seamstresses, and stocking makers, but also yeshiva lads, teachers, and intellectuals.  He paints them with their virtues and faults, but with a warm connection all their types, and his profound humanism hovers over them.  Even in the least trifles, Reyzen demonstrated the dignity of simple men.  He derived material from poor people and expressed those deeply human and Jewish elements and values that made it possible to exist in not too friendly surroundings.  He depicted in an artistic manner the personal ties between people and the relations in Jewish life.  He often expressed, but in a genteel way, the social links in Jewish society.  He related with deep sympathy to the poor and persecuted but was wary of expressing hatred for the unsympathetic types whom he depicted.  The themes of his stories were varied: Jewish life in Europe and America, love, hopes and disappointments.  The stories were realistic, often written with humor, irony, and pathos, and they convey the very essence of Jewish life.
Reyzen’s poetry possessed a folk quality, authenticity, and a simplicity that was highly artistic and refined.  He expressed both his internal sensibilities, the feelings of a simple Jewish man of the people, and of a popular intellectual, and a harmony was created between him and his readers, and hence there was much admiration for him and his works.  Reyzen exercised an immense influence over authors of poetry and stories, who emerged in the first decades of the twentieth century.  It was felt as well by a number of Soviet Yiddish poets, especially in their poems from the early 1920s.  As Khayim Bez (Hyman Bass) remarked: “What influences were exerted on Reyzen which nourished him his entire life?  First of all, there was the folksong.  Reyzen had an ear for what the people were singing, and the people were always singing….  There was born in Reyzen as well a pure lyrical and genuine version of folk poetry—it emerged purified and authentic in its simple genuineness, while tender in the lines of love poems…  A remarkable match of folksong, of biblical imagery, and of motifs of social agitation, shadows of the synagogue study chamber and images of sunset, boisterous streets, poems of ego, poems of one’s own moods, and poems of the community at large—all of this together was Avrom Reyzen, a multi-talented, diversely talented, a never simple but extremely complicated poet and author.”
“Is Reyzen a poet of the people?” asked Shloyme Bikl.  “No, he was immeasurably higher than that; he was the first authentic Yiddish poet of the people.  ‘He does not soar about in heaven,’ noted Perets of the young Reyzen, ‘but on earth he is the very best.’  And, these word of Perets came true.  For, what can be better than ‘the very best’ which Reyzen attained: his poetry penetrated and became the song beneath the poorest thatched roof, and his work became a social force, a support for belief and consolation for thousands of his people….  When it came to Avrom Reyzen’s stories,…it is altogether a different matter.  Here, in his stories, is Avrom Reyzen not only the first figure in our fictional work, but on numerous occasions the last, the highest of achievers.”
“When one turns to Reyzen’s poetry,” noted Yankev Glatshteyn, “one confronts a great Jew.  A Jew and seer, a seer and a sage, a sage and a skeptic, a skeptic with a truly wise and bitter smile….  How much purity, how much truly Jewish human refinement there is Reyzen’s poetry!  It thus seems to me that only a young Jew in our time, who wishes to approach Reyzen without prejudice—because Reyzen has become a school poet, for good and for bad:…fresh and with a desire to receive and understand—will perceive a great Jewish personality, many times greater than five other older Jewish writers whom critics celebrate and acclaim.”
“Reyzen’s poems and stories,” wrote Ezriel Naks (Israel Knox), “possess a universal tone.  It was a universalism forged of goodness and compassion, of irony, quiet despair and patient hope.  This is, however, not pseudo-universalism, an artistic composite gained by selecting themes that are not Jewish or appeared to be supra-national and have also lost their concreteness and distinctiveness.  Reyzen’s stories derive their universalism precisely from their direct and proximate quality, from their concreteness and distinctiveness.  Because he had absorbed in himself his shtetl with all of its modalities;…his stories of sadness and joy…are so universal, in their atmosphere, just as are Chekhov’s stories.”
“The era in which Reyzen emerged,” commented Shmuel Rozhanski, “was most certainly not fit for ‘veahavta’ (and you shall love [your neighbor as yourself]).  It was a bitter time period.  Even Sholem-Aleichem was more a satirist at the time than a humorist.  [Reyzen] was discouraged by the ‘grandfathers.’  Mendele was using his pen to rip and thrash….  Musar [moralizing]—this was Perets’s beginning, secular moralizing.  Into this era emerged Reyzen with his ‘kol demama daka’ (voice still small), a lyrical one, and with quiet humor, soft, but penetrating.  He walked side by side with Y. L. Perets, whom he loved as a hassid does his rebbe, but along his own quiet approach.  He walked in league with Sholem Asch and H. D. Nomberg, who just like him were pupils of Perets, though alien to him was Nomberg’s small world of broken intellectuals and Sholem Asch’s flying to the heavens and dictating to the gods.  Reyzen sought out the humanity even where there was no proper man….  His value lay not in the motifs of the time.  Without the divine, Reyzen sought and found the Sabbath festiveness even in everyday events and everyday people….  His main point was humanity, all humanity.”
“Avrom Reyzen derived the theme [of poverty],” remarked Leyzer Podryatshik, “from the crowded Pale of Settlement and elevated it to a world issue.  His depressed poor folk and wretched tradesmen, disgraced servants and offended journeymen were all victims of the general injustice that dominated the world.  A. Reyzen regarded small town Jewish poverty as part of the great social injustice in the world.  Hence, the pathos of his protest against the corruptors of men and mankind.  Therein his revolt against the societal forces that lead to national and social injustice….  His poems and stories were imbued with ethical depths and aesthetic heights, rich in the wisdom of life, understanding, and prudence.  They were a manifesto of an elevated humanism.  ‘To humanize life,’ wrote A. Reyzen, ‘is the highest step.’  Regardless of the appalling, often even gloomy atmosphere prevailing in his stories, Avrom Reyzen the artist was not an elegiac poet, but rather a consoling one.  His artistic frame of mind is truly a tragic one, but not a pessimistic one.”
“Reyzen is the poet of the common Jew,” wrote M. Olgin.  “He recounts the heartache of the average, ordinary man.  The thousand years of sorrow that has accumulated in the Jewish soul rings out in his poetry, but the sorrow is without rage, the sorrow is without curses, the sorrow is locked within itself and is nourished by compassion.  This is the Jewish misfortune….  Reyzen’s poems do not lack social or national motifs.  He does not ponder the community at large; he does not ask: From where and to where?  The community, the people, the society are for him facts, they exist, and he takes them for a readymade substratum of his longing and anxiety.”
“Just as he simplified the form of his story into a conversational mode,” noted Borekh Rivkin, “…and thus worked out his own admirable method of storytelling, he also sought and found a simplified frame for his poems in approaching the form of a folksong, with concrete content—replete with mood, feelings, and wisdom.  He also considered it necessary to invest energy in a melody for his poems, so that Lithuanian Jews would be able to reproduce them….  And Reyzen had worked out his own poetic form, not a folksong, but an artistic, prudent borrowing of the ‘classical’ folk style in verse: with exclamation, questions and answers, parallels, and refrains.  And the people would thus come to the recognition: Yes, a song, no one should be ashamed of singing it, and a large number of Reyzen’s poems were included among those songs of the people.”
“Avrom Reyzen was one of those,” wrote Shiye Rapoport, “who brought Yiddish poetry to the people and thus brought the people to Yiddish poetry.  This does not hold for Bovshover, nor for Edelshtat, nor for Winchevsky, because they brought to the people the revolutionary poem, the poem of revolt.  It does hold for Morris Rozenfeld, Yehoash, and Avrom Reyzen.  They brought the people to the lyrical poem, which spoke not only to the class-conscious proletariat, to social instinct, but also to the human heart, to its sentiments, to its sixth literary sense.  And of the three of them, the closest to the heart of the common man was Avrom Reyzen.  His poems spoke to the heart of the common man, because it was primitive, both in its feelings and in the language of expression.  Avrom Reyzen was very close to the folksong which is almost always simple, open, unartistic, and naïve.  His poetry was the middle ring linking Yiddish folk poetry with Yiddish art poetry.”
In addition to those mentioned above, his works include the following: Der proletaryer af frishe luft, Reyzele, Orime layṭ (The proletariat in fresh air, Reyzele, Poor people) (Warsaw: Algemeyne ferlag, n.d.), 29 pp.; Der samovar, Di orime kehile, Di groyse suke (The samovar, the poor Jewish community, the large succah) (n.p., n.d.); Lieder fun leben, a naye zamlung (Poems of life, a new collection) (Warsaw: Progres, 1904/1905), 95 pp.; Fermashkent zikh aleyn, ertsehlung (Mortgaged myself, a story) (Warsaw: Bikher-far-ale, 1905), 11 pp.; Skhar-limed, ertsehlung (Tuition, a story) (Warsaw: Bikher-far-ale, 1906), 11 pp.; Farshpetigt (Tardy) (Warsaw: Familyen biblyotek, 1909), 16 pp.; Naye ertsehlungen (New stories) (Warsaw: Velt biblyotek, 1909/1910), 2 vols; Shriften (Writings), vol. 1, collected poetry (Warsaw: Progres, 1909/1910), 301 pp.; Naye verk (New works) (Warsaw: Bikher-far-ale, 1910-1914), 3 vols.; Novelen (Stories) (Warsaw: Progres, 1911), 92 pp.; Ale verk in tsvelf bender (Complete works in twelve volumes) (New York: Dos naye land, 1912), 190 pp.—only vol. 1, Ertsehlungen, appeared; Shriften (Warsaw: Progres, 1913/1914), 10 vols.; Ovend-klangen, naye lider zamlung, 1911-1913 (Evening sounds, a new poetry collection, 1911-1913) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1914), 145 pp.; Di ibergeblibene un andere ertselungen (The remaining ones and other stories) (Vilna: B. A. Kletskin, 1914), 237 pp.; Ale verk fun avrom reyzen (Complete works of Avrom Reyzen) (New York: Idish, 1917), 12 vols.—(1) Lieder (Poetry); (2) Amolige menshen (People of the past); (3) Heymishe menshen (Familiar people); (4) In shtodt (In the city); (5) Lider; (6) Eynakters un monologn (One-act plays and monologues); (7) Shtile liebe (Quiet love); (8) Orime gemeynden (Poor communities); (9) In amerike (In America); (10) Di obshpiglung (The reflection); (11) Lieder; (12) Bunte ertsehlungen (Batch of stories)—Tsvey briderlakh, Dos zeydens lamtern, Di idene mitn bob (far aykh un ayere kinder) (Two little brothers, Grandfather’s lantern, The Jewish woman with the bean, for you and your children) (New York: Idish, 1919), 32 pp.; Geklibene lider (Selected poems), comp. and annot. Itshe Goldberg (New York, n.d.), 11 pp.; Humoresken-bukh, 1916-1920 (Volume of humorous sketches, 1916-1920) (New York: Nay-tsayt, 1920), 256 pp.; Naye shriftn (New writings) (New York: Idish, 1920), vol. 1, 224 pp.; Der boym, Di fabrik, Af di hoykhe berg (The tree, The factory, On high mountains) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1921), 25 pp., “shortened for children” (later editions: 1926; Mexico City, 1962); 50 lider, a matone di kinder fun di idishe shuln (Fifty poems, a gift to the children in Jewish schools) (New York: Matones, 1926), 46 pp.; Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings) (New York: Frayhayt, 1928), 14 vols. in 7; Nyu-yorker noveln, naye zamlung (New York tales, a new collection) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1929), 330 pp.; Naye lider (New poems) (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1929), 371 pp.; Gezamlte shriftn (New York: Idish, 1930), 14 vols. in 7; Ven est di mame? Di naye late, dertseylungen (When does Mother eat? The new patch, stories) (Vilna: Naye Yidish folksshul, 1933), 16 pp.; Gezamlte shriftn (New York: Forverts, 1933), 14 vols. in 7; Fun tsvey heymen (From two homes) (Warsaw: Kinder-fraynd, 1935), 53 pp.; Der iber, Der kranker finger, A drame iber finf kartoflyes (The intercalary month, The sick finger, A drama about five potatoes) (Vilna: Grininke beymelekh, 1936), 15 pp.; Dertseylungen (Stories)—A drame iber finf kartoflyes; Di nasherin (The nibbler); In di raykhe gasn (In the rich street)—(Vilna: Grininke beymelekh, 1939). 12 pp.; Geklibene dertseylungen un lider, shul-oysgabe tsu avrom reyzens 70-yorikn yoyvl (Selected stories and poems, a school edition for Avrom Reyzen’s seventieth birthday) (New York: Workmen’s Circle Middle School, 1947), 126 pp.; Lider tsum zingen, mit di notn, a matone mayne fraynt (Poems to sing, with notations, a gift to my friends) (New York: Yoyvl-komitet, 1947), 64 pp. in typescript; Avrom reyzens 70-yoriker yubiley bukh (Avrom Reyzen’s seventieth birthday jubilee volume) (Los Angeles, 1947); Di lider in tsvelf teyln, 1891-1951 (The poems in twelve parts, 1891-1951) (New York, 1951), 304 pp.; Dertseylungen (New York: Tsiko, 1952), 320 pp.; Oysgeveylte verk (Selected works) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1955), 403 pp.; Oysgeveylte verk (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1964), 458 pp. (possibly a sequel to the previous work); Lider, dertseylungen, zikhroynes, muzik tsu 22 lider (Poems., stories, memoirs, music to twenty-two poems), edited with an introduction by Shmuel Rozhanski (Buenos Aires: Yoysef Lifshits Fund, 1966), 316 pp.

Sources: The bibliography of works about Avrom Reyzen until 1929 may be found in Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; for the subsequent years, see Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 6 (Mexico City, 1969); Getzel Kressel, Leksikon hasifrut haivrit (Handbook of Hebrew literature), vol. 2 (Meravya, 1967); M. Olgin, In der velt fun gezangen (In the world of songs) (New York, 1919), pp. 219-42; Bal-Makhshoves, Shriftn (Writings), vol. 3 (Vilna, n.d.), pp. 92-96; Ab. Cahan, Bleter fun mayn leben (Pages from my life), vol. 4 (Vilna: B. Kletskin, 1928), pp. 321ff; Khayim Dunets, foreword to Reyzen’s Lider un dertseylungen (Poems and stories) (Minsk: Byelorussian State Publ., 1929); Elye (Elias) Shulman, in Literarishe bleter (Warsaw) (April 24, 1936); Shulman, Bay zikh (On my own) (Tel Aviv, 1977-1980), pp. 9-17; Shulman, Portretn un etyudn (Portraits and studies) (New York, 1979), see index; Moyshe Blekher, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 10.1-2 (1936); Nokhum-Borekh Minkov, Yidishe klasiker-poetn, eseyen (Classical Yiddish poets, essays) (New York, 1937), pp. 183-224; special Reyzen issues of Di feder (New York) (1946, 1953); Borekh Rivkin, Yidishe dikhter in amerike (Yiddish poets in America), vol. 1 (New York: Tsiko, 1947), pp. 109-18; Rivkin, Unzere prozaiker (Our prose writers) (New York: IKUF, 1951), pp. 128-39; Hillel Rogoff, Der gayst fun “forverts” (The spirit of the Forward) (New York, 1954); Yankev Glatshteyn, In tokh genumen (In essence) (New York, 1956), pp. 48-63; Glatshteyn, In der velt mit yidish (The world with Yiddish) (New York, 1972), pp. 15-16; Shloyme Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York: Library of Jewish teachers’ seminary and people’s university, 1956); Shiye Rapoport, Oysgerisene bleter (Torn up pages) (Melbourne, 1957), pp. 177-86; Rapoport, Zoymen in vint (Seeds in the wind) (Buenos Aires, 1961), pp. 211-16; Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation) (New York, 1958), pp. 271-77, and (Tel Aviv, 1965), pp. 324-29; Yefim Yeshurin, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (Buenos Aires, 1966); Dovid Shub, Fun di amolike yorn, bletlekh zikhroynes (From years gone by, pages of remembrances) (New York, 1970), see index); Khayim Bez, Shrayber un verk (Writings and [their] work) (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1971); Dov Sadan, Heymishe ksovim, shrayber, bikher, problemen (Familiar writings, writers, books, issues), vol. 1 (Tel Aviv: Hamenorah, 1972), see index; Shmuel Niger, Yidishe shrayber fun tsvantsikstn yorhundert (Yiddish writers of the twentieth century), vol. 1 (New York, 1972); Niger, Fun mayn togbukh (From my diary) (New York, 1973), see index; Shmuel Rozhanski, Yidishe literatur-yidish lebn (Yiddish literature, Jewish life), vol. 2 (Buenos Aires: YIVO literature association, 1973), pp. 375-76; Ezriel Naks, in Jewish Book Annual (New York) 33 (1975/1976); Leyzer Podryatshik, In profil fun tsaytn (In profile of the times) (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1978); Khayim Bez, in Jewish Book Annual 37 (1979/1980); Charles A. Madison, Yiddish Literature: Its Scope and Major Writers (New York: Ungar Publishing Company, 1968); Sol Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature (New York: J. David, 1972); Emanuel S. Goldsmith, Architects of Yiddishism at the Beginning of the Twentieth Century: A Study in Jewish Cultural History (Rutherford, NJ: Farleigh Dickenson University Press, 1976).
Dr. Elye (Elias) Shulman