MOYSHE SHALIT (December 22, 1885-July 29, 1941)
He came from a well-to-do family. He attended a religious elementary school and graduated from a Russian public school. For a short time, he studied in Königsberg. He acquired his main education and knowledge through self-education. He was active as a Sejmist, later as a Labor Zionist. He was arrested on several occasions for his political work. He worked as a teacher of Yiddish literature in the Vilna Perets school (1909-1912). As a representative of “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of Enlightenment), he was a cofounder of Jewish schools in Vilna, a teacher at the first such school with Yiddish as the language of instruction (1915), a lecturer in the pedagogical and technical courses of study (1915-1917), and as a Labor Zionist representative on the Vilna Jewish city council. As secretary-general of Yekopo (Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny—“Jewish Relief Committee for War Victims”), from 1918 he directed broad societal work for the construction of over one hundred ruined Jewish communities in the Vilna region. He was an active member of the boards of ORT (Association for the Promotion of Skilled Trades) and OZE (Obschestvo zdravookhraneniia evreev—Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population), chairman of the association of Jewish cooperatives in Poland and of HIAS (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) central in Poland, a member of the executive of “Emigdirekt” (emigration directorate) in Berlin, of the council of the joint Jewish Emigrant Aid Society-Jewish Cultural Association-Emigdirekt in Paris, and of the main council for the welfare of Jewish orphans in Poland, as well as on the administration of Jewish Historical-Ethnographic Society (1919-1939), the Yiddish PEN Club, the association of journalists and writers, and other central and local Jewish organizations.
Shalit’s written work was mostly tied up with his social activities. He began in 1906 with a monograph in Russian on Bilu (Palestine pioneers, a movement to settle Jews in the land of Israel): Biluitsy, stranitsa iz istorii natsional’nogo probuzhdeniia evreev (Biluists, a page from the history of the national awakening of the Jews) (Vilna), 28 pp.; a shortened Yiddish version appeared under the title Biluitses (Biluists) (Ekaterinoslav: Zionist Organization, 1917). He also reviewed books (mainly on the nationality question) in the journal Kniga (Book) in St. Petersburg. At that time he began writing journalistic and literary criticism in Dr. Lurye’s Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people) (1906-1908), and in 1909 he contributed to Yidishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Vilna. He edited or co-edited a string of Yiddish newspapers and journals in Vilna: the collection Folk un land (People and land) (1910), 102 pp.; Folks-blat (People’s newspaper) (1911), with Dovid Eynhorn; the collection Luekh kadime (Advancement calendar) (1911/1912), with B. A. Goldberg; Dos yudishe vort, a literarishe khrestomatye tsum lezen in di eltere grupen fun obend-shulen un in der heym (The Jewish word, a literary reader to read with the older groups in evening schools and in the home), with Moyshe Olgin (1912), 467 pp., seven editions through 1919 and one in Kiev (1919)—actually edited by Shalit and Y. Tsipkin. In 1914 he was in New York, editing Zhitlovsky’s Dos naye leben (The new life). After returning to Vilna, he served as editor of the local daily newspaper Der fraynd (The friend) (July 1914-March 1915), Letste nayes (Latest news) (1916, 1918), Yidishe tsaytung (1919), Vilner zamlbukh (Vilna anthology) (1916, 1918, 2 vols., under general editor Tsemekh Shabad), and the weekly Unzer osed (Our future), published by Tseire-tsiyon (Zionist youth) of Lithuania (1918), with Shmuel-Leyb Tsitron. He additionally edited the following publications out of Vilna: Leben, heften far literatur, kunst un publitsidtik (Life, notebooks for literature, art, and journalism) (1920-1922, 10 issues); Unzer hilf (Our relief), organ of YEKOPO committee (1921-1932); Populerer folks-luekhl, far gmiles-khsodim kases un andere gezelshaftlekhe institutsyes (Popular people’s calendar, offices for interest-free loans and other community institutions); Fun yor tsu yor, ilustrirter gezelshaftlekher luekh (From year to year, illustrated community calendar) (1926-1929); Di ekonomishe lage fun di yidn in poyln un di yidishe kooperatsye, artiklen un materyaln (The economic situation of Jews in Poland and Jewish cooperatives, articles and materials) (1926), 160 pp.; Af di hurves fun milhomes un mehumes, pinkes fun gegnt-komitet “yekopo” 1919-1931 (On the ruins of wars and turmoil, records of the regional committee YEKOPO, 1919-1931), reports, articles, research pieces, materials, and documents (1931), 1146 columns; Almanakh fun yidishn literatur- un zhurnalistn-farayn (Almanac of the Jewish writers’ and journalists’ association) (1938), 160 pp. He also edited: Fun noentn over, kultur-historisher dray-khadoshim zhurnal (From the recent past, cultural-historical quarterly journal) (Warsaw, 1937-1939); and Danyel tsharni bukh (Volume for Daniel Charney) (Paris, 1939), 284 pp. In addition he placed work in: Razsvet (Dawn) in St. Petersburg (1911); Di idishe velt (The Jewish world) in St. Petersburg (1912) and Vilna (1913); the daily newspaper Dos folk (The people) in Vilna (1915); Dos naye leben in New York (1908-1914); Bikher-velt (Book world) in Warsaw (1928-1929); Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw (1925-1939); the anthology Vilne (Vilna) (New York, 1935); Vilner almanakh (Vilna almanac) (1939); and Kovno’s Idishe shtime (Jewish voice) (1940), in which he published his final articles (February 4, April 11, June 7); among others. Other books include: Vilner kulturele anshtalten, biblyoteken, shulen (Vilna’s cultural institutions, libraries [and] schools) (Vilna, 1916), 56 pp.; Literarishe etyudn (Literary studies), ed. Sh. Shreberk (Vilna, 1920), 82 pp.; Lukhes in unzer literatur (Calendars in our literature) (Vilna: Altnay, 1929), 47 pp. His pen names include: M., Sh., M. Sh., M. Zalmenson, and Jew. Under the Nazi occupation, Shalit was asked to be a member of the first Jewish Council in Vilna. He refused, stating that given his anti-Nazi articles, he could not assume such a position. His assessment was accurate; on July 29, 1941 the Gestapo arrested him in his home. He was murdered in Ponar.
Sources: Autobiographical notes left by Shalit; Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Morgn zhurnal (New York) (April 10, 1927); Shmerke Katsherginski, Khurbn vilne (The Holocaust in Vilna) (New York, 1947), pp. 215-16; Hirsh Abramovitsh, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1954); Abramovitsh, Farshvundene geshtaltn (Disappearing images) (Buenos Aires: Farband fun poylishe yidn, 1958), pp. 186-92; Yahadut lita (Jews of Lithuania), 3 vols. (Tel Aviv, 1966/1967), p. 246; Leyzer Ran, Yerusholaim delite, ilustrirt un dokumentirt (Jerusalem of Lithuania, illustrated and documented), vol. 3 (New York, 1975), see index.
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 514.]