Thursday, 25 July 2019


MOYSHE SHAPIRO (May 6, 1899-December 28, 1973)
            He was a linguist, born in Khmelnik (Khmil'nyk), Podolia, Ukraine; his father was a Yiddish teacher.  He attended religious elementary school and the Berdichev yeshiva, graduating from a high school in 1917.  In 1923 he was appointed director of a Jewish school, while he at the same time taught Yiddish language and literature, Russian language and literature, and mathematics.  He debuted in print in 1928 with an article on language teaching in Ratnbildung (Soviet education) in Kharkov.  Two years later he brought out, with Ruvn Lerner, an auxiliary booklet on orthography entitled Shrayb on grayzn, hilfbukh far shiler (Write without error, an auxiliary text for pupils) (Moscow: Central Publ.), 94 pp.  In 1933 he began a period as a research student in the philology section of the institute for Jewish culture at the Ukrainian Academy of Science.  In 1937 he defended his dissertation and became a candidate in philological science.  He published works, primarily on Yiddish grammar.  He published in: Afn shprakhfront (On the language front) (1937-1940)—among other items, a study entitled “A gramatisher min in yidish” (A grammatical gender in Yiddish).  During the Stalinist persecutions of Jewish culture, he published on Russian morphology.  He contributed to: Ukrainish-yidisher matematisher verterbukh (Ukrainian-Yiddish mathematics dictionary) (Kiev, 1935).  He also co-authored a series of textbooks: with Moyshe Maydanski, Ortografye un punktuatsye (Orthography and punctuation) (Kiev: USSR state publishers for national minorities, 1936-1938), 151 pp.; Leyenbukh far shuln fun gramote (Reader for schools on grammar) (Kiev-Kharkov: USSR state publishers for national minorities, 1936), 68 pp.; with Khayim Loytsker, Gramatik (Grammar) (Kiev: State Publ., 1938-1940), on morphology, three editions (one in Kovno); Zamlung sistematishe diktantn, far der onfang un mitlshul (Collection of systematic dictations, for primary and middle school) (Kiev: USSR state publishers for national minorities, 1939-1940), two printings.
            During WWII he worked in the Uzbeki state pedagogical institute in Bukhara.  Returning to Kiev in 1944, he returned to his language research in the office of Yiddish language, literature, and folklore.  In 1946 he and a group of leading linguists, under the direction of Elye Spivak, began compiling a Russian-Yiddish dictionary, but with the Stalinist persecution of Jewish culture, it was discontinued, the office closed, the manuscript confiscated, and the dictionary (in a considerably reworked form) only appeared in 1984, long after the death of the compilers.  In line with the persecutions, he was deported to a labor camp in 1949, returning in the mid-1950s.  In 1964 he began working in the Moldavian pedagogical institute as a lecturer in the department of Russian language.  He later lived in Moscow, and in his last years he published articles in Sovetish heymland (Soviet homeland) in Moscow on normative grammar, as well as offering Yiddish lessons in a regular column entitled “Shmuesn vegn yidisher shprakh” (Chats about the Yiddish language) (1969-1973).  He died in Moscow.

Sources: Chone Shmeruk, comp., Pirsumim yehudiim babrit-hamoatsot, 1917-1961 (Jewish publications in the Soviet Union, 1917-1961) (Jerusalem, 1962), see index (he erroneously confuses Moyshe with Monye Shapiro); Yudel Mark, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 7 (1941); Sovetish heymland (Moscow) 1 (1969); Yankev Glatshteyn, In der velt mit yidish, eseyen (In the world with Yiddish, essays) (New York, 1972), pp. 375-77; M. Itkovitsh, in Morgn frayhayt (New York) (March 10, 1947); Yidishe shprakh (New York) 1-3 (1975).
Dr. Avrom Grinboym

[Additional information from: Chaim Beider, Leksikon fun yidishe shrayber in ratn-farband (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union), ed. Boris Sandler and Gennady Estraikh (New York: Congress for Jewish Culture, Inc., 2011), pp. 374-75.]

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