Menaḥem Mendel Dolitzki (right), with (left to right) Hebrew writers Iakov Maze and Leon Rabinovich, editor of the Hebrew newspaper Ha-Melits, 1885. Among the portraits of other Hebrew writers on the table is (center) one of Perets Smolenskin. (YIVO)

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Dolitzki, Menaḥem Mendel

(1856–1931), Hebrew poet and novelist. Born in Białystok, Menaḥem Mendel Dolitzki received a traditional education. At an early age, he was attracted to the Haskalah, and in 1875–1876 he traveled to Vienna. There Dolitzki became acquainted with Perets Smolenskin, editor of the Hebrew periodical Ha-Shaḥar.

In 1878, Smolenskin printed Dolitzki’s long narrative poem, Likui shene ha-me’orot, o shene tsadikim she-ḥiblu zeh ba-zeh (The Eclipse of Two Lights, or the Two Righteous Men Who Injured Each Other), a satire mocking two rabbis for their antagonism. After his business initiatives failed, Dolitzki worked as a teacher in Białystok. He continued to publish pieces in Ha-Shaḥar, Keneset Yisra’el, and Ha-Melits, and established his reputation as a Hebrew author. He was warmly welcomed by Yehudah Leib Gordon in Saint Petersburg in 1881–1882.

In 1882, Dolitzki settled in Moscow, where he served for a time as secretary to Kalonymus Wissotzky and worked as a private tutor. Dolitzki witnessed the pogroms of the early 1880s and wrote about them in “Be-Tokh leva’im” (Among Lions; 1884) and “Mi-Bayit umi-ḥuts” (From Within and Without; 1890–1891). Dealing with the question of the right of Jews to settle outside the Pale of Settlement (an acute and painful issue in those days), the stories are poignant antigovernment satires, exposing the dreary conditions experienced by Diaspora Jews and of Jews who betray their people and benefit. Dolitzki’s poems, by no means artistic masterpieces, made a strong impression as well, and were generally popular.

The murderous attacks against the Jews of Russia, coupled with the Jewish national revival, brought about a conceptual change in Dolitzki’s literary output. He became an enthusiastic follower of Ḥibat Tsiyon and proceeded to publish numerous Zionist-nationalist essays and poems in Ha-Magid, Ha-Shaḥar, Keneset Yisra’el and Ha-Melits, among other periodicals. His sentimental essays and poems were imbued with innocent love and longing for Zion, and some of his poems were set to music.

The decade Dolitzki spent in Moscow proved to be the most productive and important years of his literary life, but the expulsion of Jews from that city compelled him to leave in 1892. Despite his past opposition to emigration to America, Dolitzki traveled to the United States that summer, at the recommendation of Shemu’el Leib Gordon, who gave him a blessing in one of his last poems: “Here, take my pen, stand up and claim my place!”

In the United States, Dolitzki struggled, working as a teacher and a peddler, remaining loyal to the concept of Zionism. There he published some 300 proverbs and 50 sensational novels in Yiddish, mainly under the pseudonym M. Volfovich. He died, largely forgotten, in Los Angeles. Volumes of his poetry appeared in New York in 1895, 1900, and 1904.

Suggested Reading

Hillel Barzel, Shirat Ḥibat Tsiyon (Tel Aviv, 1987), pp. 123–138; Getzel Kressel, “Menaḥem Mendel Dolitzky,” in Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘Ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, vol. 1, pp. 538–540 (Merhavyah, Israel, 1965); Haim Toren and Menahem Mendel Dolitzky, “Aḥaron meha-shorere ha-Haskalah,” Moznayim 15 (1943): 243–251, 308–314.



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann