Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Groper, Iacob Ashel

(1890–1966), poet. Iacob Ashel Groper is considered to be the first modern Yiddish writer of the former Romanian kingdom (Walachia and Moldavia). He was born in Mihăileni (near the border of Bucovina), and attended the Israelite-Romanian elementary school. He then studied law at the University of Iaşi and after World War I moved to Bucharest.

Groper began to write poetry as a teenager. In 1908 he came under the influence of the Yiddishist Congress in Czernowitz (in which he participated), and chose to write in Yiddish, even though he had an excellent command of Romanian and German. In 1913, some of his poems were read by Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, who regarded them positively. Groper made his own literary debut in 1914 in the Vilna journal Di yudishe velt. In December of that year he was among the founders in Iaşi of the Yiddish literary group Licht (Light), with Efraim Waldman, Matatia Friedman, and Moti Rabinovici. The group edited a literary review of the same name from 1914 to 1916.

Groper’s poems were enjoyed by children and were also circulated orally. Even beyond the Jewish community, Romanian literary circles took note of his works. Some pieces were published in Yiddish with Latin characters and others were translated into Romanian by the poets Enric Furtună, Barbu Nemțeanu, Camil Baltazar, and Iosif Bercovici. The only volume of his works published during his lifetime, In shotn fun a shtayn (In the Shadow of a Gravestone) was printed in Bucharest in 1934.

Groper’s style was inspired by the Bible, romanticism, modernism, and Romanian folklore. In particular, he was influenced by Heinrich Heine and Y. L. Peretz. He also wrote social poetry and humorous works describing life in the average Jewish small town in Romania. Moreover, he translated classical Romanian poems into Yiddish. Groper became a legendary figure among Romanian Jews and in the interwar years was also a popular lecturer. When he resumed writing after the Holocaust, he focused on Jewish suffering in his country, where because he refused to embrace communism he had several disputes with the leadership of the Jewish Democrat Committee.

Groper immigrated to Israel in 1964. He died on 12 December 1966 while on a business trip to Berlin. A literary award carrying his name was later created to honor his legacy, and in 1975 a posthumous volume of his poems, translated into Hebrew, was published in Tel Aviv, edited by Eliezer Fraenkel.

Suggested Reading

Israel Bar-Avi, Iacob Groper: Poetul liric al pământului natal în idiş, trans. Enric Peckelman, Barbu Nemțeanu, and Felix Caroly, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem, 1972), includes Groper’s biography and some of his poems in Yiddish with Latin letters, and in Romanian translation; Israel Marcus (Marius Mircu), Alte ultime şapte momente din istoria evreilor din România, pp. 24–57 (Bat Yam, Isr., 1992), 2nd revised edition of this article, first published in 1977; Wolf Tambur, “Baytrog tzu: Yankev Groper un zayn tsayt,” Bukareshter shriftn 6 (1983): 5–34; Yankev Groper un zayn tsayt—Ya‘akov Groper: Ishyuto u-zemano (Tel Aviv, 1976).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea