Jewish writers and scholars, Poland, ca. 1930s. (Left to right) Emanuel Ringelblum, Itsik Manger, Rokhl Oyerbakh; Yankev Shatzky, Ber Horovits, Raphael Mahler, and M. Weinberg. (YIVO)

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Horovits, Ber

(1895–1942), Yiddish poet, writer, and artist. Ber Horovits was the only son of a Jewish family from the rural village of Majdan, in the Carpathian Mountains of eastern Galicia. He received a traditional Jewish education at home, from private tutors, while at the same time studying at a Ukrainian elementary school. In 1914, he graduated from the Polish gymnasium in Stanisławów (now Ukr., Ivano-Frankivs’k). During World War I, he was recruited into the Imperial Austro-Hungarian Army and was sent to various areas of the empire. He ultimately arrived in Vienna, where he enrolled as a medical student and was stationed at a military hospital. During his time in the army, he wrote Yiddish poems that reflected his war experiences.

Horovits first gained literary acclaim in 1918, in the Viennese periodical Nayland, which was edited by Shmuel Yankev Imber. Horovits was at that time associated with a group of Yiddish authors in Vienna (including Avrom Moyshe Fuks, Melech Ravitch, and Moyshe Zilburg) and published in local literary periodicals. His first book of poems, issued in Vienna, was Fun mayn heym in di berg (From my Home in the Mountains; 1919). Those poems introduced a thematic innovation into Yiddish poetry and described nature and scenery in ways previously untried in the genre. Critic Arn Mark praised Horovits’s unique style and his straightforward, unsophisticated language, devoid of pretense.

From Itsik Manger in Vilna to J. Gruder in Cernăuţi, Romania (now Chernivtsi, Ukr.), 3 December 1929, an hour before his public appearance in Vilna, where his fellow presenters and performers will include Zalmen Reyzen, Arn Mark, N. Veynig, and Ber Horovits. His appearance in Warsaw was a big success and he will soon be heading off to Bialystok and Grodno. Noah Pryłucki will help get Manger’s visa extended. Yiddish. RG 107, Letters Collection. (YIVO)

Following the dissolution of the literary center in Vienna, Horovits lived in several countries. In the mid-1920s, he moved to Kraków, where he translated and adapted plays for the Krakover Yidish Teater, and also served on the theater’s executive committee. His literary works (poems, stories, and translations from Ukrainian and Polish) were published in literary periodicals in Poland and occasionally in the daily press as well.

Horovits was also a gifted painter who illustrated one of his own books, Vunderlekhe mayses (Wonderful Stories; 1923). The works in this compilation are noted for their lyrical style and descriptions of such impressive characters as the Ba‘al Shem Tov and Dobosh, a Ukrainian bandit of the early eighteenth century who was a Robin Hood-like folk hero. Critics, however, felt that Horovits’s stories were inferior to his poetry.

In the late 1930s, Horovits lived in Stanisławów and took part in the activities of the local Yiddishist literary group. He remained there during the Soviet occupation, continued to write and paint, and maintained regular contact with colleagues in Lwów. Only vague information is available about his activities during the German occupation; nor are there complete details about his murder in October 1942, either by the Germans or by local peasants.

Suggested Reading

Shlomo Bickel (Shloyme Bikl), “Shmuel Yankev Imber un Ber Horovits,” Zamlbikher 7 (1948): 353–356; “Horovits, Ber,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 3, cols. 65–66 (New York, 1960); Aharon (Arn) Mark, “Ber Horovits,” Literarishe bleter 21 (May 30, 1930): 404–407; Jan Michalik and Eugenia Prokop-Janiec, “‘Wiadomosci Teatralne’: ‘Teater Jedies,’” in Teatr Żydowski w Krakowie, pp. 69–75 (Kraków, 1995); Melech Ravitch (Melekh Ravitsh), “Ber Horovits,” in Mayn leksikon, vol. 1, pp. 62–64 (Montreal, 1945).



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann