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Rozental-Shnayderman, Ester

(1902–1989), Yiddish educator, journalist, and memoir writer. Ester Shnayderman (Shneyderman; Shneiderman; Rosenthal) was born in Częstochowa, Poland. After receiving a primary education at a Russian elementary school and passing external examinations for secondary education, she studied at Warsaw University and worked at the Central Yiddish School Organization (TSYSHO). In 1926, she was sent to the Soviet Union, where she soon began to work with Yoysef Liberberg, director of the Kiev-based Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture (IJPC). Like many other activists in the left wing of the Labor Zionist movement, which had been her initial ideological affiliation, she joined the Communist Party. As a graduate student, she headed the Communist Party organization at the IJPC, later becoming a research fellow at the institute’s Pedagogical Section and also lecturing at the Kiev Pedagogical Institute.

In the early 1930s, Shnayderman edited the children’s periodicals Yunger shloger (Young Shock Worker) and Oktyaberl (Child of the October Revolution) and wrote several textbooks for Yiddish schools. When Liberberg was transferred to Birobidzhan in 1934, Shnayderman, a close friend of her charismatic mentor and his family, also moved to the new Jewish center. There she met her future husband, the left-wing educator Nisn Rozental (1898–1970), who had come to the Soviet Union from Lithuania for political reasons.

Liberberg’s arrest and execution in 1936–1937 and the wholesale Stalinist repressions of Yiddish cultural activists before and after World War II caused a radical ideological transformation in Rozental-Shnayderman: the Communist firebrand became a bitter critic of the Soviet regime and its policies toward Jews. After the war, she and her husband lived in Kiev. In March 1958, they repatriated to Poland, where she wrote textbooks for local Yiddish schools. They settled in Israel in 1962.

In Jerusalem, Rozental-Shnayderman was affiliated with the Hebrew University’s Center for Research and Documentation of East European Jewry. Her three-volume Af vegn un umvegn (On Main and Country Roads; 1974, 1978, 1982 [published in Hebrew as Naftule derakhim, 1978–1989]) and Birobidzhan fun der noent (Birobidzhan from Close By; 1983 [Hebrew trans., 1990]) combine personal memoirs with archival and other documentary materials. They provide panoramic, insightful portrayals of Soviet Yiddish academic and cultural circles. Liberberg appears in her books as an embodiment of the Communist ideals of her youth, the antithesis of the primitive functionary Matvei Khavkin, who was the party’s leader in Birobidzhan. Her writings also portray such personalities as the historians of Yiddish literature Meir Wiener and Maks Erik, the proletarian writer and critic Avram Abchuk, and the linguists Nokhem Shtif and Elye Spivak.

Suggested Reading

Hirsh Osherovitsh, ed., Yidish literatur in Medines-Yisroel, vol. 2, pp. 356–370 (Tel Aviv, 1991); David Sfard, Mit zikh un mit andere (Jerusalem, 1984).