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Vevyorke, Avrom

(1887–1935), Yiddish poet, playwright, and critic. Born in Babiak, Poland, Avrom Vevyorke was trained to be a rabbi, but instead became a Labor Zionist and began writing in Yiddish. He made his literary debut with stories and poems in the Warsaw daily Der veg (The Way) in 1906 and the weekly Roman-tsaytung (Novel-Newspaper) in 1907. Vevyorke moved to Galicia in 1908, working for the Kraków Tog (Day) from 1911. His small collection Baladn (Ballads; 1912) was published in Kraków under the imprint of Dos Bukh (The Book). He edited the journal Dos bukh in Berlin, but soon went to Antwerp and then to London, working as a Yiddish journalist and editor until 1916, when he moved to Russia.

In 1917, Vevyorke began working at Soviet institutions, first as a censor and later, from 1920 to 1930, as an editor at the Yiddish daily Der emes (The Truth). In 1920, he chaired the philological commission that formulated the first Soviet reform of Yiddish orthography. He was elected to the managing committee of the Moscow Circle of Yiddish Writers and Artists in September 1921. Shortly thereafter, he wrote the play Honenkrey (Cockcrow; 1922), which parodied the mysticism of Yiddish writers, most notably Y. L. Peretz, and was partly a self-criticism of Vevyorke’s pre-1917 oeuvre. Moyshe Litvakov hailed the play as the beginning of Soviet Yiddish dramatic art.

In 1923, Vevyorke—along with Arn Kushnirov, Shmuel Gordon, and Shmuel Persov—attempted to launch a breakaway proletarian literary journal, Ekran (Screen), in Moscow, but eventually found a compromise with the editors of the original journal, Der shtrom (The Stream). Nevertheless, Vevyorke became a disciple of proletarian mass culture: he joined the executive of the Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers Yiddish section in 1925 and coedited the Minsk-based proletarian literary journal Shtern (Star). The following year, he participated in discussions on further orthographic reform and he published his blueprint for a new system, Der oysleyg fun yidish (The Spelling of Yiddish).

Vevyorke’s proletarian play 137 kinder-hayzer (137 Children’s Homes), based on his 1925 story “Khaver Shindel” (Comrade Shindel), told of a Soviet con-artist. Staged in 1926 by the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, it was one of the troupe’s greatest failures. His plays Naftoli Botvin (1929) and Der step brent (The Steppe Is Burning; 1930) also had little success in Moscow, but were staged by other Soviet and foreign theaters. In 1931, Vevyorke moved to Kharkov, where he edited the literary journal Prolit (Proletarian Literature).

Vevyorke’s didactic plays and stories featured black-and-white characters, similar to those depicted by shund (“trash,” i.e., sensational) writers. He even attempted—in vain—to change the Soviet Yiddish literary canon; he opposed defining Kiev as the cradle of Soviet Yiddish literature and such writers as Sholem Aleichem and Osher Shvartsman as its precursors. In his 1929 article “Shomer un shomerizm” (published in Di royte velt) and his 1931 book Revizye (Revision), Vevyorke argued that the real forerunners were the undeservedly defamed shund belletrist Shomer and the American sweatshop poets. In 1932, two collections of Vevyorke’s critical articles were published by the Ukrainian State Publishing House for National Minorities, where he worked as an editor. He was among the delegates representing Ukrainian Yiddish literature at the First Congress of Soviet Writers in 1934.

Suggested Reading

Hersh Remenik, “A talantfuler shefer,” Sovetish heymland 7 (1973): 172–179; Abraham Aaron Roback, The Story of Yiddish Literature (New York, 1940); Jeffrey Veidlinger, The Moscow State Yiddish Theater: Jewish Culture on the Soviet Stage (Bloomington, Ind., 2000).