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Yatskan, Shmuel Yankev

(1874–1936), publisher, editor, and publicist. Born in Vobol’niki (Vabalninkas), Lithuania, Shmuel Yankev Yatskan received a traditional Jewish education at the Ponevezh yeshiva, and rabbinical ordination in 1892. He moved to Saint Petersburg in 1895, where he contributed to the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha-Melits. He lived in Warsaw from 1902, became a member of the Zionist movement, and was a leading contributor to Ha-Tsefirah. For some time (in 1903) Yatskan supported the Uganda project and was among the founders of the territorialist faction.

In 1906, Yatskan became editor of the literary-humoristic weekly Di bin (The Bee), and together with Noyekh Finkelshteyn published and edited Idishes tageblat (Yiddish Daily Newspaper; 1906–1911) and Yidishe vokhenblat (Yiddish Weekly Newspaper; 1906–1914). From January 1908, he and Finkelshteyn published the daily Haynt (Today; 1908–1939); until the end of 1919 Yatskan was the paper’s editor in chief, and until 1932, its co-owner. He initiated a number of supplements, including Di handels-velt (The World of Commerce) and Der hoyz-doktor (The House Doctor). In 1912, he cofounded the Yehudiya publishing house (Warsaw-Vilna), which produced a series of brochures as bonuses for readers of Haynt. Among Yatskan’s other Warsaw ventures was the Polish-language Nasz Kurjer (Our Messenger; 1920–1923).

From 1926 to 1928, Yatskan lived in Paris, where in January 1926 he and Finkelshteyn founded, and nominally edited until 1936, the first stable Yiddish daily in Western Europe, Parizer haynt (Paris Today; 1926–1940). Subsequently, Yatskan returned to Poland, where in 1929, in an effort to create a non-Jewish philosemitic press, he founded the daily mass circulation Polish-language Ostatnie wiadomości (Latest News).

Yatskanism, the phrase associated with making Yatskan’s publications accessible, popular, and profitable, was often criticized, but his sensationalism and direct reporting influenced the style of mass-circulation Jewish newspapers that appeared in Poland and elsewhere. Yatskan himself was the author of Gvald! Oder an ernst vort iber dem Hoyz-fraynd (Oh God! Or A Serious Word about Hoyz-fraynd; 1894); Penine ha-Yahadut (Pearls of Judaism; 1895); Ḥinukh la-na‘ar (Education for the Youth; 1895); Rabenu Eliyahu mi-Vilna (Rabbi Elijah of Vilna; 1900); and Mikhtavim geluyim: ‘Al ha-na‘aseh ba-ḥayim uva-sifrut (Open Letters: On What Is Happening in Life and Literature; 1904). Yatskan used several pseudonyms: Avi David, Dr. Rokhelson, and Ben-David.

Suggested Reading

Chaim Finkelstein, ‘Haynt:’ A tsaytung bay Yidn, 1908–1939 (Tel Aviv, 1978); Yitskhok Grinboym, “Zikhroynes vegn ‘Haynt,’” in Di yidishe prese vos iz geven, pp. 18–19 (Tel Aviv, 1975); “Yatskan, Shmuel-Yankev,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 4, cols. 211–213 (New York, 1961).



Translated from Russian by I. Michael Aronson