(Left to right) Yankev Dinezon, Y. L. Peretz, and Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport (S. An-ski), Poland, ca. 1910. (YIVO)

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Yiddish Literature after 1800

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Yiddish Literature after 1800 

Little continuity existed between the premodern and modern periods in Yiddish literature. Modern Yiddish literature began in Prussia under the influence of the Haskalah, a movement that sought to reevaluate the entire traditional cultural and social system of Jewish life. But after a brief prologue at the end of eighteenth century, which was marked by two satiric comedies by writers in Berlin—Reb Henoch, oder, Woss tut me damit (Reb Henokh, or What Can Be Done with It?; 1792) by Yitsḥak Euchel and Laykhtzin und fremelay (Lack of Seriousness and Hypocrisy; 1796) by Aharon Wolfssohn-Halle—the area of Yiddish creativity moved eastward. Up to the 1860s, the ideological stance of East European maskilim toward the Yiddish language was negative. The more radical wing held the view that, as an inauthentic language, merely a barbaric jargon, Yiddish presented a major obstacle toward cultural and social progress. Nevertheless, other maskilim, such as Yosef Perl, took pleasure in using Yiddish for satirizing their enemies in private, if not in public, and others—among them, Yisroel Aksenfeld—eventually realized that they needed to utilize the spoken vernacular if they wanted to reach the masses.

The Haskalah Period: 1800–1860

The struggle between the Haskalah and Hasidism for the souls and minds of the Jewish masses had a great impact on Jewish literary discourse in Eastern Europe until the 1860s. Hasidim successfully utilized the idiomatic resources of spoken Yiddish for spreading their teachings. This factor forced maskilim to do the same in order to ridicule their opponents and to expose the latter’s backwardness. Of great importance for both the secular and religious branches of Yiddish literature was the publication of two important Hasidic books in Yiddish, Shivkhey habesht (In Praise of the Ba‘al Shem Tov; 1816) and Sefer sipurey mayses (Tales; 1816) by Naḥman of Bratslav. The anonymous anti-Hasidic comedy Di genarte velt (The Fooled World) appeared in 1816, and two Yiddish adaptations of the popular German book Die Entdeckung von Amerika (The Discovery of America) by Joachim Heinrich Campe were published in 1817 and 1824.

Translations from the Bible by Menaḥem Mendel Lefin, most of which remained unpublished (only Proverbs appeared during his lifetime, in 1817), were among the first attempts to turn the spoken Volhynian dialect into a literary language. Lefin’s translation triggered the first ideological debate among maskilim about the status of Yiddish. Tuviah Feder opposed the use of the vernacular in the biblical translation as dangerous competition with Moses Mendelssohn’s German Bi’ur, whereas Ya‘akov Shemu’el Bick referred to Yiddish as the language spoken “by our fathers and forefathers in the land of Poland for four hundred years.” However, one of the major Yiddish literary texts of that period, Perl’s anti-Hasidic satire Megale tmirin (The Revealer of Secrets; Hebrew ed., 1819) remained practically unknown until its publication in 1937. By imitating and parodying works of their traditionalist opponents, maskilim created a new literary idiom that became characteristic of modern Yiddish literature. It was based on the Yiddish spoken in Eastern Europe with its sizable Slavic component, as opposed to the stagnant West Yiddish norm of traditional Yiddish literature, and had strong ironic undertones.

The leading Russian maskil Yitsḥak Ber Levinzon shared the generally negative attitude of Galician maskilim, and regarded Yiddish as a “cripple” and “bastard” language and an obstacle in the way of modernization and acculturation of Jews in the Russian Empire. Yet this did not prevent him from composing, probably in the 1820s, a satiric dialogue, Di hefker velt (The Lawless World), which circulated in manuscript form but remained unpublished until 1888. Other maskilim in the Russian Empire were more confident about composing in Yiddish. The two major Yiddish authors of that period, the poet and playwright Shloyme Ettinger and the novelist and playwright Yisroel Aksenfeld, were exceptional in that they wrote almost exclusively in Yiddish. Their works represent two different stylistic trends within Yiddish writing in the Haskalah period. Aksenfeld used literary forms to spread maskilic ideas among the masses, while Ettinger’s works were aimed at a more aesthetically attuned audience. Despite their efforts, none of their works was published until the early 1860s.

The efforts of maskilim to gain the support of Russian authorities for publishing and distributing their works and stopping the spread of Hasidic literature backfired when in 1836 the Russian government closed all Jewish presses in the Russian Empire (with the exception of the Kingdom of Poland) save for two, both of which refused to publish maskilic literature out of fear of being boycotted by their Orthodox readership. This prohibition was lifted only in 1861, during the liberal reign of Alexander II. As a result, maskilim failed to reach their broad intended audience, and their literary productions, which circulated in the form of manuscripts and letters, were accessible only within their own community. An exception among the maskilim was the prolific Vilna author Ayzik Meyer Dik, who used traditional forms of old Yiddish literature such as the mayse (story, tale), filling them with moderately maskilic didacticism, so that they looked more familiar to traditional readership.

Modernization, Popularization, and Diversification: The 1860s to 1905

The epoch of great reforms in Russia, accompanied by rapid economic development during the early rule of Alexander II (1856–1881), created a more liberal climate for Jewish modernization. The new wave of Yiddish creativity originated in the 1860s in Ukraine, both in established Jewish communities such as Berdichev and Zhitomir, and in the dynamic port city of Odessa, which became a new center of Yiddish and Hebrew publishing. The first Yiddish periodical, the weekly Kol mevaser (est. 1862), was aimed not only at the exclusively male maskilic intelligentsia, but also at a large female audience, which substantially widened its appeal. The new venue offered opportunities for young authors, the most significant of whom were Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, Yitskhok Yoyel Linetski, and Avrom Goldfadn. Building upon maskilic moralistic and satiric traditions, they dealt with a wide array of social and cultural issues, such as social injustice, education of children, and the position of women in the family and society.

From the 1860s on, Yiddish literature was an object of literary criticism in Hebrew and Russian, a factor that had a substantial impact on its development. Abramovitsh, the inventor of the most famous Yiddish literary persona, Mendele Moykher-Sforim, was the most sophisticated and talented Yiddish and Hebrew writer of his generation; he elevated the “primitive” realism of maskilic literature to a higher artistic level that met European standards of the time. Unlike the artistic innovator Abramovitsh, Linetski kept to the maskilic tradition of moralistic satire. Goldfadn is regarded as the creator of modern Yiddish poetry and theater.

Linetski and Goldfadn were more popular with the emerging mass audience (Abramovitsh’s critics argued that his intellectual and metaphoric style was too complex for the simple reader). In the 1870s, there appeared a whole range of authors who sought to capitalize on the growing market by offering popular novels that combined entertainment with didacticism. The most significant among them was Yankev Dinezon, whose novel Der shvartser yunger-mantshik (The Black Young Man; 1877) became an instant success among mass readership, particularly young and poor women. In contrast to the authors of so-called shund (trash) novels—Shomer, Oyzer Bloshteyn, Avrom-Yitskhok Bukhbinder—Dinezon rejected the principle of the happy ending as unrealistic, and concluded his novel with the death of the protagonist. Published in Vilna, this first Yiddish bestseller signified the emergence of mass literary production that delivered a moralistic message in entertainment form, utilizing the conventions of contemporary European popular fiction.

Although the growth of antisemitism as a result of the conservative nationalist politics of Alexander III (1881–1894) accelerated the first wave of mass emigration from the Russian Empire and forced members of the Jewish intelligentsia to revise their optimism, Yiddish literature was reluctant to deal with broader political issues and remained confined to immediate Jewish concerns. The Saint Petersburg Yudishes folks-blat, which replaced Kol mevaser as the only Yiddish periodical in Russia, introduced two beginners, Mordkhe Spektor and Sholem Rabinovitsh (Sholem Aleichem), who soon started their own literary almanacs fashioned according to the model of the Russian “thick journal.” The 1888 publication of the expanded version of Dos vintshfingerl (The Magic Ring) in Sholem Aleichem’s Di yidishe folksbibliotek (Jewish People’s Library) secured Abramovitsh’s reputation as the leading Yiddish writer and the “grandfather of Yiddish literature.”

Title page of book 2 of Di yidishe folksbibliotek (Jewish People’s Library), by Sholem Aleichem (Kiev and Berdichev: Yankev Sheftel, 1889). (YIVO)

Along with prose fiction, Sholem Aleichem devoted pages of his almanac to poetry, memoirs, and criticism, as well as to unpublished texts of the older generation. By elevating the triumvirate of Mendele, Goldfadn, and Linetski to the top, awarding a secondary place to Ayzik Meyer Dik and ostracizing Shomer, the young Sholem Aleichem provided Yiddish literature with hierarchy and tradition. He established a new concept of “folk literature” in Yiddish for the people and about the people. Unlike his maskilic predecessors, he attributed positive aesthetic and moral value to Yiddish as the folk language and celebrated in his early romantic novels Stempenyu (1888) and Yosele solovey (Yosele the Nightingale; 1889) the warmth and virtues of folk life. These novels were intended as the beginning of a series of panoramic novels of Jewish life, but Sholem Aleichem was forced to abandon his plan due to his bankruptcy in 1890.

The growth and diversification of Yiddish literature continued during the 1890s. Yitskhok Leybush Peretz, who entered the Yiddish literary stage as a poet in 1888, started a series of semiperiodical almanacs in Warsaw in which he promoted his notion of Yiddish culture as modern, progressive, and urban. Partly under his influence, Yiddish folklore became an object of intellectual and artistic interest. The 1901 collection of Yiddish folk songs by Sha’ul Ginzburg and Peysekh Marek remains a standard work in the field. The first monograph on the history of Yiddish literature, The History of Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century (1899), was written not by a European, but by Leo Wiener (1862–1939), a Polish-born scholar and professor of Slavic studies at Harvard University, indicating the growing importance of America for Yiddish culture.

For Russian and Polish Jews, the late nineteenth century was a time of economic and cultural development but also of disillusionment with the possibility of universal enlightenment and political progress. In response to the growth of nationalism and antisemitism across Europe, the East and Central European Jewish intelligentsia produced a variety of new nation-oriented ideologies aimed at reshaping the Jewish collective identity. National motifs, images, and symbols became more prominent in Yiddish fiction. Writers were trying to capture and express the generic traits of a collective portrait of a Jewish everyman through individual heroes, creating archetypical characters such as Sholem Aleichem’s Menakhem-Mendl and Tevye the Dairyman. Emphasis on moral improvement, universal values, and the enlightenment of the individual Jew, which dominated the writing of the 1860s–1870s, gave way to a search for the national character of the Jewish people, redefined along ethnic and national rather than religious lines. The processes of modernization, urbanization, and proletarianization of Jews in the Russian Empire during the 1890s found reflection in works by Dovid Pinski, Avrom Reyzen, and Y. L. Peretz.

Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh (Mendele Moykher-Sforim) and his grandchildren, ca. 1900. (YIVO)

The Zionist weekly Der yud (1899–1902) emerged, for a few years, as a tribune for different ideological and artistic voices that were gaining momentum within East European Jewry, such as those of writers Sholem Asch, Hersh Dovid Nomberg, Avrom Reyzen, and the critic Isidor Eliashev (Bal-Makhshoves). The first Yiddish daily, Der fraynd (1903–1912), became a major consolidating force in Yiddish literature. Among its regular contributors were veterans (Sholem Aleichem, Abramovitsh, Peretz, Dinezon) as well as beginners (Asch, Reyzen, Yona Rozenfeld). Some of the writers who had made their debut in Yiddish by 1905 stayed in Eastern Europe and continued to be actively engaged with various branches of Yiddish culture for the rest of their lives, among them S. An-ski (Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport), Khayim Tshemerinski, A. Vayter, and Yitskhok Meyer Vaysenberg. Others, including Dovid Eynhorn, Perets Hirshbeyn, Reyzen, Rozenfeld, Lamed Shapiro, and Zalman Shneour, eventually emigrated. Some Hebrew writers, among them Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, Mikhah Yosef Berdyczewski, David Frishman, Ya‘akov Steinberg, and Yehudah Steinberg, also made occasional contributions to Yiddish letters.

Cultural Ferment and Literary Dynamism: 1905 to the Early 1920s

The years between 1905 and 1914 were a time of unprecedented growth and development in Yiddish literature. The decline of political activity after the defeat of the 1905–1907 revolution in Russia led political movements, socialist and Zionist alike, to pay more attention to culture and education in Yiddish and Hebrew. The limited liberalization in Russian political life opened new venues for Yiddish creativity, particularly in the press and the theater. Yiddishists, Hebraists, and assimilationists of various shades offered competing visions of Jewish future. The Czernowitz Conference of 1908 gave a boost to the Yiddishist movement and drafted guidelines for a modernization of Yiddish culture. At the same time, emigration, often as a result of direct involvement in revolutionary politics, drained Eastern Europe of young talents who later flourished in America or Palestine.

Sholem Aleichem at his writing desk, Saint Petersburg, 1904. (Beit Scholem Aleichem, Israel)

Warsaw, the largest Jewish city in Europe, became the major center of Yiddish cultural production, with numerous periodicals, publishing houses, and theater companies. From the 1890s on, literary life revolved around Y. L. Peretz, whose magisterial presence attracted young talent not only from Congress Poland but also from the whole Pale of Jewish Settlement. By 1910, his authority was challenged by the more traditionalist poet and essayist Hillel Zeitlin. In Vilna, the leading literary journals Literarishe monatshriftn and Yudishe velt, as well as the Yiddish publisher Boris Kletskin, established themselves and were dedicated to publishing quality contemporary literature. Little appreciated in those days, but important for the future development of Yiddish culture, was the emergence of Kiev as a new center of Yiddish creativity. In that city’s Jewish suburbs, budding prose writers, poets, and critics designed ways of shaping Yiddish culture along the lines of the modernist concepts of European high culture (writers included Dovid Bergelson, Borekh Glazman, and Pinkhes Kahanovitsh [Der Nister]; poets were Dovid Hofshteyn, Osher Shvartsman, and Arn Kushnirov; critics were Nakhmen Mayzel, Yekhezkl Dobrushin, Nokhem Oyslender, and Moyshe Litvakov). In eastern Galicia, the young neoromantic poets (Shmuel Yankev Imber, Melech Ravitch, Dovid Kenigsberg, and Uri Tsevi Grinberg) drew inspiration both from traditional Jewish sources and from the cultures of the Habsburg Empire.

Yankev Dinezon (seated), with Y. L. Peretz and a framed portrait of Mendele Moykher-Sforim (Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh), ca. 1890s. Published in the Russian Empire, n.d. (YIVO)

The classical writers reached their peak in popularity between 1905 and 1914, while a younger generation, inspired by contemporary European culture, was searching for new aesthetic ideas. Dovid Bergelson represented elitist culture and paid meticulous attention to the style, rhythm, and structure of his prose; at the same time, Sholem Asch’s eclectic mixture of melodramatic sentimentalism, nationalist romanticism, and topical sensationalism catered to the appetite of the middlebrow audience. East European Yiddish poets (Peretz, Shimen Shmuel Frug, Leyb Naydus, Eynhorn, the Kiev modernists, and the Galician neoromanticists), although less modern and self-confident than their American counterparts, experimented with a variety of contemporary forms and styles in search of a Yiddish idiom that would be both authentic and contemporary. A new era in Yiddish theater began after 1905 when the ban on Yiddish performances in Russia was lifted, and new companies sprang up across the Pale of Settlement. Plays by Sholem Asch touched the nerve of contemporary life, and were also performed in translation by leading modern troupes in Saint Petersburg and Berlin.

Yiddish criticism and scholarship, which developed in close connection with political ideologies, made great progress during that period due to the efforts of Bal-Makhshoves, Sh. Gorelik, and Shmuel Niger. Ber Borokhov, the founder of the Labor Zionist movement, laid the foundations of Yiddish philology, which he regarded as a nation-building academic discipline. The ethnographic expeditions of S. An-ski, which presented Jewish folk traditions to the acculturated urban Jews of the Russian Empire in a new light, had a lasting impact on modern Jewish art and literature. Der pinkes (The Record Book; 1913), the first and only volume of the annual devoted to Yiddish literature and linguistics, as well as the first comprehensive Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur un prese by Zalmen Reyzen (1914) summed up the achievements of the most dynamic period in Yiddish cultural creativity, which came to a halt with the outbreak of World War I.

World War I, the Russian revolutions of 1917, and the Russian Civil War, as well as the Polish–Soviet and Polish–Ukrainian wars, were accompanied by deprivations, expulsions, and anti-Jewish violence, dealing a severe blow to Jewish life in Eastern Europe. In the territories under Russian military control during the war, the use of Yiddish even in private correspondence was generally prohibited by the military censorship. The German and Austrian command looked at Yiddish more favorably, regarding it as an antiquated German dialect and its speakers as potential allies. As a result, a new cultural and educational network emerged in Poland and Lithuania (which fell under German control in 1915), whereas in Russia Yiddish culture was suppressed and Yiddish speakers were often treated as enemy aliens until 1917. Between 1915 and 1920, modern Yiddish literature lost most of its patriarchs (Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem, Peretz, An-ski, and Dinezon). A number of younger writers of promise, such as A. Vayter and Shvartsman, fell victim to war and violence.

Dovid Pinski (right) with his cousins Hirshe Zhorov from Orenburg (seated, left) and Yoysef Tsaytlin (standing) from Mohilev, Russia (now in Belarus), 1894. Photograph by L. Perelmann. (YIVO)

The dominant theme of Yiddish creativity of that period was the catastrophe of East European Jews, who were caught between the fighting sides. Shortly before his death in 1920, An-ski recorded his eyewitness account of the sufferings inflicted by the Russian army on the Jewish population of the front zone and completed his most famous work, the mystical symbolist play Der dibek (The Dybbuk), which was to occupy a prominent place in the Yiddish and Hebrew repertoire. In Ukraine and Galicia, where the distress of the Jewish population was especially severe, young poets forged a new expressionist idiom that would push forward the frontier of Yiddish literature. From New York, Sholem Asch responded to the Ukrainian pogroms with Kidush ha-shem (The Sanctification of the Holy Name [Martyrdom]; 1919), a novel about gzeyres takh, the Khmel’nyts’kyi massacres of the seventeenth century.

The new independent Polish Republic became home to the largest and most diverse Jewish community in Europe. Warsaw preserved its unrivaled hegemony in Jewish life and culture, but such provincial centers as Vilna and Łódź (formerly Russian), and Lwów and Kraków (formerly Austrian) possessed distinct cultural identities of their own. The first Yiddish literary and artistic group with its own publication was Yung-yidish, created in Łódź in 1919 by the poet Moyshe Broderzon; it presented the works of young avant-garde and modernist poets and artists, including Yitsḥak Katzenelson, Yankl Adler, Yitskhok Broyner, Henryk Berlewi, and Marek Szwarc.

Despite dangerous conditions for Jews, Yiddish cultural activity in Kiev flourished under the various political regimes. The Yidishe Kultur-lige far Ukraine (Jewish Cultural League for Ukraine) was established in 1917 with far-reaching ambitions to become a model for a comprehensive institutional framework across Eastern Europe. Significant literary productions included the almanacs Eygns and Baginen, which secured the place of the Kiev group in modernist Yiddish culture. Kiev’s Yiddish theorists began to develop their visions of a new Communist and proletarian Yiddish culture to be built on the ruins of the old, petit bourgeois and nationalist culture.

Ruinengroz (Ruin Grass), by Melech Ravitch. (Brno: Jüdischer Buch- und Kunstverlag M. Hickel, 1916 or 1917). (YIVO)

The new border between Soviet Russia and its western neighbors divided the once densely interconnected East European Jewish communities into two parts, which grew increasingly estranged from each other. Yiddish creativity under Soviet control was subordinated to the task of revolutionary construction, although stylistic experimentation was tolerated and sometimes even encouraged during the first postrevolutionary decade, and some freedom of movement for people, books, and ideas was still possible. In Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and Latvia, where Jews were promised relative cultural autonomy, Yiddish writers had to build their institutions and form their relationships within the new state structures, local cultural establishments, and Jewish political movements.

Flourishing and Fracturing: The Interwar Years

Political, ideological, and cultural differences between Poland and the Soviet Union directly affected the paths that Yiddish culture took after the end of hostilities. Whereas the Polish state allowed Jews and other minorities some freedom in the areas of religion, culture, and education but tried to marginalize Jews socially, politically, and economically, the Soviet government proclaimed the end of ethnic discrimination and inequality and offered support to national cultures, on the condition that they accept the leadership of the Communist Party and abandon religion and nationalist ideologies. On both sides of the divide, Yiddish creativity during the 1920s was characterized by a relatively optimistic mood and a search for new forms.

During the first half of the decade, some Yiddish writers from Eastern Europe, especially Ukraine, found temporary refuge in Berlin, which for a few years was a lively center of Jewish creativity. Vienna attracted Yiddish and Hebrew authors from Galicia, whereas Paris became a magnet for Polish and Russian writers and artists. New publishing houses, journals, and institutions sprang up during the 1920s across all of Europe. By the late 1920s, however, most of these migrants had left the German-speaking countries and returned either to Eastern Europe or moved farther west.

During the 1920s, the Warsaw literary community was the locus of Yiddish literary developments, and it maintained contacts with other centers in the Soviet Union, Central Europe, Palestine, and North and South America. The city attracted a diverse group of creative personalities whom the war and the revolution had scattered. Such luminaries of modernism as Uri Tsevi Grinberg, Itsik Manger, Perets Markish, Melech Ravitch, and Israel Joshua Singer made Warsaw their temporary home. Writers living in America, including Sholem Asch, Yankev Glatshteyn, Borekh Glazman, H. Leyvick, and Yoysef Opatoshu, visited Poland; some stayed for prolonged periods. An impressive array of institutions uniting Yiddish writers and journalists along professional and political lines was established in Warsaw and other cities, among them the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw and the PEN club in Vilna. Poland also emerged as the world’s largest market for Yiddish literature, the only country in which successful authors were potentially able to support themselves by the sales of their works. From the late 1900s, Warsaw was a major center of Yiddish theater, serving as the base of such world-famous companies as the Vilner Trupe, the Warsaw Yiddish Art Theater (VIKT), and the New Yiddish Theater, as well as for sophisticated review and cabaret theaters. Their core repertoire included plays by Yiddish authors such as Sholem Aleichem, Asch, An-ski, Pinski, and Hirshbeyn; world classics by Molière and Shakespeare; and contemporary plays.

Tevye der milkhiker (Tevye the Dairyman). Polish and Yiddish poster. Printed by C. Laskowa and Sons, Vilna. The poster advertises a performance of Sholem Aleichem’s play by the Kraków Jewish Theater, featuring Rudolf Zaslavsky. (YIVO)

Most of the artistic and ideological trends of the day had their adherents among Yiddish writers in Poland. The iconoclastic expressionism of the short-lived Khalyastre group had a powerful impact on the young generation both inside and outside the country. The raw naturalism of Vaysenberg attracted young followers, such as Oyzer Varshavski, who found the style appropriate for depicting the cruel reality of the time. The mystical neoromanticism of Arn Zeitlin sought to express Jewish spirituality in accordance with new philosophical trends. The modernist fiction of Alter-Sholem Kacyzne combined photographic details with fresh metaphoric imagery. Łódź, the second-largest city of Poland and its major industrial center, served as the setting for one of the most original novels of the decade, Di gas (The Street; 1928) by Yisroel Rabon, which dealt with the existential condition of an uprooted and alienated Jewish individual in postwar Eastern Europe, as well as for one of the most famous works of Yiddish realism, I. J. Singer’s Di brider Ashkenazi (The Brothers Ashkenazi; 1936) which was started in Poland but completed in New York. The city was also home to Miryem Ulinover, whose refined and deceptively simplistic poetry bridged the gap between traditionalist and modernist branches of Yiddish literature.

Realism prevailed in Yiddish prose writing: Shimen Horontshik described the condition of the Jewish working class in Poland; I. J. Singer gradually cast away the influence of Bergelson’s impressionism to emerge as a leading sociopsychological novelist of the age; Sholem Asch, who spent most of the interwar period in Europe, produced a gripping trilogy about the Russian Revolution that brought him world fame, a medal from the Polish government, and the wrath of Soviet Communists. Writing from a historical perspective, Polish Yiddish novelists drew a literary balance of the “long nineteenth century” in East European Jewish history, which ended with the catastrophic demise of the Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires. A highly popular writer of that time was Zusman Segalovitsh, whose numerous sentimental novels and stories addressed the concerns and hopes of the lower middle classes. Popular among Yiddish readers were translations of Russian, German, English, French, Polish, and Scandinavian writers. A new literary phenomenon saw a diverse array of female voices, from traditionalist to avant-garde: Rokhl Korn and Dvora Vogel in Galicia, Rokhl Oyerbakh and Kadia Molodowsky in Warsaw, and Miryem Ulinover in Łódź. Some of them wrote in both Yiddish and Polish.

Rokhl Korn, ca. 1930s. (YIVO)

A variety of periodicals catered to all tastes and ideological persuasions, from the intellectuals and adepts of high culture (Literarishe bleter) to the mainstream (the dailies Haynt and Der moment) to simplistic mass audience (Undzer ekspres, Radio), from the Orthodox Hasidic press to the Bundist Folks-tsaytung, which regularly published works of Yiddish and world literature. Warsaw’s literary life was colored by intense ideological and aesthetic debates about the relationships between politics and literature, high and popular art, nationalism and universalism.

Vilna, a multicultural center of creativity in the Russian, Polish, Lithuanian, Belorussian, and Yiddish languages, became part of Poland as a result of hectic political bargaining in 1920–1921. The Vilna Jewish community, although smaller than that of Warsaw, possessed a strong sense of Litvak identity that set it apart from the majority of Polish Jewry. There, for the Jewish intelligentsia and middle class who were predominantly Russian speaking, Yiddish offered a viable form of cultural identification in a new situation. Vilna became home to a number of cultural institutions of worldwide standing, such as YIVO, Hebrew and Yiddish teachers’ seminaries, the communal Strashun library, and the Kletskin press (the leading publisher of serious literature, which later relocated to Warsaw). The avant-garde poet Moyshe Kulbak turned into a cult figure among secular Yiddish-speaking youth, and his influence was felt long after he left Poland for the Soviet Union in 1928; the literary scholar and journalist Zalmen Reyzen single-handedly composed the comprehensive four-volume Leksikon fun der yidisher literatur, prese un filologye (1926–1930), which remains the main reference work on Yiddish literature for that period. Yung-Vilne, a loose association of modernist leftist writers, poets, and artists, had a great impact not only on Yiddish literature in Poland during the 1930s but also on the postwar development of Yiddish culture. Those of its members who survived the Holocaust—the poets Avrom Sutzkever, Perets Miranski, Elkhonen Vogler; the prose writers Chaim Grade and Shmerke Kaczerginski—became major cultural figures in Israel, Canada, France, the United States, and Argentina. Throughout the 1930s, Vilna, along with Warsaw, retained its position as the preeminent center of Yiddish scholarship. Whereas historical research flourished in Warsaw, it was Vilna, thanks to YIVO, that became the center of literary and linguistic studies, as well as of pioneering research in social psychology.

Portrait of Avrom Reyzen from the frontispiece of Shriftn (Writings), the first volume of his Gezamelte lider (Collected Poems; Kraków: Yosef Fisher, 1908). Reyzen has inscribed the book in Yiddish to Dr. Shmul Ellisberg in New York, “a good friend, a comrade, and lover of Yiddish literature.” (YIVO)

The deteriorating economic and political situation in Poland throughout the 1930s and the rise of Nazism in Germany caused Yiddish authors, among them Manger, Nakhmen Mayzel, Molodowsky, Ravitch, and the Singer brothers to leave the country. As a result of the 1929 economic crisis, the Yiddish publishing industry went into a depression, forcing the Kletskin press into bankruptcy. As in the Soviet Union, the novel dominated Yiddish literature in Poland during the 1930s. Sholem Asch responded to the rise of antisemitism by turning to traditionalist themes in his monumental novel Der tilim-yid (The Psalm-Reciting Jew [translated into English as Salvation]; 1934), which presented an idealized image of a simple and righteous Jew. The novel was immediately translated into German and English. In his realist novels Iber di khurves fun Ployne (Over the Ruins of Ployne; 1931) and Bay di taykhn fun Mazovye (By the Rivers of Mazovia; 1937), Mikhl Burshtin painted a dark picture of the decline of the Polish shtetl. Yoshue Perle revived his childhood memories in the subtle psychological novel Yidn fun a gants yor (Everyday Jews; 1935). Of two debuts that were awarded literary prizes—the seventeenth-century historical fantasy Der sotn in Goray (Satan in Goray; serialized in 1933; published in book form 1935) by Isaac Bashevis Singer and the realistic shtetl novel Di mentshn fun Godl-bozhits (The People of Godl-bozhits; 1936) by Leyb Rashkin—one became famous as the first step in the most successful Yiddish literary career of the twentieth century, whereas the other fell into oblivion because its author perished in the Holocaust. Still, Warsaw retained its leading position as the world’s center of Yiddish literature, which by then it shared with New York. While political and cultural relations between Poland and the Soviet Union reached their historical low by the late 1930s, a lively exchange between Poland and other parts of the Yiddish cultural universe continued until the outbreak of World War II. The United States loomed large on the Polish Jewish cultural horizon as a safe haven, a provider of economic support, and, to a lesser degree, a potential audience. This link was strengthened by the emigration to North America of major figures such as the Singer brothers, Mayzel, and Molodowsky.

A new cultural center emerged in Romania, which after World War I absorbed the large Jewish population of the former Austrian, Hungarian, and Russian provinces of Bucovina, Transylvania, and Bessarabia. The German-speaking Jewish intelligentsia of Czernowitz (Rom., Cernăuți; now Ukr., Chernivtsi), where Yiddish was in 1908 proclaimed “a national language of the Jewish people,” began to look more favorably on Yiddish as a means to preserve cultural identity under Romanian rule. A major role was played by the poet and educator Eliezer Shteynbarg, who, despite his modest output, helped to raise the prestige of Yiddish as a sophisticated language of high culture. The young Itsik Manger absorbed the unique multicultural atmosphere of Czernowitz before he left it for Bucharest and later Warsaw. Kishinev, once the main city of the backward Russian Bessarabia, had a number of young talents in Yiddish and Hebrew, but as a cultural center was overshadowed by the major Jewish centers of the Russian Empire. Under Romanian rule, Bessarabia, along with Bucovina and Polish Galicia, became the main exporter of Yiddish cultural cadres to Bucharest. Two Bessarabian enthusiasts, Yankev Shternberg and Yankev Botoshanski, took the city by storm in 1918 with their witty musical reviews. Botoshanski immigrated to Argentina in 1926, whereas Shternberg—a poet, playwright, and theater director—became a major figure of modern Yiddish culture in interwar Romania.

Israel Joshua Singer (left), Melech Ravitch (right), Ravitch’s wife, and their two children, Yosl and Ruth, ca. 1925. (YIVO)

While Russian Jewry was recuperating from its sufferings and adjusting to the new regime, the Bolsheviks consolidated their control over public life. Moyshe Litvakov, the editor of the Moscow Communist daily Der emes, was vigorously pushing forward his ideological agenda, which combined commitment to communism with elements of secular Jewish nationalism. During the early 1920s, Moscow, the rapidly growing new Soviet capital, emerged as the center of Yiddish creativity (with examples such as the literary magazine Shtrom, Der Emes publishing house, and the State Chamber Yiddish Theater), but by 1925 its leading role was rivaled by the capitals of the Belorussian and Ukrainian Soviet Republics, where the majority of Soviet Jews lived. Two leading literary periodicals were established in the mid-1920s: the Minsk journal Shtern became the organ of the proletarian critics who treated Yiddish literature as a form of propaganda, while the former modernists of the Kiev group set the tone in the Kharkov magazine Di royte velt, which was regarded by its Minsk opponents as the stronghold of so-called fellow-traveler literature. While sharing in the general enthusiasm for the revolution, the fellow travelers refused to accept the dictates of the proletarian ideologists on issues of form and style. The themes of revolution, civil war, and socialist construction were prevalent in Soviet Yiddish literature, with poetry, the short story, and reportage as prevalent forms.

Along with Dovid Hofshteyn, Leyb Kvitko, Perets Markish, and Shmuel Halkin, who entered literature as champions of modernist and avant-garde experimentation, there emerged a new phenomenon of politically engaged poetry that was accessible to mass readership. This trend was represented by Itsik Fefer, Izi Kharik, and their followers, who often combined ideological commitment to communism with sentimental nostalgia for the shtetl, giving preference to simple imagery and romantic poetic forms such as the narrative poem and the ballad dealing with the heroism of the revolution and civil war, as well as the mass enthusiasm of socialist construction. The concerns of women were usually more domestic. Rive Balyasnaya, Rokhl Brokhes, Rokhl Boymvol, Shifra Holodenko, and Khane Levin captured in their lyrical poetry rare intimate moments of everyday life of the young generation of Jewish builders of communism.

The revival of prose in the Soviet Union began during the second half of the decade: among its examples were the short novel Khadoshim un teg (Months and Days; 1926) by Itsik Kipnis, a seemingly naive story of a pogrom in the author’s native shtetl that in a subversive way questions some of the certainties of the Soviet internationalist ideology; and the novel Der mentsh mit der biks (The Man with the Rifle; 1928) and short stories by Shmuel-Nisn Godiner, which infused realist depiction of postrevolutionary reality with symbolist codes. Der Nister continued to write and publish his symbolist stories, but critical campaigns, launched in 1929 against several prominent fellow travelers (Markish, Kvitko, and Der Nister himself), signaled the end of the liberal period. Dovid Bergelson, who stayed abroad until 1934, publicly allied himself with the Soviet regime both in his articles and works of fiction from 1926 on.

Birobidzhaner, by Dovid Bergelson (Moscow: Farlag Emes, 1934) (YIVO)

Literary critics Yekhezkel Dobrushin, Nokhem Oyslender, Yitskhok Nusinov, and Moyshe Litvakov were busy squaring secular Jewish nationalism and universalistic modernist aesthetics with Communist ideology. Marxist literary scholarship, strengthened by the immigration to the Soviet Union of two top literary historians and critics of the time, Meir Wiener and Maks Erik, produced impressive studies of Yiddish folklore and nineteenth-century literature, securing the reputation of Kiev and Minsk as major centers of Yiddish literary scholarship. Yiddish culture was incorporated within the framework of state-supported cultural, educational, and academic institutions that provided Soviet Yiddish literature with unprecedented status and prestige. At the early stage, Soviet Yiddish scholars were still able to conduct an intellectual exchange with their colleagues abroad, but by about 1930, academic freedom was curtailed and the dialogue deteriorated into ideological abuse.

Total party control was firmly established in all branches of Soviet literature by 1934. The period that followed was characterized, on the one hand, by the thorough ideologizing of literary process; on the other hand, there was a calming down of political battles within Yiddish literature. Ironically, as a result of this process, the proletarian group from Minsk lost its influence to the more moderate and traditionalist Kiev critics who by now had moved to Moscow; it was mostly those proletarian zealots who became victims of the Stalinist purges of the late 1930s. For a short period, Birobidzhan showed some signs of cultural activity, with a few publications and a number of reports by visiting luminaries, but not a single eminent personality from the Soviet Yiddish establishment chose it as a permanent residence.

The major achievements of Soviet Yiddish novel were three epic works: Kulbak’s Zelmenyaner (1929–1935), a family saga that unfolded in Minsk against the background of Sovietization; Bergelson’s autobiographical Bam Dnyeper (At the Dnieper; 1932–1940) depicting the narrator’s drift from affluent childhood toward revolution, and Der Nister’s Di mishpokhe Mashber (The Family Mashber; 1939, 1948), a historical-philosophical family novel set in Berdichev in the 1870s. In poetry, Shmuel Halkin, Dovid Hofshteyn, Perets Markish, Itsik Fefer, Arn Kushnirov, Ezra Fininberg, as well as Izi Kharik, Zelik Akselrod, and Moyshe Kulbak, continued to dominate the stage; Kvitko was forced out of adult literature after a scandal caused by his biting satire on the powerful Moyshe Litvakov. He became instead a household name in Soviet children’s literature in many languages, including Russian and Ukrainian.

Moyshe Kulbak (second row, third from left), Yiddish writer H. Leyvik (fourth from left), and educator and choir leader Yakov Gershteyn (fifth from left) with students at the Jewish Real-Gymnasium, part of the CEBEKA (Central Education Committee) school system, Vilna, 1920s. Photograph by E. Cejtlin. (YIVO)

When the State Chamber Yiddish Theater returned from a European tour in 1928 without its artistic director Aleksandr Granovskii, it reinvented itself under the charismatic leadership of Solomon (Shloyme) Mikhoels and soon emerged as one of the best Soviet companies. State Yiddish theaters were established in provincial centers according to the Moscow model, and their repertoire was dominated by the works of Soviet Yiddish authors. Along with the state-subsidized periodicals (a new prestigious annual almanac, Sovetish, was launched in Moscow in 1934) and publishing houses, theater provided Soviet Yiddish writers, artists, and critics with a stable income. But the growing isolation from the rest of the world, the rapid decline of the traditional lifestyle, and the purges had a depressing effect on sensitive Yiddish authors, casting doubts over the prospects for Yiddish in the Soviet Union. Yiddish education at all levels outside Birobidzhan was practically terminated in 1938 as a result of a comprehensive educational reform of national minorities. The Stalinist terror of the 1930s hit Yiddish literature worst in Belorussia, virtually eradicating the top echelon. Yashe Bronshteyn, Khatskl Dunets, Zelik Akselrod, Izi Kharik, and Moyshe Kulbak in Minsk; Moyshe Litvakov from Moscow; and Maks Erik and Avrom Abtshuk in Kiev were among the victims of the purges. The last representative of prerevolutionary Russian Jewish scholarship, the encyclopedic literary historian and a prominent chemist, Yisroel Tsinberg, who worked in Leningrad in isolation from the official institutional framework, had come close to concluding his monumental life work Di geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn: Eyropeishe tkufe (A History of Jewish Literature: The European Period; 1929–1937) when he was arrested in 1937.

The Holocaust and World War II: 1939–1945

Yiddish writers in a café or restaurant, Poland, ca. 1930s. (Left to right) Yoysef Tunkel, Israel Joshua Singer (in profile), unknown, Borekh-Vladek Tsharni, and others. (YIVO)

The outbreak of World War II spelled the end of the rich and diverse Yiddish culture in Eastern Europe. During the months between the occupation of Poland by Germany and the Soviet Union in September 1939 and the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, there was some revival of Yiddish cultural life in the Soviet Union, which by the summer of 1940 controlled the large territories of eastern Poland, the Baltic states, and the Romanian provinces of Bessarabia and Bucovina. The political needs for the rapid Sovietization of that population required active participation of Soviet Yiddish cadres. Yiddish writers from Moscow, Minsk, and Kiev were delegated to Vilna, Lwów, Białystok, Kishinev, and Czernowitz to carry out the new cultural policies. Although aware of German atrocities against Jews, Soviet writers could not express their grief openly during the brief period of rapprochement between Stalin and Hitler. A number of Yiddish writers and activists from Poland and Romania found refuge in the Soviet Union. The most fortunate among them survived the war and left the Soviet Union immediately thereafter, including Chaim Grade; others, such as Moyshe Broderzon, were put in prison but survived and left years later. The less fortunate were captured by the Germans or murdered by their collaborators (such as Alter-Sholem Kacyzne); died in the evacuation (such as Leyzer Volf); or perished in the gulag (such as Zalmen Reyzen). Under German occupation, Yiddish cultural activities continued to play an important role in the ghettos of Warsaw, Łódź, Vilna, and Białystok for as long as the ghettos existed. Literary creativity in Yiddish, Hebrew, and Polish in a wide range of genres from poetry to chronicle and reportage, by Rokhl Oyerbakh, Herman Kruk, Mordkhe Gebirtig, Yitsḥak Katzenelson, Yoshue Perle, Emanuel Ringelblum, Simkhe-Bunem Shayevich, Yesha‘yahu Shpigl, Avrom Sutzkever, and others bear the witness of spiritual dignity of people on the verge of destruction.

Lamtern in vint (Lantern in the Wind), by Itsik Manger (Warsaw: Farlag Turem, 1933). (YIVO)

Immediately after the German attack on the Soviet Union, Yiddish culture and its activists were mobilized for the war effort. Among those killed in action during the first months were Meir Wiener, Aron Gurshteyn, Shmuel-Nisn Godiner, and Moyshe Khaschevatski. Many Yiddish writers fought in the Soviet Army as soldiers and officers. The Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, created in 1942, became a consolidating force in Jewish life. Among its members were eminent Soviet Jews, including the most prominent Yiddish writers. In the extreme situation of the war, Soviet Yiddish authors were able to revitalize Jewish motifs and images and to speak openly about their grief and sorrow. To the most remarkable works of this period belong novellas of Der Nister about Jewish martyrdom and heroism in occupied Poland, stories by Bergelson, and poems by Halkin, Hofshteyn, Fininberg, Kushnirov, and Markish. (Markish’s major prose work, the novel about the Warsaw ghetto Trot fun doyres [The March of the Generations], was published only posthumously in 1966.)

After the Holocaust

The optimistic enthusiasm that energized Soviet Jews after the defeat of Nazi Germany lasted until 1948, when a fierce antisemitic campaign launched by Stalin’s regime hit Jews who were active in both Russian and Yiddish culture. All Jewish institutions were closed by 1949—among them the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, the State Yiddish Theater, Jewish publishing houses, and the Jewish press (with the exception of the provincial newspaper Birobidzhaner shtern). Among the victims of the antisemitic campaign were virtually all prominent Yiddish cultural figures: Mikhoels’s brutal murder by the secret police was presented as an “automobile accident”; Markish, Fefer, Hofshteyn, Kvitko, Bergelson, and Shmuel Persov were accused of high treason and sentenced to death; and Der Nister, Dobrushin, Nusinov, and Elye Spivak died in prison. Many other writers were arrested and released from prison after Stalin’s death in 1953, but no Yiddish publications appeared in the Soviet Union between 1949 and 1959.

Although Communist regimes had been installed by the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe by 1948, the small groups of Yiddish intelligentsia in Poland and Romania were not subjected to the same severe purges as in the Soviet Union. Yiddish theaters were open, Yiddish books and newspapers were published with state subsidies, and Jewish schools even operated in some cities. In Poland, the revitalization of Yiddish culture was carried out by committed Jewish Communists, such as Lili Berger, Dovid Sfard, and Hersh Smolar, who hoped that socialist Poland would recognize the immense suffering of the Jews and support their culture. Under Smolar’s editorship during the 1950s, the Warsaw newspaper Folks-shtime served as the main source of information about Jewish culture behind the Iron Curtain as well as a publishing outlet for Soviet Yiddish writers. The hopes for a revival of Yiddish culture in Poland were crushed by the antisemitic campaigns of 1968 that forced the majority of remaining Jews, including most of the writers, to emigrate. In Romania, Yiddish cultural life revolved around the periodical almanac Bukareshter shriftn and the Romanian State Yiddish Theater in Bucharest.

A printed appeal on behalf of Yiddish writers in the Soviet Union by a group of Yiddish writers and others in Paris, May 1949, calling for mass demonstrations to protest the arrest of Jewish writers and the closing of Jewish publications and institutions in the USSR. On the bottom of the page, a handwritten note from Shmerke Kaczerginski to Max Weinreich: he has a lot more to say about this appeal but this will have to do for now. He complains that Weinreich has not been answering letters and sends his regards to "those at home and those at YIVO." Yiddish. RG 107, Letters Collection. (YIVO)

As a result of the political “thaw” and pressure from abroad, the new literary magazine Sovetish heymland was launched in Moscow in 1961, under the editorship of Arn Vergelis, who combined a good sense of Yiddish language with staunch adherence to the party line. The new magazine consolidated scattered survivors of the Stalin era and enabled them to return to creative work in Yiddish. But the aging audience was shrinking due to the absence of Yiddish education. In accordance with the general spirit of Soviet literature, Vergelis gave preference to texts that expressed optimistic views on Soviet life and did not dwell on tragedies of the past.

Despite its ideological limitations, Sovetish heymland published a number of important works: novels by Der Nister, Tevye Gen, Shmuel Gordon, Note Lurye, Eli Shekhtman, and Nosn Zabara; short psychological prose and literary criticism of Rivke Rubin; critical and scholarly essays by Khayim Beider, Nokhem Oyslender, Leyzer Podriadchik, Arn Raskin, Hersh Remenik, Yisroel Serebriani, and Yankev Shternberg; and poetry by Rokhl Boymvol, Shike Driz, Motl Grubian, Yoysef Kerler, and Arn Vergelis. The magazine became increasingly politicized after the Israeli–Arab War of 1967, when the Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel and mass Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union began. Among the authors who left the country at that time were Boymvol, Kerler, Hirsh Osherovitsh, Podriadtshik, and Eli Shekhtman. After the demise of the Soviet Union, Sovetish heymland reinvented itself as the bilingual Russian–Yiddish magazine Di yidishe gas, which existed until 1996. The first issue of a new Yiddish small magazine, Der nayer fraynd, appeared in Saint Petersburg in 2004.


[The following list identifies and briefly describes Yiddish writers who are not the subject of an independent biographical entry.]

Abarbanel, Mendl

(1888–1957), poet. Born in Belorussia, Mendl Abarbanel’s first publications appeared in periodicals in Vitebsk and Moscow (1918); from the late 1920s he lived in Kiev, where he was an active member of the city’s proletarian literary group. Between 1930 and 1940, he published five collections of poetry in various genres, from ideological propaganda to personal and autobiographical lyrical poetry.

Abchuk, Avrom

(1897–1937), prose writer and literary critic. Born in Luts’k, Volhynia, from 1921 Avrom Abchuk lived in Kiev and was a leading champion of proletarian Yiddish literature. Abchuk’s novel Hershl Shamay (1929), written in lively language and rich in realistic detail, depicts the life of Soviet Jewish workers in the 1920s from a Communist perspective. He was arrested in 1937 and died in prison.

Alberton, Meir

(1900–1947), prose writer. Born in Bershad, Ukraine, Meir Alberton was a manual worker and teacher; he later studied engineering and worked in the mining industry. Alberton’s writing focused on the participation of Soviet Jews in industrialization; he depicted miners in Ukraine and the colonization of Birobidzhan.

Aleksandrov, Hillel

(1890–1972), historian and literary scholar. Hillel Aleksandrov graduated from Saint Petersburg University and worked at academic institutions in Minsk and Leningrad. He studied the socioeconomic history of the shtetl and the nineteenth-century cultural history of Jews in Russia.

Apshan, Hertsl

(1886–1944), prose writer and journalist. Hertsl Apshan was born near Sighet, Hungary; as an adult he was a businessman and insurance agent in that city. After 1918, he lived in Romania. Apshan’s depictions of Hasidic life in Transylvania were praised for their artistic observations and soft irony. He was murdered in Auschwitz.

Aronski (Zak) Moyshe

(1898–1944), prose writer and educator. Born in Ovruch, Ukraine, Moyshe Aronski (originally Zak) graduated from Kiev University in 1930 and subsequently taught literature and history in Yiddish schools in Ukraine. From 1926, his prose appeared in periodicals in Kharkov, Kiev, and Moscow. Aronski enlisted in the Soviet Army and was killed in action. He published more than 15 novels and collections of stories about Jewish life in the Soviet Union.

Aszendorf, Yisroel

(1909–1956), poet. Born in Ukraine, Yisroel Aszendorf grew up in Lwów and began to publish in 1927. During World War II, he lived in the Soviet Union, returned to Poland in 1945, emigrated to Paris in 1948, and to Argentina in 1953. Aszendorf edited literary and historical publications and published several collections of poetry, short stories, and plays. He served as the secretary of YIVO in Lwów. For his historical tragedy Der meylekh Shoyl (King Saul; 1948), he was awarded the Y. L. Peretz prize by the World Jewish Cultural Congress in New York in 1952.

Baliasne, Rive

(1910–1980), poet. Rive Baliasne was born and lived in Ukraine, mostly in Kiev; she was imprisoned in 1949 and rehabilitated in 1956. From 1961, she was a regular contributor to the Moscow magazine Sovetish heymland. Baliasne published several collections of lyrical poetry and a fragment of an autobiographical novel.

Belenki, Moyshe

(1910–1995), critic and educator. Born in Dubrovna, Belorussia, Moyshe Belenki studied at the Moscow Pedagogical Institute, worked as the director of the drama school at the Moscow State Yiddish Theater, and served as an editor at the Yiddish publishing house Der Emes. His first book, Akosta, Shpinoza, Maymon, was published in 1944. Belenki was arrested in 1949 and freed in 1954. He taught Marxist philosophy at various colleges, wrote popular critical books on Judaism in Russian, and literary criticism in Yiddish. He worked as the Yiddish editor at the major Soviet publisher Sovetskii pisatel’. Belenki immigrated to Israel in the late 1980s.

Belousov, Aleksandr

(1948–2004), poet. Aleksandr Belousov was born in Kuibyshev (mod. Samara) to a non-Jewish family. He learned Yiddish and Hebrew from a religious Jew and began writing poetry in Yiddish. His writing appeared in 1969 in Sovetish heymland; subsequent poems were issued in Poland, the United States, Israel, and France. In 1975, the police accused him of Zionist activity, as he was teaching Hebrew in private. He immigrated to Israel in 1990, and in 1998 was awarded the Dovid Hofshteyn Prize for Yiddish literature.

Beloy, Shloyme

(d. 1862), dramatist. Shloyme Beloy was a pioneer of Yiddish theater in Warsaw and the author of the first Yiddish popular plays. His works were published after his death by his brother Hirsh-Gedalye Beloy (1818–1890), a prolific popular writer and theater entrepreneur, known for his realistic depictions of Warsaw Jewish life of the mid-nineteenth century.

Bergner, Hinde

(1870–1942), memoirist. Hinde Bergner’s autobiography, In di lange vinter-nekht (In the Long Winter Nights; published posthumously in 1946), which she began writing at age 67, presents a warm and intimate portrait of traditional Jewish shtetl life in Galicia in the last 30 years of the nineteenth century. Bergner died during the Holocaust in a small town near Lwów. She was the mother of the writers Herz Bergner and Melech Ravitch and the artist Mosheh Harari. Her son Herz (1907–1970) was born in Radimno, Galicia, began to publish stories in the Polish Yiddish press in 1928, and in 1935 published his first collection of novellas. In 1938, he immigrated to Australia, where he wrote several collections of stories and novels and edited literary publications.

Beylin, Moyshe-Zisl

(1857–1942), scholar and folklorist. Born in Novogrodek, Belorussia, Moyshe-Zisl Beylin served as a crown rabbi in Rogachev (Belorussia) and Irkutsk (Siberia), and from 1920 lived in Moscow. Throughout his life he collected and studied Yiddish proverbs, songs, and children’s rhymes and riddles; his studies appeared in Russian, German, and Yiddish scholarly and literary periodicals. Beylin’s last collection of Yiddish folk jokes and anecdotes was ready to be published in 1941 but was not released because of the war. Some of his unpublished materials are preserved in the YIVO archives. He died in Siberia.

Bilov, Shloyme

(1888–1949), political activist, journalist, and literary critic. Born in Brest, Shloyme Bilov joined the Bund in 1905 and immigrated to the United States in 1907, where he studied at Kingston College in Rhode Island. In 1917 he spent a year in Norway, studying Scandinavian literature; he returned to Poland in 1918, became active in socialist politics, and in 1920 went to Soviet Russia with the retreating Red Army. He lived in Kiev, Odessa, Gomel, Novozybkov, and Sverdlovsk, teaching Yiddish and world literature, art history, and Marxist philosophy at schools and universities. Bilov published more than 200 articles in English, Russian, and Yiddish, among them studies on David Edelstadt, Moyshe Nadir, Sholem Aleichem, and Avrom Goldfadn. Bilov was arrested and released several times in the 1930s and 1940s. He died of a stroke in Kiev.

Bimko, Fishl

(1890–1965), prose writer. Fishl Bimko was born in Kielce, Poland, to a Hasidic family. Beginning in 1909, he published stories in Lwów; his writings for newspapers depicted the shtetl in Poland. His first book, Rekrutn (Recruits; 1916), portrayed the condition of Jewish soldiers in the Russian army. Bimko’s plays were performed by Yiddish theaters in Poland and abroad; especially popular was his realist drama about Jewish underworld, Ganovim (Thieves; 1919). In 1921, he immigrated to New York, where he worked in a sweatshop and contributed realistic stories to the Yiddish press. His collected works in 10 volumes were published in Chicago and New York from 1936 to 1948.

Binshtok, Yehudah Leyb

(Lev Moiseevich; 1836–1894), public intellectual and social activist. Born in Lukach, Ukraine, Yehudah Binshtok studied in a Russian school and at the Zhitomir Rabbinical Seminary. He served as a crown rabbi in Zhitomir and an adviser on Jewish affairs to the governor of Volhynia but was dismissed in 1881 for unauthorized participation in a meeting of Russian Jewish leaders called in response to the wave of pogroms. He remained in Saint Petersburg as secretary of both the Jewish community and the Society for Promotion of the Enlightenment among Jews (OPE). In 1892, Binshtok was sent to Palestine as a representative of the Odessa Committee for Support of Jewish Agricultural Workers; he died two years later in Jaffa. A close friend of Sholem Yankev Abramovitch (Mendele Moykher-Sforim), Binshtok translated the latter’s works from Hebrew into Russian and Yiddish and collaborated with him on other literary projects. In 1884, Binshtok published the first Russian biography of Abramovitch, which remains the standard source of information about the writer’s youth. He also published a major study of Jewish agricultural colonization in Russia (under the pseudonym Uleinikov) as well as numerous articles on political, social, and cultural issues in the Russian Jewish and non-Jewish press.

Bomze, Nokhum

(1906–1954), writer and poet. Born in Sasów, Galicia, Nokhum Bomze attended heder and German and Polish schools. He published poetry in the Warsaw and Lwów Yiddish press from 1929 and was a member of the literary group Tsushtayer (in Lwów). In the early 1930s, he moved to Warsaw and published a number of poetry collections as well as stories and reports from Galicia for the press. In 1939, he fled Warsaw and returned to Lwów. During World War II, Bomze was in Uzbekistan, and he returned to Poland in 1945 to become the editorial secretary of the Yidishe shriftn (Łódź). In 1948, he moved to New York.

Boreisho, Menakhem

(Goldberg; 1888–1949), poet. Born in Brest, in 1905 Menakhem Boreisho moved to Warsaw, where he was warmly received by Y. L. Peretz and began to publish poetry under the pen name Menakhem. Boreisho’s impressions of his own military service in the Russian Army in 1909–1911 appeared in the Warsaw Yiddish press; in his poem Poyln (Poland; 1914) he expressed bitterness about Polish antisemitism. After the outbreak of World War I, he went to Switzerland and then to the United States, where he became a leading figure of Yiddish modernism. In 1926, Boreisho visited Poland and the Soviet Union and published his impressions in the New York daily Frayhayt.

Borovoy, Saul

(1903–1989), historian and memoirist. Saul Borovoy lived in Odessa and wrote in Yiddish and Russian. He studied the history of Russian Jewish agricultural colonization, as well as nineteenth-century Yiddish and Hebrew literature. He translated the seventeenth-century Hebrew chronicle Yeven metsulah (Deep Abyss) by Natan Note Hannover into Russian. Borovoy’s doctoral thesis on the history of Ukraine (1940) caused controversy among Soviet historians and Yiddish writers, as he maintained that Jews participated on the Cossack side in the Khmel’nyts’kyi uprising. He wrote, too, about Nazi genocide that occurred in Odessa. Borovoy’s memoirs, published posthumously in 1993, depict the life of Jewish intelligentsia in the Soviet Union.

Botoshanski, Yankev

(1892/95–1964), writer and journalist. Born in Bessarabia, Yankev Botoshanski studied at yeshivas and Russian schools in Odessa and Kishinev. He began writing in Russian and Yiddish in 1912 for local newspapers, and in 1914 moved to Bucharest, where he was involved in socialist politics. In addition to publishing hundreds of articles and short stories in the Romanian and Yiddish press, with Yankev Shternberg he composed and produced numerous short plays at the Yiddish revue theater. In 1923, Botoshanski visited Argentina, and in 1926 settled in Buenos Aires, where he played a major role in Yiddish cultural life.

Brianski, Shloyme

(1899–?), playwright, educator, and literary scholar. Shloyme Brianski was born in Malin, Ukraine. In the 1920s, he produced plays in Vinnitsa and Kiev, and in the 1930s he published critical and bibliographical studies of Dovid Bergelson, Moyshe Kulbak, Osher Shvartsman, David Edelstadt, and Itsik Fefer. His career ended abruptly in 1935 due to his mental illness.

Burg, Yoysef

(1912– ) prose writer. Yoysef Burg was born in Wischnitz, Bucovina, and studied at Vienna University. He lived in Czernowitz, where he worked as a teacher. Burg’s first story was published in 1934; and some of his writings about Jewish life in Bucovina and the Carpathian Mountains were inspired by Hasidic tales.

Cybulski, Paltiel

(1903–1967), poet. Born in Warsaw, where he was a factory worker, Paltiel Cybulski spent the war years in the Soviet Union. After the war he studied at universities in Wrocław and Warsaw and worked at the Polish Ministry of Higher Education. He contributed to Yiddish periodicals in Poland, France, the United States, and Israel. Two collections of his lyrical poetry were published in Warsaw in 1964 and 1967.

Dekhtyar, Motl

(1909–1939), prose writer. Born in Belorussia, Motl Dekhtyar graduated from the Minsk Pedagogical Institute. Beginning in 1931, his stories of Jewish youth in Belorussia appeared in Yiddish periodicals and in book form. He died during military service in the Red Army.

Dobin, Hirsh

(1905–2001), prose writer. Hirsh Dobin was born in Zhlobin, Belorussia. In 1926 he moved to Kharkov, where he was a shoemaker; from 1932 he worked for the Yiddish newspaper and radio in Birobidzhan. He was imprisoned from 1937 to 1940, then lived in Minsk, and was in the city’s ghetto after the German occupation. Dobin then escaped from the ghetto and joined the partisans. After the war, he lived in Moscow and in 1992 moved to Israel. His first story was published in 1928, his first book in 1931. In the 1930s, his writing focused on the Jewish colonization of Birobidzhan, but after the war he turned his attention toward the struggle of Soviet partisans against the German occupation, depicted in his novel Der koyekh fun lebn (The Power of Life; 1969).

Dobin, Shimon

(1869–1944), educator, journalist, and literary critic. Shimon Dobin, who wrote under the pseudonym Shimoni, was born in Bobr, Belorussia. For his activity in the socialist Zionist movement, he was arrested but soon was allowed to emigrate. In Switzerland he became friends with Sholem Aleichem. After returning to Russia, Dobin was actively involved in developing Yiddish education programs in Kiev and was one of the founders of the Kultur-lige. He also worked as a lecturer, translator, and editor. Dobin died during the evacuation in Sverdlovsk. His son Khayim (Yefim) Dobin (1901–1977) edited Yiddish youth magazines in the 1920s and later became a Russian critic and editor.

Dreykurs, Leybush

(Leon; 1894–1941), prose writer, journalist, and actor. Born in Lwów, Leybush Dreykurs began to publish poetry in the Po‘ale Tsiyon press in 1911. After World War I he went to Czechoslovakia, where he founded a traveling Yiddish theater company. He returned to Lwów and contributed short stories, essays, and poems to the Yiddish press under various pseudonyms. Living in Riga and Warsaw, Dreykurs edited Yiddish and Polish periodicals, published a novel about actors (Kulisn [Behind the Stage]; 1927), worked in theater and on the radio, and in 1939 returned to Lwów. He died in the Janów concentration camp.

Druker, Irme

(1906–1982), writer and literary scholar. Irme Druker was born in Chernobyl, Ukraine, to a family of music lovers. He studied music and singing in Kiev and embarked on a concert career but soon switched to literature; his first story appeared in 1926. After moving to Odessa, he turned to biographical research and wrote critical and biographical studies about Sholem Aleichem and Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh. He began a major panoramic novel, Klezmer, about Jewish musicians, the first volume of which appeared in 1940. During the war, he served as an army journalist. Arrested in 1950, he was rehabilitated in 1956 and returned to Odessa, where he continued his novel (Russian ed., 1964; Yiddish, 1976), the central character of which was based on the legendary Odessa music pedagogue Petr (Peysakh) Stoliarskii. His final novel Mikhoel-Yoysef Guzikov (1990) portrays the life of the nineteenth-century musician. One of the most accomplished stylists and erudite writers of postwar Soviet Yiddish literature, Druker recreated episodes from the life of Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, and Y. L. Peretz. He also wrote critical essays about contemporary Yiddish literature and theater. In a series of memoirs he vividly depicted the Chernobyl of his youth.

Dua, Yankev-Kopl

(1898–1942), writer and journalist. Yankev-Kopl Dua was born in Warsaw and attended a Russian school. He became involved in socialist politics and contributed numerous articles on art, theater, literature, and music to the left-wing Yiddish press. His novels about Polish Jewish history were reprinted in installments by Yiddish newspapers in the United States, Argentina, and South Africa. He was the main editor and author of Groshn-bibliotek (Penny Library), which published popular brochures and produced numerous translations from world literature. Dua continued his literary work in the Warsaw ghetto; a German officer shot him on the street.

Dubilet, Moyshe

(1897–1941), literary critic and educator. Born in Ekaterinoslav province, Ukraine, Moyshe Dubilet served in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and later graduated from the Yiddish department of the Odessa Pedagogical Institute. He taught Yiddish language and literature in Yiddish schools and in 1933 began graduate studies at the Kiev Institute of Jewish Proletarian Culture, researching nineteenth-century Yiddish literature (Yisroel Aksenfeld, Shloyme Ettinger, Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, Sholem Aleichem). Dubilet’s collection Kritishe artiklen (Critical Essays) was published in 1939; in 1941, he enlisted in the Soviet Army and was killed in action.

Dunets, Khatskl

(1896–1937), critic, journalist, and political activist. Khatskl Dunets was born in Belorussia, worked in cultural and political institutions, and was an active promoter of proletarian culture and an aggressive critic of “bourgeois nationalism” in Soviet Yiddish literature. He published more than 10 books of polemical criticism, serving on the editorial boards of Yiddish newspapers and journals and as a deputy minister of education of Belorussia. In 1935, at the height of his career, Dunets was suddenly accused of “counterrevolutionary activity,” expelled from all positions of power, and was arrested and eventually executed.

Eliashev, Ester

(1878–1941), literary critic, journalist, and teacher. Ester Eliashev was born in Kaunas, and studied philosophy at the universities of Leipzig, Heidelberg, Bern (receiving a doctorate in 1906), and taught at the Higher Women’s Courses in Saint Petersburg. She returned to Kaunas in 1921, where she worked as a teacher and was a prolific literary critic and journalist. Eliashev died on the eve of the German invasion. She was the sister of Isidor Eliashev (Bal-Makhshoves).

Eplboym, Berish

(1887–1945), prose writer. Berish Eplboym was born near Lublin, Poland, to a Hasidic family. He lived in Warsaw and Łódź and first published in 1912, writing stories depicting Hasidic life for a Yiddish press in Poland. During World War I he lived in Odessa, working as a secretary for Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh. In 1920, Eplboym returned to Warsaw; in 1922 he immigrated to the United States, where he lived in Philadelphia and wrote novels, stories, and plays. His novel Oyfbroyz (Spurt; 1923) depicts the transformation of Odessa criminals into revolutionary anarchists during the 1917 Revolution. It was later staged in a Kiev theater.

Eydes, Tankhum

(1884–?), journalist. Born in Dvinsk, Tankhum Eydes graduated from the Riga Polytechnic Institute, worked as an engineer, and was active in the Bund. From 1920, he edited a number of Yiddish newspaper in Riga and contributed to the Yiddish press in Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland; he was also active in Yiddish theater. A number of collections of his prose and plays have been published.

Falikman, Yekhiel

(1911–1977), prose writer. Born in Lyubar, Ukraine, Yekhiel Falikman studied art and mechanical engineering in Kiev and from 1932 worked as a journalist in Birobidzhan. He first published in 1931, and his earliest collections of stories (about Birobidzhan) appeared in 1937 and 1940. During the war he worked for a Soviet Army newspaper, and from that time the war became the main theme of his writing, in particular, the epic novels Di shayn kumt fun mizrekh (The Light Comes from the East; 1948) and Der shvartser vint (The Black Wind; 1968). Falikman’s works were translated into Russian and Ukrainian, and from 1961 they appeared regularly in Sovetish heymland.

Feygenberg, Rokhl

(Imri; 1885–1972), fiction writer and essayist. Rokhl Feygenberg was born in Luban, Belorussia. Orphaned at the age of 15, she moved to Odessa, where she worked as a seamstress, and published her first story in 1905. She studied in Lausanne, and then worked as a teacher in Ukraine. After the publication of her first book, the novella A mame (A Mother; 1911), she published numerous short stories and novels in installments. In 1921 she moved to Kishinev and later to Bucharest, where she issued eyewitness accounts of pogroms, material she had collected in Ukraine during the Civil War. She came to Warsaw in 1924, lived in Palestine and Paris, and in 1933 settled in Palestine, where she founded a Hebrew press for translations of Yiddish literature. She continued to write in Yiddish but Hebrew became her main language. She published more than 10 books of fiction, translations, and historical documents, as well as essays on Jewish thought, literary criticism, and the status of women.

Finkel, Uri

(1896–1957), writer and critic. Born in Rakov, Belarus, to the family of a rabbi, Uri Finkel’s first articles appeared in the Yiddish and Russian press in 1918. He studied Yiddish literature at the Belorussian State University in Minsk and worked at the Jewish sector of the Belorussian Academy of Sciences. He published numerous articles about Yiddish, Russian, and Belorussian writers, including two studies of Avrom Goldfadn in Yiddish periodicals; and in the 1930s he published literary biographies of Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh and Sholem Aleichem, which were translated into Russian and Belorusian.

Fram, Dovid

(1903–1988), poet. Born in Ponevezh (Panevėžys), Lithuania, Dovid Fram began to publish his poems in 1923 in his hometown; he also contributed to newspapers in Kaunas. In 1927 he moved to Johannesburg, but his poetry continued to appear in Poland and Lithuania. He has long been considered the major South African Yiddish poet.

Fridman, Yankev

(1910–1972), poet. Born in Mlynica, Galicia, from 1919 Yankev Fridman (Jakow Frydman; also Frideman) lived in Czernowitz. Between 1929 and 1933, he lived in Warsaw, but then returned to Romania; during World War II he was sent to a Romanian camp in Bershad, Transnistria. In 1949, Fridman moved to Israel. His first poem had appeared in 1927; and he contributed to the Yiddish press in Poland, Romania, and the United States, while also writing in Hebrew. Three collections of his poetry were published before World War II in Warsaw and Czernowitz. His poetry is filled with pantheistic, cosmic, and mystical motifs rooted in Hasidic lore.

Fuks, Avrom-Moyshe

(1890–1974), prose writer and journalist. Born near Złoczew, eastern Galicia, in about 1905 Avrom-Moyshe Fuks (Fuchs) went to Lwów, lived in Tarnopol, and was an active socialist. His first publication appeared in 1911, followed by the earliest collection of his stories, Eynzame (Lonely People; 1912). Fuks belonged to the group of young Yiddish poets and writers known as Yung-Galitsye (Young Galicia). In 1912, he went to the United States, returning to Europe on the eve of World War I and settling in Vienna. There he wrote for Yiddish newspapers in Poland and the United States. He was arrested in 1938 by the Nazis, emigrated through Paris to England in 1939, and from 1950 lived in Israel. A master of naturalist psychological storytelling, Fuks depicted the lives of poor Jews in Galicia and Austria before, during, and after World War I.

Gen, Tevye

(1912–2003), prose writer. Tevye Gen was born in Lithuania, grew up in Mariupol’, Ukraine, studied in Kharkov and Moscow, lived in Birobidzhan and Moscow, and died in Israel. His first novella was published in 1930. A fine stylist, Gen created delicate psychological portraits of contemporary Soviet Jewish characters of different generations. He published eight novels and collections of short prose.

Gilbert, Shloyme

(1885–1942), prose writer and poet. Born in Radzymin, near Warsaw, Shloyme Gilbert began to publish neoromantic poetry and novellas in 1907. His first collection of stories appeared in Warsaw in 1922, followed by two additional books of poetry and drama inspired by religious and mystical motifs. He was deported from the Warsaw ghetto to Treblinka.

Gildenblat, H. D.

(1875–?), prose writer. H. D. Gildenblat was born in Lyubavichi (Yid., Lubavitsh), Belorussia, studied in Vienna, and then settled in Vilna. In 1895 he began publishing adventure stories and novels that were especially popular with female audiences. He later practiced dentistry in his hometown.

Glazman, Borekh

(1893–1945), prose writer. Borekh Glazman grew up in Mozyr (Mazyr), Belorussia, and Kiev. In 1911 he immigrated to the United States and graduated from Ohio State University. He published numerous publications in press and book form in the United States, Argentina, Poland, and the USSR in Yiddish in 1913, and in English in 1921. In 1924 he visited the Soviet Union and spent a few years in Poland, where he wrote some of the books that became part of his collected works published by Kletskin in Vilna in 1927–1937. Glazman returned to the United States in 1930. One of the most original American Yiddish writers, his particular interests lay in social and psychological issues. His works present a broad portrait of life in both continents during the interwar years.

Glik, Hirsh

(1922–1944), poet. Born in Vilna, Hirsh Glik began to write under the influence of his older friends from Yung-Vilne; he issued his first publications in 1940. Glik is famous for his ghetto poetry, especially the “Partisaner lid” (The Partisan Hymn; 1943), which became a symbol of Jewish resistance.

Goldshteyn, Moyshe

(1900–1943), prose writer. Moyshe Goldshteyn was born near Siedlec, Poland, and lived in Warsaw. In 1923, he immigrated to Argentina and published short stories in the Yiddish press. In 1932 he arrived in Birobidzhan, worked in an agricultural colony, and published reports about Birobidzhan and Argentina in the Yiddish press. Two collections of his short prose works were published in Moscow. He served as an officer in the Soviet Army and was killed during World War II. A number of his war stories were published posthumously.

Gontar, Avrom

(1908–1981), poet and prose writer. Born in Berdichev—which remained an important presence in his poetry—Avrom Gontar worked as an editor at various Yiddish institutions in Kiev and Moscow, including the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, for which he was imprisoned from 1948 to 1956. Starting in 1961 he served as the prose editor of Sovetish heymland. He died in Moscow. More than 10 collections of poetry and two of his novels have been published.

Gordon, Eli

(1907–1989), prose writer. Born in a Jewish agricultural colony in Ukraine, Eli Gordon studied at pedagogical institutes in Odessa and Moscow; his first story was published in 1930. He wrote more than 10 books that portray the life and work of Jews on the land and glorify Soviet collective farming.

Gotlib, Yankev

(1911–1945), poet. Yankev Gotlib was born in Kaunas, and received a traditional education. His first poem was published in 1925; subsequently he published four collections of poetry and a book about H. Leyvik; he also edited literary publications in Kaunas. He died under evacuation in Central Asia.

Grin, Yerakhmiel

(1910–1944), prose writer. Yerakhmiel Grin was born in a village near Kolomyya, Ukraine; he lived in Warsaw. He wrote stories and novels about Jewish life in the Carpathian Mountains, and died in the Janów concentration camp together with his wife Hinde Naiman-Grin (1916–1944), a Polish and Yiddish writer and journalist.

Grodzenski, Arn-Yitskhok

(1891–1941), poet and journalist. Arn-Yitskhok Grodzenski grew up in Vilna and published his first poem in 1906. From 1910 to 1913, he lived in Antwerp, and then returned to Vilna, publishing his first collection of poetry in 1914. In 1916, Grodzenski fled to Ekaterinoslav, where he lost his legs in an accident. He contributed to various Yiddish publications in Ukraine as well as translated Russian and German poetry. In 1921, he again settled in Vilna, where he worked as an editor and translator. His most popular work was the novel Lebn (Life; 1923). Tchaikovsky’s opera Eugène Onegin was performed in his Yiddish translation in Vilna in 1923. Grodzenski was murdered in Ponar.

Grubyan, Motl

(1909–1972), poet. Motl Grubyan was born near Kiev, graduated in 1938 from the Minsk Pedagogical Institute, and saw his first collection of poetry published in Minsk in 1935. He fought in World War II, was heavily wounded in 1943, worked at the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow, was arrested in the late 1940s, and was freed in 1956. Grubyan was one of the most original Soviet lyrical poets of the postwar period.

Hartsman, Motl

(1908–1943), poet. Born in Berdichev, Motl Hartsman attended the Yiddish school headed by Nina Brodovskaya, who encouraged his first literary and theatrical attempts; he received his higher education in Odessa and Moscow, and completed graduate study in Kiev with Maks Erik. Hartsman’s first poems were printed in Berdichev’s Yiddish newspapers and quickly became popular; a few collections of his poems were published in the 1930s. His last long poem, Der toyt-urteyl (The Death Sentence), was written during the war while he served in the Red Army. He was killed in action.

Heler, Binem

(1908–1998), poet. Binem Heler was born in Warsaw. As a worker he was involved in Communist activity. He lived in France and Belgium between 1937 and 1939; then from 1939 to 1941 he lived in Białystok and later in Soviet Central Asia. In 1947, Heler returned to Poland and became active in Polish Jewish cultural organizations; in 1956, he settled permanently in Israel. His first poem was published in 1930. He belonged to the group of proletarian writers; his books were published in Poland, the Soviet Union, and Israel.


(1882–1941), poet, prose writer, and journalist. Hershele (pseudonym of Hersh Danilevich) was born in Lipno, Poland. As a textile worker in Warsaw, he joined the socialist Zionist movement, was arrested, moved to Switzerland, and then came back to Poland, where he eventually settled in a town near Warsaw. His first publications, in 1904, were greeted warmly by Y. L. Peretz. Beginning in 1910, Hershele contributed poetry, short stories, children’s literature, and translations to various Yiddish periodicals; he collected and published Yiddish folklore; and some of his poems became folk songs. His earliest book of poetry came out in 1907; he also published and edited several other collections. His poetry from the Warsaw ghetto appeared in illegal publications.

Heschel, Abraham Joshua

(1907–1972), poet and theologian. Abraham Joshua (Avrom-Yehoshue) Heschel was born in Warsaw to an illustrious Hasidic family. After attending yeshiva, he studied at the University of Berlin (receiving a doctorate in 1933) and taught at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums. He was deported to Poland by the Nazis in 1938. In 1939, he went to London, and in 1940 to the United States, where he taught at Hebrew Union College and, later, at the Jewish Theological Seminary. His first Yiddish story was published in 1924, followed by poems. He also wrote essays on Hasidism, Jewish ethics, mysticism, and history for Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, and German periodicals in various countries. His collection of mystical humanist poetry, Der shem-mefuresh-mentsh, appeared in Warsaw in 1933 (translated and published in 2004 as The Ineffable Name of God: Man). Heschel’s passionate eulogy, Der misrekh-eyropeisher yid (1946; translated and published in 1949 as The Earth Is the Lord’s: The Inner World of the Jew in Eastern Europe), was delivered in Yiddish at a YIVO conference in New York, and made an overwhelming impression on a bereaved audience. Heschel returned to writing in Yiddish in his last book, Kotsk, which commemorated the Hasidic world as he remembered it.

Heylperin, Falk

(1876–1945) educator, prose writer, poet, and playwright. Born in Nesvizh, Belorussia, Falk Heylperin taught at religious and secular schools in Vilna, Saint Petersburg, Simferopol, Warsaw, Tambov, Kiev, and Ekaterinoslav. In 1921, he returned to Vilna to teach Hebrew in Yiddish schools. His earliest works appeared in Hebrew in 1900 and in Yiddish in 1906. His first collection of stories was published in Yiddish in 1910. Heylperin published numerous stories, poems, plays, and articles in the Yiddish press; he edited magazines and wrote numerous books for children; and also published a collection of plays and dramatic poems, titled Bay opgruntn (By Abyss; 1930). He participated in Yung-Vilne and served as chair of the Yiddish PEN club. In 1938 he moved to Palestine.

Heysherik, Kalmen-Khayim

(1900–1941), prose writer. Kalmen-Khayim Heysherik was born near Łódź, Poland. As a prisoner of war in Germany during World War I, he kept a diary that later served as the basis of his memoirs and fiction, which became popular during the 1920s. He published stories and essays in major Polish Yiddish newspapers. After the occupation of Warsaw in 1939, he fled to Vilna. He was murdered in Ponar.

Hirshkan, Tsvi

(1886–1938), prose writer, born in Chashniki, Belorussia. Tsvi Hirshkan (Tsvi-Hirsh Kahn) was close to the party of socialist revolutionaries, lived in Western Europe and America, and described his wandering years in his earliest Yiddish publication (1908). His first novel, Tsvey veltn (Two Worlds; 1910), which depicts the Belorussian shtetl in the wake of the 1905 Revolution, was warmly greeted by critics and readers, including Y. L. Peretz, and had three editions. During World War I, Hirshkan served in Jewish relief organizations in Moscow and Petrograd and wrote stories, articles, and literary essays. He left Russia in 1921 and traveled through Europe and the Middle East, settling in New York in 1925, where he wrote for Der tog and, later, for Morgn-frayhayt. In his memoirs, Hirshkan portrayed prominent Jewish and non-Jewish personalities, among them Sholem Yankev Abramovitsh, S. An-ski, Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin), and Viktor Chernov.

Hurwits, Khayim Khaykl

(1749–1822), maskilic writer. Khayim Khaykl Hurwits was born in Uman, Ukraine. A wealthy timber merchant, he traveled to Prussia, where he became familiar with German literature and the Haskalah. In Berdichev in 1817, he published Seyfer tsofnas paneyekh, a Yiddish adaptation of the popular German book Die Entdeckung von Amerika (The Discovery of America) by Joachim Heinrich Campe (originally published in 1781), which made a great impression on the Jewish readership but was soon forgotten. It is now recognized as one of the classic works of modern Yiddish literature. Hurwits’s son, Hirsh Ber (1785–1861), was a banker, active maskil, and the founder of the first modern school in Uman (after a bankruptcy Hirsh Ber fled to England, converted to Christianity, and was an instructor of Hebrew at Cambridge University under the name of Bernard Hermann).

Kamenetski, Hersh (1895–1957)

, poet. Hersh Kamenetski was born in Cherniavka, Belorussia, served in the Red Army in the Soviet–Polish war, studied at Minsk University, worked as an editor, and wrote narrative poetry, mostly on revolutionary themes. He was imprisoned from 1949 to 1956. Kamenetski published four books and a number of translations.

Kassel, David

(1881–1935), writer and poet. David Kassel was born in Minsk. In 1910, he settled in Warsaw, publishing poems from 1901, many of which appeared in the Bundist press. He translated world literature for adults and children, and published numerous novellas, stories, poems, critical essays, and a few novels. The first, In dorf (In a Village; 1912), was reissued several times.

Kava, Shloyme-Leyb

(1889–?), critic and journalist. Born in Warsaw, Shloyme-Leyb Kava (main pseudonym of Moyshe-Yosef Dikshteyn) served as Y. L. Peretz’s secretary and later became vice president of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw. From 1905, he published numerous articles and essays in the Yiddish press, some of them sharply satirical and critical. In 1923, he published a collection of Yiddish folklore and was involved with various Yiddish publications in Poland. He died in the Warsaw ghetto.

Kharats, Meir

(1912–1993), poet. Meir Kharats grew up in a Jewish agricultural colony in Bessarabia, moved to Czernowitz in 1934, and published his first poems. He contributed to the Yiddish press in Romania, Poland, and America. After World War II, he returned from Central Asia to Czernowitz, where he was imprisoned from 1949 to 1955. He published his poems in the Moscow and Warsaw press. In 1972 he left for Israel, where he was awarded several literary prizes. He published 12 collections of poetry.

Khashin, Aleksandr

(1888–1938), literary critic and journalist. Born Tsvi Averbukh in Berezina, Belorussia to a wealthy family, Aleksandr Khashin received a broad Jewish and general education. He was a founder and ideologue of the Po‘ale Tsiyon movement and edited its Hebrew and Yiddish publications in Europe, Palestine, and New York. In the early 1920s, he lived in Vienna, publishing literary criticism in Yiddish (including an essay on Mikhah Yosef Berdyczewski) and German. At the end of the 1920s, he went to the Soviet Union, worked as an editor at Der Emes press and under various pen names wrote extensively on literature, including introductions to the collected works of Sholem Aleichem. Khashin was arrested in 1937 and executed a year later.

Khashkes, Moyshe-Leyb

(1848?–1906), writer, poet, and journalist. Born in Vilna, Moyshe-Leyb Khashkes (originally Dantsig) studied at several yeshivas and lived in different parts of the Russian Empire. From the late 1860s, he contributed to Hebrew and Yiddish periodicals and published popular novels, brochures, and collections of satiric poetry in both languages. His sensationalist novel, Odeser voyle yungn (The Tough Guys of Odessa; 1872) is one of the earliest depictions of the urban underworld in Yiddish literature. He also translated parts of Heinrich Graetz’s The History of the Jews from German into Russian. Khashkes died in Saint Petersburg.

Khatskeles, Helena

(1882–1973), children’s writer and pedagogue. Helena Khatskeles was born in Kaunas, Lithuania, studied at the Bestuzhev Courses for Women in Saint Petersburg, was engaged in revolutionary activity in Russia and abroad, and taught at Jewish schools. In 1918–1920, she studied pedagogy in Moscow and then moved to Kaunas, where she became a prominent Jewish educator. During World War II, she was evacuated to Central Asia, but returned to Kaunas in 1945 and taught at the city’s Yiddish school until it was closed in 1948. She later taught at Russian schools. Khatskeles published articles about educational theory, in addition to stories, textbooks for children, and travelogues.

Khaykin, Dore

(1913– ), poet. Dore Khaykin was born in Chernigov, Ukraine, lived in Kiev, and began to publish in 1931. Between 1938 and 1988, he wrote five collections of poetry and prose. He immigrated to Israel in 1993.

Khmelnitski, Melekh

(1885–1946), poet and journalist. Melekh Khmelnitski (Melech Chmelnizki) was born in a village near Kiev; in 1897, his family moved to eastern Galicia. He studied medicine at the University of Vienna, where he lived until 1938. Khmelnitski published his first poems in Polish publications in 1902–1903, and in 1921 produced an anthology of Yiddish and Hebrew poetry in Polish translation, published in Warsaw. From 1904, he published in Yiddish and served as a literary editor of Togblat (in Lwów). In Vienna, Khmelnitski wrote poetry, essays, and articles on medicine for Yiddish newspapers in Poland, New York, and Buenos Aires. In 1939, he moved to New York.

Khorol, Dvoyre

(1894/98?–1982), poet. Dvoyre Khorol was born in Okhrimov and was a niece of Dovid Bergelson. From 1908 in Kiev, she studied at the university and at the pedagogical institute and worked as a teacher. Her first poems appeared in the Moscow journal Shtrom (1922). Between 1928 and 1965, she published more than 10 books of poetry, some of them for children.

Kirman, Yosef

(1896–1943), poet. Yosef Kirman grew up in Warsaw in a poor family and was a worker; his first poetic publication appeared in the collection Ringen (Rings; 1919), he later contributed to various periodicals and published one collection of poems. He was arrested for his political activity by the Polish police. In the Warsaw ghetto he continued to write poetry and prose, which was partly preserved in the Ringelblum Archive. He was murdered in the Poniatów concentration camp.

Knapheys, Moyshe

(1910– ), poet and prose writer. Moyshe Knapheys was born in Warsaw, published poetry in various periodicals in Poland and Latvia, and edited literary collections and newspapers. Before the war, three collections of his poetry appeared in Poland and two in the Soviet Union (in 1940 and 1941); after the war he published one book in the Soviet Union and one in Poland. During the war he was in Soviet Central Asia; in 1946 he returned to Poland, then moving first to Paris (1948) and then to Argentina (1952), where he became an important Yiddish writer and activist. He wrote a two-volume novel, A yingl fun Varshe (A Boy from Warsaw, 1960–1961) and translated the medieval Yiddish epic poem Bove-bukh into modern Yiddish.

Koralnik, Avrom

(1883–1937), journalist and essayist. Born in Uman, Avrom Koralnik (Abraham Coralnik) studied at universities in Kiev, Florence, Berlin, and Bonn and in 1908 received a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Vienna. He contributed to German, Russian, Hebrew, and Yiddish periodicals. In 1915, he immigrated to the United States and in 1917 returned to Russia, where he lived in Petrograd and Kiev. At the end of 1918 he returned to New York, where he continued to write mainly in Yiddish. His collected essays were published in English as Across the Great Divide in 2005.

Kreppel, Yoyne

(1874–1939), journalist and writer. Born in Drohobycz, Galicia, Yoyne (Jonas) Kreppel was active in the Zionist movement and later became a leader of Agudas Yisroel. He also participated in the Czernowitz Conference. Beginning in 1914 in Vienna, he served for many years as an adviser for the Austrian Foreign Ministry. He contributed to Der yud and other Yiddish publications in Galicia and from 1919 was a Vienna correspondent for New York’s Yidishes togblat. A prolific Yiddish-language author of crime and historical fiction in Poland and America, he published more than 100 small books of stories and novels that were popular among a mass readership. He composed a comprehensive overview of contemporary Jewish life in German with Juden und Judentum von Heute (Jews and Judaism Today; 1925). Kreppel was imprisoned in Austria after 1938 and deported to Dachau. He died in Buchenwald concentration camp in 1940.

Lev, Mishe

(1917– ), prose writer. Mishe Lev was born in the town of Pogrebishche, Ukraine, and grew up in a Jewish agricultural colony. He graduated from the Yiddish department of the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute and worked for Der Emes Press. During World War II, he was captured by the Germans but escaped and fought with the partisans. From 1961 he was the editorial secretary of Sovetish heymland; he moved to Israel in 1996. He is the author of several books depicting the struggle of the partisans during the war, as well as the documentary novel Sobibor (2002; Eng. trans., 2007).

Mendelson, Shloyme

(1896–1948), literary critic and social activist. Shloyme Mendelson was born in Warsaw and studied medicine and law at Warsaw University, but was expelled in 1920 for organizing protests against antisemitism. He began his political career as a leader of the Folkspartey but later joined the Bund and was active in many social, educational, and cultural organizations. He published articles on cultural, and political issues, as well as literary and art criticism, and edited the works of Shloyme Ettinger. In 1940, Mendelson was sent by the Bund to Switzerland, and in 1941 he arrived in New York.

Mezah, Yoshue.

See listing under “Mezah, Yehoshu‘a” in appendix to Hebrew Literature.

Mohr, Avrom Mendl.

See listing under “Mohr, Avraham Mendel” in appendix to Hebrew Literature.

Okrutny, Yoysef

(1906–?), prose writer and journalist. Born in Kutno, Poland, Yoysef Okrutny (Turko) lived in Łódź. He spent 1939–1946 in the Soviet Union, then several years in Poland (1949), and from 1951 lived in Buenos Aires. Okrutny’s first story was published in 1928. He contributed to the Yiddish press of Poland, Latvia, the United States, France, and the Soviet Union. He worked for Yiddish radio in Poland after World War II and published several collections of stories and novels, four of them in Poland between 1936 and 1949.

Olevski, Buzi

(1908–1941), poet and prose writer. Born in Chernigov, Ukraine, Buzi Olevski’s primary focus was on the economic and social transformation of shtetl youth; he also wrote for children. He wrote his dissertation on the poetry of Dovid Hofshteyn in Kiev, and later lived in Moscow and Birobidzhan. As an officer in the Soviet Army, Olevski fought in World War II and was killed in action. His autobiographical novel Osherl un zayne fraynd (Osherl and His Friends) was published posthumously in 1947.

Orland, Hershl

(1896–1946), prose writer. Born near Kiev, Hershl Orland fought in the Red Army during the Russian Civil War and later worked as a journalist and in land reclamation. He is mostly known for the novels Hrebles (Dams; 1931), about drying swamps in Volhynia, and Aglomerat (Agglomerate; 1935), which takes place in a metallurgical plant and depicts the process of transformation of shtetl Jews into industrial proletarians. In the late 1930s he edited the Kiev magazine Sovetishe literatur.

Ornshteyn, Yisroel

(1831–1905), prose writer. Yisroel Ornshteyn was born in Iampol, Ukraine, and from the age of 21 lived in Iaşi, Romania. One of the first Romanian Yiddish writers, he composed numerous satiric and didactic books for mass readership on aspects of Jewish life in Romania.

Pitshenik, Moyshe-Leyb

(1895–1941), writer and journalist. Moyshe-Leyb Pitshenik was born in Złoczew, Galicia, spent 1920–1922 in Katowice, and was the director of the Jewish school in Łowicz from 1923 on. He published poetry, stories, and articles in the Polish Yiddish press as well as historical novels about the Haskalah and Hasidism. He was murdered by the Nazis near Chełmno.

Platner, Ayzek

(1895–1961), poet and writer. Ayzek Platner was born in Sokolow-Podliask, Poland. His poetry first appeared in 1919. From 1920 he lived in Kaunas, where he worked as a tailor, and in 1927 he immigrated to the United States, worked as a teacher, and was a member of the Union Square and Proletpen literary groups. In 1932, he moved to Minsk to work at the newspaper Oktyabr. During World War II, he lived in Saransk and then returned to Minsk. Platner was banished to the gulag from 1948 to 1956 and once again returned to Minsk. He published more than 10 books of poetry and prose, both in Yiddish and in translations into Russian and Belorussian.

Podriadchik, Leyzer

(1914–2000), literary critic and scholar. Born in a village in Bessarabia, Leyzer Podriadchik graduated from the Hebrew Teachers’ Seminary in Czernowitz, taught in Jewish schools, and published studies on Jewish literature and history, literary criticism, and poems in the Czernowitz Yiddish press. He was in Central Asia during World War II, in Moscow after 1945, and in Riga from 1951 to 1971. Subsequently, in Israel, he taught Yiddish literature at Tel Aviv University and published five books. One of the most erudite scholars of Yiddish literature in the Soviet Union, he regularly contributed his research to and prepared works by Der Nister and Meir Wiener for publication in Sovetish heymland.

Polianker, Hershl

(1911–1998), prose writer. Hershl Polianker was born in Uman, Ukraine. Beginning in 1928 he lived in Kiev, working at a shoe factory. His first book, the novella Koyln (Coals; 1932), as well as many subsequent stories and novels, depicted young Jews working under Soviet industrialization. During World War II, he served in the Soviet army, and published a collection of war stories in 1943. From 1948 to 1955, he was in the gulag and then returned to Kiev, where he served on the editorial board of Sovetish heymland. After the war, Polianker had turned to historical themes, which he often treated in folkloric style. He published more than 10 collections of stories and novels. Late in his life, he was active in restoring Jewish cultural life in Ukraine.

Rashkin, Leyb

(1903?–1939), prose writer. Born in Kazimierz (Kuzmir), Poland, Leyb Rashkin (Shaul Fridman) began writing stories in the 1930s. His major work, Di mentshn fun Godl-Bozhits (The People of Godl-Bozhits; 1936), a realistic panoramic portrait of the Polish shtetl, was one of the most important Polish Yiddish debut novels in the 1930s and was awarded a literary prize. Rashkin was murdered while attempting to escape from German occupation to the Soviet Union.

Raskin, Aron

(1910–1986), literary critic and scholar. Aron Raskin was born in Gomel and graduated from the Yiddish Department of the Moscow Pedagogical Institute. He was in the Soviet Army during World War II, and from 1949 taught European literature at the Kursk Pedagogical Institute. Raskin published numerous critical and historical essays on Yiddish, Hebrew, and world literatures in Yiddish and Russian from the late 1930s on, some of which were collected in a volume published in Tel Aviv in 1989.

Rayzman, Eliyohu

(1904–1975), poet. Eliyohu Rayzman was born in Kovel, Ukraine, where he worked as a gaiter maker. He began to publish his poetry in the Bundist Folks-tsaytung. During World War II, he was in the Soviet Union, and then returned to Poland where he worked in agriculture. Between 1950 and 1974, he published six collections of poetry. He died in Szczecin.

Reles, Hirsh

(1913–2004), poet and writer. Hirsh Reles was born in Chashniki, Belorussia, studied Yiddish literature at the Vitebsk and Minsk Pedagogical Institutes, and worked as a teacher. He began to publish poetry in 1931 and in 1939 issued his first collection, Onheyb (Beginning), in Minsk. After World War II, he worked in the Russian and Belorussian press and then began to publish in Yiddish again in 1961 in Sovetish heymland. He published several collections of poetry and stories in Yiddish, Russian, and Belorussian. His Russian memoirs, V krayu svetlykh berez (In the Land of Light Birch Trees; 1997), present a most vivid portrait of Yiddish cultural life in Belorussia from the 1930s on.

Remenik, Hirsh

(1905–1981), critic and literary scholar. Hirsh Remenik was born in Monastyrshchina, Ukraine, graduated from the Odessa Pedagogical Institute, and did graduate work at the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, where in 1937 he submitted a thesis on Sholem Aleichem’s novellas. He later taught Yiddish and Russian literature in Moscow, Minsk, and Gomel, publishing critical articles in Soviet Yiddish periodicals. Remenik was arrested in 1939 and spent 16 years in the gulag. From 1955 to 1964, he taught Russian literature at the Yaroslavl Pedagogical Institute and published several books on Russian literature. Beginning in 1961, he contributed regularly to Sovetish heymland, and in 1964 became head of the critics’ department at that magazine. In 1972, he defended his doctoral thesis on Sholem Aleichem at the Moscow Institute of Literature, based on a book he had published in Russian in 1963. Remenik’s essays, some of which were published in book form in Russian (1975) and Yiddish (1983), present a comprehensive treatment of Soviet Yiddish literature.

Reznik, Lipe

(1890–1944), poet and playwright. Born in Chernobyl, Ukraine, Lipe Reznik lived in Kiev, Grodno, and Moscow, and worked as a teacher and college lecturer of Yiddish language and education. His first book of children’s poetry appeared in 1914, after which he published several collections of poetry and plays, all the while translating Russian classics and medieval Hebrew poetry into Yiddish. Some proletarian critics accused Reznik of symbolism and an escape from reality, but Perets Markish regarded him as one of the founders of Soviet Yiddish poetry and drama. Reznik died in Kazakhstan.

Rives, Yankl

(1885–1975), prose writer. Yankl Rives was born in Osva, Belorussia, worked as a tailor, and was actively involved in the Bolshevik struggle, which remained the primary focus of his fiction, much of which is based on his own experience. His first book was published in 1924, followed by six others.

Rivesman, Mortkhe

(1868–1924), writer, poet, playwright, and translator. Born in Vilna, Mortkhe Rivesman studied in a Russian secondary school and worked as a teacher in a Jewish school. His first publications were Russian stories and translations from Yiddish. He began to publish in Yiddish in 1892, regularly contributed to the newspaper Der fraynd and other Yiddish periodicals, as well to the Russian Jewish press. The recurring theme of his short fiction was the life of the Jewish poor. He spent the last part of his life in Saint Petersburg, where he was active in Jewish public and cultural life, composing and translating plays into Yiddish and Russian.

Rozentsvayg, Ayzek

(1888–1934), literary scholar and critic. Born in Zabludovo, Belorussia, Ayzek Rozentsvayg studied at the teachers’ seminary in Grodno and taught Yiddish language and literature in Vitebsk. In the 1920s, he moved to Odessa and taught Yiddish literature at a pedagogical institute. His first publication appeared in the Warsaw Der fraynd in 1913; he later wrote numerous pedagogical and critical articles on classical and modern Yiddish literature for Soviet Yiddish periodicals. He died in an automobile accident in Odessa.

Serebriani, Yisroel

(1900–1978), critic and literary scholar. Born in Kalinkovichi, Belorussia, to a poor family, Yisroel Serebriany began to work in 1917 in Kiev as a typesetter of Yiddish, served in the Red Army, studied at the university in Minsk, received a candidate of science degree, and worked at the Belorussian Academy of Sciences, where he was head of the Yiddish sector the late 1930s. From 1924 on, he published articles on classical and Soviet Yiddish literature. In 1961, he became a leading critic at the literary magazine Sovetish heymland, where he also published an annotated bibliography of Soviet Yiddish literature.

Shaevich, Simkhe-Bunem

(1907–1944), poet and writer. Born in Tęczyce, Poland, Simkhe-Bunem Shaevich grew up in Łódź. From 1933 he published poetry and short stories, mostly in left-wing papers in Łódź and Warsaw; his first collection of stories was ready for publication in 1939 but was not issued due to the start of the war. In the Łódź ghetto, Shaevich composed profound Holocaust poems that explored traditional concepts such as exile and martyrdom. These works were preserved by survivors and published, posthumously, in 1946.

Shalit, Moyshe

(1885–1941), journalist and communal activist. Born in Vilna to a well-off family, Moyshe Shalit was actively engaged in a wide range of public and philanthropic activities in Russia, Poland, and abroad, among them the PEN club and the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists. In 1906, he published a historical study of the BILU movement in Russian (translated into Yiddish in 1917) as well as articles and reviews in the Yiddish and Russian press, and he edited a number of books and periodicals on politics, culture, and education. He was arrested and murdered immediately after the German occupation of Vilna in July 1941.

Shatskes, Moyshe-Arn

(1825–1899), prose writer. Born into a learned family, Moyshe-Arn Shatskes received a solid Jewish education and later became an adept of the Haskalah. His critical studies of the Talmud and Midrash were condemned by Orthodox rabbis; his most famous Yiddish work is a social satire, Der yidisher far-peysekh (The Jewish Passover Eve; 1881). He spent the last 20 years of his life in poverty in Kiev, contributing to Hebrew and Yiddish publications.

Shatz-Anin, Max

(1885–1975), journalist, historian, and public activist. Max Shatz-Anin was born in Friedrichstadt near Riga and studied law at the universities of Saint Petersburg and Bern; his doctoral thesis dealt with the problem of nationalities. From 1905 he was actively engaged in revolutionary work; from 1913 he practiced law in Riga; and between 1915 and 1919 he lived in Petrograd and Kiev. He then returned to Riga to serve as the legal representative of a Soviet organization. Shatz-Anin was arrested several times for his pro-Communist activities. From 1941 to 1945 he was evacuated to Kazan. He published articles on historical, philosophical, literary, and social themes in Yiddish, Russian, German, and Latvian periodicals; he also wrote several books in Yiddish and Russian. His daughter Miriam Ruta (1927– ), a lawyer, was a member of the Latvian parliament from 1990 to 1997. In 1995, she published a memoir about her father.

Shnaper, Ber

(1906?–1939?), poet. Born in Lwów, Ber Shnaper studied in the Hebrew Teachers’ Seminary in Vienna; from 1932 on he lived in Warsaw. He published his poetry in Warsaw, Vienna, and Lwów periodicals; in 1940 some of his poems appeared in Soviet periodicals. Four collections of his poetry were published in Vienna, Lwów, and Warsaw.

Shpigl, Yeshaye

(1906–1990), poet, writer, and essayist. Yeshaye Shpigl was born and lived in Łódź, taught Yiddish at Central Yiddish School Organization (TSYSHO) schools, and spent the war years in the Łódź ghetto. From 1945 to 1950, he taught in Łódź and Warsaw, and in 1951 immigrated to Israel, where he became a leading Yiddish writer. From 1922, Shpigl wrote for Yiddish periodicals in Poland; in 1930 he published his first collection of poetry; and after his emigration he wrote numerous books of prose, poetry, and literary essays, most of which deal with life and death in the ghetto.

Shteyman, Beynish

(1897–1919), poet and playwright. Born in Kreslavke (now Krāslava, Lat.), Beynish Shteyman studied pharmacology, served in the Russian army in 1917, and then returned to Kreslavke, where he wrote four plays. In 1919 he went to Kiev to study at the teachers’ seminary of the Kultur-lige. He was murdered by the Russian White Army, which had captured the city. Three of his plays (published posthumously) are regarded as masterpieces of modern Yiddish dramaturgy. In 1926, Meshiakh ben Yoysef (Messiah Son of Joseph) was performed in New York, accompanied by a symphony orchestra.

Shvartsman, Osher

(1890–1919), poet. Born near Korostyshev in Volhynia, from 1905 Osher Shvartsman lived in Kiev, worked as a teacher, and later studied commerce in Berdichev. He began to write poetry in Ukrainian but later switched to Yiddish. In 1911, he was drafted into the Russian army, fought in World War I from 1914 to 1917, joined the Red Army in 1919, and was soon killed in action. One of the founding members of the Kiev Group, Shvartsman was posthumously canonized as the “founder of Soviet Yiddish poetry,” although his poems rarely dealt with political or social issues. Influenced by Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik, a distant relative, Shvartsman wrote mostly lyrical poetry in a neoromantic key, sometimes with mystical overtones.

Sito, Fayvl

(1909–1945), prose writer. Fayvl Sito was born Rovno, Volhynia, lost his family during the civil war, and grew up in an orphanage. He studied in Odessa and at the Kharkov Conservatory. His stories about the lives of Jewish orphans in postrevolutionary Russia were based on personal experience, written with warmth and humor, and made him popular with a Yiddish readership. Also popular were his parodies of various Soviet Yiddish writers that were collected in two books (1934, 1938); he additionally wrote plays and translated from Russian and Ukrainian into Yiddish. In 1939–1941, Sito edited a Yiddish magazine for teenagers in Kiev. During the war, he edited an army newspaper and worked for the Moscow Yiddish newspaper Eynikayt.

Slutski, Dov Ber

(1877–1955), short-story writer and journalist. Born in Gorodishche, Ukraine, Dov Ber Slutski lived in Kiev and Birobidzhan. He began his career by publishing Hebrew short stories, but later switched to Yiddish and championed Yiddish education. He contributed to the Hebrew and Yiddish press in Russia and Poland as well as in New York and Buenos Aires. Later he worked for the Soviet Communist press. During the war he lived in Kazakhstan; in 1946 he moved to Birobidzhan, where he worked in the local museum. He was arrested in 1949 and died in prison. His unfinished historical novel about the Bar-Kokhba revolt, Far erd, far frayhayt (For Land, For Freedom), was published in 1991 in Sovetish heymland.

Talalayevski, Motl

(1908–1978), poet, playwright, and writer. Motl Talalayevski was born in a village in Kiev province and from 1919 lived in Kiev, studying at the Yiddish department of Kiev University. He began to publish poetry in 1926; his first book appeared in 1930. During World War II, he edited an army newspaper; until his arrest in 1951, he held a leading position at the Yiddish section of the Ukrainian Union of Writers. Talalayevski’s early poetry was marked by Communist rhetoric mixed with personal lyrical motifs; his postwar prose deals with Jewish tragedy and heroism. His most significant work of the last period is an autobiographical novel in two parts, Der mames bukh (The Mother’s Book; 1977) and Yorshim (Heirs; 1979), which appeared in Sovetish heymland, to which he actively contributed from 1961.

Teyf, Moyshe

(1904–1966), poet. Moyshe Teyf was born in Minsk. In the mid-1920s, he moved to Moscow and worked as a proofreader at Der Emes Press. In 1933, he graduated from the Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, published poetry from the early 1920s, and in the 1930s began to write prose. He was arrested in 1937. During World War II, Teyf was in the Soviet army, and in 1948 he was arrested again. In the 1960s, he contributed to Sovetish heymland. In his early poetry, Teyf attempted to combine revolutionary romanticism with folklore motifs. The Holocaust and the war became his dominant themes in the 1940s; he was one of the few Soviet Yiddish poets who composed anti-Stalinist poetry in the gulag. Thanks to masterful translations into Russian, his Holocaust poetry reached a broad, assimilated Russian Jewish readership.

Tsanin, Mordkhe

(1906– ), writer and journalist. Born in Sokolow-Podliask, Poland, from 1921 Mordkhe Tsanin lived in Warsaw and worked for the Central Yiddish School Organization (TSYSHO). He published short stories, novels in installments, and literary criticism in the left-wing Yiddish press; two collections of his stories were issued in Warsaw in 1933 and 1935. A prolific writer and journalist, he has lived in Israel since 1941.

Tshemerinski, Khayim

(1863–1917), poet, writer, and journalist. Born in Motele, Belorussia, Khayim Tshemerinski, who used the pseudonym Reb Morkhele, published his first essay in the Hebrew journal Ha-Shiloaḥ in 1901. In 1903, he became a permanent contributor to the Yiddish newspaper Der fraynd. Known mostly for his fables and satiric poetry, Tshemerinski was an enthusiastic but poorly organized autodidact. He took upon himself a great variety of political, cultural, and academic endeavors, including Yiddish linguistics and folklore, but was incapable of carrying them through. Shortly before his death, suffering from cancer, he composed his memoirs in Hebrew, providing a wealth of information on life in the shtetl at the end of the nineteenth century.

Umru, Dovid

(1910–1941), prose writer. Born in Alitus, Lithuania, Dovid Umru lived in Kaunas. He began to publish short stories in the Yiddish press in the 1930s; two collections of his short stories appeared in Kaunas in 1937 and 1938. In 1940–1941 he edited the newspaper Vilner emes and served as the director of the Vilna State Yiddish Theater. He was murdered by the Gestapo in July 1941.

Varshavski, Yakir

(1885–1942), writer and journalist. Born in Mława, Poland, Yakir Varshavski contributed to the Hebrew press (from 1908) and to Yiddish periodicals (from 1909); he also taught Hebrew in Warsaw’s schools. Varshavski published his travelogue to Palestine and Egypt (1919), as well as a number of other books in Hebrew in Poland, including short stories for children. His two Yiddish collections were ready for publication in 1939 but did not appear due to the outbreak of World War II. He continued writing in the Warsaw ghetto until the Nazis murdered him in the summer of 1942.

Vaynig, Naftole

(1897–1943), literary critic and folklorist. Born in Tarnów, western Galicia, Naftole Vaynig studied philology at Kraków University and art in Vienna. He also taught in Polish and Jewish schools. From 1917, his critical essays appeared in the press of Vienna and Warsaw, and he contributed studies of Jewish folklore to academic Yiddish publications in Poland. From 1941, he was in the Vilna ghetto, where he continued to teach, write, and collect folklore. His study of Leyb Naydus’s poetry won a literary prize of the Judenrat.

Vaynlez, Yisroel

(1877–?), literary scholar and journalist. Born in Chodorow, eastern Galicia, Yisroel Vaynlez began to publish political articles in the Lemberger togblat in 1919. During World War I, he discovered the archives of the nineteenth-century maskil Yosef Perl in Tarnopol and published a number of studies based on those materials. His other studies dealt with the Haskalah in Galicia and the history of Jews in Lwów. He died during World War II.

Velednitski, Avrom

(1894–1959), poet and literary critic. Avrom Velednitski was born in Radomyshl, Ukraine, and studied law at Kiev University. Following his military service during World War I and the civil war, he taught literature at schools and colleges in Kiev and completed graduate studies in Yiddish literature. From 1922 to 1939, he published four collections of poetry, articles on literature, and school textbooks. During World War II, he served as an officer in the Soviet army, and in 1947 received a candidate of science degree in literature. He was arrested in 1951 and spent five years in the gulag. He died in Kiev.

Volkenshteyn, Dovid

(1891–1960), prose writer. Born in Ukraine, Dovid Volkenshteyn began to publish short stories in Russian before World War I and in Yiddish in 1917. His experimental, rhythmic prose, which did not have plotlines, did not suit the standards of socialist realism. In 1926, he published fragments of his first novel about the civil war; his only book was published in 1929. For ideological reasons, Volkenshteyn’s output diminished in the 1930s.

Voltsonek, Shimen

(1856–?), prose writer. Shimen Voltsonek was born in Lublin and lived in Warsaw, Grodno, and Białystok. He composed suspense and adventure novels for mass readership.

Vulman, Shmuel

(1896–1941), prose writer. Shmuel Vulman was born in Kaluszin, Poland. From 1917, he lived in Warsaw and contributed poetry, articles, reviews, and translations to numerous Yiddish periodicals in Warsaw, Lwów, and Czernowitz. He published collections of poetry, memoirs of the German occupation during World War I, an autobiographical novel, and a number of popular books on history, literature, geography, and other subjects. He was murdered by the Nazis in Kremeniec, Volhynia, where he had fled from Warsaw.

Yelin, Meir

(1910–2000), writer and poet. Meir Yelin was born in Srednik, Lithuania, and lived in Kaunas. From 1928, he published his poetry and stories in the Kaunas Yiddish press. During World War II, he was in the ghetto of that city, escaped to the partisans, and then returned to Kaunas after the war. Although he continued writing in the ghetto, most of his manuscripts were destroyed. The themes of war, the Holocaust, and resistance dominated his postwar writing. A collection of his war stories was published in Moscow in 1972; his works were also published in Russian and Lithuanian. In 1973, Yelin immigrated to Israel. There he published a number of books that received awards in France, Israel, and the United States.

Yofe, Yudl

(1882–1941), prose writer. Yudl Yofe was born in Borzne, near Chernigov, Ukraine. He participated in the revolutionary movement as an anarchist. Yofe lived in Vilna and Smorgon, and from 1921 in Moscow. His first work was published in 1910, and between 1928 and 1941, he published a number of collections of stories and novels.

Yosade, Yankev

(1911–1995), writer, critic, and playwright. Born in Kalvarija, Lithuania, Yankev Yosade (Josade, Jokubas) studied at Kaunas University. From 1935, he contributed to the Yiddish press of Lithuania. During World War II, he fought in the Soviet army and wrote for the Moscow newspaper Eynikayt. After the war, he switched to writing in Lithuanian and occupied a prominent position in Soviet Lithuanian literature and theater. In the 1980s, he reworked his 1946 Yiddish play Itsik Vitenberg about the failed revolt in the Vilna ghetto and published it in Sovetish heymland. In the early 1990s, Yosade gave a series of candid interviews to the Russian Jewish journalist Yevsei Zeitlin. Published in German, this book, Lange Gespräche in Erwartung eines glücklichen Todes (Long Conversations in Waiting for a Happy Death; 2000), presents a sober and bitter account of the alienation and isolation suffered by a Jewish intellectual under the Communist regime.

Zak, Avrom

(1891–1980), poet, writer, and journalist. Avrom Zak was born in Amdur, Belorussia, and served in the Russian army during World War I, at which time he was wounded. In 1919, he moved to Warsaw; in 1939 he fled to the Soviet Union; in 1946 he returned to Poland and in 1948 moved to France, and then in 1952 settled in Argentina. Throughout his life, Zak was actively engaged in Yiddish literary activity, contributed to numerous periodicals, and published a number of collections of poetry, prose, memoirs, and plays.

Zhikhlinski, Reyzl

(1910–2001), poet. Born in Gombin, Poland, Reyzl Zhikhlinski (Rajzel Zychlinsky) lived in Warsaw between 1936 and 1939, and in the Soviet Union during World War II. She returned to Poland in 1947, left for Paris in 1948, and immigrated to the United States in 1951. Zhikhlinski began to publish poetry in 1928, contributing to major Yiddish periodicals in Poland, where she published three collections of poetry (1936, 1939, 1948; the first with an introduction by Itsik Manger).

Zhitnitski, Hersh-Leyb

(1891–1942), writer and journalist. Hersh-Leyb Zhitnitski was born in Szeradz, Poland, and lived in Łódź. From 1920, he lived in Warsaw, and fled to Lwów in 1939. He fell into the hands of the Nazis in 1941, and was deported to a death camp a year later. His first short story appeared in 1913 in Lodzer morgnblat. Zhitnitski worked as an editor of the Warsaw Haynt, contributed to the Yiddish press of Poland, the United States, Argentina, and Palestine, and published two collections of novellas and a novel about World War I in installments. His last book was ready for publication in 1939 but was never published due to the outbreak of the war.

Zilburg, Moyshe

(1884–1941?), literary critic and translator. Born in Molodechno, Belorussia, Moyshe Zilburg took part in revolutionary activity, was arrested, left Russia, and moved to Galicia. He lived in Kraków, Lwów, and Vienna, where he edited the Yiddish literary magazine Kritik (1920–1921). In 1923, he returned to Vilna and worked on various Yiddish literary publications. He began to publish literary criticism around 1908 and later produced several translations from Hebrew, German, and Russian. After the German occupation of Vilna, he was killed in Ponar.

Suggested Reading

Gennady Estraikh, In Harness: Yiddish Writers’ Romance with Communism (Syracuse, N.Y., 2005); Ken Frieden, Classic Yiddish Fiction (Albany, N.Y., 1995); Mikhail Krutikov, Yiddish Fiction and the Crisis of Modernity, 1905–1914 (Stanford, Calif., 2001); Sol Liptzin, A History of Yiddish Literature (Middle Village, N.Y., 1985); Dan Miron, A Traveler Disguised: The Rise of Modern Yiddish Fiction in the Nineteenth Century (Syracuse, N.Y., 1996); David Roskies, Against the Apocalypse: Responses to Catastrophe in Modern Jewish Culture (Cambridge, Mass., 1984); David Roskies, A Bridge of Longing: The Lost Art of Yiddish Storytelling (Cambridge, Mass., 1995); Ruth Wisse, I. L. Peretz and the Making of Modern Jewish Culture (Seattle, 1991).



Appendix based substantially on material provided by Khayim Beider