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Beider, Khayim

(1920–2003), Yiddish poet, journalist, and literary historian. The son of an artisan, Khayim (Efim in Russian publications) Beider was born in the shtetl of Kupel, near Proskurov (mod. Khmel’nyts’kyi), Ukraine. After finishing the local seven-year Yiddish school, Beider studied at the Odessa Yiddish Teachers’ Training College and a rabfak (workers’ faculty) in Zhitomir, and from 1936 to 1940 at the Yiddish department of the Odessa Teachers’ Training Institute. After graduating in 1940, he worked as a teacher in the Stalindorf Jewish National District, one of three such Jewish districts in pre–World War II Ukraine.

During the war, Beider lived in Tajikistan, working as a journalist for a local Russian newspaper. He returned to Ukraine in 1946 and lived in Khmel’nyts’kyi and Kam’ianets’-Podil’s’kyi, continuing his journalist career at local Ukrainian dailies. He moved to Birobidzhan in 1971 and worked as a staff journalist for the Yiddish newspaper Birobidzhaner shtern. Subsequently, in 1973 Beider was invited to Moscow to join the editorial staff of Sovetish heymland, first as an editor and then as deputy editor in chief. By that time, many of its editors and contributors had died, emigrated, or severed their connections with the journal’s authoritarian editor, Aron Vergelis. The hardworking Beider helped the publication to endure until 1991. In 1998 he settled in New York.

Beider’s first poetic publication appeared in 1933 in the central Soviet Yiddish children’s newspaper Zay greyt. He later published poems in other Soviet Yiddish periodicals; however, his hopes to produce an anthology in the late 1940s could not be realized because Yiddish publishing was no longer permitted by the Soviet authorities. Beider ended up burning his own manuscript. After 1961, Sovetish heymland became the main outlet for his poetic and other publications. His first poetic collection of poems, Khanukes-habayes (A New Home), was ultimately produced by the Moscow publishing house Sovetskii Pisatel’ in 1979.

In the end, poetry was not Beider’s real forte. More significant is the imprint left by his numerous articles, in Yiddish and Russian, devoted to history of Yiddish literature and culture. Many of these are included in his 1991 collection Di vegn, vos mir antdekn (The Ways That We Find).

Beider was especially interested in such topics as Mendele Moykher-Sforim’s life and work, the cultural history of Birobidzhan, and biographies of Soviet Yiddish writers and other cultural and political activists. His encyclopedic knowledge of Yiddish literature, particularly of its Soviet period, and his exceptional willingness to work made him very popular among Sovetish heymland’s contributors, including younger Yiddish literati. The more propitious climate of the late Soviet Union and early post-Soviet Russia allowed him to realize some of his numerous projects, most notably creating Yiddish teaching materials for children. Yet many of Beider’s manuscripts remained unpublished, most notably his biographic and bibliographic dictionary of Soviet Yiddish literary figures and collections of letters written by Soviet Yiddish writers. In New York, he briefly edited the Yiddish journal Di tsukunft, and regularly contributed to the Yiddish weekly Forverts.

Suggested Reading

Chaim Beider, comp., Native Land: A Selection of Soviet Jewish Writers (Moscow, 1980); Yehiel Shraybman, “Khayim Beyder—tsu zayn alt vern 80 yor,” Forverts (28 April 2000); Alexander Tverskoy, ed., Yiddish Writers Almanac: Year After Year; Selections from Sovietish Heimland Monthly (Moscow, 1987), pp. 43–51.