Shmuel Niger (second from right, hand-numbered “3”), his brother, the writer Daniel Tsharni (second from left, “2”), scholar Jakob Lestschinsky (left, “1”), and others, on a trip to the Alps, ca. 1920s. Photograph by M. Aschwarden. (YIVO)

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Tsharni, Daniel

(1888–1959), Yiddish poet and journalist. The youngest brother of critic Shmuel Niger and political activist Borekh Vladek-Tsharni, Daniel Tsharni (last name also rendered Charney) was born in Dukor, Belorussia. His father died when Tsharni was 18 months old, and his mother, who inherited a small business, worked hard to support her six children. A delicate child, Tsharni received no formal education.

Visitors to a Jewish orphanage in Vilna, 1935. (Left to right) Unidentified, Yiddish writer Daniel Tsharni, historian Simon Dubnow, Tsharni’s wife, Bella Chagall, artist Marc Chagall. These prominent individuals were in Vilna to attend an international scholarly conference at YIVO. (YIVO)

At the age of 14, Tsharni joined his brothers, Shmuel and Borukh, first in Minsk and later in Vilna, where he became familiar with the local intellectual circles. A love poem was published in Hersh Dovid Nomberg’s Vinter-bleter (Winter Almanac) in 1907, and his first story appeared in the Vilna daily Di tsayt (The Times) in 1908. Subsequently, between 1909 and 1914 Tsharni received medical treatment in Vienna and Bern. During World War I, he lived in Moscow and Petrograd and was active in assisting Jewish refugees. Mobilized in 1916, he spent a few months in the Russian army.

Tsharni was the Moscow representative of the Folkspartey and the Kiev-based Kultur-lige. He also was a chair of the Moscow Circle (later called “Moscow Association”) of Yiddish Writers and Artists (1918–1925), whose founders included poet Moyshe Broderzon and artist El Lissitzky. Initially an independent cultural organization, the Moscow Circle developed into a somewhat militant Communist watchdog. By 1918, Tsharni effectively edited the central Communist Yiddish daily Der emes (The Truth), as well as the early Soviet journals Di komunistishe velt (The Communist World) and Kultur un bildung (Culture and Education).

From 1922 to 1924, Tsharni lived in Berlin and in Moscow. He published articles in the Minsk daily Oktyabr (October), criticizing the Moscow journal Der shtrom (The Stream) for elitism. He arrived in New York in 1925, but was rejected by the Ellis Island medical commission and returned to Berlin. A prolific writer and a central figure in the Berlin circle of Yiddish literati, he contributed to periodicals all over the world, most notably the New York daily Der tog (The Day), and was considered “Yiddish ambassador to Europe.”

From Daniel Tsharni in Berlin to Isaac Raboy in New York, 18 September 1929, inviting him to contribute to Brikn (Bridges), the new monthly Yiddish literary journal of which he is the editor, and which will present the best modern Yiddish literature "from the Volga to the Jordan River." Yiddish. Typed and handwritten. Yiddish letterhead: Brikn, Monthly Journal, Publisher: Yatkovksi's Library, Warsaw. RG 372, Isaac Raboy Papers, F26. (YIVO)

Many of Tsharni’s articles were devoted to Soviet Yiddish culture. In the late 1920s, he supported Dovid Bergelson’s pro-Soviet orientation and was an enthusiast of Jewish colonization programs in Crimea. Around 1929, however, his relations with Soviet Yiddish figures became tense, particularly following the appearance of his critical articles on Soviet Yiddish spelling reform. His Soviet colleagues were also displeased with his role as coeditor (with Elias Tcherikower) of the Berlin-based journal Yidishe emigratsye (Jewish Emigration).

After fleeing Germany in late 1934, Tsharni attempted to settle in Riga, Vilna, and Warsaw, but his Soviet citizenship made this difficult. He moved to Paris and lived there from the end of 1936 until the beginning of 1941, when he was admitted to the United States. In New York, he continued writing and also worked as secretary of the Y. L. Peretz Writers Union and later of the Yiddish PEN club. He spent the last 12 years of his life in sanatoriums for tubercular patients.

Tsharni’s volumes of memoirs—Mishpokhe-khronik (Family Chronicle; 1927 and 1935), Barg aroyf (Uphill; 1935), A yortsendlik aza (Such a Decade; 1943), Dukor (1951), Vilne (Vilna; 1953) and Di velt iz kaylekhdik (The World Is Round; 1963)—represent an important source of information about the life of his generation of Yiddish activists.

Suggested Reading

Gennady Estraikh, “Yiddish Literary Life in Soviet Moscow, 1918–1924,” Jews in Eastern Europe 2 (2000): 25–55; Moyshe Shalit, ed., Daniel Tsharni-bukh (Paris, 1939).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1171, Bertha Kling, Papers, 1907-1978; RG 1174, Isaac Metzker, Papers, 1930s-1970s; RG 232, Abraham Reisen, Papers, 1924-1948; RG 234, Solomon Simon, Papers, 1932-1969; RG 238, Israel Chaim Pomerantz, Papers, ca. 1925-1960s; RG 248, National Refugee Service, Records, 1938-1946; RG 275, Eliezer Schindler, Papers, 1930s-1950s; RG 279, Moshe Starkman, Papers, 1942-1973; RG 282, Lamed Shapiro, Papers, ca. 1934-1947; RG 332, Henoch Gelernt, Papers, 1930s-1950s; RG 353, Jacob Glatstein, Papers, 1920s-1960s; RG 357, Mark Schweid, Papers, ca. 1920s-1969; RG 360, Shmuel Niger, Papers, 1907-1950s; RG 366, Isaac Nachman Steinberg, Papers, 1910s-1950s; RG 367, Malka Lee, Papers, 1916-1964; RG 408, Arthur Schechter, Papers, 1940-1968; RG 414, Meir Kastoff, Papers, 1901-1959; RG 421, Daniel Charney, Papers, 1920s-1959; RG 439, Chaim Gutman, Papers, 1913-1960; RG 453, Mendl Elkin, Papers, 1913-1961; RG 454, David and Leah Tomback, Papers, 1930s-1960s; RG 457, Ezra Korman, Papers, 1926-1959; RG 471, Solomon Damesek, Papers, ca. 1944-1959; RG 473, Jacob Adler, Papers, 1890s-1970; RG 476, Boruch Rivkin, Papers, 1930s-1960s; RG 479, Benjamin Jacob Bialostotzky, Papers, ca. 1929-1963; RG 485, Israel London, Papers, ca. 1947-1964; RG 500, Alexander Pomerantz, Papers, 1920s-1960s; RG 515, Moshe Sorgen, Papers, 1930s-1960s; RG 518, Mattes Deitch, Papers, 1920s-1960s; RG 519, Rose Bachelis-Shomer, Papers, 1911-1956; RG 556, Aaron Glanz-Leieles, Papers, 1914-1966; RG 558, Harry (Yitzhak Hersh) Radoshitzky, Papers, 1909-1955; RG 569, Shlomo Bickel, Papers, 1920s-1969; RG 599, Noah Goldberg, Papers, 1930-1968; RG 609, Ephraim Auerbach, Papers, 1924-1969; RG 624, Mordecai Jaffe, Papers, 1909-1960; RG 639, Day–Morning Journal, Records, 1922-1972; RG 722, Shea Tenenbaum, Papers, 1940s-1960s; RG 753, Reuben Iceland, Papers, 1906-1954.