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[Col. 197]

11. Writers

Suwalk and its neighbouring 9 towns did not contribute leading names to Hebrew and Yiddish literature, but it did produce writers who made worthy contributions to Yiddish and especially Hebrew literature of the 19th century. Some of them wrote in other languages as well.


Yosef Sheynhak

One of the earliest Hebrew writers from Suwalk was Yosef Sheynhak, born in 1812.[1] His father, Binyamin Dov and his mother, Sarah Rahel were from Stavisk. Sheynhak himself was born in Tiktin but came to Suwalk when he was quite young. He lived in Suwalk most of his life until he died. His brother-in-law was one of the head of the Suwalk congregation. Moshe Krakovski, as can be seen from the list of subscribes in Sheynhak's “Sefer Hamiluim”. It is possible that he settled in Suwalk after marrying Krakovski's sister. All of his books were published while he was living in Suwalk, which proves that he left Tiktin while he was still young. In his “Toldot Haarets” published in 1841, he writes on the title page: “Born in Tiktin and living in Suwalk”. From the introduction to this book (p.28), we can see that he was living in Suwalk already in 1840. At any rate, Sheynhak was living in Suwalk by the age of 27-28 and possibly earlier.[1*]

Yosef Sheynhak

Sheynhok often travelled to Warsaw and spent lengthy periods of time there in connection with his books. His family always remained in Suwalk.

[Col. 198]

In the introduction of his “Hamashbir” he thanks his brother-in-law, Moshe Krakovski, “who cared for my household and my children all the time I was in Warsaw”. This shows that all those who refer to Sheynhok as a “maskil from Warsaw” are mistaken.

Sheynhak knew many languages: (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Aramaic, etc.) for without such knowledge, he would not have been able to write many of his books. We do not know whether he studied these languages formally or whether he was an exceptionally talented auto dictate.

In his “Toldot Haarets” (Warsaw 601{1840-1841}, he explains the “wonders of the Creator of Genesis”according to the expression used by R'Yitshak Ayzik Heber in his approbation. This was one of the first natural history books in Hebrew.

Fishel Lackower, the well-known critic of Hebrew literature writes: “among the earliest writers who spread knowledge of the world and nature among readers of Hebrew was also Yosef Sheynhak of Suwalk'.[2]

Sheynhak's book: “Sefer Hamashbir o Arukh Hehadash” (Warsaw 1858) explains the roots of the words in the Bible, Talmud, commentaries, etc, and compares them with many other languages.[3] It is continued by 'Sefer Hamiluim o Mashbir Hehadash” (Warsaw 1867). The latter book has approbations from R'Yitshak Elhanah, R'Shemuel Avigdor Tosfah of Karlin, and others.

Many well-known writers of the time, such as S.Y. Fuenn, for example, praised Sheynhak's works.[4]

Y.S. Staropolski did not exaggerate when he wrote, at Sheyhok's death, that “the wise and famous great rabbi and commentator” had died.[5] Sheynhok died in 1870 and was eulogized by the rabbi of Suwalk, R'Eliezer Simhah Rabinovits.

[Col. 199]

In his time, Sheynhok was so well known that a collective picture of “the wise men and writers of Israel”, photos of the most famous Jewish intellectuals and writers of old Russia, also included his photo.[6] This photograph is now very rare.

In the subscription list to his book “Sefer Hamiluim” there is one noted as “my son, R'Shemuel Sheynhak”. This Shemuel published a commentary on “Job” (Warsaw 656{1895-1896} and “Proverbs” (Warsaw 655{1894-1895}. He was born in 1835 and died in 1913.

Sheynhok's brother, Zvulun Aryeh Leyb lived in Stavisk.


Yehudah Leyb Paradistal[7]

One of the most interesting writers of Suwalk is Yehudah Leyb Paradistal. Unfortunately, there is very little information about his life. We know about his birthplace and only the little that is found in his introduction to his book “Maarekhet Mikhtavim”[8] (Warsaw 1853-. Here he writes “I was born in a small village in a Lithuanian district and played there with the village children until I was fourteen years old”. He was born in a village in the Suwalk area or near it. In 1841, Paradistal was in Suwalk because his name is in the subscription list of people from Suwalk in Sheynhok's “Teldot Haarets”, published that year.

In 1862,[9] Paradistal founded the first Hebrew school in Suwalk. Two years later, the school was making good progress and we can estimate that Paradistal remained in Suwalk until about the end of the sixties. Then he moved to Warsaw but we do not know exactly when or how long he stayed there. It is clear, however, that he wrote his books in Suwalk and not in Warsaw.

Years before Paradistal opened his school in Suwalk, he gave private lessons in German, French and Hebrew. The Hebrew writer, Miriam Markel-Mozezon studied these languages with him in Suwalk in 1854-1857.[10]

[Col. 200]

When was Paradistal born? The date is not known, but we may estimate that it was between 1815 and 1820. We base ourselves on the fact that his name is among the subscribers to A.B. Goftlober's “Pirshe Heaviv” which was published in 1837, and it is not logical to suppose that a young boy in Suwalk or in a nearby town would subscribe to a book by Goftlober.

We learn about Paradistal's role in the great Jewish center of Warsaw from Dr. Y.Shatzki; “Yehudah Leyb Paradistal, a man from Suwalk, was reckoned as being one of the finest Hebraists in Warsaw. He published a guide to the composition of letters (1853) and he was the son-in-law of Daniel Nayfildn, later editor of “Yutsenka”.[11]

Paradistal was without doubt a very fine Hebraist, not only in Warsaw. When we read his books we can but wonder at the purity of his Hebrew at a time when Hebrew writing was full of flowery figures of speech. Even the poems published at the end of “Maarekhet Mikhtavim”, which are more flowery, are also written with restraint – for that time – and are far from the “ats kotses lekatsets”[2*] found in “Hamelits” or “Hatsefirah”, etc. Even his punctuation is much more precise than that of other Hebrew writers.

His second work was “Zekher Rav” (Vilna, 1863) by R'Binyamin Mosfia Hasefardi, edited by Paradistal. In the introduction, he attempts to explain why not all Jews understand Hebrew.

Yosef Brill (“Iyov”) of Minsk, criticized Paradistal's grammar in 1878.[12]

Paradistal wrote the necrology for Yehudah Leyb Rozntal, the famous and rich communal worker in Peterburg, published in “Hamagid” of 1858 (n°43)[13]

[Col. 201]

Yitshak Zibenberger

One of the most important Hebrew writers of the end of the first half and beginning of second half of the 19th Century was Yitshak, son of David Zibenberger. But it is strange that this important writer is seldom mentioned in a Jewish encyclopaedia[14] and we have very meagre information about him.

Dr. Y.Shatsky writes that Zibenberger was born in 1803[15] and that he was “the most popular maskilic writer in Warsaw” of his time. He was a teacher and was not known by his real name but was called R'itsikl the grammarian.[16]

Dr. Shatzki does not tell about his background but Ephraym Deinard, who travelled around Easter Europe in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, met many local Jewish writers and people active in cultural matters. He writes that Zibenberger came from Suwalk (or in Suwalk).[17] It is obvious that he was born in Warsaw, as can be seen from the introduction to his “Maagal Yashar” (Warsaw 1850) where he writes that he is “one of those born in Warsaw” but he lived in Suwalk for some time.

“Maagdal Yashar” is a grammar book which went through three editions. At the end of the book, there are stories in “Judeo-German”. Paradistal's style is better and purer {than Zibenberger's}.

Zibenberger's most important work is his “Otsar Hasharashim Hakelali” (Warsaw 660,610,623 {1845-1846/1849-1850/1862-1863} which explains the roots of Hebrew, Aramaic, etc., words in the Bible and Talmud. The fourth section of the book was not published. The book is three times as big as Been Zeev's.[18]

Zibenberger is also known as Zibenberg and Zibenbirgen as, for example, in his comments in “Megilat Yehudit” (Warsaw 1840). He also published the book “Sefer Barukh Vetefilat Menashah Vetefilat Azaryah” in Hebrew and Yiddish with explanations and commentaries (Warsaw 601{1840-1841}; “Haye Tuvyah” (Warsaw 1839) and “Sifre Makabi” (Warsaw 1843).

[Col. 202]

Yitshak Zibenberg died on 9 Nisan 639{1879}.[19]


Yosef Finklshteyn

Yosef Finklshteyn was a completely unknown writer from the Suwalk area who travelled to Hungary at the beginning of 1840. In his book “Mekore Minhagim” (Amsterdam 613{1852-1853}[20], he is mentioned as “from Mishkoltts” since, it seems, he lived there. A second edition was published in Warsaw 634{1873-1874}.

Yosef Finklshteyn was a cousin of the well-known Suwalk Lover of Zion, R'Mordekhay Eliezer Althshuler.[21] His mother lived in Mariampol.


T”P. Shapira

T”P. (Tuvyah Pesah) Shapira was one of the famous writers from the Suwalk area of the period under study.

He was born in Saini in 1845. His father, R'Meir Halevi, an important householder and observant Jew, moved to Filipowe in the fifties. He travelled much all over Europe, was a teacher in Zakratsin, Vlatslavek and Plock. He was a successful pedagogue in Lodz for a number of years. In 1874, Shapira founded a school in Saini, which had a good reputation but did not last long. In 1881, he came to America. He was not able to adjust and left.[22]

From the end of the sixties, T”P. Shapira became active in the struggle for Haskalah and Hebrew. His “Mikhtavim Mipolin”, especially about Hebrew education in Russia, made an important impression at the time they were published.

T”P.Shapira carried on correspondence with the greatest maskilim of his time: P.Smolenskin; Y.L. Gordon; S.Y. Fuenn; M.L. Lilienblum; H.Z. Slonimski, and others.

T”P.Shapira wrote many books. His guide to writing letters; “Et Ivri” (Warsaw 638,643{1877-1878/1882-1883} excels in its beautiful and pure language. Some of his 91 model letters could be used even today. His “Mishle Av” was published in Pietrokov in 1907.

[Col. 203]

The other books are: “Sipurim” (Warsaw 631{1870-1871}, “Yad Veet” (Vilna 651{1890-1891}, “Over Lesoher” (Warsaw 636{1875-1876}, “Shpinozah” {Spinoza} (Warsaw 658{1897-1898}. His son, Dr. Yisrael Shapira, published two of his father's books: “Mashal Hakadmoni” (Philadelphia 1925); “Pitgamim shel Hakhamim (New York 1927). Some of his manuscripts are in the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Many articles by T”P. Shapira are scattered in the pages of Hatsefirah, Hamelits, Hamgid, Hakarmel, Hashahar, Nogah Hayareah, Keneset Yisrael, Gan Shaashuim, and others.[23]

T”P. Shapira died in 1924 in Kalverie where he lived in his daughter's house during the last years of his life.


Yehiel Maharich

The man with this strange sounding name was a writer from Suwalk. He grew up and was educated in Suwalk and was probably born there too. In the approbations on his book; “Sefer Hadeot Vehamidot”, written by Avraham Natan, son of Rabbi H. Shterin and Yaakov, son of Rabbi A. both of Suwalk, it is said:[24][3*] Yehiel Maharich lived in Suwalk in his youth and in middle age.

This family name {i.e. Maharich} is unique. We have found no other name like it either in the subscribers' lists from Suwalk, or from other cities. It is possible that the name derives from an acronym. Nowhere can this name be found with the “usually” used with acronyms. Therefore, we must assume that Maharich is a real family name.[4*]

There is an introduction to the book by Rabbi Naftali Tsevi Yehudah Berlin. There are also approbations from Dovberish Mayzlish, head of the religious court in Warsaw; Meir Leybush Malbim, head of the religious court in Bucarest; Shemuel Avigdor Tosfah, head of the religious court in Karlin; R'Yisrael Salanter; R'Yehosua Yehudah Leyb, son of R'Binyamin, head of the religious court in Blomze, as well as by the famous Adam Hakohen Lebenzon.

[Col. 204]

Yehudah Narman, secretary of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris, writes that the society has decided to buy 10 copies of the book.

Yehiel Maharich died at 48 in 1873. In the notice of his death, the correspondent, Y.Z. Staropolski, asks that assistance should be sent to his widow and children.[26]


Aryeh Dov Fridman

Aryeh Dov Fridman (Leyb Ber) was born in Suwalk in 1845. He published about 20 books.[27] He lived in Saini for a long time and some of his books bear his name as “from Saini”.

Aryeh Dov Fridman was one of the first Lovers of Zion in Warsaw where he lived from 1877 until 1892. He formed the first group of Lovers of Zion.

In the nineteens' he left for America. He was a teacher in Worcester, Troy, Rochester and for a time, a rabbi.

Fridman wrote in “Hamagid”; “Hatsafirah” and others as well as in the American Yiddish Press.

Aryeh Dov Fridman died in 1929 in Indianapolis, America.[28][5*]


Apolan Finknshteyn

We lack most of the biographic data for this writer. We do not know his correct name or where he was born. Some say that his real name was Yaakov Aba Finklshtteyn and, according to S.L. Taitran, he came from Saini.

Finknshteyn was born around 1850. He left for England when quite young. He was very knowledgeable and knew many languages very well. He worked for the “London Times”. At first, he was a radical, and later, a Lover of Zion. For many years, he worked together with Israel Zangwill in ITO. He made the first translation of Dr. Pinsker's “Auto-Emancipation” into English.[29]


Miriam Markel Mozeszon

There was a woman too who proved her ability with the pen among the former Suwalk residents. Her name was Miriam Markel. In 1869 she published her Hebrew translation of a German novel by Eugen Rispart (Dr. Frankolm). At the beginning of the translation, there was a letter from Yehudah Leyb Gordon which is full of admiration and written from Telz: “Your book is dearer to me than gold or the pure gold of Ophir. You are blessed, our sister….may you serve as a model to Jews of thousands”.

On the title page of this book, the translator mentions that she is the daughter of Shimon and Hayah Verzbolovski and that her husband is Anshel Markel.[30]

This is the same Miriam Verzbolovski who published an article in “Hamagid”[31] about schools for girls, with a warm approbation from Avraham Mapu. Mapu also wrote her some private letters.

In Sholem Aleichem's famous “Di Yidshe Folks Bibliothek” Y.Weissberg includes Miriam Mozeszon among the educated Jewish women {of the time}.

[Col. 206]

It is interesting to read Sholem Aleichem's comment on her that she would collaborate in the “Folks Bibliothek”: “we are proud of such a colleague and wish that we could meet many such women among our sisters”.[32]

Thus, the translator and correspondent from Suwalk, Miriam Verzbolovski was admired by the greatest Hebrew poet of his generation, Y.L. Gordon; by the greatest Hebrew prose writer of his time, Avraham Mapu; and by the great Yiddish classicists, Sholem Aleichem.

Miriam Markel Mozezon was the first woman writer of Hebrew to correspond with Y.L. Gordon, and the correspondence lasted for nineteen years. The famous Hebrew poet dedicated one of his most important poems “Kotso Shel Yod” whose central theme is the Jewish woman, to Miriam Markel.

M.Markel used the initials M.M.M. to sign other articles which she published in the Hebrew press.

Her first literary work: “Hapalit MiYerushalayim” (a translation of Philipsons' “the refugee from Jerusalem”) was never published.

Miriam was born in 1841 in Volkovishk, province of Suwalk. At age 13, she and her parents moved to Suwalk where she studied Hebrew, German and French with Yehudah Leyb Paradistal. At 15, she knew the entire Bible. Her first husband was Anshil Markel. In Kovne she married for a second time to Mozeszon. She lived through many years of wandering with her second husband. From 1875 to 1914, they lived in Vienna. She lived the last three years of her life in Grayeve where she died in 1921.[33]


Aharon Tsevi Frenkl

Frenkl was born in Suwalk in 1852 and died in America in 1903. He published some works in English, for example: “In God We Trust”. He was a great proponent of vegetarianism and published a book in English on the subject.[34]

[Col. 207]

Salomon Rubin

One of the most interesting personalities, both as a writer and as a human being, was Salomon Rubin. From his autobiography published nine years ago, we learn his life story.[35] He was born in Suwalk in 1852. At age 14, he graduated from the local Talmud Torah and Yeshivah. He continued studying secretly on his own. He studied German and general studies. In 1870, he married Mirl Segal from Suwalk. Somehow he later got to Pressburg. There he studied in the Pressburg Yeshiva (founded in 1803) by R'Moshe, son of Shemuel Shrayber (Sofer) and was ordained by him. He then went to Paris. Thanks to Rabbi Zadok Kohn, he got a position as rabbi in Alsace-Lorrain where he served for 11 years. At the end of the eighties, he was sent to Spain as an emissary of the Parisian Jewish communal workers, to find a way to open that country to Jewish immigration. His mission was covert and his cover story was that he was going to open a Bet Midrash in Madrid. The well-known journalist of the time, Ermand Levi, gave him a letter of recommendation to Kastelar, the ex-president of the Spanish republic.

Nothing came of this mission and Rubin settled in Bayonne where he became an assistant to Aristide Astrukh {Eli-Aristide Astruc, 1831-1905} former chief rabbi of Belgium. He translated the Hoshen Mishpat into French. He also published a comparative lexicon of Greek and Hebrew: “Shoresh Ve-anaf”. At that time, he wrote two long philosophic poems, one of which, in Hebrew which he sent to the ex-Emperor of Brazil – Don Pedro, who studied Hebrew.[36]

After some years in Marseille, Salomon Rubin left for America in 1892. In 1894, he prepared the handwritten catalogue of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts in the famous Sutro Library which is part of the California State Library system.

Rubin's greatest work is a book on Psalms, upon which he worked for 20 years. It is 1300 pages. It was later translated by him from English into Hebrew as “Nahlat Reuven” and he added to it a commentary on Ecclesiasts.


Shemuel Rozntal

Shemuel Rozntal was born in Suwalk in 1838. He was a professional writer on chess. He edited a number of chess journals in French and also wrote on the subject. He was active in the Second Polish Rebellion and after its failure, he fled to Paris where he became a famous chess player. He participated in many international chess competitions. In 1883 he received a prize in London for his playing along with the famous chess master, Shteinitz. {Wilhelm Steinitz}. Rozntal died in Paris in 1902.[37]


Asher Margaliot

Asher, son of Yehudah Leyb Margaliot, was rabbi and a maskil. He was born in Psherosle in 1827 and was a student of R'Hayim Filipower. Yosef Rozntal called him: “The illustrious rabbi, outstanding in Torah and wisdom and enlightened in fear of the Lord”. As proof of this, he brings R'Asher's book: “Nahlat Asher” (New York 672{1911-1912} published by his sons in America). Asher Margaliot also published Mendelssohn's “Phaedon” (in partnership with Berkman). From time to time, he wrote articles in the Hebrew press. He died in 1887 in Kalvarie.[38]


Morris Rosenfeld

The famous Yiddish poet, Morris Rosenfeld, came from the village Boksha, not far from Saini in Suwalk province, where he was born in 1862. In 1875 his parents returned from Warsaw where they had lived for four years. He wrote about his Suwalk years: «I led an idle middle class life there, studied a bit in the Bet Hamidrash and learned to sew a bit on the machine in my father's workshop”.[39] Rosefeld also tells that his poems, to which he himself composed melodies, were already being sung in Suwalk and the Jews of Suwalk were probably the first to do so.[40]

[Col. 209}

At 18, he was married to Osne-Beyle Yavorovski[41], daughter of a Suwalk merchant. In 1882, he came to America but quickly returned home. In 1883, he settled in London where he worked as a tailor. There, he began to write his first proletarian poems. That same year he returned to Suwalk where his wife earned a living making wigs.

From 1886, Rosenfeld lived in America. He continued writing his poetry and soon became one of the most popular and beloved Yiddish poets, whose songs were sung in homes and in factories. But his success did not last very long. After a while, he was forgotten. He left the Forward because of a controversy and was thus removed from the masses of his readers – the Jewish working class. They were absent too from his funeral in 1922 – those members of the working class for whom he had written all his life.[42]


Yosef Rozntal

Yosef Rozntal was one of the well-known Hebrew writers of the last decades in the past century. He worked for many years in “Hamelits” where he published many articles. He also wrote for “Halevanon” and “Hakarmel” on matters of science and current events. He began his literary career in “Hamagid” with a number of articles on philology.

[Col. 210]

He also worked on the “Eshkol” encyclopaedia.

Some of his response were published in “Divre Mosheh” by R'Moshe Zaks (Vilna 666{1905-1906}. Two responses were published in “Hamelits” (under the pseudonym: “Hatsair” and “One of the students of Hillel”).

Rozntal published a large work on “Sefer Yetsirah” in “Keneset Yisrael” in 1887.

He published four of his long articles in book format under the title “Derekh Emunah” (Warsaw 654{1893-1894}. Rabbi Shimon Rubinshteyn published a sharply critical pamphlet on this book under the same title “Derekh Emunah”. His book “Ayelet Hashahar” was published in Berlin in 1892.[6*]

An approbation by him may be found in “Mistore Yam Hatalmud” by Yeruham Zabludovski (Warsaw 1896).

Yosef Rozntal was a famous chess player. In 1885 he won the first prize at the competition in Druzgenik.

His name appears on almost every subscription list from Suwalk. Yosef, son of R'Mordekhay Rozntal was born in Suwalk in 1844. He moved to Warsaw in the nineties where he worked as a lawyer. His death in 1913 was mentioned in the Hebrew press.[43]


Eliezer Dov Liberman

Eliezer Dov Liberman came from Pilvishak where he was born in 1819. His father, R'Tsevi Hirsh, was a ritual slaughterer. As a boy, he studied in Lune (Province of Grodno) and married the daughter of the local rabbi, R'Itsele. His father-in-law wanted him to inherit the rabbinical position in Lune and sent him away to study in the Slabodke Yeshiva. Instead of becoming a rabbi, the young man from Pilvishak became a maskil and never returned to Lune. He and his family settled in Suwalk around 1848-49. He was there four years and then moved to Bialystok. There, and in the neighbouring towns, he earned his living by giving private lessons in Hebrew and German to members of rich families. At the end of 1867, he came back to Suwalk where he remained until 1885.[44]

[Col. 211]

When he came to Suwalk the second time, he had already published two books: “Megilat Sefer” (Johannesburg[7*] 614{1853-1854}[45], and “Tsedakah Vemishpat” by S.D. Luzzato, translated from German (Vilna, 1866). He wrote his third book in Suwalk: “Ge Hizayon” which was published in Warsaw 649{1888-1889}. He also wrote correspondence, articles and novella in various Hebrew journals (Hatsefirah, Hakol, etc).

E.D. Liberman published the second edition of Dr. Yisrael Zabludavski's “Hayaldut Vehashaharut” (Warsaw 1893). A letter of approbation by him, which was written in Suwalk in 637{1876-1877} appears in “Beveten Haadamah”, translated by Yisrael Zeev, son of Naftali Shperling (Warsaw, 638{1877-1878}.

Eliezer Dov Liberman was the father of Aharon Shemuel Liberman[8*], the famous editor of the first Socialist periodical in Hebrew, “Haemet”. He died in 1897.


Yehudah Vistinetski

The name of R'Yehudah Vistinetski was an important one in the Hebrew press of long ago. He wrote very serious articles and many novellas in most of the Hebrew periodicals of the seventies and eighties. David Gardan, publisher of “Hamagid”, regarded his writing very highly.[9*].

The organizers of “Mekitshe Nirdamim” trusted Vistinetski to edit the “Sefer Hasidim” based on a manuscript in Parma, Italy. Vistinetski's proof-reading, comments, corrections and indexes of this edition of the famous book was of great scholarly value. (Berlin 651{1890-1891}.[10*]

Yehudah Vistinetski was born in 1843 in Psherosle, lived in Ratzk, Baklerowe and Suwalk. He also tried his luck in America where he spent five years in Buffalo.

[Col. 212]

But he could not adjust to America and returned to Suwalk. Vistinetski died in 1908.[45*]


Yaakov Bakhrakh[11*]

Yaakov Bakhrakh, the great scholar of Karaite literature, was born in Saini in 1824. His father, R'Moshe, was the son of the famous R'Yehudah Bakhrach (HaGRY”B). He was an expert in Talmud and commentaries but he did not take a rabbinic post. He earned his living from a distillery.

Yaakov Bakhrakh published a number of books of which the best known is: “Sefer Hahash Liktav Ashuri” (Warsaw 614{1853-1854}.[46]


Garsan Moshe Yisrael {sic}

Garsan was born in Ratzk in 1861. His father was Gershon Mordekhay and his mother was Sara (Rozalski). He began publishing in “Hakol” and in “Hamelits” at a very early age. Later, he also published in “Hatsefirah”.

In 1881, Garsan came to America. There, he was a merchant. From time to time, he published poems in “Ner Hamaravi”; “Hadevorah” and “Haivri”. In the nineties, he became very friendly with M.M. Dolitski whose poems he published at his own expense. Moshe Yisrael Garsan died in Perth Amboy, New Jersey.[47]


Avraham Rozntal

Avraham, son of R'Zalman Rozntal, was born in Suwalk in 1875. In 1898, he graduated from the Medical Faculty[12*]. He was a doctor in Moscow and Berlin. In 1924, he settled in Erets Yisrael and served as a member of the editorial board of “Harefuah” – a medical journal. He published articles on medicine in Russian and Hebrew.


Vilyam Pokhotski

Pokhotski's father, who came from Suwalk, was exiled to Tomsk, Siberia for his participation in the second Polish uprising. There, Vilyam was born in 1881.

[Col. 213]

In 1896, the whole Pokhotski family returned to Suwalk. Vilyam was arrested because of his Bund activities in Suwalk.

In 1905, he came to America. He published stories and articles in various newspapers. He worked for the “Morgn Zshurnal” from 1915 writing under the pen name “Graf Pototski”.[48] He died in New York.


Yisrael Shapira[13*]

T”P Shapira's son, Yisrael, followed in his father's footsteps both in scholarship and in writing. Yisrael Shapira was born in Saini in 1882. At the age of 12, he was sent to study at the Telz Yeshivah. Later he studied in the gymnasium in Suwalk. He also studied at the universities of Berlin and Strasbourg where he received his doctorate.

In 1907, he became a teacher in the teachers' seminary of “Ezrah” in Jerusalem. From 1914, he was head of the Semitic Division of the Library of Congress in Washington. He was Professor of Semitic at Washington University. In his last years, he lived in Israel where he died in 1957.

Yisrael Shapira began his literary activity while very young. He wrote for Hamelits, Hatsefirah, Hamagid, Hayehudi, Haivri, Miklat, Hadoar and other periodicals.[49] Shapira published many scholarly works such as:

  1. Die Haggadische Elemente im Erzählenden Teil des Korans. (1902 – Leipzig).
  2. Leviticus XXVII im Lichte des Talmuds. (1909).
  3. Schiller and Goethe im Habräischen. (1935).
  4. Perush Mishnayot shel HaRambam. (Jerusalem 670{1909-1910}).
  5. Otsar Tirgumim Ivrim Misifrut Hagermanit (694{1933-1934}).
  6. Otsar Tirgumim Ivrim Misifrut Haanglit (689{1928-1929}).

Aharon Tsevi Romanovski

Romanovski was born in the village of Gubi near Saini in 1885. His mother was a cousin of Morris Rosenfeld. He spent part of his youth in Suwalk. He and a group of friends published a children's journal for which he wrote poetry.[14*]

[Col. 214]

In 1904, Romanovski went to London where he graduated from University. He was one of the chief participants in Moris Mayer's “Di Tsayt”. Romanovski was president of Poale Tsiyon in England for many years.[50]


David Aryeh Fridman

One of the well-known critics of Hebrew literature and art – David Aryeh Fridman – was born in Suwalk in 1889. He was the son of the chief rabbi of the city, R'Hayim Mendl. He studied in yeshivot then graduated from Kohen's gymnasium in Vilne. Fridman received his doctorate from the University of Moscow and later specialized in ophthalmology in Berlin and Vienna. At the time of the First World War, he was a military doctor on the Russian front. After the war, he returned to Suwalk where he was very active in communal life. He was especially active in working for the revival of Hebrew culture and the development of sport for Jews.

In Moscow, he was one of the founders and editors of “Mada” together with Buki ben Yogli, Shal Tchernichowsky, Prof. Mints and others. He edited the bibliographic journal “En Hakore” together with Dr. Tsevi Vislovski. Dr. Fridman's first article (about Bialik) was published in “Hashiloah” (Tishri, 672{1911} and it was written in Suwalk. (Av 671{1911}.

David Aryeh Fridman published many important books and studies about Y.H. Brenner, Moshe Zacuto, Tuvyah HaRofe and others. He published serious works about tens of Hebrew writers in over forty periodicals. It has been rightly written about him that “he was the advisor and encourager of our best writers who were and still are at the centre of our literary life”.[51]

Dr. Fridman published little in Yiddish. He published a drama in Yiddish “Lilith” in “Zukunft” (1923) under the pen name “Ari Manfrid”. In 1920, he served as the editor of the Berlin “Unzer Bafrayung” for some time.

From 1925, David Aryeh Fridman lived in Erets Yisrael where he was very productive in the field of literary and art criticism. During his last years, he wrote mainly about medicine. He was the editor and publisher of the “Luah Refui shel Erets Yisrael”.

[Col. 215]

He also edited the medical journal: “Harefuah”.[52] Dr. David Aryeh Fridman died in Tel Aviv in 1957.


Leyb Dinski

Leyb Dinski was born in Suwalk in 1890. In 1905, he went to Paris and came to America in 1913. Dinski made his debut in 1916 with a poem published in the New York “Kundes”. He wrote much revolutionary poetry. He wrote the books: “Dervayl” (New York 1922) and “Teg in Shap” (New York 1936).


Meir Koyfman

Koyfman was born in Suwalk in 1899. He later went to America. He founded the “Yunger Shrayber Fareyn” in Chicago and wrote much for it's' publications. Koyfman also wrote for other Yiddish newspapers in America.[15*][54]


Avraham Aba Seniyer

A.A. Seniyer came from Saini. He was a grandson of the wealthy and well-known R'Yehudah Leyb Seniyer. In 1910 he translated F. Schiller's “Maria Stuart”.[55]


Y.S. Vays

Y.S. Vays, known by his Hebrew penname, Yehosham Halivni, lived in Suwalk for about seven years. He is included in this chapter because it seems he is the only writer who has written so much about Suwalk and its vicinity in the last decades of the nineteenth century. We have also frequently quoted from his book: “Tiltule Gever”.

Y.S. Vays was born in Bielski in 1872. He came to Suwalk in 1892, married and opened a school. He became a good friend of S.L. Tsitran

[Col. 216]

Who was also a teacher in Suwalk at that time. Y.S. Vays did not have much pleasure in his life. He wandered all over and did not find a resting place even after coming to America. He worked in New York for many years as a Hebrew teacher but found no spiritual satisfaction from his work.

In his bitterness, he burned up the completed manuscript of the second part of his “Tiltule Gever”. He often signed his correspondence in “Hamelits” with the initials A.V—S. Y.S. Vays died in Los Angeles in 1948.


Dr. A. Dushkin

Dr. A. Dushkin was born in Suwalk in 1890. He came to the United States in 1902 and became one of the leading personalities in Jewish education. His book: “Jewish Education in New York City” is one of the best in this area. After the First World War, he occupied a leading position in Hebrew education in Erets Yisrael.[55*]


Shemuel Dushkin

Shemuel Dushkin was born in Suwalk in 1898. He is a famous violinist. He gave his first concert in New York in 1924. He has composed a number of musical pieces.


Koshe Margalit – A convert to Christianity

Unfortunately, the list of Suwalk writers also includes the name of a former Jew. If he were not a convert to Christianity, he would be one of the first on the list in chronological order.

The name of this baptized Jew is Margalit (Margalita), a member of the great Margalit family which produced so many scholars and great men.

Moshe Margalit was born in Suwalk in 1818. He studied in Psherosle with R'Yaakov (?) and later in yeshivot in Grodne. He was ordained in Kalverie. He came to London in 1837 where he left the right path and was converted to Christianity a year later.

[Col. 217]

He graduated from a Christian Theology Seminary and became an important priest in the Anglican Church.

Margalit wrote many books such as: “The History of the Jews in England”, “Pilgrimage to Erets Yisrael”, and others. He died in 1881.[56]


Asher Ber

Asher Ber was not a writer but an engraver and mathematician. He was born in Saini in the second decade of the nineteenth century. He made a number of important discoveries in mathematics, especially in mechanics. He was especially well-known for his artistic engraving, for which he received a prize at the Koenigsberg Exhibition in 1858. He was greatly praised both by the Jewish-Russian and the Russian press.

Asher Ber

After living in Paris for some time, Asher Ber went to Jerusalem at the end of the sixties. From there he wrote many articles for “Hamagid” and other Hebrew periodicals.[57]

He died in 1897 and on his tombstone in Jerusalem is inscribed: “Rabbi Asher, son of R'Dov Ber of Saini.[58]


We should now take the opportunity of mentioning some writers who lived in Suwalk for certain periods of time.

Dr. Gotlib Meir, who wrote in “Hatsefirah” and in other periodicals, graduated from the gymnasium in Suwalk. He also wrote in Yiddish and Russian. Gotlib was a popular writer in Yiddish on problems of hygiene.[59]

Yisrael Prays, the author of many books, studied in the yeshivot of Saini and Suwalk until the age of 18.[60]

Reynhart Moris (Moshe David Opnhaym) wrote a few books and also wrote for Yiddish periodicals in America. He studied in Suwalk yeshivah and afterwards, in the local Russian gymnasium.[61]

Alshvanger Eliyahu[16*], a Yiddish writer and journalist, studied in S.L. Tsitron's school in Suwalk. He then graduated from the Suwalk Russian gymnasium. His brother, Dr. Imanuel Alshvanger, author of many books, also graduated from the Suwalk gymnasium.[62][17*]

Dr. Jacob Robinson, author of a number of books on international law, well-known Zionist activist and former legal adviser to the Israel UN Mission, studied in the Suwalk gymnasium. After the First World War, he was active in communal affairs. The Robinsons were a multi-branched family in Suwalk and its environs.[63]

Shemuel Moshe Melamed wrote much in Hebrew, German and English periodicals. He studied in the Suwalk yeshivah.[64]

The writer Y. Berebitshes, now in Mexico, studied in the yeshiva of Suwalk.


    1. Not Sheynhakh, as others mistakenly write. Return
    2. “Toldot Hasifrut Haivrit Hehadashah” book 2 part 2 Tel-Aviv 707{1946-1947}. Return
    3. There is an announcement of Sheyhak's about this book in “Hamagid” 1857 n°13, with the title: “Shimu nevonim milai”. Return
    4. “Safah Leneemanim” S.Y. Fuenn. Vilna 641{1880-1881} p.167. Sheynhak published commentaries and explanations of difficult passages in the bible and the Talmud in Hebrew periodicals. For example: in “Hakarmel” 621{1860-1861} n°28 (“Hagaheh BaShas”) n°29, (“Beur Mikrai Kodesh”) and others. Return
    5. “Hamagid” 1879 n°49 – in the model for writing letters, “Ketav Yosher Hehadash” (Warsaw 631{1870-1871} some of Sheynhak's letters are quoted as models. Return
    6. “Fun Yor Tsu Yor” edited by M. Shalit, Warsaw 1926, p.74. Return
    7. He often hebraised his name to Pardes-Tal. Return
    8. The correspondents erred and called it “Maarekhet Ketavim”. Return
    9. See chapter on “Haskalah and Education”. Return
    10. “Tseror Igrot YL”G el Miriam Markl Mozeszohn”, by Avraham Yarris, Jerusalem 697{1936-1937} Jewish Ency. V.9, p.95. Return
    11. “Geshikhte fun Yidn in Varshe” v.2 New York 1948, p.129. Return
    12. “Asefat Hakhamim”. Koenigsberg. Iyar 638{1878} p.133. Return
    13. There is correspondence by an Aharon Paradistal from Memphis, Tennessee in “Hamagid” of 1866. Since he signs himself Aharon, son of R'Yehudah Leyb, we can assume that this is a son of Paradistal's. This Paradistal was the first cantor of “Ohave Shalom Mariampol” in Chicago. He was an enlightened Jew and one of the founders of “Dorshe Sifrut Ivrit” in Chicago. (“Pinkas Shikago”, Chicago 702{1914-1942} p.25). The fact that he was the cantor of a synagogue of Jews from Mariampol in the Suwalk area shows clearly that he was related to Y.L. Paradistal. Return
    14. Sheynhok and Paradistal suffered the same fate. While much lesser writers are often mentioned in Jewish encyclopaedias, {they are ignored}. Return
    15. In “Hamagid” 1879 n°18, there is a report of his death where it says that he died at age 82. Thus, it seems he was born in 1797. Return
    16. “Di Geshikte fun Yidn in Varshe” v.2 p.129. Return
    17. “Mishge Ivrim” St. Louis 679{1908 or 1909} p.30. Return
    18. The manuscript of the second part is in the Jewish National University Library in Jerusalem. Return
    19. “Mahalat Olamim”. S.Yevnin. Warsaw 642{1881-1882} p.96. The tombstone inscription on his grave in the Warsaw cemetery was also found. Return
    20. Suwalk Jews had a weakness for Hungary and especially for Mishkolts: Forty years before Finklshteyn, Yissakhar Ber Melamed, son of R'Mordekhay of Vilkovishk was living there. In 1805, he published his book “Ohel Yissakhar” (Prague). Return
    21. “Hamagid” 1863 n°24. Return
    22. “Mashal Hakadmoni” T.P. Shapira, introduction by Dr. Yisrael Shapira, Philadelphia 685{1924-1925} “Keneset Yisrael, S.Y. Fuenn. Return
    23. “Dorot Haaharonim” p.349. In “Keneset Yisrael” 647{1886-1887} p.345, T.P. Shapira quotes novella of the rabbi of Serey – Rabbi Yosef Elhanah Halevi who was his uncle. In “Yamim Veshanim” by Y.M. Frid, p.87, the author tells some of the characteristics of his uncle T.P. Shapira. Return
    24. “Sefer Hadeot Vehamidot” of Ralbag[18*] by Yehiel Ben Shelomoh Maharich, Warsaw 1865. In “Hakarmel” 1872, Yar 5, some of his novella can be found and that is the only place we have found his name abbreviated. Return
    25. “Hamagid” 1873 n°10.
    26. “Hamagid” 1873 n°10. Return
    27. “Alufe Yisrael” (Warsaw{1891-1892}). “Kerem Shaashuim” 2 parts (Berditshev 1893 and 1903); “Yahash Hamidot” (Warsaw 1871); “Hapedagog Haivri” (Warsaw 651{1890-1891}, New York 704{1943-1944}).; “Torat Habukhaltung” (Warsaw 635{1874-1875}); “Mikra Kadosh” (Brooklyn, New York 5th ed); “Gemul Elohim” Yaakov Fasheles translated by A.B. (Warsaw 651{1890-1891}); “Mikhtavim Livne Haneurim” (Berditshev 650{1889-1890}); “Netsah Yisrael” (Warsaw 644{1883-1884}): “Shomer Yisrael” (Warsaw 641{1880-1881}); “Kro Mikra” (Warsaw 671{1910-1911}); “Torat Halashon” (Warsaw 652{1891-1892}); “Dikduk Leshon Ever” (New York 655{1894-1895}); “Emek Shaveh” (Warsaw 648{1887-1888}); “Korot Yeshurun” (New York 659{1898-1899}); “Imrot Tehorot” (Tel-Aviv 695{1934-1935}). R'Barukh Epshteyn tells the story about Aryeh Dov Fridman in his memoirs. Among his many books, Fridman also wrote a pamphlet with the title: “Harabanim Beshanim Kadmoniot”[19*]. One of the historians wrote that Fridman was a “rabbi of ancient times”. (“Mekor Barukh”, part 2 Warsaw 688{1927-1928} p.776. Return
    28. “Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur”. Z. Reisin, Vilne 1930 v.3 p.178; ”Hakhme Yisrael BeAmerika” p.80: Jewish Encylopedia 5 p.518 – errs in stating that he was born in 1865. Return
    29. Dr. Dov Weinryb writes that his name was Finklshtyen and that he came from Kalvarie, province of Suwalk. He was the first, or one of the first Jewish socialists. He lived for some time in Vladislavove (in the province of Suwalk). In 1872, he started an illegal library of socialist literature in the rabbinical seminary in Vilne (“Bereshit Hasotsyalizm Hayehudi”, Jerusalem 706{1945-1946} p.16. Return
    30. “Hayehudim BeAnglia o Hayehudim Venose Hatselav Vemelekh Rikhard Lev Haari”. Warsaw 629{1868-1869}. The second part was published in Warsaw in 1895. A new edition in her translation was published in Warsaw in 1928, with a typographical error in the spelling of her first name (A instead of M). In “Yamim Veshanim” by M.Y. Frid, it is written, mistakenly, that the book was translated from English. Return
    31. See chapter “Haskalah and Education”. Return
    32. “Di Yudishe Folks Bibliotek” Kiev 645{1884-1885} p.433, article by Y. Vaysberg. “Yudishe Vahlkanende Froyen”. Return
    33. Yorbukh-Kalendar fun Kovner Historish Etnografisher Gezelshaft” 1939; “Tseror Igro YL”G el Miriam Markl Mozeszohn” by Avraham Yaari, Jerusalem 697{1936-1937}; “Hamelits” 641{1887} 19 Iyar, 10 Sivan, 23 Sivan; Jewish Encyclopaedia 9 p.95. Return
    34. Leksikon. Z.Reisen v.3 p.238. Return
    35. ”Semitic and Oritental Studies”, editor Walter J.Fischel v.11 Los Angeles 1951 p.355. Return
    36. Deposed in 1889. Return
    37. “Popski” J. Willet. London 1954 p.12-13; Jewish Encyclopedia 10 p.481. Return
    38. Introduction, “Nahlat Asher”; “Hamelits”, 1887 N°185. The biographical details of these two sources do not tally. Return
    39. Autobiography, as related by Dr. Y. Shatzky in “Morris Rosenfeld as seen through his letters” New York 1936. Return
    40. “Morris Rosenfeld's letters”. Y. Lifshits. Buenos Aires 1955 p.25. One letter was written to a compatriot from Suwalk, Meir Apelboym, who was secretary of the New York Hakhnasat Orhim in 1892 at the time that Kasriel Sarasohn was president. Return
    41. In the letters present by Y.Lifshits, there was an unfortunate error. The maiden name of Rosenfeld's wife is given there as Rivkah Yevarkovski. Zalman Reisen has the name as Yavorovski, a name found on subscription lists from Suwalk. However, there were Yevarkovskis that were also in Suwalk – therefore, her first name was not Rivka but Asne-Beyla. Return
    42. Leksikon. Reisen v.4 p.141. Return
    43. “Hed Hazeman”. Vilna 1913 n°249; “Sefer Zikaron” (of “Heasif”) Warsaw 644{1883-1884} p.106; “Biblioteca Hebraica Post-Mendelssoniana”. W. Zeitlin, p.317. Return
    44. In the introduction to his book “Ge Hizayon” he remarks at the end that the book: “was written in Suwalk in the fourth month 645{1885} where I came to live temporarily {?} after eighteen years”. In October 1875, his daughter-in-law and her children came to Suwalk. They remained there, it seems, until 1885. See “Sefer Hazikaron” (of “Heasif”). 649{1888-1889} p.57. Return
    45. “There is approbation by Avraham Mapu and praise from Kalman Schulman for his fine Hebrew in his book: “Megilat Sefer”. Return
    45*. “Aharon Liberman's letter” K. Marmor, New York 1951 p.174: “Hed Hazeman” 1908 n°259. Return
    46. “Otsar Yisrael” book 2 p.81. Return
    47. “Antologia shel Hashirah Haivrit Baamerikah” edited by Menahem Ribalow, New York 698{1937-1938} p.26. Return
    48. Reisen Leksikon v.2 p.549. Return
    49. Ibid. V.4 p.463: ”Dorot Haaharonim” Eisenstadt. P.341. Return
    50. Ibid. V.4 p.211[20*] Return
    51. “Letoldot Halutse Hayishuv Ubonav” D. Tidhar, p.1022: Reisen's Lieksikon v.3 p.181. Return
    52. There is a bibliography of David Aryeh Fridman's articles in “Mahberet Haenin” {?} by Binyamin Shemuel (Tel-Aviv 712{1951-1952}. Return
    53. Leksikon. Reisen, v.1 p.698.
    54. Ibid v.3 p.590. Return
    55. “Dorot Haaharonim”. Eisenstadt p.259. Return
    55* “History of the Jews in Chicago”. H.L. Meites, New York 1924 p.670. Return
    56. “Christen und Juden”. A. Fürst. Strasbourg 1892 p.193.
    Speaking of converts to Christianity, it should be mentioned here that about one hundred years ago, there was a convert who became a bishop in Saini. His name was Martsievski. The Saini prelate, Butkus-Butkevitshius of around 1870-1880, was a half-Jew. We have no details about this except that they were both Lithuanians. See “Lietuviu Tautos Kelias”. M. Birziska, Los Angeles 1952 p.209. Return
    57. “Masa Beeropa”. Ephraim Deinard. Pressburg 645{1884-1885} p.154; Jewish Encyl. V.11 p.429. The fact that Asher Ber's photograph is found in the collective photograph of famous Jewish personalities of the second half of the 19th Century, shows how well-known he was. When he visited Vilne in 1861, “Hakarmel” n°31 noted: “The wise men of our city are happy to greet the wonderful wise rabbi – one of the outstanding men of our generation in his scholarship - - who has invented important innovations in science and mathematics, mechanics and physics”. In n°31-32 of “Hakarmel”, there is a commentary on Rashi by Asher Ber and in n°35, he writes about geometry. Return
    58. “Helkat Mehokek”. A.L. Brisk v.7 n°2 p.19 – here it says, not very accurately, that Asher Ber came to Jerusalem only “at the end of his days”. Return
    59. Leksikon, Reisen v.1 p.462; New Leksikon. N.Y. p...{erased}. Return
    60. Ibid. v.2, p.953. Return
    61. Ibid. v.4 p.387. Return
    62. “Entsiklopedia Lehalutse Hayishuv Ubonav”. Tidhar p. 1882. Return
    63. Jewish Universal Encyclopaedia[21*] p.175. Return
    64. Leksikon. Reisen v.2 p.436. Return

Translator's Footnotes

    1*. Sometimes he spells the name Sheynhak and sometimes Sheynhok Return
    2*. A play on flowery writing of the time Return
    3*. There are 16 words in a mixture of Hebrew and Aramaic which I cannot translate. However, they are paraphrased by Kagan in Yiddish as meaning Return
    4*. The correct transliteration of the name is MaHaRiH, or rather, since there are no vowels: MHRYH, but I am using Maharich since this is the way the name is transliterated in his books Return
    5*. In index, this name is confused with that of David Aryeh Fridman. Also on p.571, it is stated that he died in Indianapolis, Minnesota, so Kagan may mean Minneapolis in both cases. Return
    6*. From grammatical standpoint, the author of this book should be Rubinshteyn but I think Kagan means Rozntal. Return
    7*. It should be noted that there is a city named Johanisberg in Germany where Jewish books were published. Thus, it is impossible to determine from the orthography in the text, whether certain books were published in Johannesburg, South Africa or Johanisberg, Germany. Return
    8*. Aaron Samuel Liebermann, 1845-1880. Return
    9*. Kagan means Gordon, David 1831-1886. Return
    10*. Mokize Nirdamim, society for publication of scholarly editions of medieval Hebrew literature = EJ. Return
    11*. Jacob ben Moses Bachrach - EJ. Return
    12*. No indication at which university Return
    13*. Israel Schapiro 1882-1931 - EJ. Return
    14*. Kagan uses the word “shafiragraf” or “shapiragraf” for the form of reproduction of this journal. I was unable to find the meaning of this word. It may be a form of mimeograph Return
    15*. Footnote 53 is missing. Return
    16*. Eliyahu Olsvanger. Return
    17*. Imanuel Olsvanger 1888-1961 - EJ Return
    18*. Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon. Return
    19*. The rabbis of ancient times. Return
    20*. I think he means Reisen, not Eisenstadt. Return
    21*. i.e. Universal Jewish Encyclopaedia. Return


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