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[Page 331]

Writers and Intellectuals

 

Names We Are Proud Of[a]

by Alexander Melechson

Translated from the Yiddish by Abby Howell

No longer does the generation exist, whose life and works we describe and preserve here. We are the last of the “Mohicans.” Our generations and the generations that come after us must know about the Bessarabian Jews, how they lived and worked, and how they were murdered, and how their lives were cut short. We must pass on to our children the stories about their ancestors, their heritage, and the way of life of our families from Yedinitz; however banal and unpopular it may sound today, in our new conception of things and happenings, because it is the same story, the same Torah, and the same path to salvation, then as well as it is now.

I want to mention a few of the most important people who lived, worked, and created in Yedinitz; many of them were not born in the shtetl, but their life work is nonetheless intimately connected with the shtetl.

 

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Alexander Melechson presents at a meeting of the spiritual people from Yedinitz

 

Yehuda Shteynberg and Eliezer Shteynbarg

I want to start with a small quotation, taken from the “collected materials” of I. Paner:

“- - - in the time of the outbreak of the first wave of pogroms in Tsarist Russia, and during the speedy, strong, fast, widespread immigration of Jews to America, when (Theodore) Herzl appeared on our historical stage, also our connection are the parts of our spiritual treasures that were expressed in the work of Yehuda Shteynberg of Lipkan, the great Hebrew writer, who enriched the Hebrew literature and who raised a whole generation of Zionists, who filled us all up with content, and those who had the honor of bringing his doctrine to the land of Israel.” ---

Yehuda Shteynberg was, however, not only from Lipkan. 

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He lived a long time there, and did most of his life's work, in Yedinitz. The shtetl got bigger with him in it. He left the shtetl, even older than I am before our generation arrived on this earth.

But even my humble self had the honor to absorb a few splinters of the great doctrine of Yehuda Shteynberg through the influence of my kinsman and teacher, a previously mentioned nephew, the great populist Eliezer Shteynbarg, under whom I studied a whole semester in the “Tarvus” shul in Yedinitz. I later met him again in the hot, intolerable climate (for him), of Brazil, where fate had tossed him.

Among the sother piritual leaders, writers, and teachers, who made an impression on our shtetl, one whom I in particular want to remember today, and comes to my mind is Hillel Dubrow, may his memory be a blessing, he who was the highest expression of Jewish nationalist education of the younger generation, and the flag-bearer of the Zionist idea and its accomplishments in the broadest sense of the word.

 

Isaac Raboy and Menashe Halpern

I want to now pause on another two names: the writers Isaac Raboy and Menashe Halpern. The first, Isaac Raboy, was himself born in Lipkon, “the Yavne of Bessarabia.” However, he lived for a while in Yedinitz. Who Raboy was, and what he meant to the Yiddish Literature is widely known to the Yiddish reader at that time.

The second person, Menashe Halpern, is less well-known. Therefore, I want to linger on his personality and his literary achievements.

He was born in a small town near Volin (editor's note: November 28, 1871, in Ukraine) and was married in Yedinitz. His father-in-law was named Naftali Kormanski (Naftali of Tobon). That happened in the nineteenth year of the last century. Menashe Halpern became famous in Yiddish Literature as a memoirist of the Jewish ways of life in Russia and in our familiar Bessarabian province. In his two books - “From the Old Well” and “Parchments” he preserved the Jewish way of life, the Jewish holidays, and the unique charm and naivete of the Bessarabian people. His Bessarabian characters exude a folksy warmth. From his descriptions spurts forth the freshness of the Bessarabian steppes and fields, with the aroma of wheat, rye, and the black fertile soil. You can feel from them the poignant melody of the doina (Romanian musical tune style) and the injustice of Jewish destitution. His shtetl heroes shine out with 

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their open-heartedness and stoicism. He shows us the Bessarabian shtetl in its whole Adam-and-Eve nakedness, both in the joys and in the sorrows between them. Menashe Halpern died in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

We, the people of Yedinitz, will make a memorial to him in our chronicles.

 

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Golda Gutman-Krimer (Argentina)

 

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Title page of two-volume book:

Golda Gutman-Krimmer
My Shtetl Yedinitz
Volume 1
Buenos Aires 1943

 

About another Yedinitz-born Yiddish writer, who worked in Argentina, is about I.L. Gruzman, z'l, the tenured editor, and publisher of the weekly publication “Der Spiegel” (the Mirror), from Buenos Aires, in whose creation my humble self had a not-

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-unimportant role, I will tell in a different article, in our book. 

And now I want to stop here to talk about two writers from Yedinitz, who lived and wrote in South America: a more “zealously pious person”, as we say in Israel, and a younger one.

 

Golda Gutman-Krimmer

The elder of these two writers I want to tell you about is the writer Golda Gutman-Krimmer. She was the daughter of the famous Hershl Tshornopoy, the baker. They also called him “The Turk,” born a socialist and as a real folk hero. He had nine daughters, and one of them grew up to be a writer. The literary circles have an entirely favorable opinion of her works.

In her books: “Among Invalids,” “Bessarabia 1918,” “My Shtetl Yedinitz,” “War Years,” “Novels told by my friend,” “Between Mountains,” “The Master Rachel,” “Khavele (Little Eve),” “Yehudis,” “At the Crossroads,” “The Life of a Woman,” and in the others that she wrote (about 20 books), Golda Gutman-Krimmer sees the simple people, and she brings out artfully and loyally the colorful environments of the shtetl. Many of those who grew up in the shtetl cannot forgive her for her indiscretions in mentioning things and characterizing people to whom they feel a close similarity. They even blamed her for it. But can you blame her? The answer is no. She confides the raw truth, and that is perhaps the motive for her peculiarity. She takes her heroes as they are, she doesn't shine them up, she doesn't pretty them up, and in their natural state, they bring you to tears with their very humanity. Didn't the famous Bessarabian writer Yakov Botashanski z'l once say of her that, “she is simple and raw, I would say, like a Bessarabian corn mush.”

But whoever doesn't yet her know, I'll tell you now, that corn mush (editor's note: corn mush is referring to mamaliga) is not simple and not raw but satisfying and nourishing.

In her books about the Bessarabian life, and especially in “My Shtetl Yedinitz,” crowds of people pass through the pages, poor craftspeople and the destitute people of the back alleys. Also, middle-class families are there in her pages. In her words, they are described faithfully and unrestrained. Her heroes shine with genteel freshness and with human beauty. She doesn't need any fancy lighting effects, and she doesn't wrap them in glowing haloes of the holy. Golda was not lulled to sleep in a golden cradle; she suffered the pain of all seven levels of hell: poverty, destitution, and misery. Already

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many years she has lived in Argentina, and we only recently received her here, among the Yedinitzers in Tel Aviv. She came to the convention of the International Congress of Yiddish Writers and Journalists. During her visit to Israel, she wrote articles and opened correspondences that were full of love for the land and its people.

 

Itsik Vaynshenker

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Itsik Vaynshenker

The younger writer was my student and good friend, the journalist, teacher, and cultural critic Yitshok (Itsik) Vaynshenker. He was the writer and publisher, along with his younger brother Shmuel Vaynshenker, also my former student, of “Builders and Co-Builders of Jewish Community in Uruguay.”. 

Yitshok Vaynshenker was born in 1914, in the small village of Terebne. His father was Nokhem-Tsvi and his mother was Masi-Rokhel Vaynshenker. His father died in the First World War, and Itsik was raised by his paternal grandfather, Reb Elkonoh Terebner (the Esteemed El-Kono of Terebin). He studied with the “conditional” teachers. The family moved to Yedinitz in 1927. At the age of 15, he began to give lectures and became a teacher in small towns. He debuted with stories and essays in Romania. In 1939, he immigrated to Bolivia, where he was active in cultural life and published articles, reports, and book reviews in the South American Yiddish press. In 1944 he moved to Uruguay, where he performed his writing and journalism activities.

In 1948, Itshok Vaynshenker founded a publishing house called “Zrieh” (seed), which published a variety of books, such as

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his two books “For old-new obligations” and “Simple because of love”; he also translated from the Romanian the historical documentary work of Matisyahu Karp, “Transnistria.”

 

Yisroel Zemure

Among the writers and intellectuals who grew up in our shtetl, is Yisroel Zemure, one of the Yedinitzers in the land of Israel, the famous Hebrew literary critic and writer, whose achievements in the literary domain must be expounded by a more competent person than myself, who stands closer to his literary works.


Of course, there are also other names of writers, speakers, and spiritual personalities, who were born in our shtetl, or in the surrounding areas, but like I said, only a few names, which are well-known to us, did I want to mention tonight.

Above all of them, it lies the holy obligation to gather the names of all of the scholars, writers, teachers, and activists on the strength of their intellectual creations, stories about their lives and struggles, descriptions of their deeds and spheres of influence, to memorialize them and to make permanent their memory, for us and for the generations to come.

Tel Aviv


Original footnote:

  1. Adapted excerpts from a talk at a meeting of Yedinitz-residents in Tel Aviv Return

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Yehuda Steinberg in Yedinitz

by Mordechai Reicher

Translated from the Hebrew by Yariv Timna

The writer Yehuda Steinberg lived in Yedinitz at the end of the nineteenth century (1889-1897). According to one version, he came to town as a family teacher at the home of one of the rich people in town, and according to another version, to open a private school similar to other schools or rather, a “Cheder,” popular in town at that time. Yehuda Steinberg, in addition to teaching, turned to public matters. The author Menashe Halpern, the son-in-law of Naftali Kormansky (Tabuner), was living at the time in Yedinitz and was a close friend of Steinberg. He reveals in his book of memoirs, “Parmaten” (Brazil, 1952), a bit of their joint public action. Halpern acted openly while Steinberg acted in secret, probably out of fear of resistance and harm to his work by his employers. The first thing they did was to take the “Gabay” job and replace the melamed with a better one in order to teach “Torah and Da'at” to the children of Yedinitz. The second and most daring act which they managed to do with the help of the town's people was to take down the “Starosta” (the elder of the Jews and their representatives before the authorities) and pick another one, more preferable for them. The two also established a public library. The readers, young boys, came secretly to exchange books. On Saturdays, literary and public topics were discussed at the Halpern's home. The listeners of these conversations came also from the youth in town.

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Yehuda Steinberg

 

Halpern says that Steinberg wrote his book “In the City and the Forest” while he lived in Yedinitz. Steinberg sent the manuscript with a friend to Warsaw, to the writers Y. L. Peretz and David Pinsky, to obtain their opinion on it. It turned out that these writers have found the book worthy of publication but Steinberg did not have the means to cover the financial expenditure. To his aide came, according to Asher Goldenberg, the educated and Zionist Azriel Eidelman (he is mentioned several times in this book),

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an unusual type among the educated and most advanced and fulfilling Zionists of Yedinitz who turned to publish his book “Tushia” (Resourceful) in Warsaw, and obtained from the publishing house two hundred rubles, a writers' salary, and the book published.

Yehuda Steinberg composed his famous story “In Those Days” In Yedinitz. According to Yitzhak Bar-Samcha Leiderman (see his article in this book), the author used the figures of well-known people of Yedinitz in his story such as Chaim the Cantonist and others. The rabbi in his story is no one else but Shmuelik the “Dayan,” a well-known figure in town.

On Steinberg's work and life in Yedinitz, tells Shmuel Kafri (Dorf) from his mother, “Steinberg established the school and his place of residence nearby the Dorf family (Kozelber). In fact, it was a typical “Cheder,” similar to others in town.

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Steinberg shopped in the grocery store of the Dorf family more than once. There were a considerable number of students in school so his financial condition was not bad.

Still, he was unable to publish his writings. Among other things, he wrote a book for studying Hebrew called “Niv Sfataim” (lip dialect). One day, he gave an offer to Kafri's mother to buy the manuscript from him. Of course, she was not ready to do this. Because she was a righteous woman ready to help everyone in need, she lent him a sum of money in cash enough to publish the book. It was, admittedly, one of the first and most modern textbooks for teaching the Hebrew language, but the book was printed in Berdichev, and failed miserably.”

 


Yehuda Steinberg, Menashe Halpern, and Azriel Eidelman

Yehuda Steinberg was born in 1866 in Lipkan. At the age of 17, he married a girl from a Moldavian town (in Romania) and lived with his father-in-law. He opened a shop in the village but was deported because he was a Russian citizen. After a quarrel with his father, he moved to Yedinitz in 1889 and engaged in teaching, where he lived for 8 years, until 1897. In Yedinitz, he lived with his large family, his wife Maradell, and four children, poor and distressed. But here he got his command of poetry, began his literary work, and received his first writer's salary. In Yedinitz he authored his book “Niv Sfataim” for teaching Hebrew. And here he wrote his book “In the City and the Forest” (which brought him recognition as a successful writer). In Yedinitz he began writing most of his “Chasidim” stories, children's stories, etc. Following his visits to the great centers of Hebrew literature, he settled in the town of Liova, in Southern Bessarabia in 1897. There, he was also initially involved in teaching. In Liova he gave the position of teacher to the writer Yaakov Pichman and turned exclusively to writing. In 1904, the daily New York newspaper in Yiddish “Die Wahrheit” appointed him as a regular writer in Russia and he settled in Odessa. But there he was suddenly diagnosed with cancer, which was inside him for a long time. The writers H.N. Bialik and A. L. Lewinsky came to his aide collecting the means to send Steinberg to Berlin. There, he had surgery, only it was too late. He returned to Odessa and died on the 7th of Adar, Tav-Resh-Samech-Chet (1908), at the age of 46.

As mentioned, Yehuda Steinberg was revered as a writer in Yedinitz. Two people who lived in town then had a crucial role in his literary revelation.

One was Menashe Halpern, a Yiddish writer, and journalist who came to Yedinitz about three years after Steinberg as the son-in-law of a wealthy local man and lived there between and 1897-1898. Halpern was five years younger than Steinberg.

The other person was an educated Yedinitzer man, a wandering spirit, which many people mention in this book. It was Azriel Eidelman. Eidelman was four years older than Steimberg. The young Halpern encouraged Steinberg to write and send his writings to Warsaw. Steinberg published in his book “In the City and The Forest” excited, thanks to his young friend. Eidelman led the manuscript to Warsaw and mediated between Steinberg and Warsaw, writers with a publisher. Both, Halpern and Eidelman, passed away at an old age, Halpern in Brazil in the late 1950s and Eidelman in Tel Aviv in the 1950s.

Rumors circulated among the elders of the town about Yehuda Steinberg and his Yedinitz period, and about his two friends above mentioned. In this book, we have brought what people of that period had to talk about it. We did not try to decide whose share was greater in Steinberg's literary emergence. By the way, this subject was also addressed by the writers David Pinski (who met Steinberg and Eidelman in Warsaw and then Halpern and Eidelman In New York), Yaakov Pichman (who met Steinberg in Warsaw, Liova, and Odessa), and others. This question was discussed also by L. Cooperstein in his comprehensive article published in the booklet “Bessarabia Chapters” Part A (Tel Aviv, 1952).

The researcher will strive, if he finds interest in the matter, to the absolute truth.

YM”G

 

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My Years in Yedinitz

by Menashe Halpern

Translated from the Yiddish by Shoshi Blach

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Menashe Halpern

Meanwhile, it was time to get engaged. I was sixteen years old. My mother was afraid I could become an “eyesore.” How could she allow such a grown child to wander around without an aim?

My parents started contacting shadchanim (matchmakers), people, experts who came to look at me, to examine me. I chased them away, but that did not help much. The match was made, “a match made in heaven.” The girl had learned Tanakh, this impressed me, but I decided I had to see the bride first. I didn't want a “blind” engagement.

Meanwhile, my father sent someone to look at her and to inquire about her. She lived far away in Bessarabia. Exchanging letters, he negotiated the dowry, the number of years my in-laws would feed us, and that we should meet halfway. We arrived in Ossetia, on the other side of the Dniester River (in Bessarabia). That's where I met her, took a look at her. I heard more because the girl had remembered a verse from Isaiah. We liked each other, a sign, and the same evening we got engaged, it turned out that both mothers had prepared Lekach and Fluden (cakes). The parents had decided everything beforehand. I felt a little bit betrayed, but there was no reason to argue against my engagement.

I got married in 1891. My father-in-law was called Naftali Kormansky, his family called him the “Taverner”. He was a Chassidic Jew, and his brothers followed the Sadigura Rebbe. I happened to be a little against fanaticism. To me, it was easy to fight because I was educated.

In 1892 I moved to Yedinitz, Hotin district, Bessarabia. I rented grain silos and decided to become a large-scale grain trader. The crop was very cheap and there were good prospects in speculation, but then the prices went down, I had a big loss and lost my dowry. My father helped me out with a few thousand rubles, but it did not help.

However, I did not worry much about my failures. My ambition was to work with people and to bring enlightenment.

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We, myself, and my dear friend Yehuda Steinberg, who was a teacher at a rich man's house, both worked for enlightenment. I did so openly, he did so secretly. First, we took away the responsibility for the Talmud Torah from someone who had carried it for a long time. Soon, we hired a better grammar teacher and we allowed numerous poor children in the shtetl to learn. Later, with the help of working men, we got rid of the Starost (mayor) and elected a new one, an enlightened person. We also created a library and we had hidden readers among the young adults. A few of them used to come and visit me at my home on Shabbat after the meal and follow my conversations with Steinberg.

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In 1893, a friend (reference to Azriel Edelman, Red.) went to Warsaw, and he took with him the manuscript of Steinberg's parable “Ba ir u bayaar” (“In the city and in the woods”) to get an expert opinion.[1] I also sent samples of my writing. Dovid Pinski, still a beginner, said he liked my work and welcomed me as an up-and-coming author. Soon, I received a letter in Perets's name to come to Warsaw to work with him. Perets had a publishing house that published small literary booklets following the example of Ben Avigdor's “Sifrey Agora” (Penny books). This would allow me to develop my writing skills. But I remembered Slonimsky's and Shapira's warnings (“The craft of writing is a misfortune, everlasting poverty”) and also the failures of the past, and all this kept me from pursuing my writing.

In 1896 I went to Suvalk to work with my father and brother-in-law to build military quarters.

By the end of 1897, I returned to my house in Yedinitz (but soon after, the author left this town – Red.).

(Extract from Menashe Halpern's “Autobiography”, published in the work “Parmetn”, Sao Paolo, Brazil, 1952)


Translator's footnote:

  1. Yehuda Steinberg was of the opinion that Menashe Halpern played the main role in the publication of his collection of parables “Ba Ir u Bier”, which brought him recognition as a writer. In “Ba Ir u Ba yaar” Yehuda Steinberg published a dedication to thank Menashe Halpern, in those words:

    “My friend and soulmate
    Menashe Halpern
    You woke up a sleeping soul
    You thawed a frozen heart
    You provided me with light and sunshine -
    To you I dedicate my book, and all my toil.

    Yehuda Steinberg” return

 

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Menashe Halpern

(Biographical notes)

Born in 5632 (1871) in Volhynia. Later, the family, wealthy people, move to Podolia. At the age of 14, he writes poetry. At the age of 16, he gets engaged to a girl from Yedinitz, the daughter of Naftali Kormansky (“Taverner”). In 1892, he moves to Yedinitz, where he meets Yehuda Steinberg, and took his first steps as a writer back then. With short interruptions, Menashe Halpern stays in Yedinitz until 1899. Afterward, he emigrates to (western) Europe via Russia, in 1905 he reaches New York, with another man from Yedinitz, Azriel Edelman, a colorful personality (about whom we also write in this book). They fail as businessmen.

Menashe Halpern publishes articles in the American press, little scenes, and stories. Later, they both return to Russia. In 1911, Halpern divorces his first wife and marries a Jewish woman from Moscow (with his first wife, who died in America, Menashe had three sons and one daughter, two sons live in America, and one son and one daughter in Russia).

When the revolution broke out, Menashe Halpern left Russia, and in 1926 he moves to Brazil, where he works in politics, society, and literature.

In 1937 he visits Eretz Israel and wants to settle there. But he falls ill, and the coffee shop his wife opened is not doing well. He returns to Brazil.

In 1933 he publishes a prose book in Sao Paolo: “Funem alten Brunnen” (“From an old well”). In 1952 he publishes a book with his memories entitled “Parmetn.”

During the final years of his life, he completely lost his eyesight. Menashe Halpern died in 1960 at the age of almost 90.

In his work, Menashe Halpern depicts the way of life in the shtetl of southern Ukraine and Bessarabia (with strong reminiscences of Yedinitz) during the second half of the nineteenth century.

A.M.

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Eliezer Steinberg in Yedinitz

by Asher Goldberg

Translated from Hebrew by Asher Szmulewicz

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Eliezer Steinberg

Between the Revolution and the riots at the end of 1917, Eliezer Steinberg, the great writer and fabulist, was called to serve as head teacher in the Talmud Torah school, the one close to the Sharei Tzion synagogue in Yedinitz.

A few days before Pesach, the committee in charge of the rehabilitation of the Talmud Torah, which greatly suffered from the absence of the teacher A. L. Yigolnitzer and because of the war hardships, gathered in the house of the young son-in-law of Meir the Red. Moshe Alexander was a traditional Jew, close to the progressive ones, and in his mind he was an enthusiastic Zionist. Even Eliezer Steinberg was present in this meeting to accept the proposed position and to establish his working conditions.

His external features were weird. He was a short Jew with a childish face, although he had a high forehead, an almost bald head, and good smiling eyes seen through his eyeglasses. He spoke,during this session about the language problem which then struck the waves of diaspora speaking Yiddish Jews. He explained Hebrew is like a father and Yiddish is like a mother. This is how he explained to us his special way of teaching Tanakh in Hebrew, according to a method that was a mixture and a compromise between two methods: The Hebrew explained in Hebrew and the Hebrew explained in Yiddish.

During his speech, he digressed to general subjects and to the situation since the February revolution and finished his speech with a bit of hope that whenever the nations will meet around a table to enforce a world government to prevent wars and conflicts, they will need a common international language. They will not choose one of the languages of the superpowers to not give an advantage to one of them and they will not choose Esperanto, which has not the vitality of a natural conversation, being an artificial language. Then they will have the one choice: choose Hebrew as an international language. After the Pesach festival, he moved to Yedinitz, as a teacher and director of the school Talmud Torah.

After the December riots of the same year, I came to the Talmud Torah school frequently as a member of the school committee, and to listen to the Steinberg Tanach courses, which were a masterpiece of poetic explanation.

Eliezer often came to our home when he had some free time. He sat in one of the armchairs in the living room, too high for his size. His short feet could not reach the floor, and talked a lot about literature and political questions that came out at that time. Eliezer was a fervent Marxist and in his conversation, like in the Shabbat conferences at the synagogue “Shaarei Zion,” strived with his childish screaming voice to explain all the details of Marx's political-economic system.

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On the next day after the riots, he stood with me on the stairs of the Avraham Bronstein pharmacy, on Patchova street, when a group of Cossacks left the town with their horses packed with looted carpets. Eliezer called out to them indignantly: “You betrayed the Russian revolution!”

We have since parted ways. He moved to Lipkan, his hometown, and when the school there closed he moved to Czernowitz, the capital of Bukovina, where he devoted himself to literary works and cultural activities in the Yiddish clubs.

We met again in the middle of 1920s in Britain. He was happy to meet me and told me about his intention to translate all Bialik's poems to Yiddish, which he did not implement to the best of my knowledge. Eliezer Steinberg stayed afterwards a short time in Brazil and served as director and teacher at the Yiddish school in Rio de Janeiro. However, he came back to Czernowitz and died in 1932. His wife, Rivka, moved to Israel after the war and passed away there in 1968. Eliezer Steinberg left a rich heritage of Yiddish and Hebrew literature, waiting for a savior to publish it.

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Yehuda-Leib Grozman
(Leibele Bar-Mazal)

by Alexander Meilechson

Translated from the Yiddish by David Goldman and Asher Szmulewicz

More than ten years have passed since Y. L. Grozman, the famous writer and journalist, editor, and publisher of the literary journal Der Spiegel died in Argentina. Something is hard to believe and does not make sense – i.e., that Leibele Grozman, the always ebullient sparkling volcano is no longer among us.

A wonderful creature is gone forever, a special personality. The writer's family and the Jewish press in Argentina in particular, have lost one of their devoted writers, a courageous journalist, a fanatic fighter for the truth and justice, a cruel polemist who devoted his entire life to a unique goal and obsession: to keep the Jewish life clean.

He considered the service of the printed word as holy work. He served with a lively voice, his literary tribune, Der Spiegel, his lifelong work during thirty-two years.

I was in contact with Grozman, a fellow countryman from Yedinitz, with a long-lasting friendship. It is far away in my memory, at the beginning of the Argentinian Jewry at the beginning of the 1930s, the romantic consolidation years, in which Grozman took a significant part.

In those days, at the end of 1929, I came to Concordia, a town in the Entre Rios Province to visit my older brother Nonin. He was sorry and had great sorrow to part from me after only a few months, because Grozman found and hired me as a traveler associate fellow in his to be created journal, after the first correspondences that were printed in Der Spiegel.

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Yehuda Leib and Miriam Grozman

 

How come that I knew closely Leibele? He was the elder son of Reb Avraham Aban, a Torah learner, an honest and dear Jew, who had a hardware shop “a zhaliazne kleit” on the Taraviste street. Although he made a scarce living, he saved penny after penny and sent his children to learn, and especially his dear son Leibele, to the best teachers from that time in town and out of town.

No Yiddish writers rocked Leibele in a golden cradle. He went through all the seven hell sections from pain, hardship, labor from home and from outside the shtetl in his student years, first in Odessa and later in Czernowitz. In Odessa, he was near the greatest Yiddish and Hebrew authors like Chaim Nachman Bialik, Yaakov Fichman, and other personalities from the Pleiades of the Odessa scholars, from which he warmed himself from their lights and absorbed all the nuances of the Hebrew language, which became his possession.

These years of spiritual influence and material labor crystallized and shaped his combative personality, making him a quarrelsome person with his pen girded with the strength of a prophet. He was the writer of the beautiful words of our life. His contribution to the development of the Yiddish culture in Argentina was renowned far beyond the border of the “La Plata Land.” Our heart is sad when we recall he did not leave a successor.

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He had the power to swim against the stream. He did not sell, G-d forbid, his words, also in critical times to allow the existence of his journal. Year-long he conducted a holy struggle against the “taxers,” the assertive ones, and the talkers of the community life against Jews who did disgusting deeds. He swept away the crooked leaders with the iron broom of his sharp pen and cleaned up the atmosphere of the Yiddish Street. He did not stop his war against the patented great ones and did not spare the “gambling” writers, if it was his thought, from shame, to find out the truth with fervent integrity in life.

 

Biographical Notes on Y. L. Grozman

Y.L. Grozman was born in Yedinitz in 1901. His father, Avraham Aba, was a pious Chasid who died in Yedinitz in 1941. His mother Batia was a devout village woman. When the local cheders were closed, Leibele and his brother Gedaliah were sent to learn at the Moghilev-Podolsk Yeshiva. There, he got acquainted with the Haskalah books. Already before, they read Yiddish and Hebrew newspapers and books. They had also a home tutor to learn general knowledge in Russian. Leib and Gedaliah stayed only six months at the Moghilev-Podolsk Yeshiva. They came back “educated,” and published a child leaflet named “The Angel.”

Later, Leibele went to Odessa to finish his studies in a local yeshiva. Gedaliah joined him a few years later. After the revolution, they both returned to Yedinitz. Then, they went to Czernowitz, where they strengthened their Hebrew knowledge.

In 1920, Leibele emigrated to Argentina, and Gedaliah went a few years later to Brazil.

In Argentina, Leibele developed a large literature editorial activity. There, he established his literature publication, the weekly Der Spiegel (1929), and he published it until his untimely death in May 1961 (his closest assistant to establish the weekly publication was our fellow countryman and active contributor to the publication of this book: Alexander Meilechson).

In summer 1958, Leibele was invited by the Jewish Agency to a learning journey in Israel, where he spent two months. On his way to and from Israel, he visited multiple countries in Europe and America. The result of his journey was an enthusiastic and instructive series covered in several articles.

In the year 1959, the Argentinian Jewry and the world of Yiddish literature celebrated the 30th anniversary of Der Spiegel. During that time, his two children started their studies in Israel. Then came the sudden misfortune: an illness from which he did not recover.

His wife Miriam, originally from Warsaw, and he, decided to settle in Israel. She tried to resume publishing Der Spiegel but was unsuccessful. She tried to build again a family. She remarried, but after a few months, she decided to retire from the world tragically. She took the secret of her story and disappointment to the grave.

His brother, Gedaliah, lived all the time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he established his literature editorial activity.

[Page 350]
In his first years in Argentina, he managed to be the director of the large Hebrew school, “Yahadut,” of the Yika (Jewish Argentinian Colonization Organization created by the Baron Hirsch) in the Argentinian Jerusalem: Moises Ville. There grew up a full generation of leaders and personalities who were active in all the fields of the Jewish life in Argentina and here in Israel. But Grozman immediately had to withstand a bitter struggle against the then denier of the national Jewish life. The group that became prosecutors.

[Page 351]
Those ones lost their fight, and the healthy National forces are still leading up today to the Yiddish life in Argentina and the whole South American continent.

Grozman's fearless words and social stand brought him, naturally, a lot of enemies. This also annoyed his material situation, put him in an uneven struggle against individuals and societies, and more than once, it prevented the normal issue of his journal.

However, he was not afraid. He was naturally stubborn. He went further untired with his unfavorable conditions, and almost to his last breath, he worked, fought, argued to improve our lives.

Ten years after the birth of the State of Israel, Grozman visited Israel and returned to Argentina enthusiastic about what he saw. During a few months, he described his impressions of Israel in the columns of his journal and reported in light colors the colossal achievements of the Jewish State. I still have fresh in my memory his exalted and witty words about Israel, which he uttered at the party organized for him by his fellow countrymen from Yedinitz.

In this spirit, he raised two children, a son and a daughter, who prepared them for the country.

[Page 352]

Both live today in Israel. His son graduated from the Grinberg Institute in Jerusalem and carries on his higher studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. His daughter with her husband studied at the Technion in Haifa.

We remember our beloved fellow countryman from Yedinitz, Y. L. Grozman, z”l. His moral personality and his exalted activity ensured him an honorable place in the national pantheon of the Jewish intellectuals.

 

Yed0351.jpg
The headline of Der Spiegel, published by Y.L. Grozman
The date indicated is January-February 1959, after his return from a study trip to Israel. This edition also indicates it is the 30th anniversary of the weekly newspaper

 

After the Performance
Memories of my Leibele, with sadness and pain

Gedaliah Grozman

The curtain went down
The very end of the play,
On the other side breathless
You remained silent.

The crowd is going away
The performance is over.

Somebody pulled a shoulder:

“Here you have the result…”

A second one gave a sigh:” Oy, I suffer…”
Only this and no more.

And I, myself, became frightened
I have no more than tears.

The theater empties sadly
And the walls are silent.

In a corner somebody regrets
Cracks his hands in sadness:

“Brother, you ranted too much
With everybody you quarreled”.

Claiming from the other a clean conscience…
And now he is lying motionless…

I speak to myself, forlorn:
“Who would recognize you?”
You lay quiet in peace, brother,
The performance is over.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

 

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