Sunday, 22 January 2017


TUVYE KATZ (b. September 14, 1886)
            He was born in Grodno, Russian Poland, where his father was a Zionist orator.  He studied in religious primary school and in the yeshivas of Lomzhe and Slobodka.  On his own he later mastered Russian and German.  In 1905, under the impact of the pogroms in Russia, he departed for Galicia and lived in Lemberg and Stanisle (Stanislavov), where he taught Hebrew until 1939.  From 1906 he published poetry, stories, feature pieces, and articles in: Der yudishe arbayter (The Jewish worker), Togblat (Daily newspaper), and Der nayer morgen (The new morning)—in Lemberg; Viner morgenshtern (Vienna morning star) in Vienna; Dos naye lebn (The new life), Kultur (Culture), and Der arbayter (The laborer)—in Czernowitz; Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw; and Shtern (Star) in Stanisle; among others.  His books include: Fun nekhtn un haynt (Of yesterday and today), lyrical poems (Lemberg: Arbet, 1924), 80 pp.; Der kenig shoyel (King Saul), a historical play in four acts (Stanisle, 1936), 112 pp.  He also wrote under the pseudonyms: “Over Oreaḥ,” “Muai,” and “A Gutn.”  There has been no further information about him since WWII.  His younger brother was the well-known actor Kurt Katch (Isser Kac).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Vilner tog (Vilna) (November 1, 1935); Professor B. Ts. Rozentsvayg, in Shtern (Stanisle) (November 1935); Yoyvl-bukh 30 yor keneder odler (30-year jubilee volume of the Canadian eagle) (Montreal, 1938); Dr. M. Naygreshl, in Fun noentn over (New York) 1 (1955), p. 257.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


            He lived in the early twentieth century in Warsaw.  He was a chemical engineer.  He published popular scientific articles in Yatskan’s Yudishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper) and in Dos yudishe vokhnblat (The Jewish daily newspaper), and he ran the science section of Romantsaytung (Fiction newspaper)—all in Warsaw (1907-1908).  In book form: Vos iz azoyns khemye? A popular-visnshaftlikher bukh far shuler un zelbstlernen (What is this chemistry?: A popular science volume for students and self-learners) (Warsaw: Bikher far ale, 1907), 87 pp.

Khayim Leyb Fuks


KHEVEL KATZ (May 10, 1902-March 8, 1940)
            He was born in Vilna to poor parents and from an early age had to go to work.  He became a typesetter for the Romm publishing house.  He sang the first poetic couplets that he wrote at the Vilna publishers’ union.  He accompanied himself with a guitar.  In May 1930 he moved to Argentina.  He soon gained popularity through performances of his own couplets and parodies, some of which sang of the experiences and suffering of the “green” immigrants.  For a short period of time, he also acted on the stage, but he became very popular thanks to his radio audience, and although he sang in Yiddish, his songs captivated non-Jewish listeners who were fascinated by the sound of the words and the melodies.  In 1933 a collection of his couplets, entitled Argentiner glikn (Joys of Argentina), was published in Buenos Aires.  He suffered from a blood ailment and following an operation on his tonsils, he died at the age of just shy of thirty-eight.  His funeral was the largest that any Jew had had in Buenos Aires to that point in time.  Over 20,000 people accompanied him from his home, and some 10,000 of them were in attendance at the cemetery for the burial.

Sources: Information from Yankev Botoshanski in Buenos Aires; obituaries in the Yiddish press in Argentina.

Friday, 20 January 2017


HILLEL KATZ-BLUM (November 10, 1868-February 12, 1943)
            He was born in Pazelve (Paželvė), to a father who worked as a tailor.  At age fifteen he arrived to study at the Vilkomir (Ukmergė) yeshiva, but he was drawn into becoming a laborer.  At age sixteen he moved to Vilna and worked there at a dyer’s shop and other lines of work.  He later served in the Tsar’s army.  Around 1890-1891, when he returned to Vilna, he became involved in the revolutionary movement.  He began studying Russian and reading Russian books.  He also read Hebrew books and in general had a great interest in literature and even began to write up impressions and scenes himself.  When he would depart with propaganda objectives, he would often read aloud from Yiddish literature before secret gatherings and from his own writings as well.  He made a particularly bit hit at these gatherings with his story “A kholem” (A dream), a fantasy about twelve ministers who are sitting in a palace, drinking wine out of golden beakers, and each of them proposing a plan for how to maintain power over the country (an allusion to the Russian tsar and his ministers).  In 1896 Katz-Blum was working in Bialystok as a weaver and was active there in the illegal revolutionary movement.  In 1897 he was appointed correspondent for the Bialystok region of the Bundist illegal Arbayter shtime (Workers’ voice), and on the first page of the first number of this newspaper, he placed a correspondence piece entitled “A shtrayk bay de loynketnikes in byalistok” (A strike of textile workers in Bialystok).  He was a delegate from the Bialystok region at the founding of the Bund in Vilna in October 1897.  He lived in Vilna later for a while, later still in Vitebsk, Dvinsk (Daugavpils), and other cities where he was engaged in party work.  In 1899 he was a delegate to the third conference of the Bund in Kovno.  In 1900 he was arrested near the Russo-Prussian border at Verzhbolove (Virbalis).  After being freed, he could no longer remain in Russia, and in 1901 he left for Switzerland, where he was active among the emigrant revolutionary circles in Berne and in Geneva; he worked there with the foreign committee of the Bund.  In 1902 he left Switzerland for Paris, later moving on to London, where he worked for a year in a furniture factory and was active in the local publishing house for the foreign committee of the Bund.  After a year in London, at the initiative and with assistance of his Bialystok admirers, he left for the United States (1904).  He lived in Cleveland and published in Forverts (Forward), also in 1904, chapters of a memoir about the underground revolutionary movement in Russia.  He published reminiscences as well in Veker (Alarm) in New York (1928) and in the 1930s in Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper) in Warsaw.  In 1939 his memoirs were published in Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO) (Vilna-Paris) 3 (pp. 348-68), under the title “Zikhroynes fun hilel kats-blum (klivlend)” (Memoirs of Hillel Katz-Blum, Cleveland).  These memoirs aroused quite a stir.  Encouraged by Shmuel Niger, Dr. Max Weinreich, A. Lyesin, and Y. Leshtshinski, Katz-Blum continued the writing of his memoirs further and subsequently published a book, Zikhroynes fun a bundist, bilder fun untererdishn lebn in tsarishn rusland (Memoirs of a Bundist, impressions from underground life in Tsarist Russia) (New York, 1940), 188 pp., in which he included, aside from already published memoirs, new chapters of memoirs and several articles, with an introduction by B. Tsivyon.  He died in Cleveland.

Sources: F. Kurski, in Tsukunft (New York) (March 1933); Kurski, in Unzer tsayt (New York) 3 (1943); Kurski, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings) (New York, 1952); S. Dubnov-Erlikh, Garber bund un bershter bund, bletlekh geshikhte fun der yidisher arbeter-bavegung (The tanners’ union and the brush union, pages from the history of the Jewish labor movement) (Warsaw, 1937); Dr. Max Weinreich, in Forverts (February 12, 1939); B. Tsivyon, in Veker (New York) (March 1, 1943); obituary notices in the Yiddish press and periodicals.
Zaynvl Diamant


BEN-TSIYON KATS (BENZION KATZ) (December 1870[1]-February 3, 1958)
            He was born in Doig (Daugai), Vilna district, the son of a local rabbi.  Until age eighteen he studied with his father, acquiring a reputation as the “Doig child prodigy”—at the time of his Bar Mitzvah he was already proficient in Mishnah.  He taught himself secular subject matter.  His writing career began with a string of essays in Hatsfira (The times), in which he came out against the rabbi’s stringencies in Jewish law vis-à-vis kosher and treyf.  Shortly thereafter, he published a composition on this very matter (Warsaw, 1895).  This short work pushed the young author to a place of honor in the Lithuanian scholarly world.  At the time he had already acquired a considerable degree of knowledge in secular subject matter, but by contrast to the majority of young lads of his sort, he evinced no signs of heresy, and he wrote about the Talmud with love and reverence.  In that same year, 1895, he published the booklet: Or noga al sheme hatalmud, bishelosha maamarim (Bright light on the heavens of the Talmud, in three essays) (Warsaw, 58 pp.), in which he attempted to explain in a simple but profound manner a series of difficult, entangled passages in the Talmud.  He was at this time already corresponding with an entire array of brilliant Jews and, to the invitation from the well-known Orientalist, Baron Horatio Ginzburg, Kats moved to St. Petersburg and there turned his attention to research on Jewish history.  At the recommendation of the famed Professor Daniel Chwolson, he was accepted as a free auditor at St. Petersburg University, where he diligently studied in the field of Orientalism and Semitics for three years’ time.  Aside from Baron Ginzburg and Professor Chwolson, he also at that time came to know such learned Jews in St. Petersburg as: Dr. Katsenelson (Buki ben Yogli), Professor Baksht, and Constantine (Kalman-Abba) Shapiro—they all encouraged him in his research work in the field of Jewish history.  In 1898 he published a book in the field of Russian Jewish history, Lekorot hayehudim berusiya, polin, velita, bishenot meot hashesh esre vehasheva esreh (Toward a history of Jews in Russia, Poland, and Lithuania in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) (Berlin, 64 pp.), which in 1899 was awarded the then exceedingly prominent Tsaytlin Prize.  In this book he compiled questions-and-answers materials for the history of Jews in Russia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Yet, he was unable to remain solely with scholarly work for long, as there grew within him the temperament of a fighting journalist, and in 1903 he founded the newspaper Hazman (The times) in St. Petersburg, which in late 1904 he took to Vilna where he had been lured by publishers, F. Margolin and Ben-Avigdor, among others (in St. Petersburg, the newspaper had as a supplement quarterlies in which he published the first portion of his major work, Lekorot hayehudim berusiya, polin, velita).  Also that year he succeeded in gaining from the authorities permission to bring out a daily newspaper in Yiddish: Di tsayt (The times),[2] which was published by Hazman for several months in 1905-1906.  Both newspapers under his editorship had considerable success.  His articles after the Kishinev pogrom of 1903 were published as well in the foreign press and aroused the Jewish world.  During the events of revolutionary October in 1905, Kats took a revolutionary line in both of his newspapers, and when the deputies from the liquidated first state Duma assembled in Vyborg, Finland, and issued their famed clarion call to resistance against Tsarism, Kats published the text of their call in Hazman.  The authorities then closed down the newspaper—it soon reappeared under the title Had hazman (Echo of the times)—and the editor was sentenced to one year in prison which he served at the Grodno Fortress.  At the sorrowful, well-known trial of Mendel Beilis in 1912, he played a significant role in unmasking the priest Justinas Pranaitis.  With Hazman and later Had hazman, Kats modernized the Hebrew press at the time.  Intellectually close to the territorialists, he was also a friend of Yiddish and brought into the Hebrew press a tolerance and respect for Yiddish and for Yiddish literature.  WWI broke out while he was in Germany, and when he returned to Vilna, he described the experiences of his trip in the daily Der fraynd (The friend), which F. Margolin was then publishing.  In the spring of 1915, Had hazman ceased publication and Kats moved to Mexico, where after the March Revolution of 1917 he published the Hebrew weekly Haam (The people).  In 1920 he was an expert on behalf of Lithuania in concluding the Soviet-Lithuanian peace, and he then departed for Kovno and in his official position, which he held onto for a fair period of time, he helped Jewish writers escape from Soviet Russia.
            In 1922 Kats settled in Berlin and from there began intensive journalistic and literary activity in Yiddish.  He contributed pieces to: Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York; Haynt (Today) in Warsaw; Di tsayt in London; Dos folk (The people) in Riga; and Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires.  Aside from journalistic articles, Kats also published serially in Morgn-zhurnal a string of important essays, such as: “Idishe firer fun mendelson un vilner goen biz der letster tsayt” (Jewish leaders from Mendelssohn and the Vilna Gaon until recent times), a series of articles on significant political leaders in Russia until the Revolution, articles on history in recent years, and the like.  Knowledgeable about the Soviet regime, Kats in his journalistic pieces between the two world wars became highly concerned about Jewish and general matters in the Soviet Union.  In 1931 he left for the land of Israel, where he was received as a veteran of the Hebrew press in Tsarist Russia and as a respectable Jewish scholar and modern journalist.  In Tel Aviv he contributed for a time to Haarets (The land), later going on to establish and edit Haboker (This morning).  He also continued contributing to the Yiddish press in all Jewish communities.  In his later years he published his memoirs in all the major Jewish newspapers—a mixture of historical documentation and depictions of a way of life.  He also edited Haavar (The past), a quarterly periodical for research in Jewish history of recent times.  He published in Hebrew: Manhigim yehudiyim metekufat mendelson vehagaon mivilna vead yemenu ela (Jewish leaders from the age of Mendelssohn and the Gaon of Vilna until our own times) and Divre yeme hayehudim bizman aleksander hashlishi venikolai hasheni (Jewish history in the era of Alexander III and Nikolai II).  In 1947 his historical work Perushim, tsedokim, kanaim, notsrim, shita ḥadasha beḥeker divre yeme yisrael (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zeolots, and Christians: A new method for the study of the history of Israel) (Tel Aviv, 414 pp.) was published—in it he argued against the position held by general historiography regarding that era that was linked to the rise of Christianity.  He remained as dynamic and temperamental as always until his final days.  He was interested in everything and everyone, and he reacted to every event of the time.  In 1947, when the U.N. had to decide on the fate of the land of Israel, he published a pamphlet, in which he insisted on the historical rights that Arabs, too, had in Israel, and—as he himself was later to write in 1956—the pamphlet: “is being widely disseminated in the land, but I cannot say that it will fulfill its objective.”  He died in Tel Aviv.  After his death the publishing house of Devir (Tel Aviv) published the second volume: Rabanut, ḥasidut, haskala, letoldot hatarbut hayisraelit misof hamea ha-16 ad reshit hamea ha-19 (Rabbinate, Hassidism, Enlightenment, history of Israeli culture, from the end of the sixteenth century until the early nineteenth century) (1956-1958), 2 vols.  Later still: Al itonim veanshim (On newspapers and people) (Tel Aviv, 1983), 170 pp.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), pp. 1075-76; Dr. Joseph Klausner, Darkhe likerat ha-tehiya vehageula, autobiyografya, 1874-1944 (Roads toward revival and redemption, an autobiography, 1874-1944), pp. 100, 146, 156, 325; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), p. 478; Y. D. Berkovitsh, in Forverts (New York) (February 15, 191931; March 1, 1931; January 22, 1933); A. Yoel, in Hadoar (New York) (Tevet 1 [= December 16], 1955); D. Eynhorn, in Forverts (October 14, 1956; October 28, 1956); M. Osherovitsh, in Forverts (February 8, 1958); Haavar (Tel Aviv) (Elul [August-September] 1958); Ḥ. Orlan, in Hadoar (February 20, 1959); Dr. Shloyme Bikl, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (December 6, 1959); Y. Kahan, Unter di sovetishe himlen (Under Soviet skies) (Tel Aviv, 1961), pp. 164, 165.
Borekh Tshubinski

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 310.]

[1] According to Evreiskaia entsiklopedya (Jewish encyclopedia), this date should be 1875.  (Most others sources cite this date—JAF.)
[2] Translator’s note. Note that the Yiddish title (Di tsayt) and the earlier Hebrew one (Hazman) mean the same thing. (JAF)

Thursday, 19 January 2017


FROYM KATS (1870-April 5, 1924)
            He was born in Gline (Glinyani), eastern Galicia.  He studied in religious primary school, a house of study, and a Polish high school.  He worked as a bank employee.  He was one of the first “Lovers of Zion” (early Zionists) in his town.  He was a founder and president of the Zionist group “Ahavat tsiyon” (Love of Zion) in 1919.  He published stories and articles in: Lemberger togblat (Lemberg daily newspaper) (1909-1924); Di vokhnshrift (The weekly writing) in Lemberg (1919-1921); Gershon Bader’s Yudisher folks-kalendar (Jewish people’s calendar) in Lemberg (1909); the anthologies Shtralen (Beams [of light]) in Vilna (1914) and Moyshe Frostik’s Yudisher kalendar (Jewish calendar); as well as in various periodicals of Galician Zionists in Lemberg, Cracow, and other places.  He died in Lemberg.

Sources: H. Halpern, Megiles gline (The book of Gline) (New York, 1950), pp. 90, 139, 142; N. M. Gelber, Toldot hatenua hatsiyonit begalitsiya (History of the Zionist movement in Galicia) (Jerusalem, 1958), pp. 254, 511.
Khayim Leyb Fuks


            She was the author of Mariks kholem, mayses un lider far kinder (Marik’s dream, stories and poems for children) (New York: Yungvald, 1953), 160 pp.

Source: B. Grin, Fun dor tsu dor (From generation to generation) (New York, 1971).

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 310.