YEKHEZKL-MOYSHE NAYMAN (December 15, 1893-September 22, 1956)
He was born in Zhikhlin (Żychlin), Warsaw district, Poland. In 1894 his family moved to Lodz, where his parents owned an inn. His mother descended for many generations of tombstone engravers, school builders, and craftsmen of silver ritual objects. (According to legend, they were descendants of Spanish exiles who, after the expulsion from Spain, settled in Poland and built synagogues there; thus, Nayman’s interest in researching the origins of Jewish synagogues and Jewish art generally.) Until age ten he studied in religious elementary school and in a yeshiva in Ozorków, and he later entered Yitskhok Katsenelson’s secondary preparatory school (run by the poet Y. Katsenelson’s father), and when the Katsenelsons moved to Lodz, Nayman went along with them and until 1908 studied in their school. Over the years 1909-1912, he attended Yaroshinski’s high school and technical school, and together with his school friend, the later well-known painter and writer Mark Shvarts, designed the model for the iron gate of the Vilna Synagogue in Lodz. At the time of Mendele’s visit to Lodz (Shavuot 1912), he was among the planners and designers of the Mendele medallion, with which the Yiddish-writing pupils at the technical school greatly pleased Mendele. In those years, Nayman (using the pen name “Der kibitser”) published satirical ditties in Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper). For his wicked caricatures and couplets of one of the teachers at the school (published in a student magazine), he was failed on his graduating examinations, and he thus decided to abandon his studies altogether and become a writer. He published on a regular basis in Lodzer tageblat. While Dr. Y. Gotlib was editor of the second Lodz daily newspaper, Dos lodzer morgenblat (The Lodz morning news) (1912-1914), Nayman became a steady contributor and was put in charge of the section for humor and satire—“Der kibitser” would satirically react to the political events in Jewish life in Russia under the Tsar. He also wrote rhyming feature pieces on contemporary events. Yiddish variety actors made use of his theater piece in verse, “Bilyetn” (Tickets). He also wrote other light songs and parodies for the theater, and he took part himself in stage appearances both in the Yiddish “Dramatic Arts” theater and “Habima” (in Hebrew). He was also active in the Zionist youth movement and in the Maccabi sports association. Over the years 1915-1918, he served on the editorial board of Lodzer folksblat (Lodz people’s newspaper), in which, among other items, he published images and features for the first time under the name “A. Foygl” (a bird) and ran the humor section “Der shrapnel” (Shrapnel). With Yitskhok Katsenelson, in 1916 he edited four collections: Heftn far literatur un kunst (Notebooks for literature and art) in Lodz. He contributed to Varshever tageblat (Warsaw daily newspaper) (1916-1918) and wrote as well for: Di yetstige tsayt (Contemporary times), Literatur (Literature), Vays un bloy (White and blue), and Der yudisher zhurnalist (The Jewish journalist), among other serials, in Lodz. He was a cofounder (1919-1920) of the young Lodz writers’ group “Yung idish” (Young Yiddish), which published Yung idish (six issues), and contributed as well to: Gezangen (Songs), issues 1 and 2, in Lodz; S’feld (The field), issues 1-6 (1922-1924); Vegn (Pathways), Shveln (Thresholds), Oyfgang (Arise), and other literary publications in Lodz. From the summer of 1919, he was living in Warsaw. He was active in the “Committee for the Hebrew University,” in the society for a laboring land of Israel, in the Association of Yiddish Writers and Journalists, and in “Shul-kult” (School and Culture Union), among other organizations. He was a contributor to: A Grinboym’s Dos yudishe folk (The Jewish people) (Warsaw, 1919), and later, until WWII, one of the main writers for Haynt (Today) in Warsaw, for which he served as night editor, Sejm correspondent, notice reporter on Zionist congresses, reviewer of Yiddish and Polish theater and film, and—principally—he excelled at being a witty feuilleton essayist, with his own distinctive style. Nayman was the first to introduce to Haynt a regular survey of Yiddish and general art and literature. In 1933 he was literary editor of Haynt, and he provided many places for works by young writers (among them: Moyshe Shimel and Khayim Semyatitski). His entire life he was devoted to researching Jewish art, and with that goal he several times made trips to Germany, Italy, France, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, the Land of Israel, and North Africa, and he assembled a huge collection of rare works in the Jewish plastic arts. He wrote about the art of North African Jews. He also discovered the unknown, until him, Jewish sculptor and painter in eighteenth-century Poland, Dovid Fridland, and wrote about him in the German Jewish Encyclopaedia Judaica (Berlin), the Universal Jewish Encyclopedia (New York), and Entsiklopediya haivrit (Hebrew Encyclopedia, Masada)—a portion of Nayman’s work “Yidishe kunst in poyln” (Jewish art in Poland) was included in Yoyvl bukh fun haynt (Jubilee volume from Haynt) (Warsaw, 1928). He published on Jewish art and artists in Poland and in the English-language monthly Menorah in New York. He was a cofounder (together with the sculptor Broyner and the musician Henekh Kon) of the first Jewish marionette theater in Poland “Khad gadye” (An only kid). He did the same for the variety theater “Azazel” and other Jewish revue theaters. He was among the pioneers of Yiddish film in Poland and the author of plots of the movies, “Tkies-kaf” (Handshake) and “Al-khet” (Yom Kippur confessional prayer). He wrote on Polish Jewish life (with Sholem Asch and drawn from Asch’s work), for which in 1936 he received a prize from the Joint Distribution Committee. He reworked Mendele’s Der priziv (The conscript), as “a comedy in three acts with a prologue and an interlude,” in popular, stylized verses (staged in Warsaw’s Central Theater in the autumn of 1933). He was a regular contributor to Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves) in Warsaw, in which, aside from essays on Jewish and general literature and art, he also published poetry, sketches, caricatures, and grotesquerie. He served as Warsaw correspondent for: Di tsayt (The times) in London; Der tog (The day) in New York; and Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires; among others. He also placed work in: Varshever shriftn (Warsaw writings), Varshever almanakh (Warsaw almanac), Ringen (Links), Globus (Globe), Di naye gezelshaft (The new society), and Shriftn (Writings) edited by Sh. Zaromb—all in Warsaw; Os (Letter) in Lodz-Warsaw, in which he published, among other items, the theatrical drama, Fayern in Toledo (Fires in Toledo); Dos folk (The people), Frimorgn (Morning), and Yidishe bilder (Jewish images)—in Riga; the anthologies Shriften (Writings), as well as Tsukunft (Future), In zikh (Introspective), and Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture), among others—in New York; Kultur (Culture) in Chicago; and the like. From 1925 he was a contributor to Davar (Word) in Tel Aviv (and from 1940 also a member of the editorial board), Davar hashavua (Word of the week), and other serials—in Tel Aviv. In Di goldene keyt (The golden chain) he published, among other pieces, the poem “A khasene in yerusholaim” (A wedding in Jerusalem) and the dramatic poem “Don kishot untern shotn fun palmes” (Don Quixote in the shade of palm trees), a dramatic staging of Cervantes’s work with the state of Israel in the background; and he published it in his own Hebrew translation (Tel Aviv, 1953), 36 pp. A portion of his feature pieces and poems were republished in the illegal Yiddish publications of the Warsaw Ghetto. In book form: Di yudishe turnershaft, notitsen un bamerkungen arum der turn-bavegung in poylen (Jewish student clubs, notes and remarks on the club movement in Poland) (Lodz, 1918), 78 pp.; Shabes-oybs, folksshtik in dray aktn (Candy for children on the Sabbath, a folk play in three acts) (Warsaw, 1923), 166 pp., with a reproduction of a bas-relief of candy for children on the Sabbath by Mark Shvartz (“a popular mystery of poor people in a faraway Polish Jewish town,” according to Zalmen Reyzen, “in which the context was wartime happenings given a much spirited image of the old Jewish lifestyle in an apotheosis of the Sabbath”); Yontef indervokhn, lider (Holiday on weekdays, poetry), with a portrait of Yankl Adler (Warsaw, 1936), 159 pp.—including: “Zoyer-lider” (Zohar poems), “Kin” (Keane), “Kadmen” (Original), “Dos lid fun kholets” (The poem of a pioneer), and others; and Der milyoner, tragikomedye in dray aktn (The millionaire, a tragicomedy in three acts) (Warsaw, 1936), 95 pp. From Polish he translated Jerzy Szaniawski’s comedy Der papirene gelibter (The paper lover [original: Papierowy kochanek]), which was performed on the Yiddish stage in Poland. His poetry is included in Joseph Leftwich’s English anthology The Golden Peacock (Cambridge, 1939; New York, 1961), and in Mortkhe Yofe’s Erets yisroel in der yidisher literatur (The land of Israel in Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv, 1961), among other works. He remained active until the day before his death. His last article was an essay in mourning for his friend, the poet Moyshe Broderzon. In addition to the pen name “A. Foygl,” he also published under such pseudonyms as: Segul, Loeg Larash, Y. M. Kamilya, Kibitser, Itshe Klapshlos, and Filmai. He died in Tel Aviv. On the thirtieth day following his death, there was published in his memory a special supplement to Letste nayes (Latest news) in Tel Aviv (October 19, 1956), with articles, appreciations, and memoirs by Yoyel Mastboym, Shmuel Shpigel, A. Y. Brzezhinski, and others. He left in manuscript: a book on Jewish painters, sculptors, architects, and artists from all time periods; a study of the Polish poet Cyprian Kamil Norwid and his influence on Yiddish poets in Poland; a work on Jewish art in Poland; a work about old wooden synagogues in Poland; a volume of satirical songs; a longer study entitled “Di hashpoe fun yidish af h. haynes shafn” (The influence of Yiddish on H. Heine’s works); the poem “Kadmen”; and a comedy Hare ze masheaḥ (Behold, the Messiah) with the background of the Jewish struggle with the Arabs in 1948.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2, with a bibliography; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934), with a bibliography; D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah leḥalutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the pioneers and builders of the yishuv), vol. 8 (Tel Aviv, 1958), pp. 3086-87; Ben-Tsien Rozentsvayg, in Togblat (Lemberg) (April 5, 1924); Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper) (Lodz) (May 2, 1924); Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), see index; Sh. Lubetkin, Publitsistn (Journalists) (Warsaw, 1937), pp. 57-64; Yidishe bilder (Riga) (February 12, 1939); Dov Sadan, Kearat tsimukim (A bowl of raisins) (Tel Aviv, 1939/1940), see index; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 1 (Montreal, 1945), pp. 144-46, vol. 3 (Montreal, 1958), p. 278; Z. Segalovitsh, Tlomatske 13, fun farbrentn nekhtn (13 Tłomackie St., of scorched yesterdays) (Buenos Aires, 1946), see index; Aharon Ze’ev Aescoly, Kehilat lodzh, toldot ir ve-em be-yisrael (The community of Lodz, a history of the city and the fount of Israel) (Jerusalem, 1948), see index; Ber Mark, in Yidishe shriftn (Lodz) (March 1949); N. Mayzil, Geven amol a lebn, dos yidishe kultur-lebn in poyln tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (There was once a life, Jewish cultural life in Poland between the two world wars) (Buenos Aires, 1951); Mayzil, Dos mendele bukh (The volume for Mendele) (New York, 1959), see index; B. Shefner, Novolipye 7, zikhroynes un eseyen (Nowolipie 7, memoirs and essays) (Buenos Aires, 1955), see index; B. Kutsher, Geven amol varshe (As Warsaw once was) (Paris, 1955), see index; A. Tenenboym, Lodzh un ire yidn (Lodz and its Jews) (Buenos Aires, 1956), see index; Ḥaim Shorer, in Davar (Tel Aviv) (Tishrei 18 [= September 23], 1956; Tishrei 16 [= October 7], 1960); Mikhal Asaf, in Davar (Tishrei 25 [= September 30], 1956); M. Tsanin, in Hayntike nayes (Tel Aviv) (September 23, 1956); A. Alpern, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (October 2, 1956); Alpern, in Tsukunft (New York) (January 1957); Y. Rimun, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (October 11, 1956); M. Grosman, in Heymish (Tel Aviv) (October 1956); Y. Yanosovitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (October 20, 1956); Daniel Leybl, Sefer hashana shel haitonaim (The annual of newspapers) (Tel Aviv, 1956/1957), pp. 327-28; Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 28 (1956); Kh. Finkelshteyn, in Fun noentn over 2 (1956); Finkelshteyn, Yidishe prese in varshe (The Yiddish press in Warsaw) (New York, 1956), pp. 187, 206, 207, 208, 210; M. Gros-Tsimerman, in Davar (October 27, 1957); Y. Gutholts, in Davar (Tishrei 18 [= October 13], 1958); Y. Ḥ. Biltski, Masot bishvil sifrut yidish (Essays on Yiddish literature) (Tel Aviv, 1960), pp. 318-20; M. Vaykhert, Varshe (Warsaw) (Tel Aviv, 1961), see index; Y. Paner, Almanakh fun di yidishe shrayber in yisroel (Almanac of Yiddish writers in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1962), p. 372; obituary notices in the Yiddish and Hebrew press.
Khayim Leyb Fuks