Thinkers and Doers

From “Yahadut Lita” Vol. 3, Tel Aviv, 1967. 

Einhorn, Aharon (1884-1942)

Journalist, born in Keidan. He studied Talmud until he was 17. Completed secondary school in Paris, afterwards studied at the Sorbonne. He began his career as a journalist in 1905, and from then was affiliated with “Hazman,” “Haynt,” “Paris Journal,” “Morgn Zhurnal” in New York and other publications. Starting in 1912 he worked regularly for “Haynt.” He published political articles, essays and critical reviews, and translated from French, Russian and German (“Thirsty Gods,” by Anatole France, “The Miser” by Moliere and others.) He was in the Warsaw ghetto, where he hid and was shot by Nazis.

Einhorn, Joseph Isser (1866-1925)

Educator and author. Born in Keidan, he was the brother of Aharon Einhorn. He was educated in the yeshiva of Rabbi Meilis in Vilna, studied agriculture in Montpellier (France). He taught agriculture in Mikveh Israel. Was one of the founders of the newspaper “L’accueil Zionist.”

From 1912 on he lived in Warsaw. His works include “HaAdam” on anatomy and physiology, (Warsaw, 1922, sixth printing, 1936); “Baalei HaChaim” on zoology, (three volumes, Warsaw 1922-1924); “Torat Avodat HaAdama” (London, 1910). He translated the book “On Heroes, Hero- Worship and the Heroic in History” by Carlyle (Moscow, 1919, 2nd printing Warsaw, 1920).

Bloshtein, Hirsh (1895-1979)

Yiddish poet. Born in Keidan to a poor tailor. His father died when he was 12. He worked as a teacher of retarded children, thus helping his mother sustain his family. In 1912 he began to publish poems. During World War I he was exiled to Ukraine along with most other Jews of the town. He published stories in “Undzer Lebn” in Odessa. He translated comedies for the theater “Undzer Vinkl” He composed a poem entitled “Rabbi Akiva.” He worked as a teacher in the Caucasus. From there he moved to Minsk and was affiliated with the publications “Vecker” and “Shtern.” In 1921 he returned to Lithuania and contributed to local newspapers and to Jewish newspapers in America. He put together a collection of his poems, “Oyf Zunentrep” (“On the Sunlit Steps,” Kovno 1923.) In 1925 he emigrated to Argentina. In 1931 he returned to the USSR and settled there.

Zaks, Shneur (1816-1892)

Researcher and writer, was born in Keidan. When he was a child his parents moved to Zhager (Žagaré), where his father, Tzemach, served as rabbi, and from whom he learned Torah. He studied in Vilna and Dubno. From there he moved to Brody and met Yitzhak Arter who supported him financially and guided him in his studies. In Brody he began his literary work, publishing articles about the Jewish sages, the cultural situation of the Russian Jews and the need for an encyclopaedia of Jewish wisdom. He also published poems in the monthly periodical, “Zion” (1841-2). When a rumor that he had “fallen on wicked ways” reached Žagaré, his father and his wife demanded that he return home. His townsman Chaim Zak established a school for him and sent him pupils to teach Tanach and Talmud. His success in the field of education encouraged the intellectuals of Raseyn (Raseiniai) to invite him to teach in their town. He remained in Raseyn (where he made the acquaintance of Avraham Mapu) for two years and taught there. These were happy days in his life. He continued his literary work there and published an article “Korot Mlechet HaBiur Vehapeirush” (“Pirchei Zion,” Vilna, 1844), an introduction to a book comparing belief in revelation and belief in nature.

After saving some money, he moved to Berlin and devoted himself to his studies at the university, in particular to the lectures of Schelling. In Berlin he lived poorly: He earned his living by guarding the dead and reciting kaddish for the deceased. He published his anthology “Kanfei Yonah” (Berlin, 1848), which included articles expressing a negative attitude to reforms in religion, and later the anthologies “HaTchiyah” (Berlin 1850-1857), “HaPalit” (Berlin 1850), “HaYonah” (Berlin 1851) and “Kerem Chemed” (Volumes 8 and 9, Berlin 1854-6). He also published his book “Khikrei Lev V’Iniyannei Kadmoniyut”, Part 1, about the period of Rabbi Abba (Berlin 1851).

He lived in Berlin for 12 years, suffering financial distress. He was accepted as a tutor in the home of Baron Josef Ginzburg in Paris, for his son Naftali and afterwards for his grandson, David (on the recommendation of Dr. M. Mapu, brother of Avraham Mapu). For the next 30 years, he did not want. He established a large scientific library for his students, containing many valuable manuscripts.

He tried to establish forums for Jewish knowledge in Paris, but didn’t succeed. He published the anthology “Kikion Yonah” there (Paris 1860), “Sefer Tagin” (Paris 1866) and “HaMidrash HaKatzar” (attributed to Rabbi Akiva), about the “Sefer Tagin”, and the anthology “Yayin Levanon” (Paris 1866); also “Shir HaShirim Asher L’rashbag (about Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel, Paris 1868). He intended to complete several more books on Judaism.

He was among the most erudite experts on medieval Jewish philosophy. He was a friend of Samuel David Luzzato, Adolf Jellinek, Abraham Geiger and Leopold Zunz[1]. He died in Paris.

Troib, Israel-Michal (1858-1926)

A writer and publisher, born in Keidan. He was the grandson of the rabbis Avraham Shimon Troib and Avli of Posvol (Pasvalys). Educated in yeshivas, he published articles in “HaMelitz” and “HaMaggid.” He emigrated to South Africa, where he published a weekly periodical in Hebrew and Yiddish “HaKochav”–“Der Yiddisher Shtern” (1903 -1908). He returned to Russia and settled in Libau and afterwards in Telzh (Telšai) He died in Berlin.

Smilg, Yosef (1848-1900)

An educator, born in Keidan, the son of Pesach. He studied in the yeshivas of Vilna and Kovno. He was certified as a rabbi, and later studied in the universities of Berlin and Leipzig and received a Ph.D. From 1880 he taught Judaic religious studies at three German gymnasia in St. Petersburg (Russia).

He published a series of articles in “HaMelitz” including one called “The Foundation of Ethical Education” which appeared afterwards in specialized booklets. He died in St. Petersburg.

Pick, Aharon (1872-1944)

A doctor and author, born in Keidan, son of the cheder teacher David. He graduated from the Slobodka yeshiva and was about to receive certification as a rabbi, but he fell under the influence of the times and joined the young people following the enlightenment movement in Kovno. After diligent study and intense effort he obtained a matriculation certificate and went abroad to continue his education. In the interim he worked as a teacher in the Talmud Torah in Shavli (Šiauliai) and also in private homes in Vilna. He participated in communal affairs and devoted himself to collecting Yiddish folk songs.

He studied medicine in Paris and worked as a doctor in the south of France throughout World War I. He then returned to Lithuania and settled in Shavli. He became head of the internal medicine section of the municipal hospital and was active in Jewish communal life. He was a member of the Jewish municipal council and its chairman. He was also one of the founders of the Hebrew gymnasium, chairman of OZE and a founder of a summer camp for poor children. At the same time he lectured on medical topics. He published many articles on questions of medicine and prophylaxis, on Jews in medicine and medicine in sacred texts. He also published a number of literary autobiographical works, including: “In Prison” (HaOlam, 1935); “Reb Zvi the Cooper, Memories of Lilienblum’s Father” (in the anthology “Keidan,” New York, 1930) and the story “Summer Flowers.

With the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union, he was persecuted for his past Zionist affiliation and fired from his job, but after a time he was appointed to the management of the municipal polyclinic. During the Nazi occupation he was in the Shavli ghetto. Until the end of his days he excelled in his positive attitude until the hardships of that life defeated him. He left behind a diary and notes from the ghetto entitled “From the Valley of Slaughter.” He died in the Shavli ghetto.

Prozer, Moshe (1840-1895)

An educator, born in Keidan, the son of Shlomo Zalman. He was yeshiva-educated and a prominent pupil of his uncle, Rabbi Avraham-Ever Yoffe. He also studied in Yanove (Jonava), but after he became interested in the literature of the Haskalah (enlightenment movement), he was forced to leave town.

He relocated to Ponevezh and Vilna, where he studied in a yeshiva and learned Russian and German from students in the rabbinic college. He intended to walk to Zhitomir to apply to the rabbinic college there. Because he didn’t have the appropriate certificates, he returned to Ponevezh and became a teacher. There he became acquainted with Yehuda Leib Gordon.

In 1863 he came to Kovno, where he met Mapu. He wrote articles for “HaMelitz” and made a living as a private tutor.

He was a supporter of Lilienblum. When he travelled to Odessa, he helped Y. Lipkin and Herman Shapiro, a cheder teacher in Kovno, go abroad to continue their education. He also helped many others seeking education.

In 1870 he served as a Hebrew teacher in Berman’s school in St. Petersburg. After that he was invited by Baron Günzburg to teach his sons and to teach in the orphanage he had founded. He also served as a permanent assistant for “HaMelitz.

Richards (Rabinovich), Bernard Gershon (1877-1971)

Author and editor, born in Keidan, he emigrated to the United States when he was 14. He served on the editorial staff of various newspapers. He edited a Yiddish newspaper in Boston. Later he crossed over to the English press and became famous for his articles, written in a philosophical spirit. He won fame for his book (“The Discourses of Keidansky”), a collection of descriptions of immigrant lives. He joined the Zionist movement at its beginning and was active as a publicist for Zionism.

He became an editor of the Zionist newspaper “The Maccabean”. He was a member of the executive council of the Zionist Organization of America. He was also among the founding members of the American Jewish Congress, and served as its secretary. He was the secretary of the American delegation within the Committee of Jewish Delegations during the Versailles peace conference. He also established the Jewish Information Bureau in New York.

Schlesinger, Benjamin (1876-1932)

A labor leader, born in Keidan, he emigrated to the United States when he was 15. He was a worker and was active in a trade union. At 17 he became leader of the Watchmakers’ Association, and became active in the Socialist Labor Party. He was among the founders of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and its president for 14 years. He led several strikes and represented the American labor movement at international congresses and government meetings. He died in the USA.

Shlapobersky, Shmuel (1882-1949)

A communal worker, born in Keidan, son of Yehuda. He studied in the cheder, and worked in a pharmacy. He sat as a non-matriculating student in St. Petersburg and completed a legal degree there. He was active in the Zionist movement from his youth. He lived in Kovno from 1918 and was a member of the municipal council and the Zionist Center of Lithuania. He published articles on economic subjects.

In 1936 he made aliya, worked in agriculture in Even Yehuda and after 1940, in Petach Tikvah. He was active in the municipality and was chairman of the General Zionists there. He died in Petach Tikvah.

[1] Jewish scholars and reformers of the mid-19th century.


Translated by Bella Golubchick and Chaim Charutz.

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