AVROM-MEYER AMSTERDAM (1871/1872-July 29, 1899)
Born in Vitebsk, Russia to poor parents (his father was a teacher in an elementary religious school). He studied in religious elementary school and later, until age sixteen, in an artisanal school in Moscow. Banished from Moscow, he returned to Vitebsk in early 1890. At an early age he was active in community life and in the Moscow student group “Bnei-tsiyon” (Children of Zion), under the influence of his brother-in-law, Ruvn Braynin. At that time, he was a close friend of Dovid Pinski and one of the dreamers of Zion in the Hebrew language, but later he parted from Zionist ideology and dedicated himself to spreading education among the people. He founded youth clubs in Vitebsk which made him beloved among young people, chiefly among yeshiva boys. An extraordinary, arousing orator, he became with the course of time one of the pioneers of the Jewish labor movement in Vitebsk, later becoming active as well in Mohilev (Mogilev) where he served in the military (1894-1895). He went to Vilna in 1896 and became a member of the “Zhargonishe komitet” (Yiddish committee). So as to spread radical Yiddish writings, he became a peddler. Der yidisher arbayter (The Jewish laborer) in August 1899 wrote of him that he had become a peddler who had studied the Jewish people well and that they felt attached to him with a powerful love. He was “a man of pure personality, an orator, a superb cultural propagandist, and a man drawn to artistic endeavors and who also made his own efforts at writing fiction” (A. M. Ginzburg-Naumov). Unfortunately, the work referred to here was lost. He was arrested on June 27, 1897 and spent two years in various jails. When he was freed, he wrote Briv tsu di arbayter (Letter to laborers) as well as a speech for May Day. He was also interested in issues in Jewish history, and on his own collected materials for a Jewish history with a materialistic interpretation. He was an enthusiastic adherent of Yiddish and believed that his people would succeed in building their own literature in their own vernacular language. He drowned in the Dnieper River in Shklov (Škłoŭ). His tragic death was described by Zalman Shneur in his Shklover yidn (Jews of Shklov) in a chapter entitled “Der dertrunkener” (The drowned).
Sources: Der yidisher arbayter 2.3 (February 1897), 4.5 (November 1897), 7 (August 1899); A. Litvak, Vos geven (What was) (Vilna, 1925); A. Tsher (Tsherikover), Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO) (Vilna-Paris, 1939); Sh. Levin, Untererdishe kemfer (Underground fighters) (New York, 1946); Algemayne entsiklopedye (General encyclopedia), vol. 3, p. 315; Ruvn Braynin, Fun mayn lebns-bukh (From my book of life) (New York, 1946), p. 272; Doyres bundistn (Generations of Bundists), vol. 1 (ed. Y. Sh. Herts) (New York, 1956).