SHMUEL-YANKEV HARENDORF (September 25, 1900-ca. May 1969)
He was known by the name Shmuel-Yankev Dorfzon. He was born in Khentshin (Chęciny) and raised in Kelts (Kielce), Poland. He was orphaned at age four on his father’s side, and his mother settled in a village not far from Yendzheyev (Jędrzejów) where he studied with his older brother and in the village school. In Kielce at age fourteen, he was a journeyman sign-painter. At the beginning of WWI, he was working in a tannery as well as in other difficult physical labors. In 1915 his mother died and he left with a shipping job for the southern Tyrol where he performed backbreaking labor. Half a year later he moved on to Vienna and there worked in a locomotive factory while attending evening courses, devoted to educating himself, and he became a member of the Vienna Labor Zionist organization. At the end of WWI he returned to Kielce and took an active role in the local Labor Zionist youth movement. In 1919 he was a delegate to a Labor Zionist youth conference in Warsaw, and he was there elected to the youth central committee. Over the decade 1921-1931, he traveled with Yiddish theatrical companies, as a prompter, impresario, or partner through Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, Austria, and Yugoslavia. In 1921 he settled in Prague, Czechoslovakia, where he was involved in journalistic activities, and he corresponded from there to various newspapers in other countries. When the Nazis occupied Prague in 1939, they search for the name “Sh.-Y. Dorfzon” among the names of foreign correspondents that were on their black list, but the writer’s actual name, Harendorf, was on the list, and that saved him. He departed for London where he remained until his death.
Harendorf began his writing activities in 1919 with articles and short stories in Fraye yugend (Free youth), the central organ of the Labor Zionists in Warsaw. In 1920 he served as correspondent from Vienna for the Warsaw-based Moment (Moment) and a regular contributor to the Vienna-based Jüdische Morgenpost (Jewish morning mail) in which he also published theater reviews. He was cofounder in 1924 of the Viennese literary weekly Di naye tsayt (The new times), in which he published a lengthy work: “Tsu der geshikhte fun yidishn teater in estraykh un tshekhoslovakay” (On the history of the Yiddish theater in Austria and Czechoslovakia). In 1926 he founded in Munkatsh (Munkács), Carpathian Russia, Dos yudishe folksblat (The Jewish people’s newspaper), the first Jewish weekly newspaper from that region. In 1929 over the course of eight months he published the weekly Yudishe vokhnpost (Jewish weekly mail) in Vienna. From 1931 he was the correspondent from Czechoslovakia for Moment in Warsaw, Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York, Haarets (The land) in Tel Aviv, and Idishe shtime (Jewish voice) in Kovno, among others. In June 1940 he became the director of the Morgn-zhurnal Bureau in London and correspondent for Idishe tsaytung (Jewish newspaper) in Buenos Aires, Der amerikaner (The American) in New York, Afrikaner idishe tsaytung (African Jewish newspaper) in Johannesburg, and a regular contributor to the London daily Tsayt (Time). In London in 1940 he founded the Jewish World News Agency (Ivna [Idishe velt-nayes agentur]), which appears daily until the present day a news bulletin in Yiddish. Over the years 1943-1950, he wrote the plays: Der kenig fun lampeduse (The king of Lampedusa), staged hundreds of times to great success in the London Yiddish theater, “Grand Palais,” in Tel Aviv’s “Hametate” (The sweeper), and in other theaters in England and Argentina; Khane senesh (Hannah Szenes); Gesheftn un parnose (Jobs and a living); and Pleytim zaynen oykh mentshn (Refugees are people, too). He was also the author of a volume of memoirs, Teater karavanen, mayselekh un epizodn fun mayne vanderungen mit yidish teater (Theater caravan, stories and episodes from my travels with Yiddish theater), with a preface by Dr. Arn Shteynberg (London, 1955), 231 pp.; these memoirs were published earlier serially in Idishe tsaytung in Buenos Aires (1953-1954). He also wrote a long study on Yiddish theater in Western and Central Europe in Yidisher teater in eyrope tsvishn beyde velt-milkhomes (Yidish theater in Europe between the two world wars) (New York, 1971), vol. 2. He also wrote under the pen names: Ben Yoysef, Ben Shulamis, Kafrini, Shidon, Sh. Moldaver, and H. Betushin. He died in London.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Z. Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 1; Yankev Glatshteyn, in Idisher kemfer (New York) (July 22, 1955); Y. Mestel, in Yidishe kultur (New York) (October 1955).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 215.]