Sunday, 28 August 2016


SHAYE ZLOTNIK (May 20, 1893-March 11, 1943)
            He was born in Zhichlin (Żychlin), Poland.  His father Meyer was the rabbi in Głowaczów, Radom district.  His brother, Rabbi Yude-Leyb Zlotnik, was the well-known Jewish folklore research who wrote under the names Yude Elzet and Yude Avide (Yehude Avida).  He studied in religious primary school and in synagogue study hall in Radom, where he received ordination into the rabbinate at seventeen or eighteen years of age.  Privately he studied secular subject matter and became a businessman.  He was president of Mizrachi, later chairman of the anti-Nazi committee in Radom.  When the Nazis occupied Radom, he remained there with his family (he had seven children), was confined with all the other Jews in the ghetto, and then shot on the Heroes Day Action—Purim, 1943.
            Zlotnik began to collect old Jewish witticisms, jokes, and aphorisms in the 1920s.  After revising the materials that he had amassed, he wrote substantially about hem in a variety of Yiddish and Hebrew periodicals.  He also published essays and modern sermons in: Moment (Moment) and Unzer ekspres (Our express) in Warsaw; Forverts (Forward) and Morgn-zhurnal (Morning journal) in New York; Shikago kuryer (Chicago courier) in Chicago; Keneder odler (Canadian eagle) in Montreal; and in the Hebrew serials, Haolam (The world) and Hatsfira (The siren).  Among his books: Moderne droshes (Modern sermons) (Warsaw: Alt-Yidish, 1929), 112 pp.—with the name of the author on the frontispiece as: Rabbi Shaye Zlotnik (H. Y. Zahavy)—an effort to explain the old events of the ancient religious Jewish life in light of Jewish life in contemporary times, the sermons are linked primarily by Jewish holidays, in part though also with current matters, such as: “Building on the land and of the people,” “The sword and the text” (concerning contemporary demoralization), and the like; Leksikon fun yudishe khokhmes, gute verter fun kluge yuden (Lexicon of Jewish witticisms, bon mots from wise Jews), “collected from oral sources and adapted,” part 1 (Warsaw: Brider Voitsikevitsh, 1929), 72 pp. (reissued in 1931); Yontoyvim folklor (Holiday folklore), “popular phrases…concerned with our holidays,” part 1 (Warsaw: Brider Feder, 1930), 100 pp.; Khumesh-folklor (Pentateuch folklore), “all popular phrases, aphorisms, witticisms, anecdotes, and popular expressions drawn from the Five Books of Moses,” part 1 on Genesis (Warsaw, 1937), 73 pp., part 2 on Exodus and Leviticus (Warsaw, 1938), 73 pp., part 3 on Numbers and Deuteronomy (Warsaw, 1938), 86 pp.  Already confined to the ghetto in 1941, he wrote a book on Jewish ethics.  The manuscript of this book was kept hidden by a Gentile who later feared that possession of it would be dangerous and he burned it.

Sources: M. Flakser, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), p. 379; oral information from Zlotnik’s daughter, Mrs. Pasternak, in the Bronx, New York; Genazim (Archives) (Tel Aviv, 1972/1973), 81: 479.

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 265.]

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