LEYZER MONFRID (LAZARUS MONFRIED) (August 1885-October 14, 1955)
He was born in Shadove (Šeduva), Kovno district, Lithuania. At eight years of age he began studying to play the fiddle with a town musical group, later with a teacher in Shavel (Šiauliai), where he also studied Jewish subject matter. At fifteen he went to Warsaw and studied there at the conservatory. The editor of Der yud (The Jew), Dr. Yoysef Lurye, introduced him to Avrom Reyzen, and he began to publish poetry in Der yud, Folks-tsaytung (People’s newspaper), Der fraynd (The friend), Der tog (The day), and Epelberg’s Yontef bleter (Holiday sheets) which he later, around 1903, began publishing himself. In 1901 he completed his first composition, text and music for the poem Tsiens fon (Banner of Zion). For a time he was also active as a director in the Warsaw choral school, “Shaare tsiyon” (Gates of Zion), and in a singing group which later was transformed into the well-known “Hazemir” (The nightingale). After the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War, he emigrated to join his father in South Africa, where he published in the Yiddish periodicals: Hakokhav (The star), Folkstsaytung (People’s newspaper), and Der afrikaner (The African), and he also wrote correspondence pieces for European and American newspapers. Together with his parents and siblings, in 1907 he moved to the United States. For a time he was a frequent contributor to Yidishes tageblat (Jewish daily newspaper) and other periodicals, in which he published poetry, stories, feature pieces, and journalistic articles. He also wrote in English. He edited: the weekly Der lets (The clown) in New York (1908); the weekly Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice) in Cincinnati (1911); Idishe drama un familyen-zhurnal (Jewish drama and family magazine) in New York (1913); Di muzikalishe velt un teater-zhurnal (The musical world and theater journal) in New York (1923); and Der idishe familyen-zhurnal (The Jewish family journal), “monthly publication in Yiddish and English for the entire family,” in New York (1941-1942). During WWII he dedicated a prayer to the American armed forces: Servicemen’s Prayer, which Congress authorized to be published in the Congressional Record (Washington, D.C.) (April 1945). In book form: Freylikhkeytn, perl fun humor un satire (Cheers, pearls of humor and satire) (New York, 1944), 160 pp.; Unter eyn dakh (Under one roof), in five parts (poetry, stories, journalism, drama, and music set to certain poems) (New York, 1949), 35 pp.; Zayt ir balibt tsvishn mentshn (Are you loved among people) (New York, 1960), 67 pp., also published in English as: Ten Steps to Social Success: Ten Spiritual Faults, from Which People Suffer Socially (New York, 1950), 72 pp. He also authored the plays: In letsten shturm (In the last storm), in four acts; and Got fun muzik (God of music), in three acts. He was an active member of the Jewish National Labor Alliance. He died in New York.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Avrom Reyzen, Epizodn fun mayn lebn (Episodes from my life), part 2 (Vilna, 1929), pp. 137-38; L. Feldman, Yidn in dorem-afrike (Jews in South Africa) (Johannesburg-Vilna, 1937); E. Almi, preface to Monfrid, Unter eyn dakh (Under one roof) (New York, 1949), pp. 5-10; Sh. Slutski, Avrom Reyzen-biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen’s bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 5237;Sh. Tenenboym, in Di shtime (Mexico City) (September 3, 1960).