VOLF MERKUR (WOLF MERCUR) (November 10, 1897-August 1972)
He was born in Lemberg, Galicia. He studied in religious elementary school, yeshiva, and a Polish public school. In 1916 he served in the Austrian army. After WWI he became an actor and performed in Gimpel’s Yiddish theater in Lemberg and with a number of traveling troupes. In 1920 he came to New York, played at the Liberty Theater in Brooklyn, wrote lyrics to various theatrical works, and adapted and translated plays from other languages which prominent stage actors sometimes performed. From 1930 he published in L. Libman’s Nyu yorker vokhnblat (New York weekly newspaper) essays and critiques of books, theater, and painters. In 1932, he edited the journal of satire and humor, Pekh un shvebl (Pitch and sulphur), in Chicago—only one issue appeared. In 1934 he began publishing in Morgn-frayhayt (Morning freedom) in New York a column entitled “Efsher yo un efsher neyn” (Maybe yes and maybe no). Over the years 1939-1948, he had charge of a satirical column, “Merkuryozn” (Merkuriana), in Der tog (The day) in New York. He also placed work in various publications in Canada and Mexico. In book form: Merkuryozn (Philadelphia, 1948), 256 pp., humorous stories about Yiddish theater and Yiddish actors; Di velt in khelm (The world of Chełm), preface by E. Almi (Buenos Aires, 1960), 280 pp.; Vent hobn oyern (Walls have ears) (New York, 1968), 235 pp. He died in New York. “Merkur,” wrote Shmuel Niger, “has language and ideas…. He can divert the reader’s attention. [He has] good judgment about actors and playwrights. The series of Chełm sages is the best part of the book.”
Sources: Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934); Zilbertsvayg, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (December 1, 1963); Z. Vaynper, in Di feder (New York) (1945); M. Dantsis, in Tog (New York) November 6, 1948); Avrom Reyzen, in Di feder (January 1949); Shmuel Niger, in Tog (February 27, 1949); Y. Mestel, in Der veg (Mexico City) (September 15, 1951); Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 5329; Y. Tsudiker, in Di idishe tsaytung (Buenos Aires) (February 12, 1960); Yosl Kohn, Baym rand fun onhoyb (At the edge of the beginning) (New York, 1960), pp. 70-81; Sh. Tenenboym, in Nyu yorker vokhnblat (New York) (June-July 1960); M. Yofe, in Di tsukunft (New York) (June-July 1960); S. Kreyter, in American Zionist (New York) (May 1960).
[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 384.]