Monday, 12 February 2018

SOLOMON SIMON (SIMON SOLOMON)

SOLOMON SIMON (SIMON SOLOMON) (1873-October 4, 1959)
            He was born in Vitebsk, Byelorussia.  His father, Zalmen Mints, was a Lubavitcher Hassid and an extremely poor man in his final years.  He was a descendant of scholars and pious Jews.  He would, without compensation, interpret dreams, exorcise the evil eye, ward off worm diseases with a formula, and the like.  He invented a machine to make Hanukkah candles, an instrument that could produce several kinds of wine from one tap, and a new means of purifying wine.  Solomon Simon studied for several years in religious elementary school; later, because he could not afford tuition, he studied with his older brother Shloyme and later still in a yeshiva.  He began reading secular works in 1890 and formed a reading circle of five young men who would assemble several times each week to read and debate.  After a series of debates, he was persuaded that he was a “narodnik” (populist-revolutionary movement in Russia in the 1860s and 1870s).  He was also thought of as a Zionist, later still as a Marxist.  In 1892 he became an elementary schoolteacher in a village not far from Vitebsk.  Together with two friends, he managed a Jewish school (1893-1894) for poor children.  In 1894 a secret meeting of Jewish revolutionary youth took place in his room; he was there assigned hanging proclamations against Nikolai II’s assuming the Russian throne following the death of Aleksandr III.  In October 1895 he was drafted, served in the military in St. Petersburg, and turned to agitating among the troops.  In 1899 he completed his army service and made his way to Dvinsk (Dinaburg, Daugavpils), Latvia, where he took an active part in the work of the Bund.  In 1900 he was working strenuously in the Bundist organization in Vitebsk.  Because of his army experience, he was assigned to work among soldiers.  He also worked among Christian cobblers and bookbinders, and he spied on Tsarist spies.  He was soon arrested and faced the danger of being exiled to Siberia.  In early 1901 he was set free from prison and placed in the custody of the police.  He later received from the police permission to travel to Bialystok, and he then stole across the border (1902) and fled to Germany, from whence he proceeded to London where he found work in a tailor’s shop as a presser.  In the summer of 1902 he helped to found the Union of Helpers and Students, and he was appointed protocol secretary and organizer of the union.  In November 1903 he came to New York and found work in a paper-making factory.  In 1906 he took part in the establishment of the Jewish dyers’ union.  From New York he moved to Waterbury, Connecticut, where he took part in the building the local Bundist organization.  He also organized there a supplementary school for children and a drama club.  He returned to New York in 1914, and in 1917 moved to Cleveland and from there to Los Angeles, Chicago, and other places, where he remained active in Bundist groups and in the Workmen’s Circle.  In book form he published: Derinerungen fun der yidisher arbeter bavegung (Experiences of the Jewish workers’ movement) (New York, 1952), 194 pp.  His experiences end in 1917.  Subsequent experiences until 1930 may be found in manuscript in the YIVO archives.  In 1930 he was compelled to withdraw from community activities.  He died in New York.

Sources: G. Aronson, in Di tsukunft (New York) (May-June 1953); information from R. Shteyn and M. Kligsberg in New York.
Leyb Vaserman


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