YEKHIEL-MEYER BEN-AVROM SOKHATSHEVSKI (March 4, 1889-April 12, 1958)
He was born in Lodz, Poland. He studied with his father, a merchant and a member of the Jewish community council, and in the Zionist “cheder metukan” (improved religious elementary school) of Yankl Gold, as well as German and Polish with private tutors. He lost his father at age twelve and moved to live with relatives in Warsaw. For a time he studied in a small Hassidic synagogue, later working as a cigarette maker. In 1903 he left for Cracow, was employed in a factory making cigarette paper, and continued his education in his free time. In Cracow he joined the Labor Zionists. Over the years 1911-1913, he traveled through Jewish cities and towns of Austria, Hungary, Germany, and the Balkan states, and supported himself giving speeches on Zionist themes and by reading his poems in public. In late 1913 he settled in London, England, where he was an active cultural leader, builder of the Yiddish press, cofounder and for many years a member of the administrative committee of the London Jewish literary association, the local division of YIVO, and the Yiddish theatrical association, among other groups. He debuted in print in 1905 with poems in Gershom Bader’s Yudisher folks-kalendar (Jewish people’s calendar) in Lemberg and later contributed to: Bader’s and M. Frostik’s Yudishe kalendarn (Jewish calendars); Der tog (The day) and Di post (The mail) in Cracow; and Lemberger togblat (Lemberg daily newspaper); among others. He was a regular contributor to Avrom Reyzen’s Kunst un leben (Art and life) in Cracow (1908). He was among the first contributors to the Lodz dailies: Lodzer nakhrikhten (Lodz reports) (1906-1908) and Lodzer tageblat (Lodz daily newspaper) (1908-1936), in which he published stories and Hassidic tales. In Morris Meyer’s daily newspaper Di tsayt (The times) (London, 1913-1948), he published (in addition to articles) poetry and stories, as well as numerous newspaper novels under various and sundry names. He wrote as well for: Der fraynd (The friend) in St. Petersburg-Warsaw; Dos leben (The life) in Warsaw; Di yetsige tsayt (Contemporary times), Folksblat (People’s newspaper), Lodzher folksshtime (People’s voice of Lodz), and Nayer folksblat (New people’s newspaper) in Lodz; Yugend-shtrahlen (Youth beams [of light]), Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Arbeter-tsaytung (Workers’ newspaper), and Dos vort (The word) in Warsaw; Tsukunft (Future) and Yidishe kultur (Jewish culture) in New York; Yidish (Yiddish) and Loshn un lebn (Language and life) in London; among others. From 1951 until his death, he edited and practically wrote the entirety of the weekly Di idishe shtime (The Jewish voice) in London. In book form: In shtile tsaytn (In quiet times), lyrical poetry (Lodz, 1913), 95 pp.; In shpigel, fun a tagebukh (In a mirror, from a diary) (London, 1920), 42 pp.; Lieder (Poems) (London, 1921), 82 pp.; In shotn, poemen un lider (In shadows, poetry) (Warsaw, 1923), 157 pp.; Harov yoysef shapotshnik, biblyografye (Rabbi Yosef Shapotshnik, bibliography) (London, 1927), 20 pp.; Untern shvert (Under the sword) (London, 1939-1940), 146 pp., with Yoysef-Hillel Levi; Lemekh (Lemekh), the first of four volumes with the same title, satirical poetry and stories (London, 1941), 142 pp.; Lemekh hasheyni (Lemekh II), poetry (London, 1944), 244 pp.—parts three and four were published in Di tsayt and Di idishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper) but not in book form; Albert (Albert), poems dedicated to his son who died at age thirteen (London, 1942), 61 pp.; In a geto gas (In a ghetto street) (London, 1942), 12 pp., with drawings by his son Morris; In di geto-moyern (On the ghetto walls), a one-act play (London, 1942), 16 pp.; Shma yisroel (Hear, O Israel) (London, 1943), 99 pp.; Velt un mentsh (World and man), collected writings (London, 1942), 238 pp.; Rusishe gueriles (Russian guerrillas) (New York, 1943), 16 pp.; Der aliner in elf lider (The Aliner and eleven poems), Hassidic poetry and prose, earlier published in Di tsayt (London, 1959), 48 pp. He contributed as well to Jewish Chronicle and other Anglo-Jewish serials in England. His book Shma yisroel in his own English translation as Hear, O Israel appeared in London (1923), 71 pp. In 1952 he visited Paris, Poland, and the state of Israel. He died near London. A special issue of Di idishe shtime was published in his honor (London, May 1958), with articles and appreciations by Meylekh Ravitsh, Y. A. Liski, A. M. Kayzer, Yoysef Frenkel, Y. L. Fayn, Y. Rikhtiger, and Y. Yong, and poems by A. N. Shtentsil, Sh. White, and M. Henman. “He was a slave to his pen,” wrote Meylekh Ravitsh, “all his years working on a destitute editorial board, but basically he dreamt of another career. He was drawn back to his source—poetry…. His lyrical, simple poems were often very heartfelt…. With his poor ten fingers, he created Di idishe shtime in London, so that the Yiddish letter and the Yiddish word should not become extinct among the Jewish community of 300,000 Jewish souls…. He was the watchman of the Jewish lighthouse in London.”
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; Bal-Makhshoves, in Dos leben (Warsaw) (October 12, 1913); Morris Meyer, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (August 27, 1941); Meyer, in Di tsukunft (New York) (March 1944); Sh. Slutski, Avrom reyzen-biblyografye (Avrom Reyzen bibliography) (New York, 1956), no. 5089; Khayim Leyb Fuks, in Fun noentn over (New York) 3 (1957), see index; A. Shklyarek, in Folksshtime (Warsaw) June 5, 1957); Yoysef-Hillel Levi, Gezamlte shriftn (Collected writings), vol. 2 (London, 1958), pp. 180-87; Meylekh Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (April 28, 1958); Ravitsh, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (September 7, 1958); Sh. Oyerbakh, in Di idishe shtime (London) (November 20, 1959; November 27, 1959); Biblyografye fun yidishe bikher vegn khurbn un gvure (Bibliography of Yiddish books concerning the Holocaust and heroism) (New York, 1962), see index; obituary notices in the Yiddish press of various countries and cities.
Khayim Leyb Fuks