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Maurice Vinchevsky

Updated: Apr 7, 2022

This year marks 165 years since the birth of the Jewish poet, prose writer, playwright and journalist Maurice Vinchevsky, one of the founders of proletarian Yiddish literature. He was born as Bentsion-Lipa Novehovich in the town of Ionava, Kovno province. From 1870 he worked as a bank clerk in Vilna, where in 1873 he made his debut in poetry and prose in Hebrew under the pseudonyms "Ben Netz" and "Yigal ish ha-Ruach". In 1877 he moved to Königsberg, where he became interested in socialist ideas and began to collaborate in newspapers in Yiddish and Russian; joined the ranks of the German Social Democracy. From 1879 he published articles criticizing Jewish enlightenment (Haskala). Moving to London, he organized there in 1884 one of the first Jewish socialist newspapers "Dos Poilishe Idl" ("Polish Jew") and the first anarchist newspaper in Yiddish "Der Arbeter Fraind" ("Friend of the Workers").

After moving to New York in 1894, Vinchevsky participated in 1897 in the creation of the social democratic newspaper Forverts (Forward), which became the world's largest newspaper in Yiddish, and is still operating today, albeit in a digital format. He was a member of the Socialist Labor Party, Social Democratic Party of America and Socialist Party of America.

In 1921 he joined the US Communist Party. In 1920, two volumes of journalistic and satirical prose (The Thoughts of a Mad Philosopher) were published. He also wrote dramas and poetry. In 1924 he came to the USSR, where in the same year a collection of his poetry "Songs of the Struggle" was published. He died in March 1932 in New York.

The Central Republican Jewish Library in Kiev was named in honor of Vinchevsky (destroyed in 1941).

Here is an excerpt from the poem by M. Vinchevsky "Di valt far di raikhe" (World for the rich)

Zej batrakhtn di velt vi a mark,

Un di oreme menschen vi vaarn,

Un zej zitzn bajm folk ojfn kark,

Fun der hejkh tzu batrign di narn.

Zej batrakhtn di vélt vi a tajkh,

Vu dos folk iz di fish, vos zej fangen,

Un zej vérn fun fang nit nor reijkh -

Der fish muz di nétz zej derlangen…

Zej batrakhtn di velt vi a vald,

Vu zej jogn di menchn vi hozn,

Un zej haltn far rekht dos gevalt,

Farn umreht - zikh shindn nit lozn ...

They see the world as a market

And the poor people as goods,

They sit on the neck of the people

And fools are ruled from above.

They see the world as a river

Where the people are fish to catch

They not only get rich from fishing,

And they want the fish to serve the net.

They see the world as a forest

Where people are hunted like hares,

Violence is the law for them

And the desire not to be offended is not fair...

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