Dinezon’s Obituary in the Forverts



Yiddish original at The National Library of Israel
Wednesday, September 3, 1919, p.1
New York, New York
Translated from the Yiddish by
Mindy Liberman
Jacob Dinezon Dead

Famed Yiddish writer and community leader dies in Warsaw at 63 years of age. He was the heart of the Jewish assistance work in Poland. For the poor, forlorn Jewish orphans, he was a devoted father and a good teacher.

The sad news has just arrived that the father of the realistic Yiddish novel, the beloved Yiddish writer and community leader Jacob Dinezon, died yesterday at the age of 63.

A huge Jewish heart has stopped beating. A rare Jewish soul has left this world and will be lamented and mourned by the whole Jewish people.

During the last few years, during the sad war years, Dinezon laid his pen aside and took up community affairs. He undertook to save the Jewish war orphans, and his work was extensive and important, his accomplishments distinguished.

Dinezon took the Jewish war orphans under his protection and cared for them like a father. He founded schools for them, established free kitchens, and did everything possible for them as if he were their own father.

Dinezon was well-loved in Yiddish literary circles in Warsaw. The young writers related to him like to a close relative, like a dear and kind brother.

Jacob Dinezon was born in Zhager, Kovno province, in the year 1856, in an impoverished but distinguished family. He was educated in Mohilev-on-the-Dnieper at the home of his uncle, Ayzik Elyashev, who was well-known in the city as an outstanding mathematician. He was first educated at a traditional religious school and later also studied Talmud in the prayer house, devoting himself at the same time to the Hebrew language. The educated Horowitz family (especially the wife, Bondana Horowitz, the older sister of the well-known publisher, the widow Dvoyre Romm) greatly influenced his intellectual development. He was, for a time, a Hebrew teacher in their home, where he obtained his first secular education and became acquainted with German and Russian.

His first literary efforts were in Hebrew, and he published several articles in Smolenskin’s Ha-Shahar (The Dawn) in addition to a series of letters in Ha-Magid (The Preacher) and Ha-Melits (The Advocate). Wishing to instruct the many people who did not understand Hebrew, he turned to the Yiddish language. He and other young Mohilev friends offered a series of natural science lectures adapted from Bernstein as volunteer teachers in the Mohilev Talmud Torah. He later published some of them (Thunder and Lightning, Rain and Snow, etc.). He wrote a major novel, Beoven avos (For the Sins of the Fathers), in which he described the tragedy of a Jewish girl who dies because of the ignorance and fanaticism of her parents (based on true life).

Dinezon prepared his second novel, Der shvartser yungermantshik (The Dark Young Man), 1877, in a period of six weeks between Passover and Shavuot. The work with which the author himself remained dissatisfied was enormously successful. Within a short time, the novel rose to the unusual number of 10,000 copies in several printings. His good and pious heroes and heroines were very popular among the Jewish public. The Dark Young Man, like Dinezon’s next novel, Even negef, oder, a shtein in veg (A Stumbling Block, or, A Stone in the Road), a novel in four parts, Warsaw, 1890, was written in a sentimental tone. The author was, above all, a moralist and a critic of manners: his main goal was to instruct ordinary readers, awaken in them good feelings, love and compassion for the weak, and respect for a loving heart.

A Great Jewish Heart has Stopped Beating

By Sholem Asch

I have expected this every day. After Peretz’s death, the old man took it upon his old shoulders to care for the small orphans that Peretz had left in the schools. How long can a human heart hold out? The news struck me like thunder, even in this time when we are becoming accustomed to everything. For me, it was not the beloved Yiddish folk writer who died; for me, it was not a great Jewish heart that stopped beating; for me, it was not the father of hundreds and thousands of little orphans from the streets of Warsaw who passed away. For me, first and foremost, a friend had died, perhaps the only one I had. A father, an educator, and a caregiver. And the death relates to me so personally that right now I do not know how to express what Dinezon was for us, the writers of Warsaw, for Reyzen, and for me.

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