The Death of Jacob Dinezon

Der Moment (The Moment)

Sunday, August 31, 1919
Warsaw, Poland, pp. 1–4
Translated from the Yiddish by
Mindy Liberman


Death Condolences for Jacob Dinezon

With great grief and sadness, we announce the death of the highly esteemed Jacob Dinezon, his soul is in Paradise, the well-loved Yiddish folk-writer and devoted educator of Jewish children. The deceased dedicated not only his pen but also his work, day in and day out, his energy, and his effort to the education of Jewish children. The Joint Distribution Committee has always respected that the deceased, who did his work with such dedication and love for the task, could be found among his colleagues in the area of educating and caring for Jewish children. He did his sacred work with pen and deed. The Jewish people will never forget him for this. All of us who had the honor of working with him will make every effort so that the many hundreds of Jewish children who stood under his protection will not be orphaned again. —Joint Distribution Committee, Dr. Boris D. Bogen, Director.

Friday the 3rd of Elul (29 August), 5 p.m. in Warsaw, Jacob Dinezon, his soul is in Paradise, passed away at age 68. In the person of the deceased, Yiddish literature lost one of its oldest and best-loved writers. Together with all of his admirers, we stand in deep sorrow, bowed before the fresh grave. —Moment Editorial Board.

With deep sorrow, we announce the passing of our comrade and honorary chairman, the beloved and esteemed folk-writer, Mr. Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. The funeral will take place today, Sunday, 5th of Elul, August 32, at 1 p.m. from the house of the deceased at Karmelitska 29. —The Board of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw.

With a broken heart, I accompany to his eternal rest my dear brother and friend Jacob Dinezon. —S. An-ski.

With Jacob Dinezon’s death, Peretz has died once again for me. —Helena Peretz.

With an ache in our hearts, we mourn the passing of our unforgettable, irreplaceable, truly dedicated dear good friend Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory, with pain and sorrow. —Levi Levin-Epstein and family.

In deep sorrow, we bow our heads and mourn the death of the beloved folk-writer, father of the Jewish children’s homes and elementary schools, our esteemed comrade Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —Central Council of the Jewish Folkist Party in Poland.

With deep sorrow, we stand before the fresh grave of our dear, beloved, unforgettable elderly friend, Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —Union of Yiddish Writers and Journalists in Vilna.

Painfully, we mourn the death of one of the pillars of Yiddish literature and the Yiddish elementary school, as well as our close friend Jacob Dinezon. —The children and teachers of the elementary schools of the Yiddish “School and Public Education Association” in Warsaw.

The Central Artisans Council expresses its deep condolences on the death of the great, beloved Yiddish author Jacob Dinezon and, at the same time, calls for all artisans to take part in the funeral.

Jacob Dinezon Dead

Jacob Dinezon has died!

One of the fortunate who has made themselves immortal in the history of our literature; one of those whose name resounds in the Jewish street with love and warm gratitude.

Coming to literature as an eighteen-year-old young man with his famous The Dark Young Man, Dinezon immediately became popular and famous. Himself a student of Haskalah literature and a member of the staff at Smolenskin’s Ha-Shahar, this young teacher at the Mohilev Talmud Torah was one of the first to understand that in order to truly serve the people, one had to, first of all, speak to them in their language, and awaken in them the beautiful, the story-like. One had to teach them how to look at people and phenomena, how to see the lives around them and their own lives. He created the first Yiddish novel. It was the first Yiddish book to speak so warmly, so movingly, to the heart, to the human feelings of the Jewish street. The sentimental, tender love between two young souls that is destroyed by a dark, evil person (the “Dark Young Man”)—for whom among us have the images not left a mark in our memories? Who among us did not shed tears over the letters which the unlucky beloved wrote to her “Dear Joseph,” and who among us did not cry out words of hatred and anger against the Dark Satan who destroyed the happiness of the two angels in love?

The gentle, sentimental romanticism, the kind soft tones which escape him when he speaks of humiliated, downtrodden people, his fine empathy for human (especially childish) tears, and his sharp inner protest against every human evil and against all social injustice—together all this comes to be expressed in his works (The Dark Young Man, A Stumbling Block in the Road, Hershele, Yosele, Alter, Shayke, The Crisis, etc.), and together all this made him a favorite of the Jewish street for half a century.

Dinezon was the only one who came close to the heart of the people, to the softest strings of its soul, and if Mendele and Peretz essentially wrote for scholars and the learned, Dinezon was, in fact, read by everyone, by all of the Jewish people. Even our grandmothers shed tears over the pages of Dinezon’s works, and it would not be an exaggeration to say that several generations were brought up on these works.

In his last years, Dinezon published little and rather devoted himself to the legacy that he took over from his great friend (I. L. Peretz) and from the great storm of the war—the Jewish children’s homes and elementary schools. However, his eye and ear remained watchful over everything that took place in our small literary world. “Uncle Dinezon” to a large portion of the younger writers, he was generally the leader and practical guide for literary beginners. The Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists chose him as chair and honorary chair during its whole existence.

With the death of Jacob Dinezon, one of the most beloved and esteemed figures in Yiddish literature, one of the most distinguished and warmest leaders in the realm of Jewish school organization, and a dear person who leaves behind many devoted friends on this side of the ocean and the other, exits the stage.

May the earth rest lightly on him!

I hope that the truth is also no less dear to you as it is to me and that you will not deny my request.

The Old Child

Our family has lost its hadras shive, the oldest in the house—Jacob Dinezon. He was not the oldest at the writing desk, the mentor in literature, the grandfather of written work. He was, however, our grandfather in the house, at home, in our small literary house of study where we would gather as people, not as writers, but as people who live, suffer, fight for our daily bread.

The harsh time, the crude and unrefined years that followed one after another, washed away his light, warm pages, flowing with so much tenderness and sympathy. People used to cry over his books, but those days when people cried over another’s misfortune have long gone. For this reason, Dinezon’s works were sent en masse to the corner for “sentimental novels,” and that was that. Our selfish and cold generation is mistaken in that it is unwilling to cleanse itself for the book but rather demands that the book should cleanse and sanctify him. He does not wish to stretch his imagination first in order to foster the necessary mood for the book that he plans to read. He wants the book, and the book alone, to give him that particular imagination and mood.

What broad sources of love of humanity, sympathy, and that which is called in Polish pieszczota, “endearment,” are found in Dinezon’s novels and stories? But first, before making one’s way to them, one must enter the atmosphere of the old days, innocent and naive. We have to provide the greater portion of the imagination; as a result, we will feel the ice that has clung to our hearts in the last decades slowly melt.

And because we haven’t done this, or seldom done it, Dinezon has become ever further removed from us. And a strange curiosity has occurred: because of his age, this great and gray-haired child has become our guardian in economic matters. We ran to him in the time of need, as to the oldest person in the family. And we entrusted the care and maintenance of our families to him in the difficult days that we experienced.

And no one dwelled on how much this old child needed affection, sought a home, a loving word, a strong and loyal hand; how his good face lit up when people visited, not a “business” visit, but a visit from a friend! His work for the children’s homes, his bond with Peretz, all of it was an expression of his inner desire to find tenderness. Like a forlorn child, he was starved for a warm, loving atmosphere.

And strange: I can’t shake the thought that today we lead a child to the grave, a lonely and orphaned child who died surrounded by great and unfamiliar people. The creator of Yosele lived to have snow-white hair, but his life and death make the same impression on us as the life and death of that forlorn Jewish child who travels from cradle to grave among strangers and the indifferent. —Emanuel

A Wreath of Tears

Our own so dear, our own so good
Dinezon is gone!
So vanished in a cruel hour
A whole generation!

The synagogue’s east wall has emptied out,
Grievous is our pain!
Soon our leaders will be no more,
The stars slowly wane!

The orphans of the children’s homes
Have no father now!
Towards the earth their silver crown
Must now make a bow!

Now Yoseles and Hersheles
Cry tear after tear,
They console one another,
Sobs are all we hear!

And shimmering in every eye
Of the children’s choir,
Tiny pure and radiant tears
Like the sun on fire.

Let us be sure not to forget
That beloved gentle smile, the
Twinkle in his eyes—

Let’s now all lay a wreath of tears
Over the freshly dug new grave
Where he lies!

—Lipa Keskin

Jacob Dinezon

Jacob Dinezon was born in 1856 (smudged) in Nay Zhager, Kovno Gub., to an impoverished, distinguished family. He was educated at an uncle’s in Mohilev on the Dnieper. He received his first schooling in cheder; Dinezon later studied Talmud in a besmedresh, a house of study, devoting himself to the Hebrew language at the same time. Dinezon also acquired his first secular education in Mohilev.

His first literary endeavors were in Hebrew. In addition to many letters in Hamagid and Hamelitz, he published a few articles in Smolenskin’s Ha-Shahar. But wishing to enlighten the broad masses, he switched to the Yiddish language. After a series of natural science lectures, he wrote a major novel, Beoven avos (For the Sins of the Fathers,) that did not appear in print due to a ban by the censor. However, his manuscript was warmly received by reputable Vilna Maskilim, such as Ayzik Meyer Dik.

In 1877, Dinezon published a second novel instead of Beoven avos: Der shvartser yungermantshik (The Beloved and Pleasing, or, The Dark Young Man), that was a tremendous success. In 1890, he published a second novel, Even negef, oder, a shteyn in veg ( Stumbling Block, or, A Stone in the Road). Both of these novels were written in a sentimental tone and aimed at the unsophisticated readers who saw Dinezon as their favorite writer.

Since the ’90s, Dinezon moved to stories and sketches written in soft and delicate tones. In the year 1899, his finest work, Yosele, appeared; in the year 1903, a longer story, Alter; and in 1905, the series Kindershe Neshomes (Childish Souls).

In addition, Dinezon published a series of stories and sketches in Fraynd, Yidishe Folks-tsaytung, and others.

Dinezon also translated Graetz’s Popular History of the Jews (except for the first volume) and the first volume of the four-volume World History.

Dinezon left many writings and memoirs.

Jacob Dinezon’s Last Days

For those writer friends close to the very beloved and old Yiddish author, Mr. Jacob Dinezon, it has been no secret since Wednesday that after suddenly taking ill, he would not leave his deathbed.

By Friday morning, those close to Jacob Dinezon knew that the patient’s minutes were numbered and could foresee that at any moment, he might leave us forever.

From morning on until the final moment, as long as he was conscious, the patient spoke continually about the friendship that bound him to his deceased friend I. L. Peretz while he lived, and about his current dangerous situation.

Mr. Dinezon indicated that the time had finally come when he would spend eternity with Peretz because they had already been separated for four years . . .

His last words were his wish to be buried together with Peretz, under one tombstone, because just after Peretz’s death, he reserved a place for himself next to Peretz’s tomb.

Jacob Dinezon also expressed that he knew that while alive, Peretz was not against them being united after death, as they were happy during their lives.

My decision, Dinezon said, remains unchanged. It is the same on the part of my family and on the part of Peretz’s family.

The second idea, which tortured him badly when he began to lose consciousness, was the thought of the children’s homes.

It seemed to him that his children’s homes lacked produce and underwear.

They had to calm him down and clearly indicate that especially the children’s home on Mila Street, which concerned him so strongly, was well provided for.

His final wish was also that the funeral and burial would be at his expense.

These were his last conscious and semiconscious words.

Until about 1 p.m., Jacob Dinezon was conscious. After that, he lost consciousness and struggled to express his thoughts. He repeatedly rubbed his forehead and face with his hand but was no longer able to speak. He became paralyzed; he suffered this way until evening.

The Impression in the City

Jacob Dinezon passed away at twenty minutes after five in the evening.

Present at his death were: the sister of the deceased, Mrs. Katz; his cousin, Mrs. Klein; his sister’s children; writers S. An-ski, David Frishman, A. Kacyzne, and Nekhemye Finkelshteyn; Abramson, the teacher from Dinezon’s children’s homes Abramson; and others.

News of his death spread lightning-fast through the Jewish quarters and evoked a sincere and deep grief among all.

Two hours after his passing, death notices were posted throughout the Jewish streets by the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw who informed the general Jewish population of the sad news about the death of the beloved and elderly Yiddish writer Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory.

In many places, including in front of the house of mourning of the deceased (Karmelitska 29) where the death notices about Dinezon’s death were first posted by the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists, a police officer removed them because they were printed only in Yiddish.

Yesterday during the day, other police finished the “pogrom” on the death notices, ripping them from wherever they were still attached.

Among the Jewish Writers and Journalists

Although the Jewish Writers and Journalists were aware that their older friend’s days were numbered, Dinezon’s death had a shocking impact on them as well. The grief left marks at every turn and was discernable on every face.

[Something is missing.] . . . Jewish Writers and Journalists and the picture of the deceased adorned with black crepe as a sign of mourning.

A Committee to Organize the Funeral

A large gathering took place Friday evening in the meeting hall of the Jewish Writers and Journalists, under the chairmanship of Mr. A. L.  Shalkovich, about creating a special committee to organize the funeral, work out a program, and keep order. Also present at the meeting were the Hebrew writers and guests Yaacov Kahan and Dr. Klatzkin. Current matters were considered.

Dr. Bikovski (?) proposed that the members of the Jewish Gymnastics and Sports Association should maintain order during the funeral. The “Maccabi” flag draped in mourning should be carried at the head.

Mr. Dovid Eynhorn protested. Other proposals were also made, but no concrete decisions were reached. A committee was formed to organize the funeral.

The committee consisted of Mme. Peretz, Misters David Frishman, S. An-ski, Dozor Leibush Davidson (member of the Jewish community and synagogue council), Tsevi Prilucki, Noah Prilucki, S. Y. Yatskan, Nekhemye Finkelshteyn, Hillel Zeitlin, D. Gershn Levin, A. L. Shalkovitch, Levi Levin-Epstein, Abraham Podlishevsky, Dr. M. Klumel, Dr. Bikovski, Dep. H. D. Nomberg, Dep. Yitzhak Gruenbaum, A. Kacyzne, A. Gavze, Dr. Y. Gottlieb, Dovid Eynhorn, Zerubavel, Dr. Kruk, S. Golinski, S. Mintz, Abramson, Dep. Farbstein, I. Klein, Dr. Laypiner (?), Dr. Milejkowski, B. Karlinski, W. Spiegelman.

In the Home of the Deceased

On Friday evening, a group of writers, relatives, and friends carried the dead body from his sick bed to the catafalque that was placed in the middle of the room where Jacob Dinezon had lain ill. The whole room was draped in black. A black rug hung in front of the balcony of the apartment.

From morning until late in the evening, masses of people streamed into the apartment. Those who had been brought up in Dinezon’s children’s homes remained standing beside him for a long time, crying heartrending tears and calling out: “The one who has taught us and brought us up has died.”

The honor watch at the body was formed by the members of the Folkist youth organization “Peretz,” who also kept order, letting the masses in and out when viewing the body.

What Route Will the Funeral Take?

Yesterday morning, the treasurer of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists, Mr. A. Gavze, met with the police chief about permission to arrange the funeral as befitting a person such as the deceased.

The police chief permitted the arrangement of the funeral according to the wishes of the Association and promised that the police would help keep order along the route of the funeral.

The funeral will pass through the following streets: Karmelicka, Leszno, Tlomackie, Bielanska, Nalewki, and Gensha.

Memorial Service for the Deceased

Yesterday morning, before Mr. V. Medem’s reading and dramatization of Elysium, which was packed full, Mr. Medem dedicated several warm words to the deceased. He gave a short overview of his activities in the areas of literature and society.

The large gathered mass expressed its respect in honor of the deceased by rising from their seats.

He Left Unpublished Writings

The deceased left behind several unpublished works that must now be looked over by a board of writers and friends who remain the trustees of the property of the deceased.

Meeting of the Funeral Committee

Yesterday evening, the meeting of the committee taking care of organizing the funeral of the late Jacob Dinezon took place on the premises of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists.

The members of the funeral committee participated in the meeting along with delegated representatives of thirty-three civic and proletarian institutions who expressed their desire to take part in and organize the funeral.

The following was decided at the meeting:

In order to avoid any disturbances or nuisances, only two speakers should come forward to eulogize the deceased: one in the name of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists, Mr. A. L. Shalkovitch, the chairman, and Mr. S. An-ski.

No Carrying of Banners or Wreaths

No banners or wreaths should be carried. On the other hand, ribbons with inscriptions can be worn. Delegates will march in front of the coffin in the following order: delegates from the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists, from the Folk Party, the Proletarian parties, the Zionist Organization, and all the other civic parties. Following the coffin the family of the deceased and the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in formation, the children of Dinezon’s elementary schools and children’s homes, and the public.

Finally, a technical research commission was desired which would coordinate the funeral and maintain order.

One representative from every institution that sent an usher to the funeral joined the commission.

The ushers will be provided with special insignia indicating mourning.

The funeral begins promptly at 1 p.m. from the house of mourning at Karmelitska 29.

Access to the dead body by strangers will be closed off from 11 o’clock. Only an honor guard from the Association of Journalists will remain.

Today at 11 a.m. the technical commission will meet on the premises of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists (Tlomackie 13.) All members of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists must gather on the premises of the Association at 11 a.m., where they will receive mourning badges and march to the funeral together.

All members of “Folk House,” “Folk Club,” and “Peretz” Youth Organization are urgently required to appear today, Sunday, between 9 and 11 a.m. in the office of the Folkist Party Delegates at Orla 11 in order to participate and keep order at the funeral.

All the members of the Bar Kokhba Gymnastics and Sports Association are required to come to the premises of the Association at Przejazd 5 at precisely 10 in the morning. Everyone must be in uniform and with Association insignias.

The Hashomer Hatzair Organization requests all members to come today at 11:30 to attend the funeral of Jacob Dinezon.

The strike committee of the cemetery announces that submitting to the decision of the w.c. (work committee?) of Poale Zion, it requires the cemetery workers to bury the memorable deceased Jacob Dinezon.

The Professional Association of Jewish Teachers requires all members to attend the funeral of Jacob Dinezon. All members are requested to come to the premises of the Association at noon.


With deep sorrow, we inform all the family, members, and acquaintances that at 5:20 p.m., Friday, August 29, 3rd Elul, 5679, after brief and severe suffering, our passionately loved and unforgettable brother and uncle, Jacob Dinezon, His Soul is in Paradise, has passed away. The funeral takes place today, Sunday, 5th Elul, at 1 p.m. from his home, Karmelitska 29. —The grieving sister and family.

In painful grief, we stand deeply shocked and despondent before the grave of the creator of the first Yiddish novel, the favorite of the masses, and tireless people’s activist Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. We absolutely require all of our members to come to his funeral at 1 p.m. today. —The Board of the Praga Jewish Literary Society.

Deeply moved, we mourn the death our longtime colleague, the beloved and much esteemed Yiddish folk-writer, Mr. Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —Tsentral Publishing House, Warsaw. A. L. Shalkovich, I. Lidski.

Together with all of the Jewish people, we mourn the death of our beloved and kind-hearted folk-writer, caring protector of the Jewish Children’s Home and Elementary School Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —Folkist Women’s Organization in Warsaw.

The Jewish Academic Youth is deeply shocked by the death of our highly esteemed folk writer and educator, Jacob Dinezon, his Soul is in Paradise. We call on our young men and women to pay their last respects. —The Management of the Academic Home.

With the broad Jewish masses, we mourn the death of the beloved Yiddish writer and activist in the area of Jewish schools, Jacob Dinezon, his Soul is in Paradise. Honor his memory! —Professional Association of Jewish Teachers (Sienna 7?).

All listeners, old and new, are required to come without fail today at 11 a.m. to pay their last respects to our deceased writer, Jacob Dinezon. Assembly point Djika 6 Elementary School. —Administration of the Society. “Evening Courses for Workers.” Djika.

Together with the entire Jewish people, we mourn the death of our kind-hearted folk-writer and unique artist of the soul of the Jewish child Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —The Culture Committee of the Central Artisans Union, Leszno 42.

We express our deep sorrow on the occasion of the passing of the writer, community activist, and founder of public schools in Poland Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —The Praga Council of the “Askola” Gymnasium (in Hebrew).

The Society of the “Askola” Gymnasium expresses its deep sorrow on the occasion of the passing of the writer Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory (in Hebrew).

The Union of the Y.S.D (?) Young Workers enjoins all of the working and student youth to participate in the funeral of the great writer Jacob Dinezon on Sunday, August 31. Assembly point Karmelitska 23, Reading Room.

We express our deep sorrow on the occasion of the passing of our friend, the writer Jacob Dinezon, of blessed memory. —Chana and Shmuel Weinberg and their children (in Hebrew)

“Workers Home” Society Warsaw. All comrades are required to take part in the funeral of the beloved writer Jacob Dinezon, which will take place today at 12:30 p.m. from his home at 29 Karmelitska. —The Board.

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