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Yehoash- Solomon Bloomgarden

Yehoash- Solomon Bloomgarden

Yehoyesh (pseudonym of Yehoyesh-Shloyme Blumgarten []) was born 16 September 1872 in Varzhbolove (later Virbaln),
near the Russian-German border.  He died in New York in 1927.  His
father was a devout scholar, a maskil and an active member of
Khovevey-Tsien ('Lovers of Zion').  His mother ran a small ironware
store to support the family; she was also active in communal charitable

Y. began kheyder at the age of 4, then studied tanakh, Talmud and
Hebrew, first with his father and then with private tutors; at an early
age he began to read the works of Haskalah writers such as Smolenskin
and Gotlober.  At 13 he was enrolled in the famous Volozhiner Yeshive,
but soon returned home where, under his sister Sheyne's influence, he
studied foreign languages and literature and wrote his first poems in
Hebrew.  For a time he was a private Hebrew tutor in wealthy homes, but
not content with this, he resolved to emigrate to America.

In 1889 he brought his first poems to Peretz in Warsaw.  Peretz
befriended him and foresaw a great literary future for him.  David
Pinski quotes Peretz's own words (in "The Jewish Worker," NY, 1927):
"...Only a young man, in his early 20's, but filled with torah, with
Jewish and worldly knowledge, a language scholar, with a great memory."

In 1890, perhaps to avoid conscription into the Russian army, Yehoyesh
emigrated to America.  He earned his livelihood at first as a Hebrew
teacher, and continued writing poetry in Hebrew.  However, he was
dissatisfied with his work and destroyed these early poems.  He decided
to try occupations other than teaching -- tailoring, peddling,
bookkeeping in a glass factory; in this period he wrote nothing.  He
then met met Dr.  Israel Davidson, a young Hebrew writer, under whose
influence he began to write again.  He composed a book of Hebrew poems,
but sudden illness forestalled its publication; manuscripts of these
poems are in the Yehoyesh archives.

In 1900 Y. contracted acute tuberculosis, and spent the next seven years
at the Jewish Sanitorium in Denver, Colorado, during which time he set
aside his writing.  He was married in 1903, and in 1908, cured of TB, he
made a fund-raising trip across America on behalf of the Jewish
Consumptive Relief Committee of Denver.  These travels enabled Yehoyesh
to become acquainted with the landscape and natural beauty of America,
and to meet numerous influential people.  Returning to New York in 1909,
he wrote prolifically until 1914.  He also participated actively in
Jewish cultural life in New York in those years, especially for the
Poale-Tsien (Labor Zionists).  His _Dictionary of Hebrew and Aramaic
words used in Yiddish_, co-written with Dr.  Khayem Spivak while at the
Denver Sanitorium, was published in 1911.  (A second edition was
published in 1926.)

In January 1914, Y. and his wife, along with their daughter Evelyn,
emigrated to Palestine, settling in Rekhovot.  There he learned Arabic
and studied the Koran and post-Koranic literature.  The family lived for
several months in Relvan, on the border of the Egyptian desert, not far
from Cairo, but returned to New York in the summer of 1915, not long
after World War 1 broke out.  Y.'s travel experiences were serialized in
_Der tog_, including "Biz Rekhoves un Tsurik" (To Rekhovot and Back),
later published in book form.

Yehoyesh's literary activity began with Hebrew poetry (which was never
published) while he was still attending yeshive, but all of his
published work is in Yiddish . Encouraged by the Hebrew writer Ben
Avigdor, he sent some of his early poems to Peretz, who published them
in his _Di yudishe bibliotek_ (Warsaw 1891).  These poems included a
translation -- from English --of a Byron poem, and a translation of
Chapter 18 of the Book of Psalms, his first tanakh translation.  He also
wrote for Mordecai Spektor's _Hoyzfraynd_ (Warsaw 1894).

In America, through the years 1891 to 1912 he published poetry and
popular historical novels in _Der folks-advokat_.  He wrote for _Di
yudishe gazetn_, _Yidishes tageblat_, _Der forverts_, _Der varhayt_ and
others:  poetry, fables, translations, as well as Chinese, Japanese and
Arab legends.  From January 1902 until his death in 1927, he wrote for
_Der tsukunft_:  poetry, legends and fables, and translations of Byron,
of Longfellow's "Hiawatha," and of Omar Khayam's "Rubaiyat."  He
contributed to Minikes' _Yontef-bleter_ and from November 16, 1916, was
a regular contributor to _Der tog_, where he published most of his
tanakh translations.  From 1909-1919 he wrote for the humour and satire
journal _Kundes_, including his version of "Around the World in 80
Days."  From 1908-1915 he contributed to Zhitlovski's _Dos naye lebn_.

Yehoyesh was a regular contributor to most of the Yiddish periodicals in
North America, Canada, Russia, Poland, Argentina, Austria, Palestine and
other countries.  His poems were translated into English, Polish,
Russian, French, German and Hebrew.  Many of his poems were included in
anthologies and in textbooks used in Jewish schools; many were set to
music and performed widely.

His first impulse to translate the Torah came to Yehoyesh in 1904.  By
1909 he had completed a translation of Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs,
Ruth, Job and, in 1910, Isaiah.  He was dissatisfied with his first
efforts and destroyed them.  In preparation for his great project he
read Bible translations and commentaries in many languages and versions
(Septaguint, Vulgate, Onkeles; Ibn Ezra, Rambam, Ramban, etc.) and
clarified hundreds of interpretations of words and sentences.  His
translation is not only a monument of the Yiddish language, it is a
creative work.

Yehoyesh labored at his translation from 1909 until his premature death
in 1927.  From 1922-1927, _Der tog_ published hundreds of letters from
leading Bible scholars responding to the tanakh serialized in its pages.
According to Leyeles, Yehoyesh destroyed his first tanakh translation of
1909-1910, including the printing plates and galleys, wanting to purge
all daytshmerisms.  Surviving today, and so long as Yiddish is spoken,
read and understood, are the later translation of the khumesh (1927),
the early neviyem (1927), the later neviyem (1929), the ksuvem (1936)
and the revisions of 1933 and 1938 (aside from the special editions
(_Der tog_, 1936 and 1941; _Der forverts_ in 2 volumes in 1939).
YIVO also issued separately _Shir hashirem_ (1932), _Megiles Ester_
(1936).  In 1940 a _Khumesh far kinder_ appeared.  In 1949 Mortkhe
Kosover edited a lexicon of commentaries based on Yehoyesh's prolific
notes on the tanakh.

Selections from Yehoyesh's tanakh (in English translation!) can be found
in the anthologies by Joseph Leftwitch (_The Golden Peacock_, 1961) and
by Howe and Greenberg (_Treasury of Jewish Poetry_, 1957).  Shmuel Niger
praised Yehoyesh's translation and claimed its utility in the study of
the Hebrew original.  Yankev Glatshteyn credited Yehoyesh with rescuing
and immortalizing thousands of forgotten Yiddish words.  Until his death
Yehoyesh worked on a Syriac grammar to help him prepare an even better
Bible translation.  A memorial book in 1935 listed over 50 translations
of his poems in 10 languages.  His yortsayt was celebrated in the
ghettos of Warsaw, Lodz and Vilne.  We conclude with the poem,
"Yehoyesh," written by Avrem Sutskever for a commemoration of Yehoyesh's
yortsayt in the Vilna Ghetto on April 6, 1943.  The poet buried this and
other poems in the ghetto and retrieved them after Vilna was liberated.
From: Robert Goldenberg <goldenbe@vaxxine.com>