Letter from Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport (S. An-ski) to Shmuel Niger, 1920. From Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport (S. An-ski) in Warsaw, to Shmuel Niger in New York, 8 October 1920, written not long before the writer's death. He thanks Niger, who might have had something to do with arranging the large sums of money that have been sent to Rapoport the Stybel Publishing house. He is mystified about the ultimate source of the funds. He has heard from Khayim Zhitlovski that Niger had sold the rights to Rapoport's play for performance by a theater in New York and is curious to know which theater and whether Rudolf Schildkraut will be involved. It is too bad that the Yiddish actor and director David Herman is in Vilna now and not in New York, because Rapoport really admires him. Rapoport is sending Niger several Hasidic tales related to Ba‘al Shem Tov and his followers. There is little in the way of Yiddish literature being published in Warsaw at the moment. The newspapers Haynt and Moment are trying to make up for the dearth of other venues, but are hampered by newsprint shortages. Rapoport is sending Niger poems by two young poets, Yisroel Emyot and Iosef Papiernikov. He writes that he managed to flee Otwock one day before it was taken by the Bolsheviks and that his health is poor: he is unable to walk much because his legs are swollen. He plans to go to Berlin in a month. He has heard from Max Weinreich, who has married Tsemaḥ Szabad's daughter and is living in Berlin. The Vilner Trupe has gone downhill now that some of its leading lights are gone. Avrom Morevski is depressed about this and also about "Snyegov," a "talentless meshumed [convert, traitor]" who is now reaping success in America. (The letter includes brief mentions of Alter Kacyzne, Yona Rozenfeld, and Fritz Yaffe.) Yiddish. RG 360, Shmuel Niger Papers, F57. (YIVO)

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Emyot, Yisroel

(1909–1978), author, poet, and critic. Born in Ostrów Mazowiecka, Yisroel Emyot (originally Goldwasser; Emyot is a combination of the Polish names of his father’s initials: Meylekh Yanowski, “em” and “yot”) descended from two prominent Hasidic families. After his father’s immigration to the United States, Emyot was raised and educated in the home of his maternal grandparents; as an adolescent, he studied at a yeshiva in Warsaw. Emyot’s first poem—signed Y. Yanover—was published in 1926 in the periodical Inzer hofenung (Our Hope), edited by Itshe Meyer Vaysenberg. Emyot’s literary ability was also recognized by Nakhmen Mayzel, editor of Literarishe bleter (Literary Pages), which published his poems, as did other literary journals.

Although Emyot was raised to be an observant Jew, he became one of Orthodoxy’s most prolific and prominent critics. His literary works and polemical and critical essays were published in a number of Orthodox journals including Ortodoksisher yugnt bleter (Orthodox Youths’ Pages), Beys Yankev (House of Jacob), Diglenu (Our Flag), and Dos yudishe togblat (The Jewish Daily; the organ of the Agudas Yisroel movement) to which he contributed weekly between 1935 and 1939.

In his critical works, Emyot often reproached Orthodox circles for their contempt for literature, and he encouraged talented writers to develop their literary abilities. In 1936, the poet and critic Yisroel Shtern, who was religiously observant, wrote that Emyot was the most productive, literary, and lyrical author among Orthodox writers. By 1939, Emyot had published several volumes of poetry: Mit zikh aleyn (Alone with Myself; 1932), Tropns in yam (Drops in the Ocean; 1935), and Iber mekhitses (Beyond Partitions; 1938). His writings contained religious motifs, Jewish characters, and descriptions of families.

When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Emyot traveled back to Ostrów Mazowiecka, where his mother was murdered. He then fled to Białystok, which at that point was in the USSR. He reacted to his personal crises by rejecting religion and joining the Communist Party. Emyot was active in a local writers’ association and, in 1940, he published Lider (Poems), in Moscow. When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Emyot set out with others to Alma-Ata (Almaty), the capital of Kazakhstan; there he contributed regularly between 1942 and 1948 to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee’s publication, Eynikayt (Unity). In 1944, he settled in Birobidzhan as a correspondent for the journal. Between 1946 and 1948, he also contributed to various Yiddish publications, including the Birobidzhaner shtern (Birobidzhan Star) and the anthology Birobidzhan (1946). In 1948, he published an additional collection of poetry, Oyfgang (Rise), and worked for the local radio station. With the liquidation of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in 1948, Emyot was arrested and exiled to eastern Siberia, where he remained until his liberation in 1955.

Emyot describes his experiences in Der Birobidzhaner inyn (The Case of Birobidzhan; 1960) and Fardekte shpiglen (Covered Mirrors; 1962); the latter book also includes chapters about his childhood. Following his liberation, he returned briefly to Birobidzhan but soon moved to Poland, where in 1957 he published another volume of poetry, titled Benkshaft (Longing). Emyot immigrated to the United States in 1958 or 1959, where he joined his wife and sons, who had left Poland in 1940. He spent the rest of his life in Rochester, New York.

Suggested Reading

Israel Emiot, The Birobidzhan Affair, trans. Max Rosenfeld (Philadelphia, 1981); Boris Kotlerman, “Yidish in Birobijan” (Ph.D. diss., Bar-Ilan University, 2000), pp. 253–264 (in Yiddish).



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen