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Rapoport, Yoshue

(1895–1971), Yiddish-language literary critic, journalist, and translator. Born in Białystok and educated by tutors, Yoshue Rapoport mastered several European languages and gained a broad knowledge of literature. His contributions to Yiddish literature include his translations—among them selections from the works of Maurice Maeterlinck, Romain Rolland, Rabindranath Tagore, Boris Pilnyak, and Upton Sinclair—as well as writings about art, philosophy, the history of Russian revolutions, and Simon Dubnow’s history of the Jews (1938–1940).


In his youth, Rapoport was a member of the Tse‘ire Tsiyon (Zionist Youth) movement, and from 1918 to 1922 he contributed to Bafrayung (Liberation), the party’s journal. As an adult, his political associations leaned toward non-Zionist socialism, and he frequently wrote for Bund publications. Between 1922 and 1924 he studied in Berlin, later moving to Warsaw.


Rapoport was a literary critic for a number of Yiddish newspapers and periodicals, both in and out of Poland. Beginning in 1921, he wrote about culture and society for the daily Dos naye lebn (The New Life) in Białystok. Regarded as a clever critic who did not mince words, he was defined by the theater critic A. Mukdoyni (pseudonym of Aleksander Kapel) as “the sharpest and most pedantic literary critic among us,” and writer and critic Moyshe Grosman, as well, bestowed upon him the title of “literary judge.”


During his years in Warsaw, Rapoport published two major works: the three-volume Af di vegn fun der nayer eyropeyisher literatur (On the Course of the Modern European Literature; 1936–1937), and a collection of critical articles titled Tsvishn yo! un neyn! (Between Yes! and No!; 1937). Among his other works were Literarishe bleter, zeyer redactor, un undzer literarishe svive (Literary Pages, Its Editor, and Our Literary Environment; 1931), an attack on the journal Literarishe bleter and its editor Nakhmen Mayzel, who was shunned by Bundists; Proletarishe literatur—pro un kontra (Proletarian Literature—For and Against; 1936); Di tume in der yire (The Impurity in the Reverence; 1938), which was a polemical response to attacks against Rapoport and his aggressive style that had appeared in the New York literary journal Yidish.


Rapoport frequently aimed his venom at the writer Arn Zeitlin. In the Bundist publication Vokhnshrift far literatur kunst un kultur (Weekly for Literature Art and Culture; 1931–1933), Rapoport took every opportunity to attack Zeitlin’s literary works as worthless, and Zeitlin himself as a corrupt agent of shund (“trash” literature) disguised as a respected writer. Zeitlin counterattacked, responding in the journal Globus to each of Rapoport’s accusations.


Though Rapoport’s forceful criticism gained him many enemies in Warsaw’s Jewish literary arena, the writer Itshe Meyer Vaysenberg (who himself was not immune to Rapaport’s criticism) considered him to be an ally, and entrusted him with editing the monthly journal Kritik, which was published in Warsaw in 1936.


Following the German attack on Poland, Rapoport fled Warsaw, reaching Shanghai in 1941, where he continued to write. At the end of 1946, he settled in Melbourne, where he contributed to the local Yiddish press.

Suggested Reading

Nathan Cohen, Sefer, sofer ve-‘iton: Merkaz ha-tarbut ha-yehudit be-Varshah, 1918–1942 (Jerusalem 2003); Noyekh Gris, “Rapoport, Yoshue,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 8, cols. 392–395 (New York, 1981); Moyshe Grosman, “A kritiker, a kanoi,” Di goldene keyt 29 (1957): 271–278; A. Mukdoyni, “Tsvey yubilarn,” Di goldene keyt 24 (1956): 160–165; O. (Yoshua) Rapoport, Fragmentn fun a lebn (Melbourne, 1967).

Author

Translation

Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen