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Shefner, Borekh

(1896–1977), Yiddish journalist and cultural activist. Born in Tomaszów Mazowiecki, Borekh Shefner moved to Łódź with his family while he was still an infant. After receiving a traditional education, he traveled to Vilna in 1913 to study, but returned to Łódź a year later. There he became an active member of the Bund.


Shefner began his journalism career in 1917 with the Lodzher folksblat. His articles for that paper conveyed a clear political message about the impoverished lives of the city’s proletarian Jews; he also was a publicist and critic for a number of Łódź’s other periodicals. When he moved to Warsaw in 1922, Shefner was a regular contributor to the Bund’s publication Folks-tsaytung (from 1926 called the Naye folks-tsaytung) and, in 1932, became a member of that paper’s editorial board. Additionally, Shefner continued to publish articles in Bund organs in Warsaw and abroad. His writing excelled in its fluidity and cleverness. Even when he attacked political rivals, he avoided the severe tones and aggression that were characteristic of party writing.


Shefner’s achievements as a journalist were recognized beyond the Bund. From 1924, he served as a permanent member on the board of the Association of Jewish Writers and Journalists in Warsaw, heading the organization from 1935 until the outbreak of World War II. Shefner attempted, as much as he could, to differentiate between the shared interests of each member of the association and individual political conflicts. As a senior member of the Jewish branch of the Syndicated Jewish Journalists Association in Poland, he protested against rising antisemitism in the country, yet completely rejected the possibility of emigrating from Poland.


Shefner’s interwar literary output (with the exception of thousands of his short articles that had appeared in the press) is contained in two books: Links (Leftward; 1930), a collection of feuilletons; and Andersh (Otherwise; 1936), a collection of stories. On the night of 5–6 September 1939, a train containing senior government officials and Polish and Jewish journalists including Shefner left Warsaw. More than a month later, he and some of his colleagues arrived in Vilna. There, too, he continued to write and was a member of Federation of Polish and Jewish Refugee Writers and Journalists. He left Europe in 1940.


Thanks to Shefner’s connections in the United States, he arrived in New York in 1941. There he regularly contributed to the Forverts and published Novolipie 7 (1955)—the title being the address of the Folks-tsaytung editorial board—which celebrated the lives of the proletarian Jews of Warsaw, who used to gather there regularly.

Suggested Reading

Natan Cohen, Sefer, sofer ve-‘iton: Merkaz ha-tarbut ha-Yehudit be-Varshah, 1918–1942 (Jerusalem, 2003); Bella Gottesman (Beyle Gotesman), “Shefner, Borekh,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 8, cols. 775–776 (New York, 1981).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 1400, Bund Archives, Collection, ca. 1870-1992.

Author

Translation

Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen