Boraisha, Menahem

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BORAISHA, MENAHEM (Menahem Goldberg ; sometimes simply Menahem ; 1888–1949), Yiddish poet and essayist. Born in Brest-Litovsk, the son of a Hebrew teacher, he combined a thorough Jewish education with attendance at the Russian school in his birthplace. At the age of 16 he joined the Socialist Zionists and began to write poetry in Russian and Yiddish. In Warsaw from 1905, he received encouragement from I.L. *Peretz, publishing his first poems in Yiddish journals, and drama reviews for the daily Haynt. While serving in the Russian Army (1909–11), he published his impressions of barrack-life in both Haynt and Fraynd. His poem "Poyln" ("Poland," 1914) expressed the tense relationship between Jews and Poles. He settled in the U.S. in 1914, and in 1918 joined the editorial board of the Yiddish daily, Der Tog. His book of poems A Ring in der Keyt ("A Link in the Chain," 1916) was followed by Zamd ("Sand," 1920), a collection which included a memorable poem on Theodor *Herzl. After a trip to the U.S.S.R. in 1926, he contributed to the Communist daily Frayhayt but parted company with it in 1929, when it justified Arab attacks on Jews. He then worked with the papers Vokh and Yidish and became press officer of the *American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.

His poem Zavl Rimer ("Zavl the Harness-Maker," 1923), a novel in verse, in which Yiddish speech rhythms are combined with poetic meter, several parts of which are in the tradition of Yiddish folksong, exposed the horror of the postwar Russian pogroms. Der Geyer ("The Wayfarer," 2 vols., 1943) is a spiritual autobiography on which he worked for ten years. It describes the progress of its main character, Noah Marcon, from skepticism to faith and from the profane to the holy. The work is a poetical attempt to summarize the intellectual legacy of Judaism and Jewish history in recent generations, while generally dramatizing human thought and the struggles of conscience within vividly portrayed social and natural settings. It extends into non-human spheres, including an empathetic portrait of a dog, often attains a cosmic consciousness, and is written in a great variety of verse forms, employed with technical inventiveness. His last poems, Durkh Doyres ("Through Generations"), appeared posthumously in 1950.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 438–41; Algemeyne Entsiklopedye, 5 (1944), 230–2; B. Rivkin, Yidishe Dikhter in Amerike (1947), 249–64; J. Botoshansky, Pshat (1952), 151–86; lnyl, 1 (1956), 246–9; S. Bickel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor, 1 (1958), 208–15; E. Biletzky, Essays on Yiddish Poetry and Prose Writers (1969), 103–16.

[Shemuel Niger (Charney) /

Shmoyl Naydorf and

Leye Robinson (2nd ed.)]