Brainin, Reuben

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BRAININ, REUBEN (1862–1939), Hebrew and Yiddish author. Brainin was born in Lyady, Belorussia, and received a traditional Jewish education. His first article was on the last days of Perez *Smolenskin (Ha-Meliẓ (1888), no. 59). In 1892 he settled in Vienna where he published an influential but short-lived periodical Mi-Mizraḥ u-mi-Ma'arav (1894–99) which was intended to be a bridge between European and Hebrew literature. Only four issues were published at long intervals, with articles on Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Ibsen, and Hebrew scholars such as *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman of Vilna. Brainin also published essays in the annual Aḥi'asaf. He attracted wide attention with his caustic critique of Judah Leib *Gordon in the first issue of *Ha-Shilo'aḥ (1896), edited by Aḥad *Ha-Am. The central theme of Brainin's work was Hebrew literature in the context of world literature. His flair for biography came to the fore in monographs on two great writers of the Haskalah period, Perez Smolenskin (1896) and Abraham *Mapu (1900), which possessed an unusual freshness of tone and approach. He championed the young and unknown Saul *Tchernichowsky, who became one of the great Hebrew poets of the century. In Ha-Dor (founded in 1900), Brainin published articles and sketches on contemporary Hebrew writers and artists. There was hardly a Hebrew periodical of the time to which Brainin did not contribute. He also wrote extensively in Yiddish and contributed articles to the Russian-Jewish press. In 1909 Brainin settled in America where he founded the periodical Ha-Deror. He spent a few years in Canada, where he edited two Yiddish papers: first the Kanader Adler (1912–15), then Der Weg (1915–16). He returned to New York and assumed the editorship of Ha-Toren (1919–25), first as a weekly, then as a monthly. In New York he also published the first volume of an uncompleted biography of Herzl, Ḥayyei Herzl (1919), covering the period up to the First Zionist Congress. Toward the end of his life, Brainin wrote almost exclusively in Yiddish. His championship of the autonomous Jewish province of Birobidzhan in Soviet Russia alienated him from Hebrew writers and Hebrew literature. The three volumes of his selected writings (Ketavim Nivḥarim, 1922–40) afford an insight into his activities as a critic, publicist, and writer of sketches and short impressionistic stories. He also translated into Hebrew M. Lazarus' Der Prophet Jeremias (1897) and Max Nordau's Paradoxes (1901). (For English translations of his works see Goell, Bibliography, 2010, 2763–73.)

His son joseph (1895–1970) was a U.S. journalist and publicist. Joseph, born in Vienna, served with the Jewish Battalion of the British forces in Palestine during World War i. In 1918 he obtained permission from the Canadian prime minister to form a Jewish legion, which he recruited in Canada and the United States to reinforce the Jewish Battalion. In 1921 he emigrated to the United States and founded the Seven Arts Feature Syndicate. He served as its editor in chief until 1938. Joseph was associated with the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science from 1953 and became executive vice president in 1957.


B. Shelvin, R. Brainin (Heb., 1922); Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 372–6; Z. Fishman, in: En Hakore, 1 (1923), 105–18 (includes bibliography); Lachower, Sifrut, 3 pt. 2 (1963), 3–14; A. Sha'anan, Ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥ¦ḍ¦ṣḥ¦ḥ li-Zerameha, 2 (1962), 158–66; M.J. Berdyczewski (Bin Gorion), Bi-Sedeh Sefer, 2 (1921), 64–70; J. Fichmann, in: Ha-Tekufah, 12 (1921), 483–6; Kressel, Leksikon, 1 (1965), 350–3. add. bibliography: N. Karuzo, Mafte'aḥ la-Mikhtavim be-Yiddish u-ve-Ivrit bi-Yeẓirato shel R. Brainin (1985).

[Eisig Silberschlag]