Dolitzki, Menaḥem Mendel

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DOLITZKI, MENAḤEM MENDEL (1856–1931), Hebrew and Yiddish poet and novelist. Born in Bialystok, he received a traditional Orthodox education and, as a teenager, became interested in the ideas of the *Haskalah. At the age of 19 he wrote a long satiric poem, Likkui Shenei ha-Me'orot, o Shenei Ẓaddikim she-Ḥibbelu Zeh ba-Zeh ("The Eclipse of Both Luminaries, or Two ẓaddikim Who Harmed One Another," published in Ha-Shaḥar, 1879, then in book form). In this poem he mockingly describes the way of life of the ḥasidic groups. He served as a Hebrew teacher in various towns and in 1881 was an eyewitness to pogroms in southern Russia, which had a profound effect on him. In his poem Ha-Ikkar ve-ha-Noẓah ("The Farmer and the Feather," 1884) and his stories Be-TokhLeva'im ("Among Lions," Ha-Meliẓ, 1884, also in book form) and Mi-Bayit u-mi-Ḥuẓ ("From Inside and Outside," Ha-Meliẓ, 1890–91, also in book form), he described the sufferings of the Jews in Russia. After the pogroms he joined the Ḥibbat Zion movement and wrote poems of yearning for Zion in the spirit of this movement. The poems are colorless and full of clichés but nevertheless exude warmth and innocent romanticism. From 1882 to 1892 he lived in Moscow where he worked as Hebrew secretary to the philanthropist K.Z. Wissotzky. He wrote a biography of Wissotzky called Mofet le-Rabbim ("An Example to Many," 1894). At the same time he published various collections of letters: Shevet Sofer ("Writer's Pen," 1883); Niv Sefatayim ("Fruit of the Lips," 1892); and later Ha-Et ("The Pen," 1906), which include some interesting letters of A. *Mapu and P. Smolenskin. In 1892, when the Jews were expelled from Moscow, Dolitzki emigrated to New York and was warmly received by the small band of Hebrew maskilim in the U.S. He began publishing descriptions of the persecution of Jews in Russia in the journal Ha-Ivri, mainly in poetic form. His epic poem dealing with the forced conscription of Jewish children Ha-Ḥalom ve-Shivro ("The Dream and its Meaning"), which he had started in Russia but could not publish there because of censorship, appeared in 1904. Despite the efforts of the Hebraists in the U.S. to assist him, he found no way of making a living from Hebrew writing. After working at various jobs he finally took up writing for the daily Yiddish press, turning out serialized novels which catered to the popular reader. He died in Los Angeles. In his youth he was highly regarded as a Hebrew writer and poet, and his poems and stories were very popular with the Hebrew reading public of his day. J.L. Gordon, in a poem dedicated to Dolitzki on his departure for America, views him as his heir in Hebrew poetry ("Here, take my pen, rise and inherit my place"). However, after his arrival in America a period of decline set in, from which he never recovered. His last years were spent in poverty, and he was quite forgotten. A list of his Hebrew works in translation appears in Goell, Bibliography, 20–21.


Waxman, Literature, index; lnyl, 2 (1958), 444–6; A.R. Malachi, in: Ha-Tekufah, 34–35 (1950). add. bibliography: A. Ben-Or, Toledot ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit ha-Ḥadashah, 2 (1951), 44–47.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]