Mayzel, Nachman

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MAYZEL, NACHMAN (1887–1966), Yiddish editor, literary critic, and historian. Born in Kiev, Mayzel stemmed from a family of rabbis and rich Kiev merchants and was related to the Yiddish novelists Dovid *Bergelson and *Der Nister, whose fame he helped to spread. He made his debut with essays in Hebrew (1905) and in Yiddish (1909), and, after the Revolution of 1917, founded the publishing house, Kiev Farlag, which issued more than 100 books. He also edited periodicals and anthologies of the Kiev Culture League. Settling in Warsaw in 1921, he helped to found its Culture League and continued his activity as editor and literary critic. He later described this dynamic period in his volume Geven Amol a Lebn ("There Used to Be a Life," 1951). In 1924 he co-founded and co-edited the weekly Literarishe Bleter, which exerted a significant influence upon Yiddish literary activity in Poland between the two world wars; he also played a central role in organizing the Yiddish Pen Club (1927). He participated in the Jewish World Congress of Culture (1937) in Paris, which launched ykuf, the international Yiddish Culture League. Immigrating to New York in 1937, he furthered the growth of ykuf's American section and edited its monthly organ Yidishe Kultur from 1939 to 1964, and then settled in Israel at Kibbutz Alonim. Mayzel was a prolific writer, composing more than 40 books and hundreds of major articles. Noente un Vayte ("Close and Distant People," 2 vols., 1924–26) contained his most valuable early articles. His studies on I.L. *Peretz and on Sholem Yankev *Abramovitsh contributed important new knowledge. His book Dos Yidishe Shafn un der Yidisher Shrayber in Sovetnfarband ("Yiddish Creativity and Yiddish Writers in the Soviet Union," 1959) surveyed, in 20 essays, Russian Yiddish literature from 1917 until the tragic autumn of 1948 when Yiddish cultural institutions were liquidated and their leaders silenced. In his last years in Israel he completed studies on Chaim *Zhitlowsky (1965) and on the influence of national literatures upon each other, with special emphasis on the influence of foreign literatures upon Yiddish writers (1966).


Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 380–4; Yidishe Kultur, 28 no. 5 (1966), 1–8; 28 no. 6 (1966), 31–57; lnyl, 5 (1963), 578–87. add. bibliography: G. Estraikh, In Harness (2005), index.

[Sol Liptzin]