Raboy, Isaac

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RABOY, ISAAC (Yitskhok ; 1882–1944), Yiddish novelist, poet, and playwright. Born into a ḥasidic family in rural Podolia and raised in northern Bessarabia where he came in contact with maskilic circles and read Russian literature, in 1904, following the Kishinev pogroms and seeking to avoid conscription into the czarist army, he immigrated to New York where he worked in a hat factory. Dovid *Ignatov, a fellow worker, and *Mani Leyb, a neighbor, introduced him to the literary group Di *Yunge, in whose anthologies Raboy published his first stories. He studied agriculture with the financial support of the Baron de Hirsch Fund (1908–10) and subsequently worked on a horse-breeding ranch in North Dakota. On his return to the East in 1913, he failed both at farming in Connecticut and in a business venture in New York and was compelled to work in factories for the rest of his life. Many of his short stories and his two best-known novels, Her Goldnbarg ("Mr. Goldenberg," 1923) and Der Yidisher Kauboy (1942; Jewish Cowboy, 1989) reflect his farming experiences. The lightly veiled autobiographical protagonists exult in the freedom of the prairies–a world hitherto unknown to Yiddish literature. They empathize with Native Americans, are compassionate to animals, but experience antisemitic prejudice and long to till the soil of Palestine. In his lyrical and often humorous prose, Raboy celebrates the Jewish discovery of the New World, not only the vast spaces of the Midwest but also, in a manner comparable to those works of Sholem *Asch set in New York, as in Iz Gekumen a Yid keyn Amerike ("A Jew Came to America," 1929), the sweatshops and tenements of Delancey Street at the turn of the century.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 4 (1929), 1–8; D. Ignatov, Opgerisene Bleter (1957), 52–6; Y. Yeshurin, in: Sh. Rozhanski (ed.), Pionern in Amerike (1963), 305–9 (bibl.); S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 5–9. add. bibliography: lnyl, 8 (1981), 278–82; N. Meisel, Forgeyer un Mittsaytler (1946), 289–303; H. Leivik, Eseyen un Redes (1963), 261–4; C. Madison, Yiddish Literature (1968), 300–1; Sh. Niger, Yidishe Shrayber fun Tsvantsikstn Yorhundert, 2 (1973), 251–−6.

[Sol Liptzin /

Hugh Denman (2nd ed.)]