Schwartz, Israel Jacob

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SCHWARTZ, ISRAEL JACOB (1885–1971), Yiddish poet and translator. Born in Petroshun, Lithuania, he began his literary career translating some of *Bialik's poems into Yiddish. In 1906 he emigrated to New York and, as soon as he had mastered English, translated poems by Shakespeare, Milton, and Walt Whitman. He participated in the publications of the literary movement Di *Yunge, but dissociated himself from its rebelliously militant members. In 1918 he settled in Lexington, Kentucky, where he found rich material which he incorporated in his verse epic, Kentoki ("Kentucky," 1925), translating it himself into Hebrew (1962). It is generally rated as one of the finest achievements of American Yiddish literature. The hero of this narrative is a Jewish peddler who rises from poverty to affluence in the course of decades of hard work and just dealings with his neighbors and becomes a respected, prosperous pillar of Kentucky society. Schwartz's verse autobiography, Yunge Yorn ("Young Years," 1952), wove a web of enchantment about his native Lithuanian town along the Nieman River and about the Kovno yeshivah where, together with traditional studies, he became familiar with Bialik's Hebrew, *Reisen's Yiddish, and Herzl's Zionist visions. Yunge Yorn ends with his departure from home for the New World. Because of Schwartz's lifelong preoccupation with translating contemporary Hebrew poets, his Yiddish style has a rich Hebraic flavor.


Rejzen, Leksikon, 4 (1929), 511–14; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1956), 261–6; F. Zolf, Undzer Kultur Hemshekh (1956), 195–221; M. Gross-Zimmerman, Intimer Videranand (1964), 295–301; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 899; Waxman, Literature, 4 (1960), 1039–40; S. Liptzin, Maturing of Yiddish Literature (1970), 37–9. add. bibliography: Sh. Bikel, Shrayber fun Mayn Dor, 2 (1965), 37–40; Sh. Niger, Yidishe Shrayber fun Tsvantsikstn Yorhundert, 2 (1973), 131–45; lnyl, 8 (1981), 566–9; R. Wisse, A Little Love in Big Manhattan (1988), 14, 43–4, 52–4, 229.

[Sol Liptzin]