Shmeruk, Chone

views updated


SHMERUK, CHONE (1921–1997), Yiddish scholar. Born in Warsaw, Shmeruk studied history at the university there. During World War ii he was in the U.S.S.R., where he met many Soviet Yiddish writers. He returned to Warsaw in 1946 and then immigrated, via Stuttgart, to Israel in 1949. When the Yiddish department was opened at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1950, he was one of Dov *Sadan's first students, also studying history with Israel *Halpern, Ben-Zion *Dinur, and Yitzhak *Baer. He taught Yiddish literature and culture at the Hebrew University from 1957 (professor, 1961, later chair of the Yiddish department). A member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities (1986), he received the Israel Prize in 1996.

Shmeruk studied many aspects of Ashkenazi cultural history and Yiddish literature, analyzing the relations between history, society, culture, language, and literature, and writing articles and books on a wide range of subjects, showing the role and functions of Yiddish in the Ashkenazi world, defined as a polysystem of languages and cultural trends. Shmeruk did not view Yiddish literature as an autonomous cultural entity, but demonstrated the complex links between Yiddish creativity and traditional sources, modern Hebrew, and the surrounding non-Jewish Polish, Russian, German, Italian, and American cultures. He wrote on all periods of Yiddish literature, from the earliest Yiddish text (1272) to his own contemporaries. Among his major books are Sifrut Yidish, Perakim le-Toldoteihah ("Yiddish Literature: Aspects of its History," 1978, rev. Yiddish trans., 1988), Maḥazot Mikra'im be-Yidish 16971750 ("Yiddish Biblical Plays 1697–1750," 1979), Sifrut Yidish be-Polin ("Yiddish Literature in Poland," 1981), and Ha-Keri'ah le-Navi ("The Call for a Prophet," 1999). One of his fields of specialization was Jews in Soviet Russia and Poland and their Yiddish literature, on which his publications include Ha-Kibbutz ha-Yehudi ve-ha-Hityashevut be-Belorusyah ha-Sovyetit (191823) ("Jewish Settlement and Colonization in Soviet Belorussia (1918–23)," 1961); Pirsumim Yehudiyyim bi-Verit ha-Moaot 191760 ("Jewish Publications in the Soviet Union 1917–60," 1961); a bibliography of Yiddish authors in the U.S.S.R., co-edited with I.J. Cohn, M. Pietzash, et al.; A Shpigl oyf a Shteyn ("A Mirror on a Stone"), co-edited with A. Suzkever, et al. (1964), an anthology of poetry and prose by 12 Yiddish writers in the U.S.S.R.; The Esterke Story in Yiddish and Polish Literature (1985); Di Yidishe Literatur in Nayntsetn Yorhundert ("Yiddish Literature in the Nineteenth Century," 1993); and The Jews in Poland Between Two World Wars (co-edited 1989). He also published on shund ("pulp literature") and children's literature, Jewish folklore, press, theater, education, Haskalah, Ḥasidism, the history of publishing, and illustrations of Yiddish books. He edited classical works of Jewish writers, such as Joseph *Perl's manuscript Ma'asiyyot ve-Iggerot mi-Ẓaddikim Amittiyyim u-me-Anshei Shelomenu (with Sh. Werses, 1969); *Der Nister (1963); S.J. *Abramovitsh, *Bialik and *Rawnitski's Letters (1966); *Sholem*Aleichem (1976); I.L. *Peretz, Bay Nakht oyfn Altn Mark (1971); Itzik *Manger, Midresh Itsik (1969, 1984); Isaac Bashevis *Singer, Der Shpigl (1975); Uri Zevi *Greenberg (1979); Israel *Rabon, Di Gas (1986); the middle Yiddish *Pariz un Viene (1996); The Penguin Book of Modern Yiddish Verse (co-edited, 1987). He compiled with Sh. Werses a bibliography of S.J. Abramovitsh's writings and letters (1965) and was director of the series Yidishe Literatur (Hebrew University) and of a massive documentation of early Yiddish texts on microfiche. He served as consulting editor to the first edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica. The encyclopedic range of his research, his international teaching, and decades-long mentoring quite literarily (re)constructed the field of Yiddish literary studies after the Holocaust and will continue to influence the course of research for decades to come.

[Jean Baumgarten (2nd ed.)]