Spector, Mordecai

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SPECTOR, MORDECAI (1858–1925), Yiddish novelist and editor. Born in Uman, Ukraine, of a hasidic family, he came under the influence of Haskalah literature and began to write realistic sketches based on his personal experiences and observations of ordinary people in workshops and marketplaces. A. *Zederbaum, editor of the St. Petersburg Yidishes Folksblat, published Spector's first novel in weekly installments under the title Roman On a Nomen ("Novel without a Title," 1883). Spector later became assistant editor of this paper. His second novel, Der Yidisher Muzhik ("The Jewish Farmer," 1884), aroused great interest since it advocated the return of Jews to productive labor on their ancestral soil, a doctrine then propagated by the Ḥovevei Zion. Spector also influenced *Shalom Aleichem to set his literary sights on the provinces and on shtetl life, then a neglected area in Yiddish literature. In 1887, he settled in Warsaw, where, during the following decade, he reached the height of his fame, writing feuilletons, travel sketches, short stories, and novels, and editing a series of anthologies, Der Hoyzfraynd ("The Family Friend"), a landmark in the development of modern Yiddish literature. In 1894, together with I.L. *Peretz and D. *Pinski, he launched the Yontev Bletlekh ("Holiday Leaflets"), another literary landmark. Other literary ventures followed during the ensuing two decades. After the Communist Revolution, he experienced hardships in Odessa. He escaped in 1920, and arrived in the U.S. in 1921. Living in New York, he completed a volume of memoirs, Mayn Lebn ("My Life," 1927), which has great literary, historical, and cultural value. Spector was a writer for the masses, whom he tried to entertain, educate, and uplift. Though neither an original thinker nor a subtle psychologist, he was an excellent observer of reality, faithfully reproducing the colloquial speech of Jewish men and women in their homes, shops, and alleys. He was a pioneer of Yiddish folklore and of Yiddish writing for children, and was one of the first Yiddish writers to take a positive attitude toward Ḥasidism. His collected works appeared in 10 volumes (1927–29). His stories have been translated into eight languages, including English (cf. I. Howe and E. Greenberg, ed. A Treasury of Yiddish Stories (1953), 250–5).


Spektor-Bukh (1929), incl. bibl.; Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1927), 691–708; lnyl, 6 (1965), 518–27; Dertseylers un Romanistn (1946), 11–129; S. Niger, Bleter Geshikhte fun der Yidisher Literatur (1959), 382–403; Y. Yeshurin, in: M. Spektor, Der Yidisher Muzhik (1963), 264–8. add. bibliography: D. Roskies, A Bridge of Longing (1995), 170–2.

[Moshe Starkman]