Weissenberg, Isaac Meir

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WEISSENBERG, ISAAC MEIR (Itshe ; 1881–1938), Yiddish novelist and dramatist. Weissenberg was born in Zelechow, Poland, and began his literary career in 1904 as a disciple of Y.L. *Peretz, with realistic tales of small town life in Poland. In his earliest story, "Dor Hoylekh ve-Dor Bo" ("One Generation Passeth Away and Another Generation Cometh," 1904), he depicted an undernourished father who collapsed in a shoe factory, his son being expected to replace him as an object of exploitation. In "Di Meshugene in Dorf" ("The Village Mad-women," 1905), he showed a young girl desperately resisting her mother's efforts to compel her submission to the unloved husband imposed on her. His best work of fiction was his novella A Shtetl ("A Town," 1906), which dealt with the conflict between the older Jewish generation, steeped in tradition and following the guidance of religious leaders, and the rising generation which was receptive to new ideas, especially Bundism and Socialism, and which relied more upon pistols than upon the Psalms. In Weissenberg's stories, Jewish workers were beginning to become class-conscious, engaging in strikes, organizing demonstrations, rebelling against Czarist officials and local bosses.

Weissenberg edited Yudishe Zamlbikher (1918–20) the literary organ of the Yiddish intellectuals of Warsaw after the death of Peretz. As editor and critic he was an embattled figure, engaging in constant polemics with the outstanding Yiddish writers, but also encouraging young novelists, such as Oser *Warszawski and Simon Horenczyk, to follow in his footsteps and to write in a purely naturalistic style. Weissenberg visited the U.S. in 1923, but returned to Warsaw to continue the struggle for his ultra-realistic literary approach. His dramas, praised by the discerning critic *Baal-Makhshoves, did not meet with general acclaim. His translation of the Thousand and One Nights in six volumes (Tauzent un Eyn Nakht, 1922) achieved considerable popularity. A full list of his works appears in his Geklibene Verk (1930).


Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1926), 967–72; lynl, 3 (1960), 415–8; A.A. Roback, Story of Yiddish Literature (1940), 223–7; M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon (1947), 80–5; I. Howe and E. Greenberg, A Treasury of Yiddish Literature (1954), 295–307. add. bibliography: I. Oren (ed.), Kratkaia evreĭskaia entsiklopediia, 1 (1976), 599; G.G. Branover (ed.), Rossiĭskaia evreĭskaia entsiklopediia, 1 (1994), 200–1; G. Estraikh, In Harness: Yiddish Writers' Romance with Communism (2005), 79, 171.

[Sol Liptzin]