Zipper, Ya'akov

views updated


ZIPPER, YA'AKOV (1900–1983), Canadian educator and Yiddish author. Zipper was born in Tyszowce, Poland, the son of Rabbi Abraham David *Shtern. After receiving an intensive ḥasidic education from his father and at the traditional ḥeder, Zipper became deeply interested in Yiddish culture and education and trained as a teacher in the secularist schools of Poland. Despite his strongly secular views and associations, Zipper always maintained a positive interest in the traditional and religious values of Jewish culture and a love for Hebrew as well as for Yiddish, Jewish folklore, the established Jewish community, and the Land of Israel.

While in Poland, Zipper helped to organize secular schools in Vladimir Volynski and Ustilug. In 1925, he emigrated to Canada, where he became the leader of the Labor Zionist-oriented Yiddish-Hebrew Peretz schools of Winnipeg and, from 1934 until his retirement in 1971, in Montreal. He was an important figure in Canadian Jewish literary circles, being active in the Jewish Public Library, the Poalei Zion, the Jewish Nation Workers' Alliance, the Jewish Writers' Association, and in the educational work of the Canadian Jewish Congress. Under his direction and the leadership of Leiser Zuker (1886–1965), the Peretz School paid special attention to the education of the children of the poor, despite the institution's constantly straitened finances.

Zipper also played a leading part in extending the activities of the Jewish schools of the community to the realm of adult education, so that the Peretz schools became a vital spiritual center for the secular and Zionist community – as did the Jewish People's schools with which they merged in 1971. In this context Zipper's oratorical and literary talents supported his pedagogical training.

A major thrust of Zipper's thinking and teaching was the centrality of East-European folk Jewry in the recent centuries of Jewish history, which is reflected in his considerable literary output, both in Hebrew and in Yiddish. Together with Y.Y. *Segal, Rachel *Korn, Melech *Ravitch, Mordecai Chossid, N.J. Gotlib, and Peretz Miransky, he helped to establish the Canadian – and especially the Montreal – community as one of the important secondary centers of Jewish literature in the mid-20th century. His short stories, book reviews, poems, travel reports, and other writings appeared in scores of periodicals in the United States, Europe, Israel, and South America. His Hebrew style was as original a contribution to Jewish literature as were his Yiddish works. Much of his writing reinterprets biblical and historic themes. His first major work, based upon the biography of the Ba'al Shem Tov, appeared in serial form in Haolam (1937–38) and later in book form, both in Hebrew (Ish Hayah ba-Areẓ, 1955) and in Yiddish (Geven iz a Mentsh, Montreal, 1940). His semi-autobiographical novel, Oyf Yener Zeyt Bug (Montreal, 1946), set in Poland after World War i, appeared in a Hebrew version, Me-Ever Li-Nehar Bug, in 1957. His Tsvishen Teykhen un Vassern (Montreal, 1960), a major fictional work on Jewish life and moods in Polish villages, also appeared in Hebrew, Bein Naharot u-Neḥalim, in 1967. He wrote a long elegy on the ruins of the Holocaust, "Ikh bin Vider in Khurever Heym Gekumen" (Montreal, 1965). Zipper also edited the Leizer Zuker Gedenkbukh in memory of the prominent Poalei Zion educational worker and Canadian Jewish Congress leader.

[David Rome]