Skip to main content

Zunser, Eliakum

ZUNSER, ELIAKUM

ZUNSER, ELIAKUM (1836–1913), popular Yiddish bard and dramatist, known as Eliakum Badkhn . Born in Vilna, Zunser was conscripted in 1856 but was soon released, when Czar Alexander ii revoked the oppressive military decrees of his predecessor Nicholas i. In 1856 in the barracks, he composed the song "Di Poymanes" ("Child Recruits") lamenting the bitter lot of the child soldiers (see *Cantonists), and after his discharge he wrote " Di Yeshue " ("Salvation") celebrating the child draftees' miraculous salvation. In 1857, working in Kovno as a braider of gold lace on uniforms, he came under the influence of the *Musar movement of R. Israel *Salanter, and his songs ("Der Zeiger" ("The Watch)" and "Di Blum" ("The Flower")) became laden with lyricism and moral sentiment. Singing his songs at festivals and weddings, he soon acquired a reputation as an original bard and decided to make a career as a *badḥan. He rapidly attained fame as Russia's outstanding wedding bard. Beginning with Shirim ḥadashim ("New Songs," 1872), booklet after booklet of his songs was printed and avidly read.

In 1871 Zunser lost seven children during a cholera epidemic and, a year later, his wife. His tragic outlook after these losses was mirrored in poems such as "Der Potshtover Glekel" ('The Little Postal Bell') and "Der Sandek" ("The Man Holding a Child at Circumcision," 1872), and in his only published drama Makhaze Mekhires Yoysef ("The Sale of Joseph," 1874). After his second marriage Zunser lived chiefly in Minsk, serving as the local correspondent for Kol la-Am, a Yiddish periodical edited at Koenigsberg by M.L. *Rodkinson. When the pogroms of the early 1880s led to the founding of the pioneering Zionist group *Bilu, Zunser lent his support to the young idealists who were heading for a new life in Palestine. In 1882 he composed the songs "Shivas Tsien" ("Return to Zion") and "Di Sokhe" ("The Hook Plough") for them, the latter becoming his most popular song both in the Yiddish and Hebrew versions. Its theme was the joy of returning to plow the Jewish earth in the Holy Land. Zunser himself hoped to settle in the Bilu village of Gederah, but in 1889 was compelled to emigrate to New York, where his East Side home and printing shop became a center for Yiddish poets and young Zionists. There he also published poems of the New World (in Dos Yidishe Tageblat) about Columbus, Washington, and sweatshops and wrote his autobiography, Zunsers Biografye Geshribn fun im Aleyn (ed. by A.H. Fromenson, 1905). A definitive scholarly edition of his complete extant works, Verk (including lyrics and melodies) was edited for *yivo by Mordkhe Schaechter (2 vols., 1964; incl. bibl.).

bibliography:

S. Liptzin, Eliakum Zunser, Poet of his People (1950); M. Schaechter, in: Eliakum Zunser, Verk, 2 (1964), 779–88, bibl.; Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1929), 259–71; lnyl, 7 (1968), 546–9.

[Sol Liptzin]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Zunser, Eliakum." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Oct. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Zunser, Eliakum." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Encyclopedia.com. (October 19, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/zunser-eliakum

"Zunser, Eliakum." Encyclopaedia Judaica. . Retrieved October 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/zunser-eliakum

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.