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Papers of Mendel Osherowitch

 Collection
Identifier: RG 725

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, printed matter, clippings, photographs, and other materials relating to the activities of Mendel Osherowitch. The correspondence includes letters from many prominent Yiddish writers including Shalom Asch, Salo Baron, David Ben-Gurion, Abraham Cahan, Albert Einstein, Aaron Glanz-Leyeles, Emma Goldman, Sol Hurok, Jacob Lestschinsky, Zalman Reisen, Jacob Shatzky, Abraham Sutzkever, and Max Weinreich. Among the Jewish organizations represented in the correspondence are the Conference on Material Claims Against Germany, the Jewish Daily Forward and the Jewish Labor Committee. There are also several handwritten and typed manuscripts by Osherowitch including his memoirs and his first novel Entangled (unpublished), some radio scripts, manuscripts by other authors including Abraham Cahan, Pierre Dreyfus, Hillel Rogoff, Dov Sadan, and Moshe Starkman, photographs of individuals including Abraham Cahan, Theodor Herzl and Hillel Rogoff, and an antisemitic pamphlet published in the U.S. by the Headquarters of the Russian Fascists in 1932. Most of the materials relating to Abraham Cahan, which originally made up Series II, have been removed to the Abraham Cahan collection, RG 1139.

Dates

  • 1882-1985
  • Majority of material found within 1920-1967

Language of Materials

The bulk of the collection is in Yiddish, with some English, Hebrew, Russian, Ukrainian, German, Polish, and French.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to researchers. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives.

Use Restrictions

There may be some restrictions on the use of the collection. For more information, contact:

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011

email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Biographical Note

Mendel Osherowitch, the Yiddish journalist, novelist and historian, was born in Trostyanetz-Podolsk, Ukraine, which was then part of Galicia, in January 1888. 1 He came to New York City in 1910 after a short stay in Palestine and immediately began writing for various Yiddish periodicals, including Yidisher Kemfer, Zukunft and Freie Arbeiter Stimme. He joined the staff of the Jewish Daily Forward in 1914 as a feature writer and later worked as the city editor for ten years, as the Sunday editor, and as a staff writer on Russian affairs, a position which he held until his retirement from the Forward in January of 1965.

Among the books that Mendel Osherowitch wrote and edited are Restless Souls (1919); David Kessler and Muni Weisenfreund: Two Generations in the History of the Yiddish Theater in America (1930) about Kessler, a Yiddish actor and director, and Paul Muni, a Yiddish actor whose original name was Muni Weisenfreund; Life of People in Soviet Russia (1933); Moses Montefiore (1941) about the British philanthropist; Marie Antoinette (1937); The End of the Enemies of Israel (1942); his autobiography Tales of My Life (1945); History of the Jewish Daily Forward (1947); Cities and Towns in the History of the Jews in the Ukraine (1948); The History of the Dreyfus Affair (1949); and Queen Mariamne: An Historical Novel of the Time of Herod (1959) about the wife of King Herod of Judea. He also wrote the theater comedies Married: Not Married and Crown Prince Fyodor, a musical comedy that featured Molly Picon, as well as being one of the screenwriters for the Yiddish film A Brivele der Mamen. He continued to contribute articles and stories to various Yiddish publications throughout his career.

Osherowitch was the Chairman of the Committee to Protect the Jews in the Ukraine, which was renamed the Association to Perpetuate the Memory of the Ukrainian Jews after World War II. He edited and contributed to Jews in the Ukraine, a proposed three-volume work sponsored by the committee of which only two volumes were ever published.

Osherowitch was a gifted translator of Russian and Hebrew into Yiddish. Among the works he translated from Hebrew to Yiddish are Chaim Weizmann’s Trial and Error (1949) and Itzhak Ben-Zvi’s The Exiled and the Redeemed. His translations from Russian into Yiddish include works by Leo Tolstoy, Maxim Gorky, Anton Chekhov, Ivan Bunin, and Aleksander Kuprin, as well as the Memoirs of Vera Figner (1925), a fellow Socialist. Osherowitch was also involved with various organizations, including his roles as president of the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers’ Union, organizer of the Federation of Ukrainian Jews and prominent member of the Yiddish PEN Club, in addition to his long association with the Jewish Daily Forward. Mendel Osherowitch died April 16, 1965 in New York City.

Footnotes

  1. 1 Osherowitch, Mendel. Geshikhtes fun mayn lebn. New York : Forward Association, 1945. Other sources give the year as either 1887 or 1889.

Extent

18 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection contains correspondence between Mendel Osherowitch and many important literary and political figures, as well as Yiddish manuscripts by Osherowitch, clippings, photos, and obituaries and letters written to his family after his death. These materials illustrate Osherowitch’s importance in the Yiddish literary field as well as his role in various Jewish organizations.

Arrangement

This collection was originally organized into eight series and an addendum. In 1983 boxes 5 and 6, which made up Series II: Abe Cahan Correspondence, were removed from this collection in order to make up part of the Papers of Abraham Cahan, RG 1139. The numbering of series and boxes was not changed and thus reflects the extracted series. Folder numbers reflect the series number and the number of the folder within that series. For example, the first folder in the first series is labeled 1.1, the second folder is 1.2, and so on. The materials from the addendum, which consisted of boxes 32-39A, have been intellectually integrated into the original series, although the materials themselves have not been moved.

The materials have been arranged alphabetically by author, topic or periodical title. This order has been standardized in the finding aid, although the folders themselves have not been moved. Organizations and periodicals have been translated and, when not generally known by its English name, the Yiddish name follows in parentheses. The majority of the materials are in Yiddish and those folders that contain only Yiddish materials have no language listed. The languages of materials that are not in Yiddish are in parentheses following the listing of the material. Often, these folders will also have Yiddish materials in them, although this is not noted. The collection is arranged in the following series.

Acquisition Information

Mendel Osherowitch’s wife Sonia and his daughter, Edith Rosenberg donated materials directly to YIVO in 1970, 1975 and 1988.

Related Material

The YIVO Archives has the collections of many of the correspondents represented in the Papers of Mendel Osherowitch, including the Papers of Abraham Cahan, RG 1139 which contain two boxes of materials originally in this collection; the Papers of Shmuel Niger, RG 360; the Papers of Noah Siegalovsky, RG 536; and the Papers of Shlomo Bickel, RG 569. The libraries of YIVO and the American Jewish Historical Society have several books by and about Mendel Osherowitch, including Koloman Valish 1889-1934 : The Memoirs of a Socialist Fighter; Queen Mariamne; Moses Montefiore; Restless Souls; David Kessler and Muni Weisenfreund; Life of People in Soviet Russia; The End of the Enemies of Israel; his memoirs History of My Life; The Spirit of the Russian Revolution by Moissaye Joseph Olgin; and The Socialist Movement in the United States by James O'Neal, among many others.

Separated Material

Series II: Abraham Cahan Correspondence was removed to RG 1139, Papers of Abraham Cahan. Six phonograph records of speeches for a testimonial dinner for Osherowitch’s literary and journalistic activities were removed to the YIVO Sound Archives.

Processing Information

The collection was originally processed some time after the original acquisition in 1970. Additional processing was completed in June 2009.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Mendel Osherowitch (1888-1965) 1882-1985 RG 725
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Rachel Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Date
©2009
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research Repository

Contact:
15 West 16th Street
New York NY 10011 United States