Papers of Leon Feinberg (1897-1969)
Scope and Content Note
The materials in this collection relate to Feinberg’s literary works in Russian and Yiddish, consisting mainly of correspondence with Yiddish literary figures and with organizations, as well as newspaper clippings and subject files. Correspondents include A. Almi, Ephraim Auerbach, Shlomo Bickel, Menahem Boraisha, Ossip Dymow, Jacob Glantz, Aaron Glanz-Leyeles, Jacob Glatstein, Abraham Golomb, Chaim Grade, Peretz Hirschbein, David Ignatoff, Rachel Korn, H. Leivick, Itzik Manger, Mani Leib, Moshe Nadir, Shmuel Niger, Joseph Opatoshu, Abbo Ostrowsky, Melech Ravitch, A.A. Roback, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Abraham Sutzkever, Malka Heifetz Tussman, and Zishe Weinper.
There is also family correspondence, materials relating to the Yiddish P.E.N. Club and the I.L. Peretz Yiddish Writers Union, including correspondence, newspaper clippings, circulars, correspondence about the World Conference of Yiddish Writers in 1964, and lists of Yiddish P.E.N. Club members. Clippings include articles about writers, about Leon Feinberg’s work and his subject files. Among the various topics collected by Feinberg for reference are materials about Yiddish language, Yiddish writers and literature, Jews in the Soviet Union, and Russian Jewish writers. Manuscripts of Feinberg’s works consist of poems, translations, plays, and fragments of novels. There are also manuscripts by other writers, copies of speeches and lectures, and personal documents. The materials in this collection date from 1906-1969, the bulk of which are from 1920-1960.
- Creation: 1906-1969
- Creation: Majority of material found within 1920-1960
Language of Materials
The collection is in Yiddish, Russian, English, and Hebrew.
Permission to use the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archivist.
Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained from the YIVO Archives. For more information, contact:
YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011
Yehudah Aryeh Leyb (Leon) Feinberg was born 6 February 1897 in Kodyma, Podolya Province, Russia (now Ukraine), the son of Rabbi Nathan Samuel Feinberg and Sheva Tomashpolsky Feinberg. He attended kheyder until he was 9 years old and then at age 10, the family moved to Odessa, where Feinberg entered the Iglitzky-Rapoport gymnasium and his father was the editor of the Odeser Folksblatt (Odessa People’s Journal). Feinberg’s father was later arrested and then forced to leave Odessa on account of an article in this publication, at which point he traveled to the United States to search for a job. Rabbi Feinberg later taught chemistry at Ohio State University and Hebrew educational practices and wrote several books.
Leon Feinberg had already started writing poetry in Russian by the age of 12 and he published his first volume of Russian poetry in 1914, having been strongly influenced by the Russian Symbolists. Feinberg completed his studies at the Iglitzky-Rapoport Gymnasium in Odessa in 1912 and then traveled to America for the first time, following his father. After returning to Russia with his father, Feinberg started attending Moscow University in 1915. He won first prize in the 1918 All-Russian Poetry Competition for his poem “The Soul of Russia.” He graduated from Moscow University in 1919 with a diploma in literature, languages and philosophy. He published his works in several Russian journals in Moscow, including Neva, Lietopis (Record), which was published by Maxim Gorky, and others, often under the pseudonym Leonid Grebniev. He also published several books of Russian poetry and was involved in the Imaginist Group of poet Sergei Yesenin.
Feinberg served three years as an officer in the Red Army during the Bolshevik Revolution, including spending some time as the adjutant for the important Soviet commissar Jan (Yakov) Gamarnik, who was H.N. Bialik’s brother-in-law. He was captured by the White forces of General Anton Ivanovich Denikin in the violent struggles in Southern Ukraine in autumn 1919 and only escaped to Turkey through the intervention of Bialik in 1920. Also in 1920, and also with Bialik’s help, Feinberg traveled to Palestine and was one of the founders of a new kibbutz, Kiryat Anavim, near Jerusalem. He traveled all over the world as a sailor, to Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, India, and various countries in Europe before immigrating to the United States in 1921.
He continued to write in Russian when he first arrived in the United States, publishing in Russian journals in New York and Chicago, including Novoye Russkoye Slovo (New Russian Word), where he worked as a literary editor. He later began writing in Yiddish and published his poems and other works, including translations into Yiddish of Russian and English literature and articles on public affairs, in many important Yiddish journals in the United States, Poland, Argentina, Israel, and several other countries. His first Yiddish poem was published in the Freie Arbeiter Stimme (Free Voice of Labor) in 1921. He continued to use the name Leonid Grebniev or just L. Grebniev, Leonid Amarant, Alter Eno, L. Gorin, L. Senders, F. Gorny, and other pseudonyms.
From 1926-1929 Feinberg worked as a co-editor and member of the writing staff at the Freiheit (Freedom). He quit over what he felt was the Freiheit’s anti-Jewish response to the Arab pogrom in Hebron, Palestine in 1929. He returned to the newspaper in 1932 but then quit again when he canceled his membership in the Communist Party in 1939 in connection with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. He wrote for the monthly Der Hamer (The Hammer), Di Feder (The Pen), Freie Arbeiter Stimme, Yiddishe Tageblatt (Yiddish Daily News), Morgn Zhurnal (Morning Journal), Amerikaner (The American), Freiheit, Morgn-Yidishe Kultur (Morning Yiddish Culture), Di Naye Prese (The New Press), Jewish Daily Forward, Zukunft (Future), Der Groyser Kundes (The Big Stick), Der Vokh (The Week), Undzer Veg (The Way), Yidisher Kultur (Jewish Culture), Vayter (Further), Yidisher Kemfer (Jewish Fighter), Literarishe Bleter (Literary Pages) in Warsaw, Di Prese (The Press) in Buenos Aires, Di Goldene Keyt (The Golden Chain) in Tel Aviv, and Epokhe (Epoch), which he and I.A. Weissman published and edited from 1943-1947. He was an editor for the leftist journals Funken (Sparks) and Signal from 1933-1934. He became a feature writer, and later city editor, for Der Tog (The Day) starting in 1941, where he spent many years editing the news columns and writing numerous articles speaking out against Communism. He was the president of the Yiddish P.E.N. Club in New York and the vice president of the I.L. Peretz Writers Union. He also worked for the Yiddish Arts Theater, 1923-1926 and the Artef Theater, 1932-1934.
Feinberg wrote 15 books of prose and poetry in Yiddish and four books in Russian as well as numerous unpublished writings. He published an anthology in Russian of the Yiddish poets in America, in which there are over 300 poems from more than 100 poets. He won the Leib Hoffer prize in Buenos Aires for his book Der Farmishpeter Dor (The Doomed Generation) and in 1966 he received the Liza and Willie Schorr Literary Stipend from the Jewish Culture Congress. English translations of his work are to be found in Joseph Leftwich's The Golden Peacock (1940), and J. B. Cooperman's America in Yiddish Poetry (1967).
Leon was married to Florence Weingarten on October 18, 1932. They had five children: Gerald, Babette, Rita, Harriet, and Norman. Leon Feinberg passed away January 22, 1969 in New York.
14.7 Linear Feet
This collection contains the personal and professional papers of Yiddish journalist, poet, novelist, and translator Leon Feinberg. These materials include correspondence with Yiddish literary figures and with organizations, newspaper clippings about writers and about Leon Feinberg and his works, subject files, manuscripts of works by Feinberg and by other writers, and some of Feinberg’s personal documents. These materials relate to Feinberg’s long career with various Russian and Yiddish periodicals and literary organizations.
The materials in this collection are arranged topically and by format. The correspondence, Yiddish subject files and some of the written materials are arranged alphabetically according to the Yiddish alphabet. The Russian subject files are arranged according to the Russian alphabet. Personal names of correspondents have been transliterated, journal titles and organization names have been transliterated and translated, and the titles of speeches and writings have been transliterated and translated. Yiddish names have been transliterated according to YIVO standards except when the individual is known in English by another spelling. Additionally, if the name appeared in Latin letters anywhere within the folder, that spelling was used rather than a standard transliteration. The collection is organized in ten series, some of which have been further subdivided into subseries.
- Series I: Correspondence, 1924-1969
- Series II: Yiddish P.E.N. Club and I.L. Peretz Writers Union, 1947-1968
- Series III: Newspaper Clippings, 1920-1968
- Series IV: Manuscripts of Various Literary Works, 1916-1968
- Series V: Manuscripts by Others, 1943-1957
- Series VI: Rabbi Nathan Samuel Feinberg Clippings and Manuscripts, 1913-1938, undated
- Series VII: Speeches and Lectures, 1937-1968
- Series VIII: Materials Gathered by Feinberg (Subject Files), 1917-1968
- Subseries 1: Yiddish Materials, 1922-1962
- Subseries 2: Russian Materials, 1917-1968
- Series IX: Miscellaneous, 1906-1968, undated
- Series X: Supplement, 1948-1964
The collection was given to the YIVO Archives by Leon Feinberg’s family in 1970.
There is no information about materials that are associated by provenance to the described materials that have been physically separated or removed.
The original inventory was completed in October 1974 by Marek Web. Additional processing completed in December 2011.
- Glatstein, Jacob, 1896-1971 (Person)
- Glanz-Leyeless, A. (Aaron), 1889-1966 (Person)
- Grade, Chaim, 1910-1982 (Person)
- Korn, Rachel H. (Rachel Häring), 1898-1982 (Person)
- Leivick, H., 1888-1962 (Person)
- Mann, Mendel, 1916-1975 (Person)
- Manger, Itzik, 1901-1969 (Person)
- Meitus, Eliahu, 1892-1977 (Person)
- Panitz, Joseph (Person)
- Ravitch, Melech, 1893-1976 (Person)
- Roback, A. A. (Abraham Aaron), 1890-1965 (Person)
- Rosenblatt, Herschel (Person)
- Sutzkever, Abraham, 1913-2010 (Person)
- Weinper, Z. (Zishe), -1957 (Person)
- Yiddish P.E.N. Center (New York, N.Y.) (Organization)
- Yiddish Writers’ Union (Organization)
- YIVO Archives (Organization)
- Guide to the Papers of Leon Feinberg (1897-1969) 1906-1969 (bulk 1920-1960) RG 601
- Processed by Marek Web. Additional processing by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Description is in English.