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Papers of Paul (Pesakh) Novick (1891-1989)

 Collection
Identifier: RG 1247

Scope and Content Note

The papers in this collection pertain to Novick’s work as the editor-in-chief of the Morning Freiheit, and to his activities on the political left, in the Communist Party of the USA, the International Workers Order (IWO), and in Idisher Kultur Farband (IKUF). The collection contains a wealth of materials relating to the history of Communism, particularly as it relates to the Jews in the United States, the Soviet Union, Israel, and elsewhere. Much of the correspondence, including that with such individuals as Peggy Dennis, Alexander Bittleman and Howard Fast concerns the growing disillusionment with the Soviet Union and the Communist Party on the part of many long-time adherents. The history of the Morning Freiheit itself, particularly for the period during which Novick was the editor, is well documented by the voluminous correspondence and many manuscripts of Freiheit contributors and supporters. These materials also shed light on Yiddish literary circles, particularly those inclined towards the left. Jewish and general political issues are documented by statements and other materials issued by a wide range of Jewish and left-wing organizations.

Subject files, including those on individuals as subjects, containing significant material include: Antisemitism, Birobidzhan, the Bund, Cuba, the Holocaust, Israel, Trofim Kichko, H. Leivick, Moyshe Olgin, Poland, the press, the USSR, Morris Winchevsky, Chaim Zhitlowsky, and Zionism. Materials in the file of Lucy Dawidowicz concern the expulsion of the Jewish Music Alliance from the Jewish Music Council during the McCarthy era.

Organizations represented by significant amounts of material include: the Communist Party, particularly the Americannal Comunist Party, Daily World, Jewish Daily Forward, Idisher Kultur Farband (IKUF), International Workers Order (IWO), Jewish Defense League, Morning Freiheit, and the United Nations. There is also material issued by the American Jewish Committee, American Jewish Congress, Novosti Press Agency, and other organizations in many of the files.

Photographs include portraits of many individuals, particularly contributors to the Morning Freiheit and Soviet Jewish writers, as well as Soviet and Polish press photos, pictures from Novick’s trip to Poland in 1978, Freiheit-sponsored events, and other subjects. Among the most significant photos are: Sholem Aleichem with Reuben Brainin and an unidentified man, circa 1915; Herzl with a group of journalists at a Zionist congress in Basel, possibly in 1897; an inscribed portrait of Joseph Barondess, 1916; a group of delegates to the 1937 IKUF conference at the Paris train station; Brainin and others in Bnai Brak in the 1920s; a number of photographs of Jewish life in Poland in the immediate post-war period; Novick in Birobidzhan, 1936; Novick speaking at meetings of ICOR, 1937, and the Zhitomir Relief Committee, 1947; Novick with Communist leaders James Ford, Israel Amter, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and Mike Gold, 1941; Novick with Soviet Yiddish writers and cultural figures, including Solomon Mikhoels and Itsik Feffer, during Novick’s trip to the USSR in 1946; Itsik Feffer with poet I.E. Rontch in front of a Jewish bookstore on the Lower East Side, 1944; and scenes from camps Kinderland and Lakeland.

Office files include alphabetically arranged correspondence and subject files, including manuscripts of articles and speeches by Novick and other writers, reports, memoranda, brochures, printed materials, travel writings, flyers and press releases issued by a number of organizations on a wide variety of issues, pamphlets, photographs and clippings relating to Novick’s work with the Morning Freiheit, his activity with the Communist Party, including his expulsion in 1973, his affiliation with other organizations, and his concern with politics, current events and Jewish affairs in the United States, the Soviet Union, Israel, and elsewhere.

Correspondents include: Herbert Aptheker, Hertz Burgin, David Bergelson, Martin Birnbaum, Alexander Bittleman, Reuben Brainin, Bella Chagall, Marc Chagall, Peggy Dennis, Howard Fast, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bruno Frei, Joshua Gershman, Ben Gold, Mike Gold, Itshe Goldberg, Ber Green, William Gropper, Shmuel Halkin, Abraham Jenofsky, Efraim Kaganofsky, Moshe Katz, Leon Kobrin, Malka Lee, Rafael Mahler, Khaym Maltinsky, Ber Mark, Kalman Marmor, Abraham Maymudes, Gina Medem, Nachman Meisel, Jacob Milch, Michal Mirski, Otto Nathen, Kopl Novick, Melech Ravitch, Isaac Raboy, Sid Resnick, Isaac E. Rontch, Morris U. Schappes, Upton Sinclair, Hersh Smolar, Moshe Sneh, Dora Teitelbaum, Aaron Vergelis, Z. Wendroff, and Chaim Zhitlowsky. The file for Ber Green includes a number of letters by Alexander Mukdoni, Kalman Marmor, Yehoash, Bergun, Winchevsky, Bergelson, Milch, Peretz Hirschbein, Zhitlowsky, and others. The correspondence file for Aaron Vergelis includes material concerning the journal Sovietish Heymland (Soviet Homeland), of which he was the editor.

The newspaper clippings recreate many of the topics found in the Original Documents series. These generally seem to be topics Novick was interested and involved with, individuals and organizations he corresponded with, periodicals he wrote for, subscribed to or read regularly, and possible topics for articles. Chaim Suller’s files mostly concern the running of the Morning Freiheit, dinners and events related to the newspaper, Suller’s correspondence, copies and drafts of his articles, geographical files, some of which contain correspondence, and a great deal of information about tracking down war criminals and former Nazis, particularly in the United States.

The addendum is made up of brochures, printed materials, speeches and articles written by Novick and others, including Leib Kvitko, David Hofshtayn, Peretz Markish, and Anna Safran, travel writings from his trips to the Soviet Union, Poland, Romania, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and other countries, biographical notes, court proceedings, newspaper clippings, correspondence, and materials he gathered during his time as an editor of Morning Freiheit, 1924-1988. There are also materials about the conflict between the Sovietish Heymland and the Morning Freiheit, about the Jewish national problem, which contributed to Novick’s expulsion from the American Communist Party, some materials about Moyshe Olgin, who was the editor of the Freiheit until his death in 1939, when Novick assumed that role, about Solomon Mikhoels and Itsik Feffer in America, about Alexander Belousov, the Russian Yiddish poet, Novick’s rehabilitation of the Yiddish writers murdered in 1952, the Ber Green memorial, and material for a book by Moshe Katz.

The collection dates from 1897-1991 with one article from 2006. The bulk of materials come from 1940-1988.

Dates

  • 1897-1991, 2006
  • Majority of material found within 1940-1988

Language of Materials

The collection is in Yiddish, English, Russian, French, Hebrew, Polish, Spanish, German and Romanian.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public. Permission to publish part or parts of the collection must be obtained in writing from the YIO Archives.

Use Restrictions

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

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

email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Biographical Note

Paul (Pesakh) Novick was born September 7, 1891 in Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), Russia to Chaim Feivel and Chaya Esther Novick. His father was a shopkeeper and sent him to kheyder and then to the yeshiva to learn with Rabbi Chaim (Halevi) Soloveitchik. At the age of 16 Novick left the yeshiva. He became involved in the Jewish labor movement and joined the Jewish Labor Bund in 1907. At the same time he devoted himself to acquiring a secular education. Between 1910 and 1912, Novick lived in Zurich, Switzerland, where he earned a living as a machinist in a cigarette-casing factory, while continuing his literary pursuits in the evening. In 1913 he came to New York, working first in a raincoat factory, and later as an official and secretary of the Jewish Federation of the Socialist Party and its weekly organ, Di Naye Velt (The New World), in which he first began to publish articles starting in 1915. Following the February Revolution in 1917, Novick returned to Russia and resumed his activity with the Bund, first in Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and then in Minsk and Moscow, where he worked in a factory. He contributed articles to the Di Folksztyme in Kiev in 1917-1918 and Der Veker in Minsk in 1918. In 1919 and 1920 he was editor of the Bundist Unzer Shtime (Our Voice) in Vilna and co-editor with Zalmen Reisin of the Vilner Tog (Vilna Day). In 1920 he served as news editor of the Bundist Lebns-fragn (Current Issues) in Warsaw.

In October 1920, Novick resettled, this time permanently, in the United States. He rejoined the Jewish Socialist Federation and briefly wrote for the Jewish Daily Forward from 1920-1921. Novick sided with the left wing of the Jewish Socialist Federation when it split from the Socialist Party in 1921, at which point he joined the “Progressive Movement.” At the same time, he and some colleagues, including Moyshe Olgin, founded the Communist Freiheit (Freedom, later the Morning Freiheit) in April 1922 with Novick as its first news editor. The Freiheit referred to itself as a “militant workers’ newspaper” and was also strongly aligned with the Communist Party and the Bolshevik regime in the Soviet Union. Novick served at various times as secretary of the Freiheit’s editorial board, assistant editor and, after the death of Moyshe Olgin in November 1939, as editor-in-chief. He was a staff member of the Chicago Jewish Courier in 1923-1924 and served on the editorial board of Der Hamer (The Hammer) 1925-1937. He was particularly active in the International Workers’ Order (IWO), founded 1929, especially in its Yiddish educational and cultural activities, and with the Idisher Kultur Farband (IKUF), which was founded in 1937, including serving as a staff member of IKUF’s Yidishe Kultur (Yiddish Culture). He was also a staff member of other periodicals and organizations, including Jewish Currents, Proletpen, Zamlungen starting in 1955, Eynikeit, the journal of the leftist Jewish Tailor’s Group, in 1926-1928, and Dos Naye Lebn, the journal of the Organization for Jewish Colonization in Russia (ICOR), from 1945-1949.

For many years Novick was an ardent defender of the Communist Party in all matters, even after the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, and the Freiheit reflected this approach. However, his position began to shift following Khrushchev’s 1956 denunciation of Stalin’s crimes at the 20th Congress of the Communist Party and the revelation in the Warsaw Folksztyme (Peoples’ Voice) that many of the leading Yiddish cultural figures in the Soviet Union had been executed in 1952. In 1957 the Morning Freiheit was officially declared free of Party control and began to exhibit a more independent position, although still generally sympathetic to Communism. The Freiheit first openly opposed Stalin’s Communism in 1962, reprinting the article about Khrushchev’s denunciation from the Folksztyme, although the Freiheit maintained its commitment to the Jewish left, espousing an independent brand of democratic Socialism.

While Novick himself remained a member of the Party and its national committee through the 1960s, he began to push within the Party for a position more favorable to Israel and supportive of its conflict with the Arab states, especially after the 1967 war when the Party condemned Israel. This was a reversal of Novick’s earlier strongly anti-Zionist writings. When the State of Israel was declared, Novick relinquished his opposition to Zionism and supported the Jewish state. His new position was a consequence of a “new Jewish consciousness which was born in Auschwitz.” He did not ever consider himself a Zionist, because he did not believe that Israel was the only solution to the Jewish national question, but he did recognize the centrality of Israel for the Jewish people. Eventually Novick openly declared himself against Soviet Communism and leveled charges of habitual antisemitism at the Kremlin. He criticized the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Czechoslovakia and to question Soviet representatives regarding the USSR’s treatment of its Jewish minority. As the articles in the Freiheit began to express more independence from the official Communist position, Novick’s conflict with the Party leadership grew, until he was expelled in 1973 for “opportunistic capitulation to…Jewish nationalism,” for “Zionist bourgeois” leanings and for serving “United States imperialism.”

In addition to his activities as an editor, Novick wrote a large number of pamphlets and books on Jewish and general political issues. He also published Yiddish translations of English, Russian and German literary works, including Washington Irving’s "Rip Van Winkle." From 1929 through the 1970s, Novick traveled extensively, visiting the Soviet Union, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Israel, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Cuba, and Mexico on a number of occasions. He wrote about his travels in a series of articles and notes, some of which were published as a book, Europe – Between War and Peace, in 1948.

The Freiheit had a daily circulation of over 14,000 in its heyday but ultimately ceased publication September 11, 1988 due to a combination of a lack of readers, a shortage of writers, rising expenses, and the deaths of several longtime benefactors. Shortly before his death, Novick stated that the end of the Morning Freiheit felt like an ending for him as well. Novick died August 21, 1989, two weeks before his 98th birthday, leaving behind his wife Shirley (Shulamit), his son Allan (Alter), a psychologist, and his brother Kopl Novick, who was also a writer.

Extent

42 Linear Feet

Abstract

This collection contains documents of journalist and left-wing political activist Paul Novick, consisting mainly of correspondence, subject files, manuscripts, photographs, and newspaper clippings. These materials relate to Novick’s career as long-time editor of the Morning Freiheit (Morning Freedom), his important role in the worldwide Communist movement, the history of the Freiheit itself, and Jewish and general politics. These materials demonstrate Novick’s important, and changing, role in the history of Communism, as well as his career as a Yiddish journalist and author.

Arrangement

The office files were alphabetically arranged when they came into the Archives, with correspondence and subject files integrated. This order has been maintained, with minor changes to correct folders that were not in alphabetical order. Photographs and clippings have been separated into distinct series. The photographs were rearranged. Many of the newspaper clippings were unarranged and many were loose in the boxes, while others were labeled but not arranged. These clippings have been put into folders and given titles, either by subject or by the name of the periodical. They have been arranged alphabetically, paralleling the order of the series of original documents. Materials are arranged according to the Latin alphabet even when they do not use Latin characters. Yiddish names and periodical titles 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. Files of Chaim Suller, managing editor of the Morning Freiheit, have been arranged alphabetically and form their own series. The papers are divided into four series and an addendum. The addendum is arranged topically. Folder numbers run throughout the first four series but begin again at folder 1 in the addendum.
  1. Series I: Original Documents, 1906-1988
  2. Series II: Photographs, 1897-1987, undated
  3. Series III: Newspaper Clippings, 1928-1991
  4. Series IV: Files of Chaim Suller, 1939-1987
  5. Series V: Addendum, 1926-1989, 2006

Acquisition Information

Given to the YIVO Archives in January 1989 from Paul Novick, and in June 1989 from the offices of Morning Freiheit.

Related Material

The YIVO Archives has materials by and about Paul Novick, including personal correspondence found in other collections, copies of his books and writings in Yiddish and English, including his Yiddish translation of "Rip Van Winkle", and the Moshe Katz book that Novick edited. There are also books and other writings published in the Morning Freiheit or by the Morning Freiheit Association, as well as copies of the Morning Freiheit and Jewish Currents, edited by Morris Schappes, and books by Chaim Suller, managing editor of the Morning Freiheit.

Separated Material

Some of the photos were removed to RG 120, the Territorial Photograph Collection and some political cartoons were removed to RG 1290, the William Gropper Papers.

Processing information

The Original Documents series and the Photographs series were processed by Daniel Soyer in June 1989. The addendum was processed by Shloyme Krystal in 2006. The Newspaper Clippings series and the Files of Chaim Suller series were processed by Rachel S. Harrison in 2011.
Title
Guide to the Papers of Paul (Pesakh) Novick (1891-1989) 1897-1991, 2006 (bulk 1940-1988) RG 1247
Status
In Progress
Author
Processed by Daniel Soyer and Shloyme Krystal. Additional processing by Rachel S. Harrison as part of the Leon Levy Archival Processing Initiative, made possible by the Leon Levy Foundation.
Date
©2011
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