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Behind the Headlines a Certain Irony

March 29, 1983
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Morris Ghitzis, an 88-year-old former pharmacist of Chicago finds a certain irony in his life these days. He has been writing for American Yiddish publications for more than 40 years. But in Chicago there are no longer any Yiddish schools or publications.

The only place his articles and books are being published now is in the Soviet Union. Three years ago be became a featured writer in Sovietish Heimland, the government sponsored Yiddish magazine.

Ghitzis mused about this in a recent interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency shortly after The New York Times published an article dealing with new support for Yiddish in the Soviet Union, The articles referred to a book by Ghitzis to be published as a special supplement in Sovietish Heimland. The Times described this as “an unusual case of a book by an American Yiddish writer being published.”

Ghitzis pointed out to the JTA that this was not “unusual,” since Sovietish Heimland has been publishing his works for the past three years. In 1980, Aaron Vergelis, editor of Heimland, visited Chicago on a trip to the United States and invited Ghitzis to write for the publication. Ghitzis said he is regularly and well compensated for his work.

The book by Ghitzis, that is to appear as a special supplement in Heimland’s May edition, not March as erroneously reported in the Times, is entitled “Mensch zu Mensch,” which Ghitzis translated as “From One Human Being to Another.” He would not describe the story in detail, but said it was a romantic tale about a wealthy old man and a beautiful young woman.


Ghitzis has numerous acquaintances among Jewish literary figures and communal leaders. He spoke with special pride of his friendship with Boris Smolar, editor emertus-in-chief of the JTA and with the late Irving Abrams, former president of Chicago HIAS, Ghitzis and his wife of more than 60 years have no children, but he has a brother in New York and sisters in Israel and Peru. His parents, who remained in the Soviet Union, died in a Nazi concentration camp in Transnistria.

Ghitzis was born in Russia where he became a pharmacist, practicing three years in Donbas, a steel center, where he “learned much about the life of the proletariat.” He also is a talented amateur painter. The walls of the Ghitzis’ modest apartment are covered with his paintings,

A friendly man, whose alert manner and vigor belie his age, Ghitzis has also produced a film, “Yiddish Poets and Writers in America, ” which is in the archives of YIVO and the National Center for Jewish Film, formerly associated with the American Jewish Historical Society.

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