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H. Leivick, World’s Foremost Yiddish Poet, Dies After Long Illness

December 24, 1962
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

H. Leivick, considered by most literary critics the world’s foremost Yiddish poet, died here today after a long illness–two days before he would have celebrated his 74th birthday. Born Leivick Halper, on December 25,1888, in Igumen, Russia, he came to the United States in 1913, after escaping from Czarist exile in Siberia.

Mr. Leivick’s outstanding work–The Golem, a dramatic poem based on the legend of the Maharal of Prague–is considered one of the greatest works of Modern Yiddish literature. It was translated into Hebrew and was produced by the Habima Theater of Moscow for the first time in 1927.

In his youth, Leivick studied for the rabbinate in the yeshivoth of Berezino and Minsk. Later he joined the Bund, the Jewish revolutionary movement in Russia, and came into contact with Yiddish literature for the first time.

In 1906, he was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for his revolutionary activities, but managed to smuggle his writings out of his cell. These were published in the Zeitgeist of New York in 1907. Arrested again in 1912, he was sent by the Czarist authorities into lifetime exile in Siberia. He escaped, however, and came to the United States.

Mr. Leivick wrote numerous poems and dramas which were published both in the United States and abroad. In 1936, he joined the editorial board of the New York Day-Jewish Journal. In 1951, he became associated with Zukunft, a Yiddish literary monthly, which he edited prior to his illness. One of his last poems appeared in the Jewish Day-Morning Journal today.

He was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Hebrew Letters by the Jewish Theological Seminary of New York in 1958 as well as the P. Hoffer Prize for excellence in Yiddish literature in 1954, and the Louis LaMed Prize for outstanding work in Yiddish poetry in 1946. He was very popular in Israel, where he had been a guest of the Israel Government five years ago, as well as wherever Yiddish is spoken and read throughout the world.

Funeral services will be held on Wednesday in the Riverside Memorial Chapel. Many prominent leaders in Jewish cultural life are expected to attend the services.

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