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Sophia Dubnow-Erlich

DUBNOW-ERLICH, SOPHIA (1885–1986), poet, political activist, critic, translator, and memoirist. Born in Mstislavl, Belarus, she was the eldest child of Ida (Friedlin) and historian Simon *Dubnow. The family moved to Odessa in 1890, where Sophia entered a gymnasium in 1899; upon graduation in 1902, she studied at the Bestuzhev Higher Courses in St. Petersburg. Dubnow-Erlich began her foray into the literary and political worlds in 1904, when her first poem, "Haman and his Demise," appeared in the Russian-Jewish weekly Budushchnost ' (Future). This satire of the czar's minister of interior, Plehve, was immediately confiscated by the censors. That same year, university officials expelled her from her courses for participating in a student protest. Undeterred, she entered the history-philology department of St. Petersburg University in 1905 and later studied comparative religion and the history of world literature at the Sorbonne (1910–11). Rejoining her family in Vilna, the hotbed of Jewish politics in the Russian Empire, Dubnow-Erlich became an active member of the Social Democratic Labor Party and the Jewish Labor Party and an antimilitarist propagandist.

In 1911 Sophia married Henryk *Erlich (1882–1941), a prominent leader of the leftist Bund in Poland with whom she worked to promote the ideals of Jewish cultural autonomy and socialist internationalism. By 1918, the political situation drove the Dubnow-Erlichs to relocate to Warsaw, where they remained for over 20 years with their two sons. When Warsaw fell to the Nazis in 1939, Erlich was arrested by Soviet authorities and Dubnow-Erlich moved her family to Vilna, where they lived until 1941. She reached the United States in 1942 where she learned of her husband's death and her father's murder by the Nazis. Dubnow-Erlich remained politically active throughout her life, advocating for civil rights and protesting the Vietnam War. She died in New York City.

Dubnow-Erlich contributed over 50 poems, essays, and translations to Russian and Yiddish-language journals and newspapers. She wrote three volumes of symbolist poetry (Osenniaia svirel': stikhi, 1911; Mat', 1918; rep. Tel Aviv, 1969; and Stikhi raznykh let, 1973); several histories on topics relating to the Bund, including co-editing Di geshikhte fun 'bund' (5 vols., New York, 1960–81); a biography of her father (The Life and Work of S.M. Dubnov, transl. J. Vowles, ed. J. Shandler, Bloomington, Indiana, 1991; Russian original, 1950); and a memoir, Khleb i Matsa ("Bread and Matzah," 1994). Her papers are at YIVO.


G. Ia. Aaronson, "Dubnov-Erlikh, Sofie (March 9, 1885)," in: Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, 1 (1958), 466–67; C.B. Balin, To Reveal Our Hearts: Jewish Women Writers in Tsarist Russia (2000), 156–94; K.A. Groberg, "Sophie Dubnov-Erlich," in: J.B. Litoff (ed.), European Immigrant Women in the United States: A Biographical Dictionary (1994); idem, "Dubnov and Dubnova: Intellectual Rapport between Father and Daughter," in: A. Greenberg and K. Groberg (eds.), Simon Dubnov 50th Yortsayt Volume (1994).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.