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Zalman Rejzen (Reyzn)

(1887 – 1940?)

Zalman Rejzen (Reyzn) was a Yiddish lexicographer, literary historian, and editor. Born in Koidanovo, Minsk province (now Dzerzhinsk, Belarus), Rejzen, together with his elder brother, the poet and short story writer Abraham Reisen, prepared the Yiddish textbook Muter-Shprakh (“Mother Language,” 1908). That year he also published a widely used Yiddish grammar, which he expanded to the more definitive Gramatik fun der Yidisher Shprakh (“Grammar of the Yiddish Language,” 1920), thus helping to standardize Yiddish grammar. He also helped to bring greater uniformity to Yiddish spelling by editing a book on Yiddish orthography prepared by a group of Yiddish teachers in 1913. But his most important contributions were in literary history. His Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur un Prese (“Lexicon of Yiddish Literature and Press”) appeared in a single volume in 1914 under the editorship of S. Niger and became the basis for his monumental bibliographic Leksikon fun der Yidisher Literatur, Prese, un Filologi (“Lexicon of Yiddish Literature, Press, and Philology”), published in four volumes in Vilna (1926–29), where he had settled in 1915 and assumed a leading role as journalist, editor, scholar, and stimulator of cultural life.

When he became the editor of the Yiddish daily Vilner Tog in 1920, he fought for Jewish cultural autonomy and fostered new literary talents. In 1928, he was imprisoned for two months because of his opposition to the Polish government’s attempt to compel Jews to accept Sunday as their day of rest. He also edited the linguistic journal Yidishe Filologi and several books, including the handbook for the history of Haskalah literature, Fun Mendelssohn biz Mendele (“From Mendelssohn to Mendele,” 1923). With A. Fridkin he coauthored a study on Abraham Gottlober and wrote on the life and works of I.L. Peretz (I.L. PeretzZayn Lebn un Zayne Verk, “I.L. Peretz – His Life and His Works,” 1931). He translated European classics into Yiddish.

In 1925, he helped found the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, edited several of its important scholarly publications, and was especially active in its sections on philology and literature. The posthumous essay collection, Yidishe Literatur un Yidishe Shprakh (“Yiddish Literature and Yiddish Language,” 1965) includes a full bibliography. When Soviet troops occupied Vilna in 1939, he was arrested, and when Vilna was handed over to the Lithuanian Republic, he was taken to Russia, where he was shot in June 1941. No reason was ever given for his imprisonment or execution.


M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon, 2 (1947), 81–3; H. Abramowitch, Farshvundene Geshtaltn (1958), 171–81; Ch. Gininger, in: Zamlbikher, 8 (1952), 185–94; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1960), 188–91. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Reisen, Epizodn fun Mayn Lebn, 1 (1938), 17–68; E. Schulman, Yung Vilne (1946), 8–12; Sh. Katsherginski, Tsvishn Hamer un Serp (1949), 16–20; LNYL, 8 (1981), 478–82.

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