YEHOASH

YEHOASH (pseudonym of Yehoash Solomon Bloomgarden; 1872–1927), Yiddish poet and translator. Yehoash was born in Virbalen, Lithuania, and as a boy he read maskilic literature as well as studying Torah with his father, briefly attending the yeshivah of Volozhin, only to begin a career as a Hebrew poet. At the age of 17 he took his first Hebrew poems to Warsaw, where I.L. Peretz encouraged him to continue writing Hebrew and Yiddish lyrics. The following year Yehoash immigrated to the U.S. He made no headway either as a Hebrew poet or in various callings – bookkeeping, tailoring, peddling, and Hebrew teaching. For a decade he faced severe privations until he contracted tuberculosis and went to the Denver Sanatorium for Consumptives in 1900 to recuperate. There he remained for almost ten years, maturing as a Yiddish poet, publishing his poems, ballads, fables, and translations in leading dailies, periodicals, and literary almanacs. In his early 30s, he undertook to translate the Bible into a modern Yiddish which would combine scholarly precision with simple idiomatic language, a task to which he devoted the rest of his life. While at work on this translation, he prepared, together with Charles D. Spivak, his physician and the co-founder of the sanatorium, a Yiddish dictionary, first published in 1911, which defined about 4,000 Hebrew and Aramaic words used in Yiddish and which went through many editions as a basic reference work. Returning to New York in 1909, Yehoash had to struggle to make a living, even though his fame was worldwide and Yiddish periodicals in many lands gladly published his contributions. In January 1914, he left for Ereẓ Israel and settled in Reḥovot. He mastered classical Arabic and translated portions of the Koran and Arabian tales into Yiddish. When the Ottoman Empire entered World War I, he returned to New York and published the story of his experiences in three volumes of travel sketches, Fun New York biz Rekhovot un Tsurik ("From New York to Reḥovot and Back," 1917–18; Eng. The Feet of the Messenger, 1923). His sojourn in Ereẓ Israel as well as his knowledge of Arabic proved useful to him in his work on the translation of the Bible. Although he had published a Yiddish rendering of several biblical books including Isaiah and Job in 1910, he realized the inadequacy of this initial attempt and began anew. His more adequate rendering, starting with Genesis, appeared in installments in the New York daily Der Tog from 1922. At the time of his death only the Pentateuch translation had been published, but the rest of the biblical books were printed from his manuscripts. His version was hailed as a contribution of national significance. The translator drew upon idiomatic treasures of various Yiddish dialects, upon the Khumesh-Taytsh (the Old Yiddish, word-for-word translation of Pentateuch), vocabulary used by melammedim in Ashkenazi schools for many generations, and expressions of the Ẓe'enah u-Re'enah (Tsene-Rene), with its archaic patina. Yehoash was thus able to retain the rhythm and flavor of the Hebrew to a larger extent than preceding Bible translators. The two-volume edition, with parallel Hebrew and Yiddish texts, distributed in tens of thousands of copies, became a standard   work for Yiddish-speaking homes throughout the world. In 1949, Mordecai Kosover edited Yehoash's notes to the Bible, which afforded an insight into the translator's many years of wrestling with the sacred text. Yehoash, who also translated Longfellow's Hiawatha and the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam into Yiddish, was far ahead of his time in terms of his own poetry. When the first edition of his Gezamelte Lider ("Collected Poems") appeared in 1907, he was widely hailed as a first-rank artist. His lyrics were reprinted in anthologies and school texts, and were translated into many languages. An English translation, Poems of Yehoash, by Isidore Goldstick, appeared in 1952, and a Hebrew version (1957) was a cooperative venture by a number of significant Hebrew writers, including jacob fichmann and dov sadan . Yehoash's two later lyric volumes (1919 and 1921) linked him with inzikhism , the modernist trend of introspection in post-World War I Yiddish poetry, the leaders of which acclaimed him as their forerunner. Yehoash gave expression in his lyrics to his awareness of a divine force permeating the universe. He re-imagined in verse biblical and post-biblical legends, tales from medieval Jewish chronicles, and ḥasidic lore, versified fables from the Talmud, Aesop, La Fontaine, and Lessing, and created new fables of his own. He wrote romantic, ghostly ballads, but he also felt the spell of Peretz, his lifelong friend, and strove for classical purity and perfection in rhythm and rhyme. Yehoash also influenced American Jewish poetry in English, notably the modernist work of Louis Zukofsky. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Rejzen, Leksikon, 1 (1928), 1244–53; LNYL, 4 (1961), 233–44; B.V. Vitkevich, Yehoash-Bibliografye (1944); A.A. Roback, Story of Yiddish Literature (1940), 201–8; J. Glatstein, In Tokh Genumen (1956), 64–9; A. Glanz-Leyeles, Velt un Vort (1958), 26–45; S. Liptzin, Flowering of Yiddish Literature (1963), 190–7; C. Madison, Yiddish Literature (1968), 165–81; Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 1021–3, 1103–4. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. Waldinger, in: Revue Internationale de la Traduction, 44:4 (1998), 316–35; B. Grin, in: Yidishe Kultur (1970), 21–4; S. Noble, in: Tsukunft (1970), 299–301; H. Schimmel, in: Paideuma (1978), 559–69. (Melech Ravitch)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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