The Mendele Review: Yiddish Literature and Language
              (A Companion to MENDELE)
Contents of Vol. 08.011 [Sequential No. 150]
30 November 2004

1) Editor's Note (Leonard Prager)

   a. On Getsl Zelikovitsh (1855-1926), Journalist, Erotic Author,
      Egyptologist, Adventurer, Feminist and Incredible Personality (ed.)
   b. _Yiddish After the Holocaust_, Oxford August 2003 Conference
      papers edited by Joseph Sherman published
   c. In Coming Issues: Review of  Nancy Sinkoff's _Out of the Shtetl_
      by Dr. Marcos Silber, etc.
   d. Yoysef Tunkel ("Der tunkeler") audio-cum-text on The World of
      Yiddish website
   e. _Khulyot_ [also _Chulyot_] vol. 9 (2005) may be ordered now
   f. Dovid Katz's imposing _Lithuanian Jewish Culture_ to be reviewed
      in December 2004.

2) _Getsl Zelikovitsh -- a Maskil and a Jewish Journalist at the Turn
   of the Century_, English Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation,Hebrew
   University, Jerusalem [April 1995] (Ze'ev Goldberg)

Date:  30 November 2004
From: Leonard Prager 
Subject: This TMR and Future Issues
(a) This entire issue of The Mendele Review -- the one hundred and
fiftieth -- is allocated to a neglected and intriguing figure -- Getsl
Zelikovitsh (also known as Getzel [George] Selikovitsch), who was born
in the Litvish shtetl of Riteve (Lithuanian: Rietavas) in 1855 and
traversed a good part of the world before settling in America. There
he became a pioneer of the American Yiddish press -- and also a
feminist, a satiric feuilletonist, and an author of erotic and
sensationalistic fiction. Significantly, his birthdate is everywhere
erroneously recorded as 1863, but as Dr. Ze'ev Goldberg makes clear in
his probative dissertation where quite a few matters are for the first
time clarified, this is simply one of the many fabrications of a
highly imaginative individual. It is a great pity that Goldberg's
doctoral thesis written almost a decade ago has not been revised for
book publication in Hebrew and also translated into English. Getsl
Zelikovitsh is too important a part of American Jewish history to be
(b) We are pleased to greet publication of _Yiddish After the
Holocaust_ (Oxford: Boulevard, 2004), edited and introduced by Joseph
Sherman.  Sixteen of the papers delivered at the August 2003 Oxford
Postgraduate Hebrew Center conference on the state of  Yiddish after
World War Two are collected here. TMR would very much like to assist
in making these essays accessible on the internet.
(c) Dr. Marcos Silber of the Department of Jewish History of the
University of Haifa will review  Nancy Sinkoff's _Out of the Shtetl;
Making Jews Modern in the Polish Borderlands_, Providence: Brown
Judaic Studies [Number 336], 2004 in the early part of 2005. Others
who will be contributing essays to TMR in 2005 include Joseph Sherman
(Oxford), Ghilad Zuckermann (Cambridge and Haifa), Hugh Denman
(London), Yechiel Szeintuch (Jerusalem) and Nathan Cohen (Bar-Ilan).
(d) By the beginning of 2005 new audio-cum-text offerings on the Di
velt fun yidish/The World of Yiddish website
(http:/ will feature three satirical pieces by
Yoysef Tunkel ("Der tunkeler"). For the first time, a verse item will
be offered -- Der tunkeler's spirited rimed critique of Yiddishist
spelling reformers: "Di lamdonishe barotungen" [original text: NHG
beratungen] ('scholarly discussions'). Is Der tunkeler's use of a
daytshmerizm in his title intentionally ironic? The first two of the
poem's twenty-four five-line stanzas read as follows:
Tsodek, Khone Soloveytshik,
Lekhelman, Yakhnuk un Meytshik,
Yankl Kolner un Karasik,
Burik, Purik un Pinkhasik,
Zak un Gorglshteyn --
ale heyse zhargonistn,
shtark farbrente yidishistn,
eyns in eyns gor same prime,
on a sirkhe, on a pgime,
kosher, fayn un reyn, --
Comment on the first stanza is invited from onomasticians and others. 
We use the text in Yechiel Szeintuch's _ Sefer hahumoreskot
vehaparodiyot hasifrutiyot beyidish (Jerusalem: Magnes Press, 1990).
(e) Full text access to _Khulyot_,volumes 1 to 8 is proceeding apace.
Volume 9 is nearing completion and may be ordered from Shalom Luria,
ed. at Department of Hebrew and Comparative Literature, University of 
Haifa, Haifa, Israel. Price for individuals: 50 shekels in Israel; $15
abroad (postage included). Abstracts of the contents of volumes 1-8
may be found on The World of Yiddish website:
(f) Coming issue: Review of Dovid Katz's imposing _Lithuanian  Jewish
Culture_ (Vilna:  Baltos Lankos, 2004, 398 pp.) ISBN 9955-584-41-6.
See the publisher's website for details of purchasing this
beautifully printed volume. For order form and price information, see:
Date: 30 November 2004
From: Ze'ev Goldberg 
Subject:  _Getsl Zelikovitsh -- a Maskil and a Jewish Journalist at
the Turn of the Century_, English Abstract of Doctoral Dissertation
under supervision of Professor Chava Turniansky and Professor Eli
Lederhendler, Hebrew University,Jerusalem [April 1995](Ze'ev Goldberg)
Getsl Zelikovitsh [Getzel (George) Selikovitsch] was born in Riteve
[Ritowa; Rietavas], a town in Kovno Province, Lithuania, in 1855
(though in his autobiography he claimed to have been born in 1963, the
date followed by all reference works and by the Union List in Israel
and elsewhere). He was educated in _kheder_ and _yeshiva_ and was
considered a prodigy. His secular education began with his mother, who
taught him the German and Russian alphabets as well as how to read
Yiddish. He continued his secular education independently through
books and dictionaries which he found.
The difficult economic situation and antisemitism in the Pale of
Settlement made many Jews decide to emigrate to Western Europe and to
the American continent in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
Jewish emigration was characterized by the preference of the destitute
Jews to concentrate in the large cities, in neighborhoods inhabited by
their brethren from Russia and Poland where Yiddish was spoken.
Emigrant quarters sprung up in Berlin, London and Paris. Young Jews
struck by  Enlightenment while still in Eastern Europe moved to the
cities of the West in order to realize their dream of a university
education. Among these young people was Getsl Zelikovitsh, whom the
constriction of a small town, the spark of adventurousness, and a
desire to acquire a secular education led to abandon the shtetl.
When he was twenty years old, Zelikovitsh traveled to North Africa. He
claimed to have spent three years in Algeria and Morocco and to have
worked as secretary of an iron mine and as clerk in a law office. He
learned Arabic and visited the rabbis of North Africa. In 1878 he
reached Paris and lived in the home of the doyen of Parisian
_maskilim_ (enlightened Jews), Ber Goldberg. To earn his keep he
taught Hebrew to the children of Michael Erlanger, rabbi and _maskil_,
one of the outstanding personalities in Paris' Jewish community and
Baron Rothschild's emissary to the agricultural colonies in Palestine.
Zelikovitsh began to prepare himself for university studies. During
his first year in Paris he completed his examinations for high school
matriculation and at the same time attended courses in Jewish studies
given by Professor Joseph Derenbourg and others. At the university he
studied ancient Semitic languages and Egyptology.
In 1879, Zelikovitsh began to submit articles to the Hebrew newspaper
_Hamagid_. His first articles were short scholarly pieces clarifying
difficult words or phrases in the Jewish Bible,  Mishna and Talmud.
They were written in the style of articles on Jewish traditional
literature that appeared in the newspaper in those years in the column
"Magid Mishne." Concurrently, he published in _Hamagid_ reports in
which he described the hardships of the Jewish emigre who had not
studied a trade in making a living and finding his place in the cities
of the West. Side by side with his Hebrew writing, Zelikovitsh
published articles in the French Jewish monthly _L'Univers Israelite_.
Here he expressed his views against the Reform Jews and praised the
contribution of the medieval Jewish sages to development of the Hebrew
language. In the bulletin of the French Oriental Society, _L'Athenee
Oriental_, Zelikovitsh published two articles on scientific subjects,
one on the Jewish idea of Hell and the second on the concept of time
in ancient Egypt.
After completing his studies, Zelikovitsh worked as librarian in the
Oriental Division of the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and perhaps
also taught hieroglyphics in the university. In later life Zelikovitsh
claimed to have received his doctorate from Dorpat University in
Russia, which he claimed was equivalent to his certificate for studies
at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes in Paris. Zelikovitsh never said in his
memoirs or anywhere else that he returned to Russia to complete his
studies or that he maintained contact with Dorpat University, which
raises doubts about the nature of his doctorate.
It seems that in 1883, after finishing his studies, Zelikovitsh
visited England. According to him, he traveled to improve his English
and to find hidden treasures in the British Museum library. 
In his memoirs Zelikovitsh relates that he stayed in a mission house
in London for two weeks in order to write a report on Christian
missionary tactics for converting Jews. Dismal London ,where he saw
for the first time in his life drunken women living in the streets,
was not to his taste and he returned to Paris after six weeks.
In the early 1880s, a rebellion was waged in Sudan, then an Egyptian
protectorate under the influence of the European powers, especially
England. The charismatic leader Ahmed Ahmed, or as he was popularly
known, Mahdi (Redeemer), succeeded in unifying the Sudanese tribes in
the fire of Islamic fervor and in 1884 he ruled over nearly all areas
of the land.
Early in 1884, the British government sent the celebrated General
Charles Gordon, who had already served in Sudan, to rescue Egyptian 
forces besieged by rebels in Khartoum. Gordon eached Khartoum and
realized that he couldn't pull back.  He called for aid from the
British government. Help was slow in coming and only in September 1884
did organization of a rescue mission get under way, led by Lord
Wolseley. Following many delays along the way, the rescue forces
reached Khartoum on 25 January 1885, two days after the city's
surrender and the execution of Gordon and his soldiers. Zelikovitsh
acted as Arabic interpreter in the British mission to rescue Gordon.
After the expedition was notified of the fall of Khartoum, they made
their way back to Egypt. Letters that Zelikovitsh sent from Sudan and
Egypt were published in _Hamagid_ early in 1885.  In the spring of
1885, Zelikovitsh left the British expedition and in July that year
returned to Paris.
Early in 1884, the French journalist Olivier Pain set out for Sudan in
an attempt to get to the Mahdi's encampment. In the French newspaper
_L'Instransigeant_, published by Henri Rochefort, who was close to
French radical circles, there appeared early in July an announcement
received from Egypt stating that Olivier Pain was killed by the
British in Egypt upon his return from the Mahdi's camp, because his
satchel held reports on the fall of Khartoum that contradicted the
reports of the British officers. The announcement rocked nationalist
circles in Paris, who demanded an immediate investigation. On 17
August 1885, _L'Instransigeant_ published a letter in which Getsl
Zelikovitsh claimed that he was in the British camp at the time of
Olivier Pain's execution. In the letter he confirms that the execution
was carried out with the knowledge of the British government and under
the  personal supervision of  Lord Kitchner, the expedition's
intelligence officer and later Secretary of Defence. Zelikovitsh's
letter had wide repercussions in France; French nationalists staged
protest assemblies attended by thousands and the matter was brought
for clarification in the French and British foreign offices and before
an international commission of arbitration. The British officer corps
denied Zelikovitsh's charges completely wherever they differed from
information supplied by the priest Luigi Bonomi, who succeeded in
escaping from the Mahdi's camp. Bonomi related that Olivier Pain did
indeed succeed in reaching the Mahdi's camp, but did not survive the
difficult desert conditions of the trek to Omdurman, and died in the
autumn of 1884 from heat and dysentery. In 1892, the German priest
Josef Urwalder and R. Slatin, a provincial governor in Sudan, were
released from the Mahdi's captivity, and they confirmed the account of
Olivier Pain's death in the Mahdi's camp in autumn 1884.
From the above it turns out that the account submitted by Zelikovitsh
of Pain's death was pure fabrication. When Zelikovitsh wrote his
memoirs some thirty-five years later, he did not admit to lying in his
reports on Olivier Pain's death, but he did admit to being carried
away by enthusiasm by the sudden publicity he was accorded and to
making statements in too bold a fashion. In his old age he knew that
such a notoriety is ephemeral and does no good. Zelikovitsh did not
feel comfortable in Paris following the Olivier Pain affair and it was
the French authorities who hinted to him that he would do well to
leave the country. At the end of 1885, he made his way to Istanbul,
when he was delayed on the way for a short time in Vienna, Budapest,
Bucharest, and the Bulgarian port of Varna. After several months in
Turkey he returned to Paris and was delayed on the way in Salonica,
Izmir, and Athens. In _Hamagid_  Zelikovitsh reported on the condition
of the Jews in the above-mentioned cities. A question that vexed him
in particular was the fallen ethical level of the Ashkenazim in
Oriental Jewish communities; he reported at length in the newspaper on
the white slave trade run by the Ashkenazim in these cities.
About half a year later, in late November 1886, Zelikovitsh left Paris
for America. He settled in Philadelphia and tried to obtain an
appointment as lecturer in Egyptology at the University of
Pennsylvania. He succeeded in creating a good impression among a
number of academics in the city who tried to advance his cause, but
there were also those who opposed his selection for the post. Bad
ratings, unauthorized use of the university's name and lectures on
topics that irritated the Church were behind the decision not to
appoint him to the position. From 1887 until his death in 1926,
Zelikovitsh worked as reporter and editor in the Yiddish press in the
United States.
When Getsl Zelikovitsh began to work in the Yiddish press in the
United States, it was in its infancy with only one daily and two
weeklies. Zelikovitsh took his first steps in the Yiddish press in
America in the Socialist weekly _Di nyu yorker yidishe folks tsaytung_.
In 1888 he worked for a number of months alongside Avrom Goldfaden,
who published the  _Ilustrirte tsaytung_. Late in 1888, Zelikovitsh
became editor and partner in the _Folksadvokat_. His work at this
paper ended after more than a year and from 1890 he edited the
_Yidishes tageblat_ and its weekly supplement _Yidishe gazetn_, papers
with an Orthodox outlook published by Kasriel Soreson and his family.
At the same time, he participated from 1890 to 1891 in the socialist
paper _Arbayter tsaytung_.  Between 1893 and 1898 Zelikovitsh edited
Yiddish papers in Boston and Chicago. In 1898 he returned to New York
and published the _Naye yidishe presse_. Publication of the paper
ended after a number of months and early in 1889 Zelikovitsh went to
work at the _Abend post_, a daily published by Y. Sapirstein that also
included a weekly publication called _Yidisher zhurnal_. Zelikovitsh
worked at this paper for about two years and early in 1901 he returned
to write for the _Tageblat_, where he continued to work until his
death in 1926.
When Zelikovitsh began to write for the Yiddish press,, it was written 
in a stilted, Germanized Yiddish. Getsl Zelikovitsh was the first to
write for the American Yiddish press in a Yiddish purified of
Germanicisms.  From his first steps in America,  he asserted that
there was no reason to be ashamed of Yiddish, that one could express
the same idea using 'vos' as well as 'vas' and that one should address
the people in the language they understand.
In 1887 Zelikovitsh began to publish a new kind of weekly feuilleton
in the Yiddish press. This feuilleton appeared under the heading "Ahin
un aher" (Here and There) and other titles and, using humor and
satire, related briefly to a variety of  topics. Generally, it dealt
with topics in the news, in world politics and American Jewish life.
The author with his nom de plume is a lively presence in the
feuilleton, kings and prime ministers mention him in their
correspondence and he offers them advice. A reader unfamiliar with
that week's goings-on would be hard pressed to understand it. However,
in the feuilleton are preserved rhymes, jokes, epigrams and short
poems that do not lose their flavor with time. This type of
journalistic essay, written in plain Yiddish, was enthusiastically
received by the reading public and was imitated by other writers in
American Yiddish papers.
From the early Nineties, Zelikovitsh edited the _Tageblat_, an
Orthodox paper that operated from commercial motives and tried to
reach the widest possible readership. The paper catered to new
immigrants, on the one hand providing news and information on America
and on the other hand satisfying their hunger for news from the Old
Country. J. Paley, Zelikovitsh's successor as editor of  the
_Tageblat_ from 1894, improved and cultivated the "American/_shtetl_"
style of the paper.
In the last years of the nineteenth century there was fierce
competition between the New York papers _New York Journal_, owned by
tycoon William Randolph Hearst, and the _World_, owned by Joseph
Pulitzer. Both papers employed a sensationalist style in order to
boost circulation. The Yiddish press was also influenced by the wave
of yellow journalism that hit the United States. The first signs of
sensationalist writing in the Yiddish press are discernible as early
as the early Nineties in the _Tageblat_ in reports from Zelikovitsh's
pen describing crimes of passion and adultery. The Yiddish yellow
press in America reached its peak at the turn of the century when J.
Paley and Getsl Zelikovitsh stood in the vanguard of writers of such
Circulation of the _Tageblat_, only a few thousand in the Eighties,
reached fifty thousand copies at the turn of the century. The rise was
due first and foremost to the growth of the Yiddish-speaking immigrant
population in the United States. However, the growth in circulation
was tied also to the writers' use of non-germanicized Yiddish. Readers
found in the paper the information they were looking for, including
the lightweight and sensationalist American items, alongside news from
the Old World. Getsl Zelikovitsh was among the central personalities
that shaped Yiddish journalism in the United States at the end of the
nineteenth century.
At the beginning of 1891, the _Tageblat_ began publishing its women's
section under the title "Ladies Corner" (sic, in Yiddish
transliteration = leydis korner). Getsl Zelikovitsh wrote the column
under the nom de plume _Di litvishe khokhmanis_ (The Litvak Mrs.
Wise-Guy). The column appeared until 1893 and was revived in 1907 and
continued to appear until 1919. When _Di litvishe khokhmanis_ began to
write her newspaper column, women still did not have the right to vote
or be elected in most American states. Women readers who arrived from
Eastern Europe were not previously carried away by ideas of equality
between the sexes, and in America, too, they were beset by problems of
making a living. From the start, _Di litvishe khokhmanis_ fought for
full equality between men and women. She fought for women's suffrage
and the right to hold office, to do jury duty, and to serve as
American President. The women's column dealt mostly with male-female
relations, but it also gave practical advice for home and family and
sometimes also discussed fashion and cooking. Undoubtedly, this
column, which came out in the second decade of the century in an
edition of more than one hundred thousand and was read by the Orthodox
public, contributed to Jewish women's emancipation in America.
The mid-Seventies saw the appearance in Eastern Europe of sentimental
novels, love stories and the like. This literature was called _shund_
(trash, low-brow literature) in Yiddish, as in German. In 1892, the
New York publishers Katrovitsh and Yankev Sapirstein printed _shund_
stories in pamphlets  in  weekly   installments.  These  pamphlets
were enormously popular and in the early Nineties many dozens of such
serialized novels came out -- the so-called "booklet epidemic."  Many
Yiddish writers in America rallied to their production, among them
Getsl Zelikovitsh. As early as the late Eighties, Zelikovitsh parodied
the triviality of these novels in the Yiddish. press. In 1891, he
published in the _Tageblat_ a serialized _shund_ novel called _Nokh
der khupe_ (After the Wedding). During the "booklet epidemic"
Zelikovitsh published _Di nekome fun a bar-minen_ (A Dead Man's
Revenge), which was an adaptation of an Italian book, and _Di bitere
nekeyve, oder Di Firshtin Olga Aginski_ ( The Embittered Hussy, or The
Princess Olga Aginski). At the turn of the century there appeared
_Yakim-bembe, oder Geheymnis fun a ferdishe almone_, (Yakim-Bembe or
the Secret of a Foolish Widow), _Madam yeytser-hore: a roman fun libe,
laydnshaft, rakhe un mord_ (Lady Desire: a Novel of Love, Passion,
Revenge and Murder), and _Der baroybter keyver, oder ikh veys nit oyb
ikh bin ikh_ (The Robbed Grave, or I Don't Know If  I Am Me). The same
period saw serial publication of the novel _A ravs tokhter_ (A Rabbi's
Daughter) in _Yidisher zhurnal_. Some of the books were reissued in
various editions over the years. In his novels of the early Nineties,
Zelikovitsh combined, in the course of the narration, poems and
selections he had already published in the paper. _Di  bitere nekeyve_
was one of the first detective novels written in Yiddish.
Zelikovitsh's books were considered extremely erotic by the
Yiddish-speaking public at the end of the nineteenth century. In his
books, he tried also to convey enlightening and educational ideas to
the reading public. At the end of  the Eighties, Sholem-Aleykhem came
out against the literary style of the writer N.-M. Shaykevitsh
(Shomer), who wrote sentimental novels and who represented for him
Yiddish _shund_. Getsl Zelikovitsh was one of the few to defend Shomer
against Sholem-Aleykhem's attacks. [_Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher
literatur_ (1960, vol. 3, p. 668)  says that Zelikovitsh sided with
Sholem-Aleykhem -- L.P.] In the Nineties, Zelikovitsh felt that
_shund_ was a way to make money and nothing to be ashamed of, and a
product that satisfied the demand of a certain part of the reading
public. He asserted that writing a successful _shund_ novel required
good writing skill. At the end of his life, Zelikovitsh tried to
dissociate himself from this aspect of his oeuvre and claimed that he
wrote _shund_ only by request of the publishers, as did many Yiddish
writers of the time.
In 1907 _Der yidisher redner_ (The Jewish-American Orator) appeared in
New York. The book, edited by Zelikovitsh, includes 521 speeches for
every occasion.  In the forward, he explains that the book is intended
for those persons who are invited several times a year to family
events or a gathering of some sort and have to say something. Those
people who are not talented in public speaking can compose a
successful speech with its help. The book includes speeches for family
events, such as circumcisions and housewarmings, and public events,
such as opening of a new library and founding of a labor union. There
are also speeches for public events in the Jewish world, such as
installation of a new rabbi and completion of a Talmudic learning
cycle. The speeches in the book were written by  people connected with
Yiddish journalism in the United States, headed by Getsl Zelikovitsh.
The speeches are mostly in Yiddish, but there are also speeches in
Hebrew and English. The book was very successful and went through
numerous editions until the Twenties, which indicates the importance
of public speaking among Jewish immigrants at the beginning of the
century. Examination of the speeches delivered at various occasions
provides a lesson in the social history of American Jews in those
In Elul, the month of penitence that precedes the High Holy Days,
Zelikovitsh frequently praised paying one's respects at the graveside.
(Visiting the cemetery meant visiting the graves of deceased friends
and distant relatives, since graves of  parents were usually in
Eastern Europe). Visiting the cemetery was supposed to remind the Jew
of his family, his former home and all he had undergone since leaving
home. In 1910, Zelikovitsh's English translation of _Ma'ane lashon_
[Yiddish: _mayne loshn_ 'graveside prayers'], including prayers to be
recited at the cemetery, was published. The book was intended for
young people who did not understand the Hebrew original and who had
difficulty understanding even the Yiddish translation. Zelikovitsh
defined his translation as a telephone connection between cemeteries
in the United States and Eastern Europe.
In 1918, in the wake of the British conquest of Palestine, Getsl
Zelikovitsh brought out a Yiddish-Arabic conversation manual for
Jewish soldiers who took part in the campaign. A year later his
memoirs were published in the _Tageblat_ as a serial of sixty-two
chapters. They describe the period from his birth to his arrival in
America in late 1886 [Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur dates
G.Z.'s arrival in America in 1887 as does Berl Kagan in his _Yidishe
shtet in lite_(1990, p. 555). He apparently arrived in late December
1886 -- L.P.]. Close study of the memoirs reveals that Zelikovitsh
wove fact and fiction so closely that it is nearly impossible to
unravel them, despite his claims that everything is true. After making
allowance for this, it is fascinating to read the memoirs of one who
came into contact with French academic personalities and participated
in the British military expedition in Sudan in late1884.
Zelikovitsh also contributed to the development of the Hebrew
language. In his article 'Hakhalom veshivro' (The Dream and Its
Solution)  published in _Hatoren_ in 1917, Eliezer Ben-Yehuda relates
that the first person he spoke Hebrew with in Paris in the  late 1870s
was Getsl Zelikovitsh. Zelikovitsh could speak Hebrew with a Sephardic
accent, since he communicated thus with Jews in North Africa when he
visited there. Ben-Yehuda  states that these conversations with
Zelikovitsh convinced him that Hebrew could become a spoken language.
Getsl Zelikovitsh was active in Hebrew journalism. After his return
from Sudan in 1886, he wrote his impressions of the Sudanese foray in
a literary manner. These pieces, published in _Hamelits_ pleased many
_maskilim_; Yehuda Leib Gordon, editor of  _Hamelits_  praised him in
particular. In 1910, these pieces were collected and published in
Warsaw as a book, _Tsiyurey masa_ (Pictures From A Journey), which
earned the kudos of Berditshevski and Bialik. In the mid-Eighties,
Zelikovitsh also published newspaper articles dealing with Ancient
Egypt and other topics. After arriving in the United States,
he severed his ties with the East European Hebrew press, but published
occasionally in the American Hebrew press. His pieces appeared, over
the years, in _Hapisga_, _Ha'ivri_, _Ner ma'aravi_, _Hed hamore_,
_Hatoren_, etc. Zelikovitsh also occasionally published in the
children's paper _Hashahar_ and its supplement _Ben shahar_, and in
_Haprakhim_, which appeared in Eastern Europe. He also participated in
the early Twenties in _Rimon_, which came out in Berlin. His Hebrew
journalistic writing was thin and he was unable to duplicate the
literary success of the pieces collected in _Tsiyurey masa_.
In 1922, Zelikovitsh published his "translation" of the _Life of
Buddha_ in _Hadoar_. The "translation" is written in beautiful
Biblical Hebrew, with a commentary in the style of the Jewish Sages.
The chapters printed in the paper were collected into a book that
appeared the same year under the title _Torat Buddha_ (The Teaching of
the Buddha). The book received a warm critical reception from a host
of writers, foremost among them Nahum Sokolov. Zelikovitsh felt that
with this book he returned to Hebrew literature after a partial
absence lasting many years. Till the end of his life, Zelikovitsh
wrote a Hebrew derived from the Bible and opposed linguistic and
stylistic innovations adopted by most Hebrew writers of his time.
Getsl Zelikovitsh had a liberal outlook. In the Yiddish  press, he  
exhorted  his  readers  to   enjoy the here-and-now. He opposed the
mad rush of American life and told his readers to take vacations, not
to overwork, not to be concerned only about _takhles_ (the bottom
line) and not to be fearful for the future. He asserted that man is
directly responsible for his acts and  should be concerned about his
deeds in this life, not the next. Zelikovitsh wholeheartedly adopted
most of the ideas of the American atheist philosopher Robert Green
Ingersoll and in 1900 published _A velt on trern_ (A world without
tears),  a pamphlet of  Ingersoll's writings in Yiddish translation.
From the beginning of his American career, Zelikovitsh supported
Jewish absorption into American society. He called upon his readers to
vote in elections, to celebrate American national holidays and to
share in America's national grief.  To help Jewish immigrants get used
to America, he translated the American Constitution into Yiddish
serially in the _Tageblat_ in  the early Nineties. This translation
later came out as a booklet that saw several printings. Absorption
into American society had to be, in his view, contingent on the
preservation of  Jewish identity, pride and Yiddish. From the
mid-Eighties, Zelikovitsh supported the Khovavey tsiyon [Yiddish:
Khovevey tsien] (Lovers of Zion) movement and the Zionist enterprise;
he keenly regretted that in all his travels through the Orient he
never got to visit Palestine.
Getsl Zelikovitsh died on the night of 27 November 1926, at age 71.
Published obituaries pointed out that he was a man of his time
inasmuch as, like many other young people from Eastern Europe, he
wandered from the shtetl to centers of worldly culture in Western
Europe and from there continued to the United States. In America,
Zelikovitsh felt unlimited freedom, a feeling that found expression in
his sharp satires of the rabbinical establishment, in the liberal
views he put forward in his women's column, in his erotic _shund_
novels, in his yellow journalism. The heart of Zelikovitsh's appeal
lies in his many contradictions and the rich variety of his
personality.  In his youth, he was both the Talmudic genius from
Riteve and Little Rascal Getske. On the one hand he had the
intellectual capacity that enabled him to master languages and other
scholarly subjects with ease; on the other hand, he composed
sentimental verse.
Getsl Zelikovitsh was exceptional in his life and work. He studied
Egyptology and took part in the British expedition to Sudan. In
letters he sent from Oriental cities to the Hebrew press he chose to
report, of all things, on Jewish brothels. He was one of the first
_maskilim_ to shake off the typical ideas of the _Haskala_ -- at the
end of the nineteenth century he looked with favor on the Zohar,
Hasidism, and the _Ba'aley-Shem_ ('thaumaturgic miracle-workers'). In
his Yiddish journalism he wrote on Egyptian hieroglyphics and the
elements of Chinese grammar. There he chose to deal with unusual
subjects, like donkeys and monkeys in Hebrew classsical literature;
Albert Einstein, who derived his theory of relativity from the Talmud
and the Zohar; Tutankhamen's tomb at Luxor really being Joseph's tomb;
or to develop "scientific" theories on life after death. In the period
when Yiddish journalism tended to sensationalism, he was among the
most sensational. At the close of the nineteenth century he was the
most explicit erotic author in Yiddish.
Not only unusual, Zelikovitsh's work is full of imagination. His
battle at the end of the eighties against American Jewish Orthodoxy
and New York Chief Rabbi Jacob Joseph was conducted over many months
in a satire of prose, verse and liturgical poetry ostensibly aimed at
the Union of Chinese Laundresses and Chief Mandarin Tsangala-Kalike.
When he described a new invention, he sketched also how the new
invention will be received in Palestine or how one of the Jewish
prophets would have reacted had he encountered it. In his writings one
finds flying bicycles and Yiddish speakers from Mars. In his _shund_
books he went as far afield as the temples of Shiva in India, dealt
with the dead who rose from their graves, and souls reincarnated as
The special quality of Zelikovitsh's work is found also in his
language and style. Zelikovitsh wrote a fluent Hebrew in extremely
fine Biblical style, a Hebrew style that won the approbation of many
Hebrew writers of his time. His Yiddish was richly idiomatic, and he
expressed his ideas clearly and incisively.
The key to Zelikovitsh's appeal lies in his clear and penetrating view
of reality and his unflagging fight for freedom, equality and
democracy, in which he often stood in the avant garde. In the
mid-1880s he questioned British imperialism in Sudan, and could
perceive the truth and beauty of the simple life of desert dwellers as
against the hypocrisy and bustle of Western life. His feminist writing
and his struggle for rights for women at the end of the nineteenth
century were not much different in content from those of a hundred
years later. He enthusiastically endorsed technological advance and
the scientific discoveries of his day and fought those who feared such
developments. He called upon his readers to make the most of their
earthly existence, campaigned against paralyzing fear and was a great
believer in hope.
End of The Mendele Review Vol. 08.011
Editor, Leonard Prager
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