Born on 25 December 1911 in
Smilovitch, White Russia. His parents were laborers.
From his youth he manifested signs of an indignant
humor, which had with time evolved into a desire for the
In 1923 his family moved to
Minsk, where he searched for, already under the Soviet
powers, a Yiddish artists school in which the poet Moshe
Kulbak was one of the teachers. At the beginning of 1920
he and his family immigrated to America, where Y.
studied in New York's pedagogic seminary as a teacher,
and worked in this area for many years in the Yiddish
secular children's school.
Y. developed at the same
time his talent as one who recites humor and
spontaneous, natural jokes, a genuine spirit of Hershele
Ostropoler and Motke Chabad.
His talent is the way he was
chiefly small-arts, in which he had strongly excelled.
In the span of ten years he was director of culture and
recreation in the summer camps, earlier in Canada, and
then in the United States, where he was especially
popular and continued to work in camp "Lakeland," by New
York, and there he prepared and stage directed the
various plays that were given. Especially very original
and created much enjoyment with his plays, which he had
written or adapted for children, among them Sholem
Aleichem's "Motl peisi dem khazns." A strong impression
was made with his dramatizations of M. Olgin's "The
Golden Pen," which was given in New York for 1500
Y. Fried often performed in
various cultural undertakings, and his strong ability as
"Humorist Bel Ph," his sharp words and reflex
gaining him a lot of popularity, which was clearly seen
at the banquet, which was given for him on 6 November
Despite a severe illness,
(because of this it had been previously cancelled) still
his thankfulness was reflected with a refreshing humor.
Y. Fried writes:
“We have lost Zalmen Yakhnes, the community messenger of
laughter, the joyfulness-maker, whose single
mischievous-saucy, sometimes roguish glance of his blue
eyes could as if by magic drive off the clouds around
you. …He drew everyone to him with magnetic charm. Waves
of laughter sparkled around him. …Wherever he was
involved, ‘raging’ with his characteristic temperament,
he placed his own personal stamp, rooted in his own ‘I,’
his Yakhnes-personality. …It would be wrong to confuse
the joy-maker with a simple ordinary person. There was
also no ‘simple’ Yakhnes. He was deeply involved with
and felt the events of the times, especially in Jewish
life. He was shaken by moments of crisis, and in
conversations with him one could not always share his
heat even if one understood his mood. But whatever
complaints and grievances he may have had, he suffered
them in his own [socio-political] atmosphere from which
he never retreated.”
Sh.E. from Y.
Fried and Hershl Rosen.
[--] -- Z. yakhnes
geshtorbn. lvih morgn elf inderfri, "Morning
Journal," N.Y., 26 December 1966.
Y. Fried -- Zalmen
yakhnes--a trer far a lakh-meister..., "Yidishe
kultur," N.Y., January 1967.