Lives in the Yiddish Theatre


Leybush Spitalnik

Born in 188.... in a village near Sharivke, not far from Proskurov, Podolia, into a Chasidic well-to-do family. He became an orphan in his fifth year, and his pious grandfather was his first rabbi, with whom he learned Chumash, Rashi, and later Gemora. Until age seventeen, he was brought to Podolia, where he learned with the best religious teachers (melamdim) and also studied general subjects in a gymnasium.

In 1912 the future writer A. Beyzer found him in Proskurov, completing the two-class Russian kreyz school and earned income from giving lessons in Russian. He then heard there about a legal worker's party, which had staged a strike.

In order to avoid military service, he "gegnbet the borders" and went away to America.

Here he became a teacher in the Yiddish schools, and he had the opportunity to translate and adapt children's stories for Engun, Bialik, Berkowitz, Yehuda Steinberg et al., Hebrew writers, and they published in "Kinder zhurnal (Children's Journal)," where he also printed several plays for children.

S. had a number of chapters from his memoirs published in "Amerikaner" under the name "A yid fun podlia," and in other editions, and strove to issue it in a book.


On 13 June 1962, Sh. passed away in New York, his large library he had in his testament written for "YIVO."

His close friend and colleague, Y. Zilberberg, characterized him as such:

"He ranks in himself the Podolia introductory(?) Yiddish. This had deeply been felt in his speech between man and his friend, and in his open talks (he was an excellent orator), and in his writings, especially in, "A Jew from Podolia." Leybush Spitalnik was one of the preeminent bibiliofiles in our milieu... only a human being of high culture was known to create such a technical library from many thousands of volumes ...he had tens of various editions of chumash. ...Leybush Spitalnik had very much attracted to the deep-rooted religious Jewry. He had, however, lived in a Jewish, secular environment, and it is with thim gnerally came a oytrutstsu [tsuzamenshtoym] among the secular environment and his relgigious nature, he had made peace: during the High Holidays he spent in the secular environment, but in the weekend days (and also on part of Shabes) he took the talis and makhzur and went away to synagogue prayer. ...He was captured by a great passion when the Sholem Aleichem Flolks Institute had decided to perform in the Hebrew school, Chumash, selections of Tefillot, knowledge of the land of Israel, Jewish mnhnim and dimensions and other Jewish topics .... He had learned Jewish history as a family chronicle, and brought intimacy into it, nontkayt and passion to Jewish historical forms. And so he also had practice learning with the middle-school students the Jewish literature ...the school, where Leybush Spitalnik had learned, he had transformed into a Jewish center, where also young adults had studied the old and new Jewish culture."

S.'s published plays:

(1) L Spitalnik
     Keyn yershalayim
     (a scene from the khshmunim struggle)
     (adapted from Hebrew)
     ["Children's Journal," N.Y., November 1941, pp. 1-5.]

(2) L. Spitalnik
     Far got, folk un frayhayt
     Khanukah-shpil in tsvey stsenes
     ["Chidren's Journal," N.Y., October 1942, pp. 7-10.]

Sh.E. from A. Beyzer

  • N. [Y.] Zilberberg -- Lerer un shreyber, "Day Morning Journal," N. Y., 14 July 1962.






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Adapted from the original Yiddish text found within the  "Lexicon of the Yiddish Theatre" by Zalmen Zylbercweig, Volume 4, page 3585.

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