Today in Yiddishkayt… January 8
Yortsayt of Isaac Raboy, Yiddish Novelist, Poet, Playwright, and Cowboy
Raboy was born November 1882 in the Podolian village of Zawale (today Завалля, Ukraine). His family moved to northern Bessarabia and settled in Riskhan (today Rîșcani, Moldova) then a thriving, multi-ethnic small town. Here he developed a love of secular subjects and Russian, Yiddish, and Hebrew litearture. Following the 1903 Kishinev pogrom and seeking to avoid conscription, Raboy immigrated to New York where he worked in a hat factory.
His fellow hatmaker Dovid Ignatov and friend Mani Leyb brought him into their circle of young writers, di Yunge, and Raboy began publishing in their journal. Seeking open spaces, Raboy moved to North Dakota where he worked on a horse ranch. He returned to the East Coast in 1913 to try his hand at farming in Connecticut and New York, but continued working in the city’s factories after his attempts failed.
His love of the plains and the freedom of the open frontier, which resonated with his Bessarabian youth, featured prominently in his short stories and his two popular novels, הער גאָלדענבאַרג [Mr. Goldenberg] and דער יידישער קאַובוי [The Jewish Cowboy]. reflect his farming experiences.
In the 1930s Raboy moved to Southern California, hoping that more temperate climate would help his tuberculosis. He died 68 years ago today, on January 8, 1944 at the Los Angeles sanitorium of the Jewish Consumptive Relief Association in Duarte, California (which became the City of Hope National Medical Center in 1949).
In honor of Isaac Raboy and all yidishe cowboys, here’s SoCalled’s “You Are Never Alone,” the anthem of Jewish cowboys everywhere: