Today in Yiddishkayt… August 10
Birthday of Yitskhok Levin-Shatzkes, Political Leader
Born in Dvinsk (today Daugavpils, Latvia) on August 10, 1892, as a young man Levin-Shatzkes joined the then-illegal local branch of the Bund. After Latvia became an independent state following the First World War, he was elected a member of the Bund central committee and for 12 years, between 1922–1934 served on the Dvinsk city council.
An indefatigable community leader, Levin-Shatzkes acted as secretary of the Jewish community and was the chairman of the professional societies for the province of Latgale. He was also a prolific writer. Beginning in 1913 he was a contributor to Russian-language journals in Dvinsk and eventually became editor of the weekly Латгальская Мысль (Latgale Thought), a Dvinsk-based political journal. Yet, Levin-Shatzkes was far more productive in Yiddish and was a frequent contributor to Riga’s Yiddish daily papers including דאָס פֿאָלק (The Nation) and פֿרימאָרגן (Morning) and to a variety of Bundist periodicals.
After the May 1934 coup in Latvia, he was briefly arrested and fled to the United States. In 1936, he settled in New York in 1936 and within two years of his arrival—in summer 1938—was elected secretary of the Jewish Socialist Farband of America and editor of its organ דער װעקער (The Alarm). He contributed to a wide variety of New York Yiddish periodicals was active as a member of the Forward Association, the Jewish Labor Committee, and the Congress for Jewish Culture. He died in 1963.
In honor of Levin-Shatzkes’s birthday, here is Isa Kremer singing “און דו אַקערסט (And You Plow),” Khayim Zhitlowsky’s Yiddish transalation of Georg Herwegh’s song written in the 19th century for the General German Workers’ Association (itself inspired by Shelley’s “Song to the Men of England.” “You plow and sow; you graze and sew; you hammer and weave — What my people, do you earn?”