Poet & Playwright
Leivick Halpern was born in the White Russian town of Ihumen (today Cherven), near Minsk, on December 1, 1888.
He received a traditional education and became politically radicalized around the 1905 Revolution. Arrested for Bundist activity in 1906, he was sentenced to hard labor and Siberian exile. Leivick declared:
“I am a member of the Jewish revolutionary party, the Bund, and I will do everything in my power to overthrow the tsarist autocracy, its bloody henchmen, and you as well.”
Leivick escaped his Siberian prison after three years of his four-year sentence and headed for America in 1913.
In New York, Leivick became the central figure in Yiddish poetry, all while working as a wallpaper hanger. In addition to writing poetry and plays, he was an editor and journalist, as well.
In the 1920s, Leivick, one of the most popular and widely-read Yiddish poets in the world, traveled throughout the world on reading tours and visits to schools and cultural centers from Buenos Aires to Vilna.
His poetic drama, The Golem, was published in 1921 and had a major impact on Yiddish literature at the time. Based on the legend of the Maharal, Rabbi Yehuda Loew of Prague, the Hebrew translation of his poem was the basis of the acclaimed and highly influential performance by Moscow’s Habima Theater in 1927.
He remained continually active until he was struck by illness in 1958. Leivick died on December 23, 1962.