Writer & Culture Congressman

Zishe Weinper

The Yiddish writer and cultural activist Zishe Weinper was born in Volhynia on 15 March 15 1893. After traveling through Poland and Ukraine as a teenager, Weinper moved to Warsaw.

Zishe Weinper was the literary name adopted by Zise Vaynperlekh. Weinper was born in Trisk (today Турійськ, Ukraine), which was the seat of the Hasidic court of the Trisker Rebbe. Weinper’s father, Yitskhok-Leyb, was a relative of the rebbe and a khazn (cantor).

After studying in yeshivas in Rovne and Brisk, Weinper began to study modern Hebrew and Yiddish literature independently. In 1910 he moved to Warsaw and had his first poems published. Once in the Polish capital, he began a career writing poetry, stories and articles for the Yiddish press. In 1913 Weinper immigrated to New York, working as a house painter and teacher when he could not support himself through his writing.

In the 1930s he became an influential member of the newly founded Yidisher Kultur Farband (IKUF), a leftist Yiddish cultural organization.

In 1913 Weinper immigrated to New York. He worked odd jobs, especially as a house painter, until he found work as a teacher in a secular Yiddish school. Weinper began to publish poems, stories and articles regularly in the Yiddish press. His early poetry was praised for its “freshness and authentic natural lyricism.” Here is the opening poem from Weinper’s book of poetry for children “Der gildener hon,” printed in Warsaw in 1937.

In 1918 Weinper enlisted in the Jewish Legion of the British Army and served for two years in the Middle East. At this time, Weinper associated with the politics of the Linke Poale Zion, the left-leaning Marxist faction of the Poale Zion Zionist party.

However, the experience of the Great Depression and the rise of Hitler to power in Europe made Weinper reevaluate his politics, leading to his participation in the radical left Yidisher Kultur Farband (IKUF). Weinper served on the presidium of the First “Alveltlekher yidisher kultur-kongres (World Yiddish Culture Congress),” which opened in Paris in 1937 with the participation of thousands of Yiddish writers, artists, musicians, and cultural activists from around the world. Weinper would later become secretary of the organization the congress launched — IKUF, Yidisher Kultur Farband (Yiddish Culture Alliance), with branches in New York, Paris, Warsaw, Buenos Aires, and here in Los Angeles.

Weinper died in New York on January 27, 1957.