Teyf, Moishe (1904-1966)


Poet.  Born in Minsk.  He worked in a wallpaper factory and studied in an evening school for working youth, later completing studies in the Yiddish division of the literary faculty of the Moscow State Pedagogic Institute.  He was one of the founders of the young writers group at the Minsk newspaper The Young Worker (Der Yunger arbeter).  He debuted as a poet in 1920 and quickly stood out as a lyric, romantic poet.

His lyric hero belonged to the class of youths ready to die for the revolution.  At first, these motifs seemed elevated and spirited, but the more the poet encountered the hard realities of life in the Soviet Union, the more his work became steeped in drama and tragedy.  The dream-like quality that colors his pre-War poetry (such as Violontshel [The Cello] and A Romantishe nakht [A Romantic Night]) is replaced by deeply dramatic, tragic tones.  In this vein are such works as Kikhelekh un zemelekh [Cookies and Rolls], Zeks milyon [Six Million], Ane Frank [Anne Frank], among others.  Jewish national themes also begin to prevail in his post-Holocaust work.  His growing interest in the ancient treasures and humanitarian values of the Jewish people as expressed in the Tanach brought him to the shining poetry of Shir hashirim [The Song of Songs].  During the war, in which he fought in the artillery, he survived the personal tragedy of losing his wife and child in the Minsk ghetto.  The poet himself suffered two terms in Stalin’s prisons and work camps, having been arrested for the first time in 1937.  Directly after his release in 1941, he was sent to the front.  He was repressed for the second time in 1948, during the Soviet regime’s attack on the whole of Jewish culture.  After Stalin’s death, Teyf was rehabilitated.  The poet (writing under the pseudonym M. Sibirski) left behind a remarkable poetry cycle about the time of repression, portions of which were published in the Yerusholaymer almanakh [Jerusalem Almanakh] in 1992.  With the founding of the journal Sovetish heymland [Soviet Homeland] in 1961, Teyf became a member of the editorial board and manager of the poetry department.  The journal posthumously published his prose work A Nit-farendikte dertseylung [An Unfinished Story] in 1984.  His works have been translated into Russian, Byelorussian, Hebrew and other languages.  In 1970, composer Maxim Dunayevsky set Yunna Moritz‘s Russian translation of the Teyf ballad Kikhelekh un zemelekh to music.


Selected works: Hesele fun Shlosgesele, poem for children, Moscow, 1932; Lider un poemes, Minsk, 1933; Parizer komune, poem for children, Minsk, 1933; Tsuzamen, children’s poem, Minsk, 1935; Proletarke, shvester mayne, Minsk, 1937; Toyt oder royt, poems, Minsk, 1937; Oysderveylts [Selected works], Moscow, 1965; Poetry cycle in the anthology Horizontn [Horizons], Moscow, 1965; Lider, balades, poemes, Moscow, 1985; Lider fun tfise (under the pseudonym Sibirski), Yerusholaymer Almanakh #22, 1992; Oysderveylts, Jerusalem, 2004.


From Leksikon fun Yidishe shrayber in Ratn-farband fun Khayem Beyder, Boris Sandler un Gennady Estraikh, red’,  Kultur-kongres, N”Y, 2011.