|Return to Olshan Site|
|Return to Olshan Stories Menu|
Ben-Zion Goldberg (nee Benjamin Waife)
B.Z. Goldberg was born on January 9, 1895, in the town of Olshani, a province of Vilna (Vilnius). His father was a rabbi and shochet his mother was a daughter of the Gedrewitzer Rabbi. The family was connected with prominent rabbis of Vilna and Dvinsk. The family name in the old country was Waife. Ben-Zion s father changed his name to Goldberg on arrival to the US, since the nephews to whom he had come were named Goldberg. After the death of his mother, in 1935, Goldberg. legally resumed the name of Waife. He has retained the name B.Z. Goldberg as one of his his pen names.
Goldberg was a precocious child. At age eleven he was already a student at the famous Yeshiva of Volozhin, the youngest student to be admitted there in 1906. In 1908 he joined his family on a journey to the USA to reunite with his father. In New York he studies for about a year at the Yeshiva of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan. Then his father obtained a position as a Rabbi in Traverse City, Michigan, where Goldberg completed one year of high school. Then the family moved to Albia, Iowa, where in 1912 BZG graduated from high school after one year in 1912, with a scholarship for the State University of Iowa. After one year in the University of Iowa, Goldberg came back east and continued to study at Columbia University. He received a B.S. degree in Psychology in 1917 and his MA degree in 1919. He continued his study of Psychology for the Ph.D., but did not complete his dissertation.
Goldberg began to write in his childhood, was assistant editor of school page in the local paper in Traverse city, Michigan during his first two years of high school. He also contributed, in Yiddish to the Jewish Record of Chicago. Upon his return to New York he occasionally wrote for the Yidishe Tageblat (1914-1915).
In December 1914, BZG first met Shalom Aleichem and became a frequent visitor to his home. He instructed Sholom Aleichem s youngest daughter in English. They got married in 1917, and had two sons, Sholom and Mitchell.
While a student at Columbia, BZA taught psychology, in Yiddish, at the Folks University, an institution he was later to head for a few years, and also at the Jewish Teacher s Seminary, of which he became director in 1920.
Wishing to write for the Yiddish the Day , but being told by the editor that he didn t have the popular stuff the newspaper needed, BZG wrote under his secretary s name a popular feature under the title A Diary of a Young Women . Edlin, the editor didn t believe it was the secretary, but published the article anyway. They were an instantaneous success, and ran for a number of months. When the identity of the real author was revealed, Goldberg became a correspondent of the Day and a permanent member of the staff (September 1922). Within months he was made assistant editor, writing for his daily column for years. Was managing editor for 15 years, and his daily column dealt with foreign affairs.
The Sholom Aleichem Foundation, which was a New York corporation, continued existence years after BZG left it to join the Day. His brother-in-law, I.D. Berkowitz, and more directly his mother-in-law, the widow of Sholom Aleichem, ran it. Goldberg was an officer of the corporation.
BZG also found time to research in the field of psychology of religion. In 1930 Horace Liveright published his book The Sacred Fire, the story of sex in religion . It ran into 4 printings in the US, and 3 in England.
In 1932 BZG was invited to write for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, a column on world events (1933-1934), which was first in its kind in American press.. For the Eagle and the Day, Goldberg traveled throughout Europe and the Near East, writing daily columns in English and Yiddish. One of the biggest events of the Day was BZG s trip to Russia in the summer of 1934. He spent four months in the USSR, making trips from Leningrad to Batum, trips on the Volga, finally going into Biro Bidjan, the first foreign journalist to visit that territory. This made Goldberg s name a household name among all the Yiddish readers, gaining the Day thousands of new readers. Subsequent visits December 1945-June 1946, July-August 1959. BZG was the first American Jewish writer to visit the USSR after World War II. The Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists in America and the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in the Soviet Union had a joint project the Black Book . Also cooperating in this was the Va ad Leumi in Palestine and the World Jewish Congress. The author of The Jewish Problem in the Soviet Union , Crown publishers. Goldberg became active after his visit in 1934 in the movement for Birobidjan, and vice-president of the American Committee for Birobidjan, a bourgeois-intellectual group, raising considerable money for BB. During the following years, member of the Executive Committee of the National Council of American-Soviet Friendship, at whose dinners US Senators often appeared as speakers; Vice-president of Jewish Russian War Relief, President of the American committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientist, of which Albert Einstein was Honorary President and among its members were Marc Chagall (then in the US), Arthur Miller, Marc Blitzstein etc. Goldberg was American host of Mikhoels and Feffer on their visit in the US in 1943, chaired the mass meeting for their reception with 58,000 paid admissions. With Rabbi Stephen Wise, Nahum Goldman and high city and federal officials, were among the distinguished speakers.
Goldberg was also the editor of Einikeit, organ Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists. He was a contributor to Current History, New Republic, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Toronto Star Weekly, editor of The Jewish Digest (1940-1941), The Evening Post (NY), New Currents. Regular contributor to Al Hamishmar, Tel Aviv, since 1946 member of the Jewish Writers Union, Jewish Pen Club, Chairman of the American Committee of Jewish Writers, Artists and Scientists, vice Chairman of Jewish Council for Russian Relief, Ambidjan. Member of the Jewish National Workers Alliance.
He traveled in every country in Europe, every country in Latin America, every country in the Near East, China, Japan.
Goldberg was a famous lecturer on life behind the iron curtain, Jewish life in Post War Europe, Jews in Russian and Palestine, Sholom Aleichem and his world.
B.Z. Goldberg died in Tel Aviv, December 1972
for the rest go to http://www.library.upenn.edu/cajs/goldberg.html