Sure, you might have known that Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s selection for U.S. Secretary of State, has a band — but did you know that his great-grandfather, Meir Blinken, was a Yiddish writer?
The Ukraine-born elder Blinken, whose Yiddish nom de plume was B. Mayer and who was buried as Meyer Blinken, was born in 1879 and received a typical religious Jewish education in a Talmud Torah, as well as a secular education in a Kiev commercial school. He stood out from the pack of turn-of-the-century Yiddish writers for several reasons: He was among the few such writers who never received an obituary from the Forverts — our bad — and, more remarkably, was possibly the only Yiddish writer to ever be listed in the “Lexicon of Modern Yiddish Literature” with the trade of masseur. (He was likely a medical student at the time.)
The elder Blinken arrived in the U.S. in 1904 and died 11 years later at age 36, but not before producing a robust collection of published Yiddish work. His first story was published in 1903, a year prior to his emigration, and his sketches and stories appeared in a wide range of literary, progressive socialist and labor Zionist publications including Idishe Arbeter Velt (The Jewish Workers’ World) in Chicago.
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