Rokhl Faygenberg (1885–1972)

Author of Strange Ways; of fremde Vegn

Includes the names: Rakhel Feygenberg, רחל פיגנברג

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Rokhl Faygenberg lost her father, a Talmud scholar and teacher, at age four. As a child, she studied Hebrew, Yiddish, Russian and arithmetic with a private tutor and the Bible with a neighbor. At age 13, Rokhl wrote her first novel, an act that caused such an uproar in her family that she was compelled to burn it. In 1900, her mother died, and Rokhl sold the family store and moved to Odessa. Here she lived with her mother’s siblings and worked in a ladies' clothing store for four years. At age 20, she published her first story, “Di Kinder Yohren” (Childhood), which appeared first in a magazine and then in book form in 1909. Rokhl moved to St. Petersburg, where she earned a teaching certificate. She began to study literary history there and in Lausanne, Switzerland, but was unable to complete a degree due to financial problems. She worked for a time as a teacher in the Ukraine. She continued to publish stories and sketches in various magazines and periodicals in Warsaw and Russia. She wrote novels, the first of which, Tekhter (Daughters) was serialized in 1913. In 1914, she married G. Shapiro, a pharmaceutical chemist and friend of her mother's who was 25 years her senior. The couple had one son and separated after five years. In 1919, anti-Semitic progroms rampaged through the Ukraine and Rokhel's home was destroyed. She and her son hid among non-Jews, and in 1921 Rokhel left for Bucharest. She published many works on the pogroms in newspapers and other periodicals. Her 1925 book Bay di bregn fun Dniester (On the Banks of the Dniester) and 1926 book A pinkes fun a toyter shtot: Khurbn Dubove (Record Book of a Dead City: The Destruction of Dubove), described her experiences. During the years 1925-1926, Rokhel Faygenberg traveled in Europe, living and writing in Warsaw and Paris. In 1933, she emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine, where she adopted the name Rakhel Imri and thereafter wrote exclusively in Hebrew. She worked as a journalist for Israeli papers such as Ha-aretz and Davar. She translated her own Yiddish works into Hebrew as well as those by other writers such as Israel Joshua Singer and David Bergelson. Considering the ability to read Hebrew literature a must for new immigrants to Israel, she established two publishing houses to produce Hebrew books especially for them. Her magnum opus was Megilot Yehudey Rusya: 1905–1964 (Scrolls of Russian Jewry: 1905–1964), published in 1965.
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