Yehoshua O. Rapaport (1895-1971)

Yehoshua Rapaport
Yehoshua Rapaport

Yiddish writer, editor and translator, Yehoshua Rapaport, was born in Bialystok in 1895.  He received a traditional classical and religious education and gained considerable knowledge in Talmud.  Prior to the outbreak of war he lived in Bialystok and later Warsaw.  When the German army invaded Poland he and his wife made their escape and managed to spend the war years in Shanghai. Whilst in Shanghai he continued to write and publish pamphlets, firstly in Russian and then, when able to secure Yiddish type through friends in the USA, he published slender booklets and edited a magazine in Yiddish.  In these he voiced the plight of refugees. In 1947, together with his wife Mala and son Amos, he arrived in Melbourne.

After his arrival in Melbourne, Yehoshua became editor of the weekly Yiddishe Nayes, a position he retained until the early 1950s.  He was a man of strong convictions who insisted on clarity of expression and correct grammar. Following his departure from the Yiddishe Nayes after a dispute with its management, he began to write a weekly column for the Yiddishe Post, then under the editorship of Gedaliah Shaiak.  His weekly column entitled In Pintl Arein (In the Bull’s Eye) was used to debate and discuss contemporary and often controversial issues.  He was quick to condemn and often denounced others for what he believed was a lack of vision.  His critical stance against the Soviet Union angered the Left but he remained steadfast in his beliefs and convictions.

Yehoshua became well known in literary circles both here and abroad.  He was also something of a linguist and was recognised for his scholarly interpretations of classical texts and Talmud and for his translations of Russian, German, French and Hebrew writers.  A number of his essays were translated into English and published in Quadrant. However his best works were a succession of books published in English between 1948 and 1961.  Among these were Drops of Faith (1948), Harvest after the Storm (1948), Heroes and Victims of the Transition Period (1949), Random Leaves (1957), Glimmering Lights in the Mist (1961), Seeds in the Wind (1961) and the outstanding Biblical Interpretations (1961).

He died in 1971 leaving his private papers and numerous unpublished manuscripts to be housed in the Library of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Source:  Article by Gedaliah Shaiak Melbourne Chronicle June/July 1982.