SCHAIKEWITZ, NAHUM MEÏR (SHOMER):
Russian Judæo-German novelist and play-wright; born at Nesvizh, government of Minsk, Dec. 18, 1849. Schaikewitz distinguished himself as a clever story-teller even as a boy. His first literary efforts took the form of short stories in Hebrew for "Ha-Meliẓ"; in this way he became acquainted with such writers of Hebrew as Ẓebi Hirsch Scherschewski, Dobsevage, and others. Later he became business manager in Wilna, and spent some time in traveling. While in Bucharest he came under the influence of the Jewish theater and resolved to become a dramatic author. He then settled in Odessa, where he became theatrical manager and playwright. His play "Der Rewizor" (Odessa, 1883), an adaptation from Gogol's "Revizor," proved very successful and showed Schaikewitz's talent as a writer. After the Jewish theater was closed in Russia, Schaikewitz went to New York (1888), where he edited "Der Menschenfreund" and "Der Jüdischer Puck," two Judæo-German weeklies.
Schaikewitz is the author of several Hebrew novels, all representing Jewish life in Russian towns. Among these were: "Mumar le-Hak'is" (Warsaw, 1879); "Kewiyah Taḥat Kewiyah" and "Ṭa'ut Goi" (ib. 1880); and "Ha-Niddaḥat" (vols. i. and ii., Wilna, 1886; vol. iii., Warsaw, 1887). He wrote also "Ḳayin" (ib. 1887), a novel on Jewish life in Portugal. But Schaikewitz is especially known as a writer of Judæo-German, taking as a model, and finally excelling, Isaac Meïr Dick. He has written over two hundred novels in Judæo-German, partly historical and partly reflecting Jewish life in the small towns and villages of Russia in the middle of the nineteenth century. As his language is simple, just as spoken by the Jewish masses in Lithuania, his novels had the effect of greatly decreasing the fanaticism which prevailed in the small rural and urban communities. Among his more popular novels are "Der ḲaṭorzḥniḲ," "Der Blutiger Adieu," and "Der Frumer Merder." Many of his historical novels appeared in the Judæo-German dailies.
Over thirty of Schaikewitz's plays have been produced, first in Russia, then in New York, among them being one entitled "Tisza-Eslar," on the subject of the blood accusation brought in the Hungarian town of that name. He was the subject of violent attacks by S. Rabinovitz, who directed against him his "Shomer's Mishpaṭ" (Berdychev, 1888), reproaching him for his literary deficiencies. Schaikewitz successfully defended himself in a pamphlet entitled "Yehi Or" (New York, 1898), showing that his literary problem was to satisfy every plane of intelligence, from the householder to the servant-girl who could not understand the works of the later Judæo-German writers.
- American Jewish Year Book, 1904-5;
- Eisenstadt, Ḥakme Yisrael be-Ameriḳa, pp. 104-106, New York, 1903;
- Hutchinson Hapgood, The Spirit of the Ghetto, pp. 272 et seq.;
- Wiener, Yiddish Literature, pp. 172 et seq., New, York, 1899;
- Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. p. 342.