Ben-A Sochachewsky (1889-1958) was a journalist, poet and teller of Chassidic stories. He was born in Lodz, Poland, and arrived in London about 1913. He was on the editorial staff of Di Zeit, the London Yiddish newspaper, of which I have written about here. His actual name was Yechiel Meir or “Chil Majer” Sochachewsky, but he used the pen name Ben-A.
In 1927 he was the printer or publisher of a book in English by Rabbi Joseph Shapotshnick, “Do You Know Yourself”, of which I have a copy and have written about previously.
In 1941 he published this book “Lemech”. It consists of verse, written in Yiddish, but is all about Anglo-Jewry, about the East End of London and about Anglo-Jewish personalities. Most of the material was written in the 1930s, but printed and published in London in 1941, during some of the darkest days of the Second World War. It was printed in Whitechapel at the Narodiczky Press.
The book was reviewed by Joseph Leftwich, a little unflatteringly, in the Jewish Chronicle. He says that Sochachewsky has, through the mouth of a Whitechapel Jew he calles “Lemech”, tried to describe in short rhymes the life of Whitechapel and of Anglo-Jewry as a whole. “He is mostly good-humouredly sarcastic, and sometimes he makes a shrewd thrust at one of our institutions or noted personalities. But there is also much notable reminiscence of the bustling life of Whitechapel 20 and 25 years ago (he is writing in 1941), some straightforward mourning for the damage inflicted upon it by the air raids…”
Here are some samples, starting with a short introduction:
In the sections headed “For mein kamera” he writes little vignettes about people, Anglo-Jewish characters, such as the one below about Mrs. Lionel De Rothschild.
Here he is writing about Zelig Brodetsky, and below that Dr. Israel Feldman, the Gabai Rishon (Beadle) of the Great Synagogue in Dukes Place, which was destroyed by German bombs in 1940:
Here he writes about Otto Schiff, a philanthropist who was instrumental in helping Jewish refugees from the Nazis.
Here he writes about the Whitechapel printer, Israel Narodiczky:
Here he writes about the Yiddish writer S. Palme. This was actually the pen name of Bernard (Berl) Sovinsky. He was my great-grandmother’s first cousin, born in Miedzyrzec Podlaski (Mezerich in Poland) to Baruch and Chana Sovinsky in 1888. I have previously written about his book “Farviste Erd” (Scorched Earth).