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ZUNSER, ELIAKIM:

Russian "badḥan" and poet; born at Wilna in 1845. At the age of sixteen he had gained a local reputation as a poet, and after setting his rimes to music of an Oriental character for voice, orchestra, and piano, he sang at weddings and other entertainments, where his talent was always liberally rewarded, his fee being at one time as high as 200 rubles. He thus introduced a new and more refined method of amusing wedding guests; and since the publication of his "Shirim Ḥadashim" (Wilna, 1861) he has composed over 600 songs, some of which he translated into a Hebrew which is not always rigid in its accuracy. In 1889 Zunser went to America, touring the country under the management of an impresario, and singing and reciting his repertoire. He finally settled in New York as a printer and publisher.

Most of Zunser's poems are national in tendency, while the remainder are nearly all panegyrics of civilization, this category including "Die Eisenbahn," "Licht," "Die Sokhe," "Die Pyramiden," "Columbus und Washington," and "Das Goldene Land." He has likewise written for the Yiddish stage, for which he produced the best version of the "Sale of Joseph." Many of his poems have been published in the "Jewish Daily News" and the "Volksadvokat," while an edition of a large number of his songs with their music has also appeared (New York, 1891). His seventieth birthday was the occasion of a celebration in New York.

Bibliography:
  • Minikes, Hebrew Holiday Papers, v., No. 37;
  • Wiener, Yiddish Literature, pp. 91-93, 120, 232-233, 377;
  • Zunser, Selbstbiographie, New York, 1905.
J. G. Se.
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