Yaakov Zipper was born Yaakov Shtern in 1900 in Szczerbreszyn, Poland and raised in Tyszowce, Poland.
Zipper, son of a Hassidic rabbi, received a traditional heder education in Hebrew and Yiddish.
He chose, however, to move away from the world in which he was raised and began teaching school
in the newly formed secular schools. Zipper was also an active member of the Labour Zionist
movement, both in Poland and later in Canada. After World War I ended, Zipper worked as an
adult education instructor in Jewish villages in Poland. Because of his involvement in what
was considered left-wing radicalism, Zipper changed his last name from Shtern to Zipper; the
last name of the woman who protected him from arrest and who would later become his mother-in-law.
Upon arriving in Montreal in 1925, Zipper found himself, as all recent immigrants, engulfed by his
strange new surroundings. True to his lifelong dedication to education, Zipper quickly carved out
a role in the Jewish community particularly in the promotion of Yiddish culture. Zipper began
writing Hassidic stories for the Keneder Odler and eventually found work as a teacher at the
Yiddish secularist Jewish Peretz School. Zipper's contributions to Yiddish literature also extended
to assisting his various family members in immigrating to Canada. In 1927, Zipper sponsored his
younger brother and poet Sholem Shtern. In 1933 Zipper brought his younger sister Shifrah to Canada.
She also became an author and married poet Sholem Krishtalka. Shifrah Shtern's son Aaron became the
first Canadian-born Yiddish poet to publish in Canada when a volume of his poetry was printed to
celebrate his bar mitzvah.
Yaakov Zipper was an active participant and leader in the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Jewish Public
Library, the Jewish National Writers' Alliance and the Jewish Writers' Association. His writing
captures the spirit of community, its tradition and its hold over memory.
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