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[Page 296]

Ben-Zion Rappaport
and his book “Nature and Spirit”

by S.H. Bergman

Translated by Daniel Kochavi

Recently students and admirers of Ben Zion Rappaport (a Krakow native) marked the publication of his book “Nature and Spirit” (Bialik Foundation). He was one of the founders of the philosophical ideas at the time of the revival of the Hebrew literature.

Rappaport was born in Tarnow in 5644 (1884). His parents both descended from famous Rabbis. His life, as told in his book, reflects the spiritual storms of a transitional generation in the 19th century: a young prodigy, an internal struggle between faith and knowledge, tearful and enthusiastic reciting of psalms to overcome the desire to read external literature, loss of naive faith after reading “ Religion and Life” by Reuven Asher Broydes. When he turned 18 his father found him a wife to stop him from leaving for western Europe. Failing as a businessman after his wedding, he turned to teaching. The desire to write awoke and he contributed articles to “Hamitzpah”, published in Krakow, on the Baal Shem Tov (a well-known Hassidic rabbi), and on Rabbi Baruch Mekosov, on “the question of choice and acceptance”. His contributions to this paper made him unpopular with the town leaders and he was forced to leave. He settled in Krakow and lived in poverty as a teacher, studied western philosophy on his own and started to publish his studies in the weekly magazine “Haolam” (5673-5674, 1912-14) in Odessa. Slowly he gained recognition and wrote his first book in 5684 (1924).

For some reason the publisher delayed its publication for five years. After many years of hardships Rappaport was able to breathe more easily. But the Shoah came and he disappeared without a trace. Miraculously his hand-written manuscript of “Nature and Spirit” was saved. Rappaport entrusted it to a Polish gentile who guarded it with devotion. We are grateful to this unknown “goy” who saved this important contribution to the Hebrew literature.

Ben-Zion Rappaport left a small body of contributions to the Hebrew literature. Three books: “Consciousness and Reality, A collection of philosophical essays” (5684-1924), “Thinkers and Logic” (5696-1936) and “Nature and Spirit: Philosophical Inquiries” that was just published. Given the state of Hebrew literature dealing with theory(?) Rappaport could only become a “popularizer”. In fact, many contemporary Hebrew philosophers dared to publish their theories only in Hebrew, for example Rabbi Eliezer Yitzchak Ilnaeh-Sheinbaum author of the book “Transition to Sensuality: Theory of the Soul and its Mysteries” (5690-1930). They bore a heavy price for their daring: No one paid them attention, no one read their books and they were forgotten. Rappaport became the popularizer who made the Hebrew reader conscious of the philosophical ideas of his people and he

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accomplished this task faithfully without condescending to his readers i.e. he never hinted even slightly that he knew more than his readers, and he never used overblown verbiage or sharp and witty aphorisms to provoke or humiliate the reader and impress him with each written phrase. Not only does he explain but he also argues with the philosopher that he writes about. He argues with himself as he introduces the reader to the difficulties that he is struggling with. When he comes to explain the ideas of Echad Haam, (one of the great Zionist thinkers of his generation) he is humble as a student in front of his teacher. However, he states, in parenthesis, his reservations. Sadly, he notes that Ahad Ha'am considered philosophy “a concept that has lost its meaning”, and after he explains this to his readers, he humbly states: “our aim is not to criticize his ideas but to explain them. We do not intend to investigate the validity of Echad Ha'am's views of the essence of Judaism and whether they consist of “Love of Zion '' and nothing else. We also do not pass judgment on his view that the desire for national unity can replace naive orthodox religious Judaism or that of leading Rabbis. Our main purpose is to clarify Echad Ha'am's ideas.” The hint is clear but Rappaport hid behind “it is not the place...” and always remained the narrator.

Only in his beautiful essay on Spinoza, published as the introduction to the book “Consciousness and Reality”, could he not restrain himself and from comparing the prophets' morality with Spinoza's ethics, after describing its basic lines: “ the Hebrew prophet could not see the inclinations and feelings of the soul as if they were lines, surfaces and solids. The prophet contemplating the events of human society could not laugh or cry but could understand. The objectivity found sometimes in scientific studies trying to understand, does not exist for the Prophets of Israel.” Rappaport explains further that the absolute moral obligation felt by the prophets contradicts Spinoza's view of natural needs or the theory of evolution. He then returned to Echad Ha'am:” the contradiction between natural needs and the moral imperative disappears as far as Chad Ha'am is concerned thus there is no need for further clarification.”

Rappaport explains clearly and simply the writings of the philosophers he was lecturing about. The desire to popularize probably had a negative effect on his writing style. He could not cover entire topics in detail. That would have required a book. He had to limit himself to short essays. But he writes like an educator, an experienced teacher with broad knowledge of contemporary philosophy and an amazingly wide range of essays: Spinoza and Kant, Lang and Mach, Vunarious, Herman Cohen, Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Horsel, Dicrat, and of course the classical Jewish Philosophers. His outstanding knowledge stands out in the book “Thinkers and Logic” published by the Society of Hebrew Writers in Krakow.

One of the strangest and saddest occurrences in the Hebrew book business is the disappearance of books from this market. A book that was published ten or twenty years ago disappears as if it had never been written, even when it is much needed for our spiritual life. Many Hebrew volumes published in Poland between the two wars, a treasure of Hebrew culture and translated into Hebrew – for instance books by Schtiebel and others have disappeared and no publisher or public institution – or even the department of education

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and culture – ever bothered to publish these books again. This was also the fate of the first two books by Rappaport in spite of their rich contents. Let us hope that his last book beautifully published by the Bialik Foundation with respect will fulfill this purpose.

“Davar”
(an Israeli newspaper)


Ben-Zion Rappaport

by Ben-Zion Zangen

Translated by David Schonberg

Benzion Rappaport was one of those who laid the foundation for philosophical thought in the period of the revival of Hebrew literature. He was born in Tarnow in 1884, descending from a branch of famous Rabbis. His father, R. Moshe Gorlitzer, was one of the great teachers in Tarnow, studied in the kloiz [beth-midrash- study-hall] and had an understanding of worldly matters. Benzion studied in the yeshiva and had already in his youngest years shown great capabilities, not being satisfied to limit his studies to Torah learning. As an autodidact he studied by himself and absorbed worldly knowledge/learning.

At age 16 he married and since he wasn't successful in the livelihood to which he went, he began to give lectures. He became a private teacher, teaching well-off boys Hebrew, philosophy and world-literature. In the same time he began writing and publishing articles about famous Hassidim. Then he went over to live in Krakow.

In poverty and lacking all means he became acquainted with Western philosophy, and the strict religious Jew, with beard and peiyos, who is a notable expert of Jewish studies/ learning- quickly becomes also a splendid expositor of the world's great philosophers. In 1924 his book Consciousness and Reality appears, a compendium of philosophical articles and in 1936 comes out his work, Thinkers and Logic.

Very often, when I had the opportunity to visit Krakow, his place of residence, I visited him in his humble apartment, which was packed full with books in every cranny. From him there shined a spiritual light, especially when he spoke of the ideas of a Plato or the thoughts of Kant as to “pure reason”, about logic and morality.

He always sought God's word, that which resounded in the hearts of man. He sought the inner morality in man. And especially “that higher element

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in man which is above the animal”. Philosophy for him was not merely an outlook/ perspective upon life but a way of life. It filled his whole being.

After the founding of the Hebrew gymnasium in Krakow, Benzion Rappaport became there the teacher of the Hebrew language and at this position he remained till the outbreak of the Second World-War. The Hitlerite murderers in an evacuation action in Krakow took him in a “death train” to Belzec where he died a martyr's death [al Kiddush HaShem].

The peasants/ farmers who worked on the fields along the railway line that led to Belzec, observed each and every day the “death trains”. One day one of the farmers found a bundle of papers, inscribed in a foreign language and with the bundle was a note/ piece of paper, with Polish handwriting. In the note was written that whoever finds the bundle of papers is asked to give it over after the war to a Jew or to send it to the Jerusalem University.

When the war ended one of the scholars of the Jerusalem University travelled to Poland, in order to research and gather together/ collect the spiritual treasures of Polish Jewry. And just then the farmer remembered the bundle of papers that he had once found and he fulfilled the last wish of a person who he had never known, and now could no longer know.

And so wandered Benzion Rappaport's manuscript, till it reached “Mossad Bialik”, which, in 1953, published the work Nature and Spirit: philosophical researches in which the author had been engrossed in philosophical problems, with which our generation struggles.


[Page 300]

One of the First Zionists - Chaim Neiger

by Dr. Shmuel Spann

Translated by David Schonberg

R' Chaim Neiger, z'l (of blessed memory) (1873-1944) had special and rare qualities in our generation. On the one hand he clearly had Jewish learning and on the other hand general secular knowledge; He was strictly observant of the religious minutiae yet mixed with others partaking too with free-thinking circles in their outlook. These characteristics, seemingly contradictory, joined and came together in R' Chaim Neiger z'l without one aspect displacing the other. This wonderful harmony is understandable only to those who know the rock from which R' Chaim z'l was hewn and the roots which nurtured and shaped his spiritual identity/ character.

R' Chaim's grandfather was a Torah scholar but he did not hold himself back from enlightenment and secular learning; He was a wealthy man, a tenant estate-holder who was connected with the Polish intelligentsia of where he lived and the surrounding area. In his son, R' Moshe Aharon z'l, the father of R' Chaim z'l, were collected all the attributes that our sages enumerate for that of a Torah scholar: He was learned in the Talmud and the Rabbinical rulings and there was virtually no Talmudic statement that he didn't know of where it was or who stated it. He knew the literature of the Middle Ages and modern research works; He was a unremitting scholar, continuously reciting his learning, and days and nights he devoted to his studies; He was very Orthodox, taking equal care to observe both light and severe mitzos/ precepts; He was very wise and knew what advice to give in any complex situation. When the Zionist movement began to operate, he joined the ranks of the Zionists.

In the third generation, with R' Chaim Neiger z'l, the Torah [i.e. the outlook of his forbears] returned to its place. Chaim Neiger was born in 5633 (1873) in western Galicia. His education was general and comprehensive, encompassing all that which constituted Torah and wisdom; His father's intention was to raise him to be a Rabbi amongst the Jewish people, but the conditions of the times took him away from this path. Because of these circumstances also R' Chaim was different from his father; R' Moshe Aharon was an incisive researcher, who loved to deal with a complex halachic subject or philosophical problem. R' Chaim could no longer find satisfaction in such matters. He fully immersed himself in the Zionistic world; Zionism was his desire in which he placed his whole being.

After getting married he stayed for several years in eastern Galicia in a village near Tarnopol, where he devoted his energies to Zionistic work of the times: he made converts to the Zionist cause and he spoke/ explained to the masses the idea of the revival of the nation. Most of his articles of this period were printed in the Yiddishe Zeitung, the central/ main Zionist newspaper in Austria.

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In 1908 R' Chaim moved to Tarnow. He didn't come as an unknown person to our town. His name went before him as the son of R' Moshe Aharon Neiger and as a devoted Zionist activist and fighter. The days were the beginning of Zionism, few in action and great in vision. Tarnow was a town that had a Zionist tradition. The deputy-President of the first Zionist Congress and the assistant of Dr. Herzl was Dr. Avraham Saltz, a Tarnow man/ Tarnowian. Here was founded also the first Zionist association, the Ahavat Zion association, that established in 1899 the settlement of Mahanayim, in the Galilee.

The attributes of R' Chaim and his great capabilities prepared him to be the leader of the Zionist camp in Tarnow. His great expertise in Jewish literature, old and new, his broad general learning and his great speaking ability set him at the head of this camp. The great speeches that he made on various occasions- the elections to the Austrian parliament and later to the Polish Sejm, to the community committee and the municipality – interspersed with the sayings of the sages, resonated in the hearts of the Jewish masses.

His public activities were many. He understood the importance of basic/ original Jewish education. In the first year of his arrival in Tarnow, together with others of like mind, he established the Hebrew Safah Berurah school. The purpose of this institution was to complete the education that was given to Jewish children in the general school. But soon it became apparent that this duality was not advisable from the educational viewpoint; thus, this school became a school in which were studied Jewish subjects together with the general disciplines. Till the time when R' Chaim left Tarnow he was the leading spirit of the institution/ school and chairman of its board of directors. Hundreds of Jewish children received in this institution their Zionistic education and broad knowledge of Jewish studies.

No other perhaps understood as much as he did the great value of the book in molding the character/ identity of the people/nation; It is with the book that he was involved throughout his life. For this reason, he founded the public library, that comprised, over time, thousands of books.

R' Chaim Neiger z'l excelled also with great understanding for those who were suffering. Immediately after the end of the previous war [the first world war] he took up the task to renovate the hospital of the Jewish community in our town. Hundreds of the sick found in the hospital succour/ healing for their bodies due to the blessed works of the departed [R' Chaim].

The principal area of his activity was in the field of politics.

Faithful to Herzl's slogan, he started by devoting himself to conquer the central institution in Jewish public life, the community committee. Before the previous war, this important institution was led by several baalei takse tax concessionaires, who didn't represent the people and didn't know to claim the rights due to them. This situation was not acceptable (disapproved of) to the public amongst whom R' Chaim Neiger lived and operated. Together with like-minded friends he began to fight to change the nature of the Jewish representation. And behold the day of the “revolution” came; Thousands of Jews gathered next to the community committee officesand a delegation headed by R' Chaim Neiger came before the community leaders, demanding changes in the make-up of the committee. The result was the attachment to the committee of several members of the delegation, as committee members. The first project on the part of the new members was the passing of a resolution for the disbanding of this committee. In the elections for the new committee the Zionist list was chosen, led by R' Chaim Neiger. He was also, for many years, the chairman of the Jewish community council in our town.

Also, in matters of general politics he was active. In 1911 he took a very active part in the elections to the Austrian parliament; If the Zionist candidate achieved in Tarnow the greatest number of votes, this was due to the efforts of R' Chaim Neiger z'l. Also, in the elections to the Polish Sejm he took a very active role; twice he was candidate to this legislative body. He succeeded in drawing in his election district a hundred percent of Jewish votes who voted for him, despite the many dangers that lured above them.

For many years R' Chaim Neiger was chairman of the Zionist Organisation (Histadrut HaZionit) in our town and a delegate to the Zionist Congresses since 1913; He was also chosen as the Zionist deputy for western Galicia to the great/ main Acting Zionist committee.

In 1936 R' Chaim Neiger z'l came to the Land of Israel. Also, here he did not rest or stay quiet. He did not rest satisfied with a “renta” -pension, that was his due as a veteran Zionist. With an enthusiasm that so characterised him, he started afresh.

With his death [in 1944] there went down to the grave one the few Jews, who all who knew him and especially we who treasured him, fellow townsmen of Tarnow, could say of him without exaggeration, that he served his people/ nation faithfully.

*The article is reprinted from the Hebrew compilation 'Shnot Chaim' that was published in 5706 (1946) in memory of Chaim Neiger, z'l by the publishing company of the General Zionists Alliance, Haifa branch.


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Dr. Zeev Berkelhammer
(1889–1934)

by Yeshayahu Fejg

Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund

He studied in a parallel class at the state gymnazie [secondary school], but I knew him very well, just as I knew all of the Jewish students. They would point to him: he was a member of the editorial [committee] of Moriah, the Zionist periodical in the Polish language, designated mainly for the young people who were studying in the middle–school. And in sum, he was 14 or 15 years old. This periodical was read in secret and a student who was caught subscribing to the newspaper or reading it was thrown immediately out of the gymnazie. However, despite this Draconian punishment, Moriah was published regularly and reached everyone who was interested in it. We knew that the particular name, the initials of the writer of the article had a connection to the modest young man, a tall one with pink cheeks, a long face and a little bit of a jutting chin, half ashamed eyes that always gave

 

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Dr. Zeev Berkelhammer, of blessed memory

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the impression that he was surprised, lost in thought, with short sleeves or too long arms.

He came from a bourgeois family. His father had a sawmill in Biadoliny, a village near Tarnow on the shore of the Dunajec River. There, Wilek (that is what we called him) spent his vacation with his younger sister Leah (Lonka), a capable girl who appreciated the value of her brother's capabilities and related to him with respect (she married Dr. Yekel, a devoted Zionist who bought a house in Eretz–Yisroel so that his entire family could immigrate. His parents did immigrate and lived out their lives in the country, but he, his wife and two children did not live to immigrate and took part in the fate of our annihilated brothers).

At that time, a “Jewish circle” (kulko Judaistyczne) was created at the middle–school by the Jewish students, in which Wilek was one of the most active members. He was strongly beloved by everyone. By nature, he was a good–hearted person who had no equal; he would get excited during a discussion; his face would turn red and he often stepped over the accepted frame of the discussion. However, a while later, he was the same sincere, dear comrade. He had a reputation as a talented young man and when one of the members of the well–situated families was looking for a teacher for their daughter (they could not send them to the gymnazie because of piety), the choice fell on Wilek. His student, Sura Oberdam, later became his wife.

Wilek had the makings of a Zionist leader. The first activity he showed was in the Tarnow and Vienna Bar Kochba Zionist student organization; he became famous for educating a generation of activists. The Vienna Bar Kochba, which knew [Theodor] Herzl, obtained an apartment in the Zionist office in Vienna during Herzl's time, at Turkenstrasse no. 9, then where the office moved to Cologne (Germany). We were proud of this good fortune with which Wilek ended his studies in Vienna and received the diploma as a Doctor of Jurisprudence, that is, he was now on the road to becoming an attorney. However, we all knew that he would not become famous as an attorney. And we also knew that with his entire essence he was not an attorney, but an editor and his body and soul drew him to journalism. Moriah already was too small a dais for him and there was no appropriate publication for him. It was necessary to create a dais!

Voskhod [Dawn], a Zionist newspaper, was published in the Polish language in Lemberg before the First World War. As Galicia was a

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battle arena during the First World War, there was no suitable place there for a Zionist editorial board. A daily newspaper was needed. Galicianer Jews were in western Austria then as refugees. Therefore, everything spoke of the need for publishing a daily Zionist newspaper in the Polish language that would publish in Mährisch Ostrau (Morawska Ostrawa [Moravská Ostrava]). Here Nowy Dziennik [New Daily] actually was founded and Zeev Berkelhammer became the first editor and the living spirit of the newspaper. His journalistic talent, which already was known from before, was revealed here with its complete power. Just as in Moriah, he wrote not only the editorials, but also other articles under various signatures and initials. He would often sign Pepin, based on his mother's name Pepi, whom he loved deeply. He would place this signature particularly under polemical articles, full of humor and irony. The newspaper very quickly acquired a good name, much success and profited materially. With the end of the First World War and with the creation of more or less normal contact, the newspaper moved to Krakow, the main city in western Galicia. Berkelhammer ceased his work with Nowy Dziennik for a short time because of a conflict with the editor and returned to Tarnow where he tried to work as an attorney. However, he had not ceased writing for various newspapers in Polish, Yiddish and German.

He did not become famous as an attorney. Various jokes were told about the time of his legal practice, because the bottom line is that with God's grace he was a journalist. At this time a rift took place in the Zionist organization. Until then, all three political movements, the general Zionists, Mizrakhi [religious Zionists] and Hitachadut [pioneer youth movement], were represented in the local Zionist committee. Berkelhammer was chairman of the Hitachadut Party and he opposed the split. However, it was a fact and Berkelhammer experienced it strongly. Three Zionist committees arose in the city (left Poalei–Zion [Marxist–Zionists] did not take part in the Zionist Congress and the right Poalei–Zion was weak in Tarnow). Berkelhammer's party coloration, his economic and literary erudition, his speaking talent and devotion to Zionism, very quickly created an esteemed place and a name in Tarnow. His scientific lectures about the basis of the movement and his literary readings received great applause from the audience. Other cities also requested that Berkelhammer come as a lecturer at agitation meetings, literary evenings, to celebrations, particularly

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Maccabi meetings on Chanukah that were then very important events for Zionist propaganda.

However, Nowy Dziennik could not go on for long without Berkelhammer. They began to negotiate with him and he finally returned to his old workplace in Krakow. The work on the editorial board was not the easiest. The newspaper articulated general Zionism, but the editor preserved the character of the newspaper. It demanded much tact and maneuvers to satisfy the desire of the director and not to violate the spirit of his party. The discussions with the Polish newspapers also were not easy, mainly the anti–Semitic ones. He was very sharp in his polemic. However, he maintained a standard and not for nothing he was unexpectedly elected to the managing committee of the Krakow Journalist's Union, the only Jew.

In 1934 he became ill with pneumonia. Lying in his sick bed, he was visited by the well–known Polish writer, Irena Arand. He died suddenly of a blocked artery at the age of 45. He left orphaned a wife and two small children (his son died of typhus in Russia; his wife and daughter live in Haifa).

It is difficult to put into words the deep impact his death made on everyone. The misfortune became known lightning fast. It was hard to believe that Berkelhammer was no longer among the living. Grown men cried like small children. He was not only a very talented journalist, but also an important leader, beloved by everyone. Every strata of the Jewish population was overcome with a sincere sadness.

Despite his youth, he left an unforgettable impression on everyone who knew him. He was known for his comprehensive activity: in the [Zionist] movement, in various institutions where he worked, on the editorial board that was his life's work.

Everyone emphasized that first of all he was a kind–hearted man who was a rarity. He never refused anything that was asked of him. This could be one of his acquaintances or a stranger, a young one or an old one, an important personality or a simple person. Everyone turned to him with their worries because they knew that he would not refuse, that he would not rest until the requested thing would be arranged. No one left him with empty hands.

I remember one such case:

The Pole Tarnowski, from a Polish aristocratic family, a Bohemian and philosopher, a mocker of

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race prejudice, with a free world view and not an anti–Semite like the majority of those like him, died in Krakow. His family had long ago disowned him and there was no one to pay the several zlotes to arrange his funeral (pogrzeb). There also was no one to take care of his body. His Christian friends turned to Berkelhammer and without thinking for long, he came to an understanding with the khevra kadishe [burial society] and after an ideological quarrel they agreed to arrange the funeral. When Tarnowski's family learned of this they could not condone such shame and they took the dead body and buried it in Łańcut in Count Tarnowski's family grave.

I could tell still more facts about his tangible help from his private money (his salary as an editor was small) and in many cases he, himself, gathered the money for someone in need. He intervened, had an effect in a needed place. He bore great trouble from those who asked his help in procuring a certificate to immigrate to Israel (when immigration was greatly limited by the British mandate regime). Berkelhammer's intercession at the Palestine office would be considered with great earnestness.

And all of this was done by a man who was very busy as the leader of a movement. Mainly, he took an active part in meetings, solemn evenings and party conferences. During the voting for the Austrian Parliament, then for the Polish Sejm – he was the living spirit of propaganda and agitation, spreading the word and the essence of Zionism to the widespread masses. He even was called to Warsaw during the elections to the Sejm and from there he led the election propaganda for the Zionist list, spreading the Zionist idea among the widespread strata who until then were distant from Zionism because of piety, fanaticism or indifference. His entire life was involved with the renaissance of the [Jewish] people, to free them from their dark exile.

His political and literary articles, his essays and polemics were justified by an iron logic. At the same time, they were lightly written, with irony and healthy humor. His treatise, Mir un di Felker fun der Velt [We and the People of the World], gave a psychological overview of the Jewish people. He says there, “Mountains become the equal of mountains, but not with valleys.” And if one would equate people, they need to take into account their writers, philosophers. On the basis of a deeper treatise about the play The Blood Libel in Tiszaeszlár by Arnold Zweig, which he presents as an example, we feel that in the deepest depth of his soul and heart there is no feeling of revenge, but forgiveness. Another Tarnow personality,

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Max Binensztok, demonstrated on the basis of an analysis of German literature and its folk legends that revenge and brutality lies in the German essence. This was said before the First World War when there was strong sympathy for German nationalism (also on the part of educated Jews).

Dr. Berkelhammer's literary legacy is spread over various newspapers in several languages. There is a duty to assemble all of this, to publish a book so that his spiritual legacy is not lost.

Berkelhammer's name was known everywhere, as was his love of the land [of Israel], which he had visited several times and to which he was preparing to emigrate. An influential comrade, a fighter, a pillar in the Zionist movement in exile, a very talented journalist and, last but not least, a sincere, dear man, with a golden character, sensitive to artistic words – such were the character traits of this wonderful man.


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A bundle of memories of the grammarian,
Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l

A Zealot for Hebrew

by Ben-Zion Zangen

Translated by David Schonberg

In these days have been completed the shloshim [30-day period] following the burial of one of the greatest grammarians of the Hebrew language in our times- Moshe Aharon Wiesen (1878-1953). He died at the age of 75 and in his last years he was hospitalised in a medical centre in Tel-Aviv, mortally ill.

He came from Galicia and all his life was devoted to one sole purpose: the study of the Hebrew language and its dissemination amongst the Jewish people. For decades he went through Jewish towns and villages in Galicia and in these places, he was not only a teacher of Hebrew, but primarily a disseminator of Jewish culture. Afterwards he went to Vienna and became one of the main assistants of Vienna's Chief Rabbi, Prof. Dr. Zvi (Hirsch) Chajes z'l (1876-1927). In his Hebrew seminary in Vienna he was absorbed in research into the Hebrew language, in a scientific fashion. There he began working upon scientific Hebrew grammar study, from all aspects. In the Hebrew seminary in Vienna he educated many teachers in the philological and scientific facets of the Hebrew language. And indeed, after several years he produced a book on Hebrew grammar that can be denoted a grammar work based upon the most modern scientific approach in this field.

 

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Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l

 

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It was about 3 years ago, sent by Davar haShavua, that I visited Moshe Aharon Wiesen z'l in the medical centre where he had been hospitalised already for several years. He was paralysed and bedridden. The nurse who looked after him told me that she advised me not to go to him today. The reason was that he was sensitive, delicate and a gentle soul and that he wouldn't want to show himself before others at a time when his illness so irritated/ bothered him. Also, that he wanted to appear before others as someone well/ healthy, in other words that he needed to prepare himself to receive visitors.

I came the following day. He lay on the bed, almost as if healthy- as if it was an afternoon rest. He was fresh, shaven and exceptionally clean [spruced up]. I had the feeling that he sought to overcome his illness with all his strength.

The conversation was immediately warm-hearted. He spoke to me as if he knew me for tens of years. And of-course, he spoke of only one subject- the Hebrew language. He complained/ protested that we spoil the Hebrew language and speak it incorrectly. He expressed angrily his critique of the Hebrew press and those who were able to amend the situation, yet do not do so. Especially he complained as to the lack of respect for the grammar of the language. For several minutes he gave tens of examples of language and expression errors, in which the language is not used correctly. For every expression he brought proofs and sources from the Bible, the Talmud, the Midrash, and so on. His expertise knew no boundary. It wasn't possible to fathom how he could keep in his memory all this vast treasure-house. In speaking on matters of grammar, he didn't merely relate to the expressions, or the style, from a language point of view, but also from a philosophical outlook. And indeed, this person was an original grammarian and thinker. He could cite Jewish and European works of philosophy as he could works of grammar.

He stressed especially the grammar courses that he organised/ led and he spoke with pride as to the students of these courses: Berl Katsenelson z'l, and, may they be separated in life, Zalman Shazar, David Zakkai, and members of Davar's editorial board.

During the conversation he related as to how he left Vienna in the time of the Nazis, and especially as to how he miraculously saved some of his writings on Hebrew language research. For many years he thought of/ had the original idea of forming an international religious league of various peoples and religions- for promoting peace.

There has left us an original personality that has contributed much in the setting of the foundation-stones for the modern Hebrew language. May these modest words be a wreath of flowers upon the fresh grave of Moshe Aharon Wiesen - the researcher, the grammarian and the precious man.


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Daniel Leibl

B. Weinreb

Translated by David Schonberg

I never asked Daniel as to what it was that caused him to stay in the Poalei Zion, amongst poor workers and employees. when a large part of the intelligentsia left it. It remains a fact that Jewish workers in Tarnow had a lot to thank Daniel for.

In Tarnow there were also other members who had an effect (weight/ influence), such as Yoshe Band, Nahum Einshpruch, Yoel Shnur, Haim Hoenig, Abraham Chomet and others. But none of these gave us what Daniel Leibl did. He acquainted us with the classical writers of Yiddish literature. For us, the youngsters, just recently out of the Cheder, Yeshiva or the Beis ha'Medrash (study-house) he popularised Mendel (Mocher-Sforim), Peretz, Asch, Shalom-Aleichem, Morris Rosenfeld. For us a new world was revealed (unfolded). Also deeply incised in our memory is the going out into the nearby woods where Daniel Leibl would lecture on various philosophical problems. At this opportunity it is worth stressing that the Jewish cultural life in the town, at least till the outbreak of the First World War, was led by Poalei Zion. If a Jewish writer came to Tarnow he had a one-and-only address: the Poalei Zion party. To a greater extent this is thanks to Daniel Leibl. There wasn't in Tarnow hardly any literary event in which Daniel didn't appear and give a lecture. Whether it was concerning Mendel (Mocher Sforim), Bialik, Peretz, Rosenfeld, Shalom-Aleichem. The two regular lecturers were Dr. Yitzhak Schiffer and [said after reference to person no longer alive] may he live long, Daniel Leibl. He had many students (followers) and sympathizers. It would be difficult to say that he could have any personal enemies or anyone with a grudge against him even though he was staunch and ruthless in defending his principles and ideological attitudes (outlook). One remembers well his coming out against Dr. Nathan Birnbaum, after the writing of his work- Gottes Volk and his sharp response to David Einhorn's article against Zionism that was published in the Lebens-fragenin 1920 [a Bundist newspaper]. Yet- still, even his opponents in the party had derech-eretz (respect) for him and were sympathetic to him.

In 1919 he was invited to carry out party-work in Warsaw, where

[Page 316]

he was active in the political, publicistic and literary fields. He was also known as a poet, essayist, translator and philologist. He translated two of Wyspiañski's plays: The Judges and Daniel. The last play was for the first time produced in Yiddish on the stage of the Krakow Jewish theatre.


The writer- Yehuda Ya'ari (Yudke Wald)

by W. Brachia

Translated by David Schonberg

Actually, he came from the Galician shtetl Dzików-Tarnobrzeg. His spiritual upbringing he received in Tarnow, in war-time itself. In the period of the First World War, 1914-18 he and his parents settled in Tarnow. For a long time, he studied in the Sanzer kloiz {editor note: kloiz=house of study, small synagogue}. In Tarnow he became acquainted with the Zionistic youth movement and was drawn into the HaShomer Ha-Tsair. In 1920 he came on Aliyah [immigrated] to the Land of Israel. Though not strong physically, he went to work on the roads (highways) with the enthusiasm and Hassidic fervour that he took over by inheritance from his grandfather, R. Herschel from Dzików. Not once did he have the opportunity to observe (see/witness) the Hassidic practices of his grandfather, ensconced in Hassidic customs/ habits and thereafter, by working on the roads, taught the 'non-Jews' how one practices the Sabbath's 3rd meal (shalosh-seudos) and the melave malke [the evening meal marking the conclusion of the Sabbath]. He showed this, not just on the Sabbath, but also in mid-week. In the work in the quarry (hewing stones) he practised Kotzker Hasidism. In his writings (stories, novels) he expresses/brings out a Hassidic way of life. His first work was in Kiryat Anavim, subsequently in Netanya, and later on the Haifa-Nazareth road where he got to know A. D. Gordon, with whom he became very friendly. Till today Gordon's influence upon him is apparent.

For several years he worked in the library of the Hebrew (Jerusalem) University, from which he was sent to America to learn librarianship studies. In 1952 he received the Ussishkin prize for a work of stories.

Several biographical features: He was born in the year 1900 in Dzików and later lived in Tarnow. He came on aliya in 1920 where he in the same year produced in the Land of Israel Ansky's Dybbuk. Yehuda Yaari was one of the founders of Bet-Alfa. Now

[Page 317]

he is the general secretary of the Keren HaYesod and has served as its emissary on two occasions in America and Canada.

To date he has published the following works:

Ka'Or Yahel, novel of the Third Aliya- 2 editions, Eretz Yisrael press, Tel-Aviv, 5697.
Darchei Ish, Collection of stories, Dvar, Tel-Aviv.
Be'Ohalecha, Collection of stories, Eretz Yisrael press, Tel-Aviv, 1983.
Bein Ashmoret, Collection of stories, Masada, Tel-Aviv, 5708.
Shoresh alei Mayim, novel. Bialik Institute, Jerusalem.
Arbaim Yom al HaYam. Play in three acts, Darom press, Jerusalem, 5698.

 

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