The New Hebrew Culture in Warsaw


passed , because the Jewish environment of Warsaw , and of Poland as a whole , did not have the same affinity to the language and traditions of Hebrew culture , as was shown , for example , by the Lithuanian Jewish environment . Echoes of the German Hebrew Haskalah had already reached Warsaw in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries , but the Warsaw community’s own engagement in independent Hebrew cultural activity began only in the 1860 s , as a product of the first generation of maskil immigrants . This first generation was led by maskil , astronomer , and popularizer of the sciences in Hebrew , Hayyim Selig Slonimski , who published his popular books ( Toledot ha-Shamayim - The History of the Skies ) in Warsaw , and in 1862 founded the maskil weekly Ha-Zefirah , which allotted extensive space to popularization of the sciences . Ha-Zefirah appeared in fits and starts ; its momentum built in the late 1870 s , when the leading figure at the weekly was Nahum Sokolow , national Zionist writer and thinker , gifted journalist , and an outstanding example of the modern Hebrew Polish Jew who became a man of the wider cultural and political world ( towards the end of his life , he served as President of the World Zionist Organization ) . Sokolow gradually reduced the emphasis on popular science in Ha-Zefirah , to which he gave a journalistic-publicist-social and literary character . In 1866 the weekly became a daily newspaper , quickly becaming the leading Hebrew newspaper of the period . Ha-Zefirah continued to appear until it declined and died during the interwar years , when the entire Hebrew cultural center in Warsaw shrank . During the 1880 s and the early part of the twentieth century , Sokolow published huge literary anthologies ( Ha-Asif , Sefer ha-Shanah ) . Other such anthologies , such as Keneset Yisrael , edited by Saul Phinehas Rabbinowitz , appeared at the same time . Like Sokolow , Rabbinowitz was a leading activist in the various branches of the Hibbat Zion movement in Warsaw , founded and active in the 1880 s and 1890 s ( such as the Shearith Yisrael circle led by Rabbinowitz and Israel Jasinowski ) . Sokolow’s and Rabbinowitz’s literary and journalistic activity was only a small part of the Hebrew literary and publishing activity in Warsaw from the 1880 s to the eve of the First World War . The main Hebrew publishing houses of the period were located in Warsaw . The publishing house headed by leading Zionist figure , Eliahu Ze’ev Lewin-Epstein ( founder of the Menuhah ve-Nahalah society , that founded Rehovot ) , mostly disseminated religious texts . By contrast , in the early 1890 s , author and revolutionary publisher Abraham Leib Ben-Avigdor ( Shalkovich ) launched a realistic “ new wave” in Hebrew storytelling , through his Sifrei Agorahseries - inexpensive “ pocket books , ” a phenomenon that was in its infancy in European publishing at the time . From the end of the 1890 s and during the early years of the twentieth century , Ben-Avigdor was the principal publisher of the best contemporary Hebrew authors - Bialik , Saul Tchernichowsky , Micha Josef Berdyczewski , Joseph Hayyim Brenner , Uri Nissan Gnessin , Gershon Shofman , Zalman Shneour , and many others . The Ahi’asaf publishing house , founded by the Jewish tea magnate Wissotzky , was inspired by Ahad Ha-Am and published nonfiction works or books of a Jewish historical nature ( for example , it published the Zikhronot le-Veit David [ Memoirs of the House of David ] series , by author Abraham Shalom Friedberg - for decades a basic book for young readers or readers of popular Hebrew literature ) . Hundreds of Hebrew presses were active in Warsaw . Newspapers , journals , textbooks , and other publications made up the bulk of the Hebrew publications published in Warsaw . This industry attracted hundreds of Hebrew maskilim , who found their livelihood there in writing , editing , translation , and the other fields associated with publishing and journalism . These maskilim included dozens of Hebrew writers . Indeed , almost all the Hebrew authors of the period passed through Warsaw , either literally or figuratively . Whether they stayed there for many years or only a short period , its style of writing , later known as the “ Warsaw Style ” ( in contrast to the

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