Greenberg, Uri Zvi 1896(?)–1981

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Greenberg, Uri Zvi 1896(?)–1981

(Uri Tsevi Grinberg)

PERSONAL: Surname sometimes transliterated Grinbert or Grenberg; born September 22, 1896 (some sources say October 17, 1898), in Bilikamin, Galicia, Austro-Hungarian Empire (now Bialykiamien, Ukraine); immigrated to Palestine, 1924; died May 8, 1981, in Tel Aviv, Israel. Religion: Jewish.

CAREER: Poet, writer, and activist. Kalastrie (literary journal), cofounder; wrote for Davar and Kunteres newspapers, 1925–29; Di Velt, Warsaw, Poland, editor, 1931–34. Herut Party representative on the Knesset (Israeli parliament), 1949–51. Military service: Austro-Hungarian army, 1915–17.

AWARDS, HONORS: Israel prize, 1957, for contribution to Hebrew literature and for Rechovot ha-Nahar; Bialik prize, for Rechovot ha-Nahar; special session of Israeli Knesset invoked, 1976, in honor of author's eightieth birthday; Manger prize, 1978.


Ergits oyf Felder (poems; title means "Somewhere in the Fields"), O. Schreck (Lemberg, Ukraine), 1915.

In Tsaytens Roysh, Betsalel (Lemberg, Ukraine), 1919.

Farnakhtengold (poems), Tsayt (Warsaw, Poland), 1921.

Mefista (title means "Mephisto"), Farlag dos bukh (Lemberg, Ukraine), 1921.

(Editor and contributor) Alabatros (journal articles), Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha-Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1922, new edition, [Tel Aviv, Israel], 1977.

Kirg oyf dem erd, A. Gitlin (Warsaw, Poland), 1923.

Emah Gedola ve-Yareach: Sefer Poemot (poems; title means "Great Dread and Moon: A Book of Poems"), Hotsa'at Harim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1924, reprinted, Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha-Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1983.

Ha-Gavrut ha-'Olah (poems; title means "Rising Manhood"), Hotsa'at Sadan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1925, reprinted, Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1983.

Klape Tishim ve-Tisha (title means "Against Ninety-nine"), Sadan (Jerusalem, Israel), 1927, reprinted, Ha-Kibuts ha-Me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1978.

Chazon Ahad ha-Ligyonot (poems; title means "A Vision of One of the Legions"; also published as Hazon Echad ha-Ligyonot), Sadan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1927.

Anakre'on 'al Kotev ha-'Itsavon: 11 Sha'are Shir (title means "Anacreon at the Pole of Sorrow: 11 Gates of Poem"), Davar (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1927.

Kelev Bayit (poems; title means "House Dog"), Hedim (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1929.

Ezor Magen u-Ne'um Ben ha-Dam (poems; title means "A Protection and the Speech of the Son of Blood"), Sadan (Jerusalem, Israel), 1929, reprinted, Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1984.

(With Jacob Poleskin) Ze'ev Z'abotinski, ha-Yav u-fe'ulotav ("Sifriyah shel Biyografiot" series), Hotsa'at Sefarim Mitspeh (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1930.

(With Peretz Hirschbein) Hodu (title means "India"), Hebrew and Yiddish editions, Hotsa'at Sefarim Mitspeh (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1931.

(With Peretz Hirschbein) Ha-Don, Hotsa'at Sefarim Mitspeh (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1931.

(With Eliezer Livneh, Aba Ahimeir, and Vladimir Jabotinsky) The Truth about Revisionism, Zionist Socialist Party (New York, NY), 1935.

Sefer ha-Kitrug veha-Emunah (poems; title means "The Book of Denunciation and Faith"), Hotsa'at Sadan (Jerusalem, Israel), 1936, reprinted, Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1978.

Jerusalem = Yerushalayim shel Matah (poetry; title means "Earthly Jerusalem"), foreword by Charles A. Cowen, Blackstore (New York, NY), 1939.

Poems, edited by J. Leftwich, The Golden Peacock, 1939.

Rechovot ha-Nahar: Sefer ha-'Iliyot veha-Koach (poems; title means "Streets of the River: The Book of Dirges and Power"), Schocken Books (Jerusalem, Israel), 1950, fourth edition, 1978.

Min ha-Chachlil u-min ha-Kol, 1950.

Mitoch Sefer ha-Igul, 1951.

Minofim Rechoke Mahut, two volumes, 1952–53.

(With others) Tsen Yisroel Dikhter: Fun der Hebreisher Poezye (poetry), Y.L. Perets Biblyotek (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1958.

The Mercy of Sorrow: Ten Poems of Uri Zvi Greenberg, translated by Robert Mezey, Three People Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1965.

(With Baruch Kurzweil) Bein ha-Zon le-vein ha-Absurdi, Schocken Books (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1966.

Lisif Sela Etam, two volumes, 1967–68.

(With Gideon Katznelson) Mivhar mi-Shirav shel Uri Tsevi Grinberg: Homer le-Seminaryon shel Gid'on Katznelson ba-Hug le-Sifriut, ha-Facultah le-Mada'e ha-Ruah, Universitat Tel Aviv, Tel Aviv University (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1968.

Uri Tsevi Grinberg bi-Melot lo Shemonim: Ta'arukhah be-Vet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha-Universita'i, Ulam Berman, Yerushalayim, Sivan-Tamuz 737 (title means "Uri Zvi Greenberg on His Eightieth Birthday, Spring 1977"), edited by Hannan Hever and Mordehai Nadav, Bet ha-Sefarim ha-Le'umi veha Universita'i bi-Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, Israel), 1977.

Yatsa la-Or … li-Kerat Ta'arukhat U.Ts.G., Tel Aviv-Yafo, Elul 738-Tishre 739, 1978, edited by Johanan Arnon and Mikhal Zaidman, Ha-Sifriyah ha-'Ironit Sha'ar Tsion, Bet Ari'ela (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel), 1978.

Atsag (biography), edited by Johanan Arnon and Mikhal Zaidman, Ha-Sifriyah ha-'Ironit Sha'ar Tsion, Bet Ariela (Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Israel), 1978.

Undzere oyseyes glien: Bay di toyern fun trern shteyt a Yid in Gedenkshaft (poems), [Tel Aviv, Israel], 1978.

Gezamlte verk (poems; "Sifrut Yiddish" series), two volumes, edited by Chone Shmeruk, Magnes/The Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel), 1979.

Mivhar Shirim (title means "Selected Poems"), Schocken Books (Jerusalem, Israel), 1979.

Be-Emtsa' ha-Olam uve-Emtsa' ha-Zemanim: Mivhar Shirim mi-Shenot ha-'Esrim veha-Sheloshim (title means "In the Middle of the World and the Middle of Times: Poems from the Twenties and Thirties"), edited by Benjamin Harshav, Ha-Kibutz ha-Me'uhad (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1979.

Leket mi-Shire Uri Tsevi Grinberg ("Gesher le-Mishtalmim" series), ha-Machlakah le-Hinukh ule-Tarbut ba-Golah shel ha-Histadrut ha-Tsiyonit ha-'Olamit (Jerusalem, Israel), 1980.

Kurtsvail, 'Agnon, Atsag: Hilufe Igrot (correspondence; title means "Kurtsweil, Agnon, U.Z.G.), edited by Lilian Deby-Gury, Bar-Ilan University (Ramat-Gan, Israel), 1987.

Kol Ketavav (collected works), Mosad Byalik (Jerusalem, Israel), 1990–2001.

Also author of Kelape tish 'im ve-tish'ah, c. 1927–28. Works also appear in The Door Standing Open, R. Mezey, 1970; Modern Hebrew Poetry, R.F. Mintz, 1966; Letse Nayes (title means "Latest News"), Mordkhe Tsanin. Contributor to periodicals Poetry and Books Abroad, and to Yiddish publications Kaliastre and Albatross.


Tsiyon: le-Kol u-Fesanter (title means "Zion: For Voice and Piano"), music by Gavriel Grad, Va'adat ha-Tarbut she-'Al yad Mo'etset Ramat Gan (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1947.

Moladeti ba-Esh: le-Kol u-Fesanter (title means "I Was Born in the Fire: For Voice and Piano"), music by Gavriel Grad, Va'adat ha-Tarbut she-'Al yad Mo'etset Ramat Gan (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1947.

Yerushalayim: le-Kol u-Fesanter (title means "Jerusalem: For Voice and Piano"), music by Gavriel Grad, Va'adat ha-Tarbut she-'Al yad Mo'etset Ramat Gan (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1947.

Midgal ha-Geviyot: le-Kol u-Fesanter (title means "Tower of Corpses: For Voice and Piano"), music by Gavriel Grad, Va'adat ha-Tarbut she-'Al yad Mo'etset Ramat Gan (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1947.

Hamisha Shirim 'Ivriyim (title means "Five Hebrew Poems"), music by Gavriel Grad, Va'adat ha-Tarbut she-'Al yad Mo'etset Ramat Gan (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1948.

ADAPTATIONS: Several of Greenberg's poems have been read on Israeli radio; recordings of many of these readings are available from Kol Yisrael.

SIDELIGHTS: Israeli poet and politician Uri Zvi Greenberg was deeply involved with the Zionist movement for much of his life. Born in the late 1890s at the eastern edge of what was then the Austro-Hungarian empire and is now the Ukraine, and the descendant of a line of distinguished Hasidic rabbis, Greenberg received a traditional education and religious upbringing. He produced poetry early, and by 1912 had already seen his Yiddish and Hebrew works published in journals in Lemberg, Warsaw, and Berlin, cities where he lived as a young man. He had two major experiences during that time that affected him deeply. The first was being drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army in 1915. He deserted two years later after witnessing the horrors of battle in Serbia. "The appalling spectacle of dead soldiers hanging on barbed wire fences, the moonlight gleaming on the nails of their boots, had a lasting effect on his life and work," wrote critic Shmuel Huppert in Modern Hebrew Literature. Greenberg's debut book of poems in Yiddish, Ergits oyf Felder, expresses these horrific World War I experiences. The second influential experience was the Polish pogroms of 1918, during which he witnessed the destruction of an entire neighborhood. These, combined with his witnessing of the 1929 Arab riots in Palestine, made him an extremist spokesman for Israel's Zionist Revisionist movement, both as a politician (briefly) and as a poet.

Greenberg generally put himself in the opposition in the arenas in which he was active. His scorching verse and prose combined with his politics to create a fierce public persona. "He was by nature a rebel, always embattled, never content," wrote Mordkhe Tsanin in his memoir of Greenberg in Yiddish. He refused to publish much of his writing, calling himself "out of step" with the Israeli literary arena (in his words a "marketplace"), according to a contributor to the Encyclopedia of World Literature. The very title of his 1928 essay, Klape Tishim ve-Tisha "attests to the poet's status as opposition, [and] declares his renunciation of the poetry of the individual in favor of the 'clamoring self,'" Huppert commented, adding, "He emphasizes the call of the blood (in the spirit of expressionist poetics) and repudiates the framework of form and rhythm born in Christian Europe." Even within his own party, he sat at the extreme fringes of its ideology. "Greenberg did not stop his urging that, in our circumstances, democracy is nothing but anarchy," Tsanin wrote. Paraphrasing the former Knesset (Israeli Parliament) member, Tsanin added, "Because we live in constant danger of our very existence, we should dissolve the Knesset and install an authoritative national government which should expeditiously achieve the necessary goals to render us secure forever."

Greenberg's poetry expressed his strong beliefs as much in form as in content. A founder of Jewish literary Expressionism, Greenberg felt that Jewish poetry in particular, and literature in general, must be infused with reality, with what people are experiencing at that moment. "Therefore there should be cruelty in the song," the Encyclopedia of World Literature contributor quoted him as saying. expressionism stood in stark contrast to the forms of Yiddish poetry popular at the time, in subject matter, word choice, and rhythm. A journalistic style, developed from a phase of his life when he was writing for the Labor movement, also flavored his poetry.

Greenberg's verse predicted the Holocaust, chastising the world for allowing it to happen and Jews for denying what he believed were their inherent, divinely ordained differences from Gentiles. A strong believer in the Biblical Covenant with Abraham, Greenberg felt that all Jews must realize their chosenness, their mission in this world. "The power of Uri Zvi Greenberg's poetry resides to a great extent in its rhetorical force, in the attention to audience that is revealed through the continuous commands, exhortations, and petitions that seem to explode off the page," wrote Chanita Goodblatt in Prooftexts.

The answer to that Jewish blindness, Greenberg said, was Zionism, which he expressed in his writing with both religious and mystical references. After moving to Warsaw in 1921, then to Berlin for a year, he settled in Palestine in 1924, as part of the third aliya (immigration wave). That year saw the publication of his first collection of Hebrew poetry, Emah Gedola ve-Yareach: Sefer Poemot. Indeed, following his immigration, he adopted Hebrew as his nearly exclusive language of verse, and this volume presents his ideas of "Hebrew man" and his relationship to labor and to his revitalized homeland. From 1925 to 1929 Greenberg contributed regularly to Davar, the official daily organ of the Labor movement. As tensions between Jews and Arabs mounted, and as he grew increasingly unhappy with the British mandate, Greenberg responded angrily by moving toward Zionist revisionism, a philosophy advocating immediate statehood. He also became active in the Irgun, a right-wing militant group that fought the British, and published his 1930 poetry volume, Ezor Magen u-Ne'um Ben ha-Dam. He became an extremist spokesman, calling for Jewish settlement and political boundaries to include all of "Greater Israel" on both sides of the Jordan River. For a year he was a member of the Knesset, representing the right-wing Herut Party.

Greenberg saw himself as a Hebrew Walt Whitman, and referred to the American poet in his book Klape Tishim ve-Tisha, with "Aleh, Walt Whitman ha-'ivri, 'aleh!" ("Arise, Hebrew Walt Whitman, Arise!"). Goodblatt listed similarities between Whitman and Greenberg's writing style in Prooftexts, among them the "'thundering I' of the lyric speaker, the use of pathetic and rhetorical elements, and a poetics that … predicates a connection between the real poet's subjective experience and a particular political-social reality, as well as a connection between the subjective experiences that led to the poem and the poem itself." Goodblatt also noted several critics' findings regarding the contrast between the two poets, especially the fact that Whitman, "the citizen of a great and democratic nation," addresses "the majesty of life and the freedom of man," while "the Jewish poet is expressing the terror of an individual and a nation living in exile, yearning for redemption from destruction and ruin." She also noted that the expressionist dialogue between speaker and subject differ: Whitman's speaker connects with people and nature, while "the speaker in Greenberg's poems cannot communicate with either the inhabitants of his past life in the Diaspora, or with those in his present life in the Land of Israel."

After spending the years 1931 through 1934 in Warsaw, during which he edited the revisionist party's weekly newspaper, Di Velt, Greenberg escaped the war and returned to Palestine, where he penned prose attacks on the moderate socialists, and dark poems like "Migdal ha-Geviyot," warning of the destruction to come in Europe. This poem and others like it appeared in his two most notable collections of poetry flanking World War II, the prophetic 1937 Sefer ha-Kitrug veha-Emunah, and 1951's Rechovot ha-Nahar: Sefer ha-'Iliyot veha-Koach, in which he bemoans the loss of Jewish lives, including that of his own family. Rechovot ha-Nahar won both the Bialik and Israel prizes in the 1950s.

Jewish religious and mystical references abound in Greenberg's personal and love poetry, as well as in his political verse. Indeed, nearly all of his works are infused with his deep sense of history and national purpose, and the need of Jews for self-preservation. "In the time of the prophets, a writer like Greenberg would have become a prophet," wrote Tsanin. "He lived wholly in the world of Jewish history." His death in 1981, Tsanin continued, was a huge loss to both Yiddish and Hebrew literature, both of which lost their "greatest poet and the last one who was profoundly connected with the entire Jewish people in the rest of the world as well as in Israel."



Deby-Gury, Lilian, editor, Kurtsvail, 'Agnon, Atsag: Hilufe Igrot (correspondence), Bar Ilan University (Ramat Gan, Israel), 1987.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, third edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Ginossar, Pinhas, editor, Ha-Sifrut ha-Ivrit u-Tnuat ha-Avodah, Ben Gurion University (Beer Sheva, Israel), 1989.

Kashani, Reuben, Uri Tsevi Grinberg: meshorer ha-za'am veha-nehamah, R. Kashani (Jerusalem, Israel), 1991.

Weiss, Hillel, and Yedidia Itzhaki, editors, Hallel le Bialik: Iynim u-Mehkarim bi-Yetzirat Bialik, Daf Noy (Jerusalem, Israel), 1989.

Yeivin, Yehoshua Heschel, Uri Tsevi Grinberg, Meshorer, Mehokek, Sadan (Tel Aviv, Israel), 1938.


Alei Siah, 1982, Yedidia Itzhaki, "Ha-Tsiur veha-Shir," pp. 39-47.

American Poetry Review, July-August, 1995, Milton Teichman, review of "Under the Tooth of Their Plow," p. 37.

Apirion 1989–1990, 1989, Lilian Deby-Gury, "Uri Tzvi Greenberg: Shirat ha-Ahava ke-Aspaklar le-Shirat ha-Yahid ve-Eshnav la-Norfim mi-Kedem u-bi-Bereshitiutam," pp. 52-54.

Bikoret Veparshanut Criticism, June, 1993, pp. 33-49.

Dappim Lemahkar BeSifrut, 1990, Shlomo Yaniv, "Bein 'Ma-aseh' le-'Balada': B'Shireto shel Uri Zvi Greenberg," pp. 7-24.

Ha-Sifrut: Ti'uria Po'etika Sifrut 'Ivrit Sifrut ha-Shvatit, summer, 1986, Abraham Novershtern, "Ha-Ma'avar el ha-Expressionism," pp. 35-36, 122-140.

Jerusalem Studies in Hebrew Literature, September, 1986, Hannan Hever, "Shira u-Publizistika bi-Shnato ha-Rishona shel U.Z. Greenberg be-Eretz Yisrael," pp. 187-200.

Khulyot, spring, 2000, Tamar Wolf-Monson, "Uri Zvi Grinberg's Prologue to Eyma Gedola Veyareach ('Great Fear and the Moon'): Manifest and Concealed ars poetica as a Response to Hostile Criticism."

Marot, June, 1986, Elihahu Amikam, "Uri Zvi Greenberg Dover ha Metsiut: Havaya mul Havaya," pp. 11-15.

Miscelanea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos: II. Filologia Hebrea, Biblia y Judaisimo, Granada, Spain, Volume 36, number 2, 1987, M. Encarnacion Varela Moreno, "Versos que son versiculos: Un acercamiento a Uri Zvi Grinberg," pp. 95-109.

Modern Hebrew Literature, winter, 1981–82, Shmuel Huppert, "Two Voices: The Personal and the National Poetry of Uri Zvi Greenberg," pp. 68-77.

Moznayim, June, 1983, Yakov Bahat, "Ha-Akedah ve-Moreshet ha-Yahadut be-Shiraito shel Uri Zvi Greenberg," pp. 36-39; June, 1983, Shmuel Huppert, "Shirei 'Tsionim' shel Uri Zvi Greenberg ve-Shorsheihem," pp. 40-42; May-June, 1989, Dan Meron, "HaShehol Keleil-Klulot: Uri Tzvi Greenberg b-Ymei Milhemet haAtzmaut ve-Shiro," pp. 16-29; March-April, 1990, Aliza Greenberg, "He'arot leShirat Uri Tzvi Greenberg: 'Ahavat Nefesh Bishnot Alumeinu,'" pp. 38-41.

Outposts, October, 1995, Erich Isaac, "Prophetic Poems," p. 7.

Prooftexts, February, 1990, Ziva Ben-Porat, "Forms of Intertextuality and the Reading of Poetry: Uri Zvi Greenberg's 'Basha'ar,'" pp. 257-281; September, 1993, Chanita Goodblatt, "Walt Whitman and Uri Zvi Greenberg: Voice and Dialogue, Apostrophe and Discourse," pp. 237-251; May, 1996, Chanita Goodblatt, "'From Back Street to Boulevard': Directions and Departures in the Scholarship on Uri Zvi Greenberg," pp. 188-203.

Siman Kri'a, 1983, David Wainfeld, "Uri Tsvi Grenberg veha-Futurizm," pp. 16-17, 344-358.

Yiddish, 1987, Mordkhe Tsanin, "Uri Tsvi Greenberg: A Brief Memoir," pp. 27-29.


Save Israel, (July 12, 2002), biography of Greenberg.



Chicago Tribune, May 10, 1981.

New York Times, May 10, 1981.