Blondheim, David Simon

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BLONDHEIM, DAVID SIMON (1884–1934), U.S. Romance scholar. Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Blondheim studied at Johns Hopkins University where he became professor of Romance philology in 1924. During his studies at the École des Hautes Études in Paris he began to work on the notes left by A. *Darmesteter on the Old French glosses, over 1,000 in number, in Rashi's talmudic commentaries. Blondheim, after collating these with early manuscripts, restored their original form, established their exact meaning and published them as the first volume of his Les glosses françaises dans les commentaires talmudiques de Raschi (1929). He then proceeded to study each term in all its ramifications, but on his untimely death left only 125 completed studies. They were published posthumously as the second volume of his Glosses, with his biography and a very extensive bibliography (1937). The vast amount of historical and philological documentation gathered by Blondheim offers an invaluable source of information.

Examining, at the same time, the biblical translations in Romance languages in medieval Jewish manuscripts, Blondheim was struck by the particular form of the glosses in the different sources and by the close connection between them. He first published 30 such Old French glosses found in Jewish texts (his doctoral dissertation, in Romania, 39 (1910), 129ff.), and went on to prove that the specific traits of these Judeo-Romance texts is encountered also in the earliest Latin Bible translation known as the Vetus Latina. This was the theme of his major work Les parlers judéo-romans et la Vetus Latina (1925). He concluded that the Jews in the Western Roman Empire must have spoken their own koiné, which developed into the various Judeo-Romance dialects, and that Jews were responsible for the translation of the Septuagint in the Vetus Latina. Blondheim's views, however, did not obtain general approval, being criticized in particular by Cassuto, Banitt (Berenblut), and Fiorentino.

Blondheim's minor writings included many other contributions to the medieval Judeo-Romance dialects, e.g., medieval Judeo-French hymns. His indefatigable scientific endeavors did not hinder him from taking an active part in Jewish affairs, both philanthropic and Zionist. Blondheim prepared the first English translation of L. *Pinsker's Auto-Emancipation (1904, 19162). His life ended on a tragic note. His manuscripts and papers are now in the National and University Library, Jerusalem.

[Menahem Banitt]

His son, solomon hillel blondheim (1918– ), Israeli physician, worked in various New York hospitals and did research into metabolic diseases and bilirubin metabolism before emigrating to Israel in 1951. There he joined the Hadassah-University Hospital in Jerusalem, becoming head of the metabolic unit and laboratory (1957) and associate professor of medicine (1966). He was professor emeritus in the hospital's department of medicine.


H.H. Shapiro, in: Modern Language Notes, 49 (1934), 1199ff.; Cassuto, in: Studi e materiali di storia delle religioni, 1 (1926), 145ff.; Fiorentino, in: Archivio Glottologico, 29 (1937), 138ff.; idem, in: jqr, 42 (1951/52), 57ff.; M. Berenblut (Banitt), Judaeo-Italian Translations of the Bible (1949), 197ff.; idem, in: Revue de linguistique romane, 27 (1963), 245ff.

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Blondheim, David Simon

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