Cohen, Shalom ben Jacob

views updated


COHEN, SHALOM BEN JACOB (1772–1845), Hebrew writer, poet, and editor. Born in Mezhirech, Poland, he studied German and read the new Hebrew literature, particularly *Ha-Me'assef. His first book, Mishlei Agur (1799), was a collection of Hebrew fables in rhyme, with German translation, aimed at teaching Jewish children simple and clear Hebrew. Cohen went to Berlin in 1789 and taught in the Ḥinnukh Ne'arim school and in private homes. After the publication of several works he renewed the publication of Ha-Me'assef and served as its editor (1809–11). In 1813 Cohen left Germany, spent a short period in Amsterdam, and moved to London where he tried unsuccessfully to establish a Jewish school. In London, in 1815, he printed his catechism, Shorshei Emunah (with an English translation by Joshua van Oven), in which he stressed the divinity of the Written and Oral Law and its immutability. From London, Cohen moved to Hamburg (1816 or 1817), where he spent three controversy-laden years. In a posthumously published poem he attacked the hypocrisy of the "reformists" for their lack of religious belief and national feelings and considered the establishment of the Reform temple in Hamburg an act of blasphemy. However, he refrained from public intervention on this controversy. In 1820 Cohen was invited by Anton Schmid to serve as head proofreader in the Hebrew section of his printing press in Vienna where he remained for 16 years. In 1821 Cohen established the annual *Bikkurei ha-Ittim, three issues of which appeared under his editorship. In 1834 he published his poetic work, Nir David, a description of the life of King David, one of the first romantic works in Hebrew literature. In 1836 Cohen returned to Hamburg, where he lived until his death. His last extensive work was Kore ha-Dorot, a history of the Jewish people (1838). His other works include: Matta'ei Kedem al Admat Ẓafon (1807), poetry; Amal ve-Tirẓah (1812), an allegorical and utopian drama, a sequel to M.Ḥ. Luzzatto's La-Yesharim Tehillah; and Ketav Yosher (1820), a literary miscellany.


Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (1960), 275–90; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, 1, pt. 2 (1954), 275–9; Zinberg, Sifrut, 5 (1959), 267–71; 6 (1960), 25f; J.L. Landau, Short Lectures on Modern Hebrew Literature (1939), 121–34; Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 153–8.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]