Efros, Israel Isaac

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EFROS, ISRAEL ISAAC (1891–1981), Hebrew educator, poet, and scholar. Born in Ostrog, the Ukraine, he went to the United States in 1905. He served for a time as rabbi and in 1918 founded the Baltimore Hebrew College and the Teachers Training School. He was professor of Hebrew at Johns Hopkins University (1917–28), rabbi of Temple Beth El in Buffalo (1929–34), professor of Semitics at the University of Buffalo (1935–41) and Hunter College, n.y.c. (1941–55), where he founded the Hebrew Division; in 1945 he was appointed professor of Jewish philosophy and modern Hebrew literature at Dropsie College, Philadelphia. Efros served as president of the *Histadrut Ivrit of America (1938–39). He settled in Israel in 1955 and served as rector of Tel Aviv University. In 1960 he was elected honorary president of the university.

His works on Jewish philosophy include The Problem of Space in Jewish Medieval Philosophy (1917), Philosophical Terms in the Moreh Nebukim (1924), Judah Halevi as Poet and Thinker (1941), Ha-Pilosofyah ha-Yehudit ha-Attikah (1959), Ancient Jewish Philosophy: A Study in Metaphysics and Ethics (1964), Studies in Medieval Jewish Philosophy (1974), and studies on Saadiah Gaon and Abraham B. Ḥiyya. Among his volumes of poetry are Shirim (1932); Vigvamim Shotekim (1932), a poem about the American Indians with echoes of American epic poetry; Zahav ("Gold," 1942) about the California Gold Rush of 1849; Anaḥnu ha-Dor (1945). A four-volume collection of his poetry was published in 1966. His spiritual world is rooted both in tradition and in critical philosophy; thus tension is felt in his poetry between the antipodes of feeling and cerebration. Efros' diction is both poetic and precise. A pessimistic vision dominates his post-World War ii works. Efros translated Shelley's poetry and Shakespeare's Hamlet and other works into Hebrew, and some of Bialik's poetry into English. He also collaborated with Judah Even-Shmuel (Kaufman) and Benjamin N. Silkiner in compiling an English-Hebrew dictionary (1929). For translations of his poetry, see Goell, Bibliography, p. 21.


A. Epstein, Soferim Ivrim ba-Amerikah, 1 (1953), 66–91; J. Kabakoff, in: Jewish Book Annual, 28 (1970), 105–109; Kressel, Leksikon, 1 (1965), 135–6; Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 1065–67, 1115, 1188; J. Kabakoff, in: jba, 28 (1970/71).