Eliyia, Joseph

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ELIYIA, JOSEPH (1901–1931), Greek poet, scholar, Hebraicist, and translator. Eliyia was born in Janina (Ioannina), was an ardent Zionist in 1917–18, and taught French at the Alliance Israélite Universelle school in Janina. He was a radical in defense of workers. His poem "Militarism" (1920) criticizing the role of Greece in the Asia Minor War angered the Greek authorities. He published demotic verse in various Athenian periodicals (Noumas, Vigla, and Nea Estia) and in the Epiritikon Aghon of Janina. His outstanding poems were love songs dedicated to Rebekah, his ideal of womanhood. Eliyia's major translations include Greek versions of Isaiah and Job, the Song of Songs, Ruth, and Jonah, the poems of Judah Halevi and Ibn Gabirol, and the works of such modern Hebrew writers as Bialik, Frishman, Shneur, Peretz, and Tchernichovsky. He also wrote articles on Kabbalah and eschatology. He was one of the first Jews to advocate liberal ideas in Ioannina. In 1924, as an anti-militarist and leftist, he was arrested. He also developed a socialist ideology. To avoid problems with the authorities, he settled in Athens in 1925, writing in Filiki Etairia and the Great Greek Encyclopaedia. In Athens he graduated from the Ecole Française d'Athènes in 1930. A teaching appointment necessitated Eliyia's move in 1930 to Kilkis, a remote town in northern Greece, where he was the only Jew in a hostile environment. By the time of his premature death from typhoid at age 29, Eliyia had written 257 poems and had contributed over 200 articles on Jewish themes to the Great Greek Encyclopedia. A biographical study of Eliyia (together with 90 of his poems in English translation) and a Greek edition of his poetry (sponsored by the B'nai B'rith) appeared as posthumous tributes to the writer.


J. Eliyia Poems, ed. by R. Dalven (1944); G. Zographaki, In Memoriam… J. Eliyia (1934); Dymaras, in: Proia (Aug. 1, 1931); Daphnis, in: Nea Estia, 10 (1931), 828. add. bibliography: R. Dalven, The Jews of Ioannina (1990), 167–72; E. Kourmantzi-Panayotakou, "Josef Eliya and Sabbethai Kabili: Ideological Problems in Ioannina's Pre-War Jewish Community," in: I.K. Hassiotis (ed.), The Jewish Communities of Southeastern Europe, from the Fifteenth Century to the End of World War ii, Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies (1997), 263–80.

[Rachel Dalven /

Yitzchak Kerem (2nd ed.)]

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