Epstein, Izhac

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EPSTEIN, IZHAC (1862–1943), Hebrew writer and linguist, and a pioneer in modern Hebrew education in Ereẓ Israel and in the Diaspora. The brother of the writer Zalman *Epstein, he was born in Luban, Belorussia. In 1886 he (together with five others) was sent to Palestine for training in agricultural colonies at the expense of Baron Edmond de Rothschild. After working for four years in Zikhron Ya'akov and Rosh Pinnah, he became a teacher. In 1891 he was appointed principal of a public school which had just been opened in Safed and later taught in public schools in Metullah and Rosh Pinnah. He studied at the University of Lausanne from 1902 to 1908 and directed the Alliance school in Salonika from 1908 to 1915. Influenced by the psychophysiological school of T.A. Ribot, Epstein pioneered in the new method (the "natural" method) of teaching Hebrew. According to this system explanations are made only in the language that is being taught. Epstein expounded the new method in "Ivrit be-Ivrit" (Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 4 (1898), 385–96), which was later published as an introduction to his textbook of that name in 1900. The work had a fundamental influence on Hebrew teaching. The subject was also treated by Epstein in his doctoral thesis "La Pensée et la Polyglossie" (1915). In "She'elah Ne'lamah" ("The Obscure Question," Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 17 (1907), 193–206), he discussed Jewish-Arab relationships in Ereẓ Israel and urged Zionists to adopt a more compromising attitude.

After World War i, Epstein returned to Ereẓ Israel where he served for a short time as principal of the Lewinsky Teachers' Seminary in Jaffa and then as supervisor of the schools under the auspices of the Zionist movement. Upon resigning from his official duties, he devoted himself to the study of Hebrew linguistics, concentrating especially on problems of phonetics. He coined many new words and phrases, particularly in pedagogy and psychology. Among his other books are Hegyonei Lashon (1947) and Mehkarim ba-Psikhologyah shel ha-Lashon ve-ha-Ḥinnukh ha-Ivri (1947).


"Yiẓḥak Epstein," in: Sifriyyat Rishonim, 8:1, 1943; Tidhar, 2 (1947), 822f.

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Epstein, Izhac

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