Halévy, Elie Halfon

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HALÉVY, ELIE HALFON (1760–1826), writer and poet in Hebrew and French. Born into an illustrious Jewish family in Fuerth, Bavaria, he received an Orthodox upbringing. As a young man he moved to Paris where he served as cantor, secretary of the community, and teacher. In Paris he acquired a broad general education and was greatly influenced by classical French literature. From 1817 to 1819 he edited and published a weekly journal in French, L'Israélite Français, which called for "Jewish enlightenment," and was animated by strong French patriotism. His only published book, Limmudei Dat u-Musar ("Teachings of Religion and Ethics," 1829), was a catechism for Jewish religious instruction. The tract is written in the spirit of the Haskalah and includes the decisions of the *Sanhedrin convened by Napoleon in 1807. His most important literary work, the poem "Ha-Shalom" ("Peace"), commemorated the cease-fire between France and England in 1802, when it was sung as a hymn, in both Hebrew and French, in the Great Synagogue of Paris. The poem was printed with a French and German translation by the imperial printing press in Paris, and reprinted in R. Fuerstenthal's Ha-Me'assef (1829, pp. 216–26). Written in the form of a classic Greco-Roman ode, it reflects the stormy period of the French Revolution and the subsequent wars and mirrors both the patriotic mood and the atmosphere of fear prevalent at the time. It remains a classic of the early period of modern Hebrew literature. Halévy was the father of the composer Jacques François Fromental *Halévy and the author and playwright Léon *Halévy.


Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (19502), 322–5; I. Zinberg, Sifrut, 5 (1959), 260–2.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]