Imber, Naphtali Herz

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IMBER, NAPHTALI HERZ (1856–1909), poet and author of "*Ha-Tikvah" ("The Hope"), the Zionist and later the Israel national anthem. He was born in Galicia where he received an intensive traditional but no secular education. Imber went to Palestine with Laurence *Oliphant, a Christian Zionist whom he met in Constantinople in 1882 and whom he served as secretary and adviser on Jewish affairs in Palestine (1882–88). In 1888, he returned to Europe but soon his restless nature took him back to the East and he wandered as far as Bombay. In India, as in Palestine, he was wooed by missionaries and was later accused of apostasy. Even Israel *Zangwill, with whom he became friendly in London, believed that Imber converted to Christianity in order to escape starvation. Imber inspired the character of Melchizedek in Zangwill's novel Children of the Ghetto. In 1892 he went to the United States and traveled throughout the land. After a brief visit to London, he returned to America where he spent the rest of his life in squalor, misery, and alcoholism. Fortunately, the poet again found a patron; this time in the person of Judge Mayer *Sulzberger, who gave him a monthly subvention.

Imber's colorful personality attracted Amanda Katie, a Protestant physician of high intellect and of unusual charm. She converted to Judaism and married him, but after a brief interval of happiness, their marriage was dissolved. Tikvatenu (later changed to Ha-Tikvah) appeared in his first volume of poems Barkai ("Dawn") and is dated "Jerusalem 1884." In his second volume of poems, Barkai he-Ḥadash ("The New Dawn"), published in 1900 by his devoted brother Shemaryahu, there was a poem dedicated to his wife ("Shir ha-Shirim"). Imber published part of his biography in the Jewish Standard (London), and it was republished by G. Yardeni-Agmon in D. Carpi (ed.), Ha-Ẓiyyonut (1970), 357–462. In 1905, his Hebrew translation of Fitzgerald's Rubāiyāt of Omar Khayyām was published under the title Ha-Kos ("The Cup"). Imber also translated some of his own poems into English and wrote several tracts in English on talmudic literature. For English translations of his works, see Goell, Bibliography, 30.


Mivḥar Kitvei Naftali Herẓ Imber (1929), includes a biography of the poet by Shemaryahu Imber; D. Sadan (ed.), Kol Shirei Naftali Herẓ Imber (1950); Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 206f.; E. Silberschlag, in: Judaism, 5 (1956), 147–59. add. bibliography: B. Winehouse, "N. Herz ('Hertzele') Imber," in: Jewish Quarterly, 24/3 (1976), 6–9; Y. Enav, "Mikhtavim shel Imber el Zangwill," in: Ha-Ẓiyyonut, 4 (1976), 363–90; Y. Kabakov, "Me-Iggerotav shel N.H. Imber," in: Ha-Do'ar 58, 36 (1978), 611–13; Y. Kabakov, "N.H. Imber be-Eynei Doro," in: Ha-Do'ar, 59/1 (1980), 8–9; 59, 2 (1980), 23–25; N. Rogel, "Be-Ikvot N.H. Imber be-Ereẓ Yisrael," in: Kivunim, 44 (1994), 115–25; Y. Frenkel, "Od lo avdah Tikavateinu," in: Ha-Ummah 128 (1997), 408–12; G. Nahshon, "Ha-Tadmit shel Yehudei Teiman be-Eynav shel N.H.Imber," in: Moznayim 71, 3 (1998), 19–20.

[Eisig Silberschlag]