Levin, Judah Leib

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LEVIN, JUDAH LEIB (known by the acronym Yehalel = Y eH udah L eib L evin; 1844–1925), Hebrew socialist poet and writer and one of the first members of Ḥovevei Zion. He received an Orthodox education at home but studied secular subjects and became completely estranged from his former environment. In 1870 he was employed as tutor and secretary by the *Brodskis, the Jewish sugar magnates of Kiev, and worked for them until the Soviet regime closed the enterprise in 1918. In 1871 he published his first collection of poetry, Siftei Renanot (Zhitomir, 1871), which was well received by the Hebrew reading public. His socialist views stemmed from reading Russian radical and socialist literature and observing the relations between his employers, the Brodskis, and their employees. He joined the circle of A.S. *Liebermann and helped him publish his newspaper, Ha-Emet. Most of his poems which appeared from 1874 to 1880 in Ha-ShaḤar dealt with social problems and sharply criticized the existing order and the regime. His poems, actually essays in rhyme, were minor and innovative only in that they were the first to introduce socialist themes into Hebrew literature and poetry. Levin's interest in problems of Jewish life increased when Russian nationalism and anti-semitism grew stronger. The pogroms in 1881 brought a decisive change in Levin's ideas; he drew even further from the socialist circles and devoted himself to the problems of Jewish life. He joined Ḥovevei Zion, was one of the founders of this pre-Zionist movement in Kiev, and through letters and articles propagandized for the settlement of Ereẓ Israel. He translated Disraeli's Tancred (Or la-Goyim, Warsaw, 1884), which visualizes the return of the Jews to their land. Because of this activity he had to leave Kiev and settle in the small town of Tomashpol where he worked for Brodski and continued with his literary work. Living in remote Tomashpol had an adverse effect on Levin. Out of touch with his contemporaries, he did not progress with the mainstream of Hebrew poetry and literature. In 1910, the jubilee of his literary work, he published his memoirs, Zikkaron ba-Sefer, including a chronological list of his writings. With the onset of the Russian Revolution Levin returned to Kiev, where he spent his last years in poverty and loneliness. A selection of his memoirs, articles, and poems was published in 1968 as Zikhronot ve-Hegyonot.


Y. Yevarkhyahu, Yahalal (1946); J.L. Levin, Zikhronot ve-Hegyonot (1968), 7–28 (introd. by Y. Slutsky); J.L. Levin, Ketavim Nivḥarim (1911), 1–9 (introd. by M.M. Feitelson); S. Breiman, in: Shivat Ẓiyyon, 3/4 (1953), 164–77; Klausner, Sifrut, 6 (1958), 118–87 (incl. bibl.); lnyl, 4 (1961), 244f. (incl. bibl.); Waxman, Literature, 3 (19602), 258–60. add. bibliography: L. Scheuer, "Yahalal," in: Nachrichtenblatt (June 1980), 4–6; Y. Kabakov, Bein Yahalal le-Soferei Amerikah, in: Hadoar, 51 (1973), 163.

[Yehuda Slutsky]