Liebermann, Aaron Samuel

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LIEBERMANN, AARON SAMUEL (known as Bar Derora, Daniel Ish Hamudot, Arthur Freeman ; 1845–1880), pioneer of Jewish Socialism and Hebrew writer. He was born in Lunna, Lithuania, the son of Eliezer Dov Liebermann, scholar, maskil, and Hebrew author. His family moved to Bialystok and from there to Suwalki. He obtained his teacher's diploma at Vilna (1867), and returned to Suwalki, where he was appointed secretary of the community and teacher. In 1870 he enrolled as an occasional student at the Technological Institute of St. Petersburg. While there he wrote a geography of Ereẓ Israel, but the manuscript was destroyed. In his distress he returned to Vilna, where he worked with an insurance company and in draftsmanship, while continuing to show talent in graphics and drawing. From 1872 he was one of the most active leaders of the local revolutionary group, whose ranks included the future noted members of the Narodnaya Volya, A. *Zundelewicz and V. *Jochelson, and the future Hebrew authors L. Davidowicz and J.E. Triwosch. In this circle Liebermann already evinced enthusiastic attachment to the Hebrew language, and it was there that his idea of initiating special Socialist activities among the Jews was born. When the group was discovered by the authorities in 1875, Liebermann escaped abroad. He joined Socialist circles in Berlin and then moved to London, where he worked as a typesetter for the Socialist periodical Vpered, its editors P. Lavrov and V. Smirnov supporting his projects both in theory and in practice. In the articles which Liebermann published in Vpered on Vilna and Bialystok (1875–76), he also described the life of Jewish workers in the region. He pointed out progressive social elements in ancient Jewish culture, and in his propaganda sought to employ messianic themes. In January 1876 he drew up regulations for the establishment of a Socialist-revolutionary organization among the Jews of Russia, and in May of that year he founded the *Agudat ha-Sozyalistim ha-Ivrim in London. In a Hebrew manifesto addressed to the shelomei emunei Yisrael ("wholesome and faithful Jews"; summer 1876), which was also translated and published in Vpered, Liebermann dissociated himself from the assimilationist Socialist intelligentsia who were out of touch with the people. He regarded the supporters of Socialism among the working classes or the maskilim, who were close to the people, as the potential principal activists of the movement and in this respect placed much hope in students of the yeshivot. Liebermann also contributed to the German-language Socialist press. At the beginning of 1877 he settled in Vienna, and that summer published three issues of his monthly *Ha-Emet, writing most of the articles himself. Their publication aroused considerable interest in the Hebrew press. He formed and led a group of authors who shared his views, such as J.L. *Levin (Yehalal), M. Kamyonski, I. *Kaminer, Ẓevi ha-Kohen Scherschewski, and M. Adelman-Meyuḥas. He established contact with supporters in southern Russia and succeeded in moderating the extremist anti-Jewish outlook prevailing among Ukrainian Socialists in Vienna. When Ha-Emet ceased to appear, Liebermann contributed to the newspapers published by P. *Smolenskin, Ha-Mabbit and Ha-Shahar, in which he published as early as 1874 a story, Ḥazut ha-Kol, criticizing organized Jewish life, the exploitation of the poor by rich Jews, and the maskilim who derided Jewish tradition. After being imprisoned and tried in Austria for revolutionary activities (February 1878–January 1879) he was expelled to Germany. There he was immediately arrested, and at the end of the year was expelled and reached London. His endeavors to participate in the activities of the Narodnaya Volya were unsuccessful. In the summer of 1880 he established, in conjunction with *Vinchevsky, the short-lived Jewish Workingmen's Benefit and Educational Society. In 1880 Liebermann followed the woman he loved to the United States, but she refused to leave her husband. In New York he was associated with the Agudat Shoharei Sefat Ever. Subsequently he committed suicide. In 1934 his remains were buried next to those of Vinchevsky in the cemetery of the Arbeter Ring (Workmen's Circle) in New York.

Liebermann was influenced by cosmopolitan ideas. He was nevertheless imbued with Jewish consciousness and a sense of responsibility toward the fate of the Jewish masses. He interpreted the Narodniks' principle of "going to the people" as going out to the Jewish people. He was depressed when his projects for Jewish Socialist activity clashed with the prejudices against Jewish "parasitism" and "exploitation" he encountered within the Russian revolutionary movement, while on the other hand his activity found little response among the Jewish public. It was not until several decades after his death that the personality of Liebermann was fully appreciated. His memory was particularly revived with the establishment of the labor movement in Ereẓ Israel.


D. Weinryb, Be-Reshit ha-Soẓyalizm ha-Yehudi (with Eng. summary, 1940); Ẓ. Kroll, Ha-Rishon (1945); K. Marmor (ed.), Aron Libermans Briv (1951); Klausner, Sifrut, 5 (1949), index; 6 (19582), 220–74; lnyl, 5 (1963), 61–65; Leksikon, 2 (1967), 254–8; B. Sapir, in: International Review of Social History, 10:3 (1965), 1–20; A. Patkin, The Origins of the Russian Jewish Labour Movement (1945), index.

[Moshe Mishkinsky]