Steinberg, Judah

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STEINBERG, JUDAH (1863–1908), writer and Hebrew educator. Born into a ḥasidic family in Lipkany (Bessarabia), Steinberg became attracted to Haskalah and taught himself Russian, science, and mathematics. His first book, Niv Sefatayim (1893), a writing manual, was unsuccessful, and Steinberg himself burned many copies of the book. His book of proverbs, Ba-Ir u-va-Ya'ar (19232), was warmly received as was Siḥot Yeladim (1899), a children's story book. In 1897 Steinberg became a teacher in Leovo. His failing health forced him to give up teaching and in 1905 he went to Odessa and there served briefly as the correspondent of the New York Yiddish daily Di Warheit.

Steinberg wrote many stories, which he published in Hebrew and Yiddish journals, and several textbooks. His children's stories were drawn from contemporary society and written in a simple style which combined biblical, mishnaic, and midrashic Hebrew. His heroes are Jews of all types depicted in romantic fashion with all their faults and virtues. Many of his stories deal with the Hebrew teachers of his time and their attitude toward their students. His attempts to write longer stories, "Av u-Veno" and "Dr. Orlov," were unsuccessful.

Steinberg's ḥasidic stories reflect the positive romantic attitude of Hebrew writers to Ḥasidism which in his day began to replace the critical view held by earlier modern Hebrew authors. He does not write about the great figures of Ḥasidism or about the movement's central problems, but concentrates on the simple, humble ḥasid, in all his innocence and optimism (Gedalyahu ha-Tam). Perhaps his most popular work is Ba-Yamim ha-Hem (1906), a moving, long short story depicting the suffering of a young *cantonist. After his death, his works were published by the Odessa literary circle, in six volumes (two of them, stories for young readers); several collections of his Yiddish stories were also published. A list of English translations of his works appears in Goell, Bibliography, 79, 96, 97.


Steinberg, in: Genazim, 1 (1961), 139–42; Klausner, in: Ha-Shilo'aḥ, 18 (1908), 278–82; Fichmann, in: Kol Kitvei Yehudah Steinberg (1959), v–x; P. Lachower, Meḥkarim ve-Nisyonot, 1 (1925), 159–62; Ofek, in: Moznayim, 16 (1963), 140–1; Orlan, ibid, 18 (1964), 303–5; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 910–1; Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 62–70.

[Yehuda Slutsky]