Steinman, Eliezer

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STEINMAN, ELIEZER (1892–1970), Hebrew writer. Born in Obodovka, Steinman was ordained a rabbi, and began to write at an early age, but it took some time before his first stories appeared in print. Steinman pursued literary work (provided by D. *Frischmann) and was also a part-time Hebrew teacher in Odessa. He contributed regularly to Ha-Ẓefirah and worked on translations, which were not published until a later date. During this period, he began to publish long stories ("Bi-Ymei ha-Besht," in: Ha-Ẓefirah), as well as essays and articles. In 1920 he left Russia. During those unsettled times, having been mistaken for the Yiddish writer Baynush Steinman, a rumor was spread of his death, and he was eulogized in the Hebrew daily press and in literary periodicals, as well as in foreign-language publications. Steinman published "Teshuvah le-Maspidai ("Reply to my Eulogists"), in Ha-Ẓefirah.

Settling in Warsaw, he continued his regular contributions of stories, essays, and articles to Ha-Ẓefirah and wrote for Der Moment. Steinman founded the monthly, Kolot, which provided a forum for young writers. It was also the first attempt (later expanded in Ketuvim) to compare the thought of R. *Naḥman of Bratslav and Aaron Samuel *Tamares (Aḥad ha-Rabbanim ha-Margishim; "one of the sensitive rabbis") with those of St. Francis of Assisi, Ibsen, and others. (Eleven numbers of Kolot were published in the period 1923–24.) During his Warsaw period he published a collection of stories (Sippurim, 1923), a novel (Ester Ḥayyot, 1922), a collection of articles (Sefer ha-Ma'amarim, 1924), and two Yiddish books of essays and stories on the pogroms against Ukrainian Jews.

In 1924, Steinman settled in Tel Aviv. He wrote for Haaretz and Ha-Olam and, together with other young writers, became active in the Writers' Union. On behalf of the Union he edited its literary collection Mesibbah (1926) and, afterward, its organ Ketuvim (1926–33). Here he continued his attempts to find a synthesis between ancient and modern Jewish literature and culture, and world literature. He published stories and novels, including Zugot (1930) and Duda'im (1931), and collections of essays: Ha-Yesod ba-Ḥinnukh (1930), Meshiḥiyyut (1930), Be-Mizreh ha-Zeman (1931), and Sha'ar ha-Vikku'aḥ (1933). WhenKetuvim closed, he became a columnist for Davar, also contributing regularly to literary periodicals and collections in Israel and abroad.

Steinman claims that the primary function of a critical essay is to improve man's view on life and art, and that therefore it is permissible and desirable to apply present-day views in studying works of the past. His memoirs contain a great deal of literary gossip. In his reconstruction of the "conversations," Steinman aims at giving a very subjective account of the conversants' views rather than a stenographic recording of their actual remarks.

Steinman was the most prolific Hebrew writer of his generation. While the essays published (in Davar and in the book form, Perudot (1965)), comprise a large part of his total output, works still in manuscript would fill dozens of volumes of fiction, memoirs, and autobiography. His books included Sodot (2 vols., 1938); Sefer Me'ah Shanah (with J.J. Trivaks and Y. Yaari-Poliskin, from 1938 onward), on the heroes and pioneers of Ereẓ Israel for the past 100 years and more; Bi-Netivot ha-Emunah (1943); Be-Ma'agal ha-Dorot (1944); Koh Amar Frischmann (1950), conversations and memoirs of Frischmann; Kitvei Eliezer Steinman: vol. 1, Gan-Eden shel Anshei Shelomenu Sippur ha-Sippurim (1956); vol. 2, Ha-Beḥirah be-Ereẓ ha-Beḥirah (1956); vol. 3, Zeman Hayyeinu (1956); vol. 4, Alim me-Eẓ ha-Ḥayyim (1958); Perudot (1965); Ha-Har ha-Yarok (1965), stories; Barekhi Nafshi (1965), essays; Sippurim Keẓarim (1966); Ha-Yaḥid ve-ha-Olam (1966), short essays; Ayin Lo Ra'atah (1967), stories; Ha-Melech Ayef (1968), a story on Saul and David, and Le-Kol he-Ḥalil (1968), essays.

In later years he also undertook a massive project designed to make the resources of Jewish culture more readily available by rendering the texts in his own version and adding his own introductory notes and essays. The first book, Be'er ha-Ḥasidut (1951), was followed by a series of nine books on Ḥasidism (1958–62) and a collection of ḥasidic stories, Kankan ha-Kesef (4 vols., 1969). He also wrote Be'er ha-Talmud (4 vols., 1963–65), on the Talmud.


I. Norman, Ḥalil ha-Ro'im (1931); Y. Zmora et al., in: Moznayim, 14 (1961/62), 185–203, 291–5; M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon (1958), 418f.; Waxman, Literature, 4 (1960), 196f.; 5 (1960), 62–64, 183–5. add. bibliography: B.Y. Michali, "E. Steinman be-Masotav u-ve-Prudotav," in: Moznayim, 22 (1966), 382–92; A. Cohen, "E. Steinman," in: Hadoar, 49 (1970), 642–43; A.B. Jaffe, "Mardut she-Hishlimah," in: Moznayim, 31 (1970), 190–96; M. Yanai, Koh Amar Steinman: Yoman ha-Sikhot shel Meir Yanai (1976); G. Shaked, Ha-Sipporet ha-Ivrit, 3 (1988), 26–32; N. Shaḥam, Sefer Ḥatum (1989).

[Getzel Kressel]