Zederbaum, Alexander

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ZEDERBAUM, ALEXANDER (pseudonym Erez , "cedar" = Zederbaum; 1816–1893), a pioneer of Jewish journalism in Russia. Born in Zamosc, Poland, he moved to Odessa in 1840, taking an active part in Jewish affairs there and becoming a favorite of the local authorities. He received a permit to publish *Ha-Meliẓ, the first Hebrew weekly in Russia, and began publication in 1860. Two years later he published Kol Mevasser, a Yiddish supplement to Ha-Meliẓ. Leading Hebrew writers of the day contributed to the papers, which supported the Haskalah movement, opposed Ḥasidism, and kept their readers informed of current events in the Jewish and non-Jewish world. In 1871 Zederbaum transferred Ha-Meliẓ to St. Petersburg and began publication of a Russian-language weekly entitled Vestnik Russkikh Yevreyev ("Russian Jewish Herald"). Financial difficulties led to the closing of both papers in 1873. Zederbaum renewed publication of Ha-Meliẓ in July 1878, during the Russo-Turkish War. He transferred his permit for a Russian-language newspaper to a group of Russian-Jewish intellectuals, who then produced *Razsvet. In 1881 he began to publish the Yiddish newspaper, Yidishes Folksblat. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Ḥibbat Zion movement from its inception, and its members were among his contributors. The actual editing of Ha-Meliẓ in this late period was done by Hebrew writers such as J.L. *Gordon (1880–83 and 1885–88), and A.S. *Friedberg (1883–86). From 1886 Ha-Meliẓ appeared as a daily. Zederbaum edited and wrote the leading articles for his newspaper. Though his articles were pompous and verbose, their content greatly appealed to his readers. He was a liberal editor, permitting contributors to express views he opposed, but adding his dissent in a footnote.

Zederbaum published several books in Hebrew and Yiddish, including Bein ha-Meẓarim (Odessa, 1864); Keter Kehunnah (Odessa, 1868), essays consisting mainly of anti-ḥasidic polemics; and Di Geheymenise fun Berditshov (Odessa, 1870). His many detractors accused Zederbaum of dilettantism and a negative attitude toward his collaborators, but in perspective Zederbaum may be viewed as a pioneer of Hebrew journalism who, despite the prevailing political and cultural conditions of Jews in 19th-century Russia, succeeded in creating Hebrew and Yiddish literary platforms where most of the contemporary writers in these languages were able to express themselves.


Friedberg, in: Sefer ha-Shanah, ed. by N. Sokolow (1900), 238–53; Waxman, Literature, 3 (1960), 338ff.; 4 (1960), 433; N. Slouschz, Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1909), 162–3; J. Raisin, The Haskalah Movement in Russia (1913), 288; Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1928), 325–50; Ha-Asif, 6 (1893), 169–71; Aḥi'asaf, 2 (1894), 452–4; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 701–4.

[Yehuda Slutsky]