Gordon Yehuda Leib (1831-1892)

Poet, critic and journalist, a key spokesman of the Haskalah


Judah Leib Gordon was born in Vilna, and after a brilliant student career, became a teacher in various Jewish government schools.

His first major poem -- The Love of David and Michal, an epic, was published in 1857, and was followed two years later by Mishlei Yehudah ("Judah's Parables"), translations and adaptations of works by Aesop. Phaedrus, La Fontaine, Lessing, and Krylov. While serving a prison term for alleged anti-Czarist activities, Gordon wrote Zidkiyyahu be- Veit ha-Pekuddot ("King Zedekiah in Prison" 1879), a historical biblical poem reflecting his prison experiences. On his release from prison Gordon became editor of the St. Petersburg Hebrew daily Ha-Meliz and also science editor of the Russian Jewish monthly Voskhod (1881--82). His poem Kozo shel Yod ("The Point on Top of the Yod") was a protest against the oppressed situation of Jewish women of the time.

Gordon at first blamed the troubles that plagued Russian Jewry on the traditionalism of the rabbis. He urged Jews to stop speaking Yiddish, to participate more in Russian life. He advocated universal general education and the translation into Hebrew of all literature of general interest, denouncing those who opposed this as wishing "to drive out our Hebrew language from the land of the living." But Gordon's faith in the ability of Russian Jewry to adapt happily under Russian liberalism proved shortlived. After the 1881 pogroms in southern Russia he came to regard emigration to western Europe and America as the only solution to Jewish oppression. Although he actively upheld the Zionist cause, he believed that true redemption could come about only after "our spiritual deliverance."

Entry taken from "Junior Judaica, Encyclopedia Judaica for Youth" CD-ROM

by C.D.I. Systems 1992 (LTD) and Keter.






Share           PRINT   
02 May 2005 / 23 Nisan 5765 0