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Micha Josef Berdyczewski

מיכה יוסף ברדיצ'בסקי

Micha Josef Berdyczewski (later: Bin-Gorion) (1865-1921) was born in Medzibezh, Podolia, and was the descendant of a line of Chassidic rabbis. His father served as the rabbi of Medzibezh during his childhood. As a young man, Berdyczewski began reading Haskalah writers and the ensuing struggle between modern ideas and the concepts and forces of traditional Judaism animated his writings throughout his life. In 1886 he began studying at the Volozhin Yeshiva. It was here that he began his literary career, infuriating his teachers. Berdyczewski left Russia for Germany (1890) and spent two years in Breslau, studying at the rabbinical seminary and the university. In 1892 he moved to Berlin, where he combined both Jewish and secular studies. Berdyczewski ‘s revolutionary ideas took shape under the impact of his studies in philosophy while in Germany. After studying in Bern for two years, Berdyczewski returned to spend four of his most productive years (1896-1900) in Berlin. Stimulated by his opposition to both Ahad Ha-Am and Herzl, and encouraged by his friends and other Hebrew writers there, Berdyczewski published in many of the leading Hebrew journals, vigorously attacking all accepted ideologies. In 1900 Berdyczewski firmly established himself in the history of Hebrew literature with the publication of nine volumes of articles and stories. After a short stay in Warsaw, he returned to Germany and Breslau and devoted himself to literary work, continuing through times of poverty and infirmity, until his death. In Breslau he continued to write in Hebrew, but embarked upon several new ventures – writing articles and stories in Yiddish, systematically collecting rabbinic legends, studying the origins of Judaism with particular emphasis on the Samaritan tradition and writing a diary in German. After the war he was deeply shocked at the news of the pogrom in Doubovo and his father’s murder. Nevertheless, Berdyczewski wrote some of his major stories after the war, notably his short novel, Miriam, which he completed shortly before his death.

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