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Leah Goldberg
Leah Goldberg in 1946
Leah Goldberg in 1946
Born (1911-05-29)May 29, 1911
Königsberg (now Kaliningrad)
Died January 15, 1970(1970-01-15) (aged 58)
Occupation poet, translator, playwright, researcher of literature
Nationality Israeli (since 1948)
Ethnicity Jewish (Ashkenazi)
Literary movement Yakhdav (led by Avraham Shlonsky)
Spouse Never married
Children None
Memorial plaque on Lea Goldberg house in Tel Aviv

Lea Goldberg (Hebrew: לאה גולדברג‎; May 29, 1911, Königsberg – January 15, 1970, Jerusalem) was a prolific Hebrew-language poet, author, playwright, literary translator, and comparative literary researcher. Her writings are considered classics of Israeli literature.


Lea Goldberg was born to a Jewish Lithuanian family from Kaunas, however her mother traveled to the nearby German city of Königsberg (today, Russian Kaliningrad) in order to give birth in better medical conditions. When asked about her place of birth, Goldberg often stated Kaunas rather than Königsberg.

When the First World War broke out, three-year-old Goldberg had to escape with her parents to the Russian Empire, where they spent a year in hard conditions. In Russia, her mother gave birth to a baby boy, Immanuel, who died before reaching his first birthday.

According to Goldberg's autobiographical account in 1938, when the family traveled back to Kaunas in 1919, a Lithuanian border patrol stopped them and accused her father of being a "Bolshevik spy". They locked the father in a nearby abandoned stable, and abused him by preparing his execution every morning for about a week and cancelling it at the last moment. When the border guards finally let the family go, Goldberg's father was in a serious mental state.[1] He eventually lost his ability to function normally and left Kaunas and his family to receive treatment, though it is unclear what was his fate and why he never returned to his family. Goldberg and her mother became very close and lived together until Goldberg's death.

Goldberg's parents spoke several languages, though Hebrew was not one of them. However, Goldberg learned Hebrew at a very young age, as she received her elementary education in a Jewish Hebrew-speaking school. She began writing personal diaries in Hebrew when she was 10 years old. Her first diaries still show limited fluency in Hebrew and influence of the Russian language, but she was determined to write in Hebrew and mastered the language within a short period of time.[2] Even though she was fluent and literate in various European languages, Goldberg wrote her published works, as well as her personal notes, only in Hebrew. In 1926, when she was 15 years old, she wrote in her personal diary, "The unfavourable condition of the Hebrew writer is no secret to me [...] Writing not in Hebrew is the same for me as not writing at all. And yet I want to be a writer [...] This is my only objective."[2]

Goldberg received a PhD from the Universities of Berlin and Bonn in Semitic languages and German. Her scholarship and renown was such that a leading newspaper in Palestine excitedly reported her plans to immigrate to Palestine.[3] In 1935, she settled in Tel Aviv, where she joined a group of Zionist Hebrew poets of Eastern-European origin known as Yakhdav (Hebrew: יחדיו‎ "together"). This group was led by Avraham Shlonsky, and was characterised by adhering to Symbolism especially in its Russian Acmeist form, and rejecting the style of Hebrew poetry that was common among the older generation, particularly that of Haim Nachman Bialik.

She never married and lived with her mother, in Tel Aviv and later Jerusalem. A heavy smoker, she died in 1970 of lung cancer.

Literary career[edit]

Goldberg worked as a high-school teacher and earned a living writing rhymed advertisements until she was hired as an editor by the Hebrew newspapers Davar and Al HaMishmar. She also worked as a children’s book editor at Sifriyat Po'alim publishing house, and wrote theater reviews and literary columns. In 1954, she became a lecturer in literature at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, advancing to senior lecturer in 1957 and full professor in 1963, when she was appointed head of the university's Department of Comparative Literature.[4]

Lea Goldberg (1964)
Leah Goldberg's poem Ha'omnam od yavo'u

Goldberg wrote Hebrew poetry, drama, and children's literature. Goldberg's books for children, among them "Dira Lehaskir" ("דירה להשכיר", "A Flat for Rent") and "Nisim Uniflaot" ("ניסים ונפלאות", "Miracles and Wonders"), have become classics of Hebrew children's literature.

With exemplary knowledge of seven languages, Goldberg also translated numerous foreign literary works exclusively into Modern Hebrew from Russian, Lithuanian, German, Italian, French, and English. Of particular note is her magnum opus of translation, Tolstoy's epic novel War and Peace, as well as translations of Rilke, Mann, Chekhov, Akhmatova, Shakespeare, and Petrarch, plus many other works including reference books and works for children.

Literary style and influences[edit]

Goldberg's poetry perceives the general in the specific: a drop of dew represents vast distances and the concrete reflects the abstract. Her poetry has been described as "a system of echoes and mild reverberations, voices and whispers," that recognizes the limitations of the poem and language. Her work is minor and modest, taking a majestic landscape like the Jerusalem hills and focusing on a stone, a thorn, one yellow butterfly, a single bird in the sky.[4]

Critical acclaim[edit]

Goldberg received in 1949 the Ruppin Prize (for the volume "Al Haprikhá")[5] and, in 1970, the Israel Prize for literature.[6]

The American Hebraist, Gabriel Preil, wrote a poem about Goldberg: "Leah's Absence".

In 2011, Goldberg was announced as one of four great Israeli poets who would appear on Israel's currency (together with Rachel Bluwstein, Shaul Tchernichovsky, and Natan Alterman).[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Leah Goldberg, YIVO
  2. ^ a b Lea Goldberg's Diaries, edited by Rachel and Arie Aharoni, Sifriat Poalim – Hakibbutz Hameuchad Publishing House Ltd. Bnei Brak/Tel Aviv 2005, ISBN 965-02-0299-4 (in Hebrew), p. 9, "About the Diaries" (preface by Arie Aharoni)
  3. ^ The diplomats of the literary world, Jerusalem Post
  4. ^ a b Lea Goldberg and her poetry
  5. ^ report about the ceremony in Hebrew
  6. ^ "Israel Prize Official Site – Recipients in 1970 (in Hebrew)". 
  7. ^ Nadav Shemer, Jerusalem Post, March 10, 2011.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leah_Goldberg — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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Lamdeni Elohay - Leah Goldberg, Yonatan Niv

לכבוד 40 שנה למותה של לאה גולדברג, יונתן ניב, מוזיקאי הבית של בית תפילה ישראלי הלחין את השיר, משירי סוף הדרך - תפילה זו בלחן זה של יוני ניב נכנסה לרפרטואר הת...

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http://www.israelidocs.co.il/133374/the-5-houses-of-lea-goldberg IsraeliDocs is extremely proud to release The 5 Houses of Lea Goldberg - A truly poetic film...

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בית קפה מוסיקה: סטלה לרנר מילים: לאה גולדברג מיכל בת אדם, שחקנית חגי יודן, פסנתר וקולות מרכז ענב לתרבות, תל-אביב; מאי 2011 Beit Cafe Music: Stella Lerner Lyr...

Buchpremiere "Zimmer frei im Haus der Tiere" von Leah Goldberg /

Zimmer frei im Haus der Tiere , von Leah Goldberg, gelesen von Mirjam Pressler, neu illustriert von Nancy Cote Reading of Leah Goldberg´s children´s classic ...

Betokh Libi: A Live Concert - Stella Lerner & Leah Goldberg - בתוך ליבי - מופע חי

Betokh Libi (Within My Heart) - A Clip from the Live Concert Music: Stella Lerner Lyrics: Leah Goldberg Sharon Rostorf-Zamir, soprano Michal Bat-Adam, actres...

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Tsipor - Stella Lerner & Leah Goldberg

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Khida - Stella Lerner & Leah Goldberg

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126 news items

Broadway World
Sun, 01 Feb 2015 15:54:45 -0800

Israeli Stage is partnering with Israeli American Council - Boston to present the New England Premiere of Edna Mazya's award-winning play, Games in the Back Yard, featuring some of Boston's greatest up-and-coming talent. Based on a true story, Mazya's ...

Las Vegas Review-Journal

Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fri, 30 May 2014 13:37:17 -0700

A gioblastoma multiforme, the most common brain cancer doctors diagnose in humans and the deadliest, has brought Leah Goldberg here. To a bed in Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center. She is 18, a senior at Northwest Career and Technical Academy, ...

The Daily Pennsylvanian

The Daily Pennsylvanian
Tue, 23 Sep 2014 22:31:11 -0700

“I disagree with the decision because [Pure Fare] caters to a much smaller section of the student population,” College sophomore Leah Goldberg said. “This campus needs to be cheaper, not more upscale,” College sophomore Joe Sagemen added. However ...
Las Vegas Review-Journal (blog)
Sun, 15 Jun 2014 23:56:15 -0700

What 18-year-old Leah Goldberg was going through — trying to overcome the deadliest brain cancer known to man — hit 60-year-old retired Army Lt. Col. Todd Sain hard. After my May 31 piece that described how a gioblastoma multiforme tumor had the ...
Mon, 16 May 2011 15:13:26 -0700

When Leah Goldberg was 8 years old, her father suffered a mental illness and her mother went to work. Leah started studying at the trade school in Kovno (now called Kaunas ), Lithuania, and turned out to be a gifted student. Within just six months she ...

Jewish Daily Forward

Jewish Daily Forward
Tue, 09 Dec 2014 01:56:15 -0800

The great poet Avraham Shlonsky, who like his contemporaries Hayim Nahman Bialik and Leah Goldberg, adapted the tale of “Rumpelstiltskin” into a play in rhyme called “Utz Li Gutz Li,” that the director Yossi Yizraeli and composer Dubi Zeltzer turned ...
Jerusalem Post
Thu, 15 Jan 2015 08:02:03 -0800

Ruth Arnon, who co-developed multiple sclerosis drug Copaxone; sole female prime minister to date Golda Meir; poet and author Leah Goldberg; and “first lady of Israeli song and poetry” Naomi Shemer. Read More... Please LIKE our Facebook page - it ...

Jerusalem Post

Jerusalem Post
Tue, 06 Jan 2015 13:18:16 -0800

Unperturbed, Mania Bialik gave him a book of poems by Leah Goldberg instead. The president relayed the story last week after Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai gave him a book of Bialik's poems for children. The presentation again took place at Bialik's home ...

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