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Leah Goldberg
Lea 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 (after 1948)
Ethnicity Jewish (Ashkenazi)
Literary movement Yakhdav (led by Avraham Shlonsky)
Spouse Never married
Children None
Memorial plaque on Leah Goldberg house in Tel Aviv

Leah 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.


Leah 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 his fate was and why he never returned to his family. Goldberg and her mother became very close and lived together until Leah 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-language school. She began keeping a diary in Hebrew when she was 10 years old. Her first diaries still show limited fluency in Hebrew and the influence of 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 in a different language than Hebrew is the same to 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 erudition and renown was such that a leading newspaper in Palestine excitedly reported her plans to immigrate to that country.[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, first in Tel Aviv and later in 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, while also writing theatre reviews and literary columns. In 1954 she became a literature lecturer 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]

Leah 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 "A Flat for Rent" ("דירה להשכיר", dira lehaskir) and "Miracles and Wonders" (ניסים ונפלאות, nisim uniflaot), have become classics of Hebrew-language 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, Thomas Mann, Chekhov, Akhmatova, Shakespeare, and Petrarch, plus many other works including reference books and works for children.


In 1946, Goldberg published her first novel, והוא האור (Hebrew: Vehu ha'or, literally: "And he is the light"). The novel had a strong autobiographical basis, and has been received as shedding much light on the rest of her work. The book opens with symbolic patricide: the protagonist, Nora, is pressed by someone she meets to describe her parents. She does not want to disclose the fact her father is at a psychiatric hospital and tries to evade the questions, but the other person wouldn't let go, until Nora explodes: "I have no father! My father is dead! Do you hear? Dead!". Despite this attempt, the specter of mental illnesss continues to haunt her throughout the novel.

Literary style and influences[edit]

Goldberg was widely read in Russian, German, and French poetry. Symbolism and Acmeism were strong influences on her style. Her poetry is notable for coherence and clarity, and for an emphasis on ideas over baroque forms.

Goldberg's poetics perceive 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]

Unlike many of her contemporary peers, most notably Nathan Alterman, Goldberg avoided outright political poetry, and did not contribute occasional poetry to Hebrew periodicals with overt current-affairs discourse.

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 Leah 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.
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226 news items

Hartford Courant

Hartford Courant
Mon, 08 Feb 2016 10:48:20 -0800

... and Mark and Andrea Graham of Avon; Paul Schwartz, of Neurosurgeons of Central Connecticut, and wife Elizabeth Adler, author of "Living with Lymphoma: A Patients Guide"; and Leah Goldberg, an operating room nurse with the Bone & Joint Institute ...

San Diego Jewish World

San Diego Jewish World
Sun, 24 Jan 2016 16:05:46 -0800

The next Jewish Poets—Jewish Voices evening, Tuesday, February 23, 2016, will feature great Jewish poets from the past, Zalman Schneour and Leah Goldberg. Various members of our Jewish community will be reading Schneour's and Goldberg's works in ...

Australian Jewish News

Australian Jewish News
Tue, 19 Jan 2016 19:47:44 -0800

The ramp was painted, herb beds were planted around it, and a mosaic was created featuring the letters of a Leah Goldberg poem and of animals native to Australia and to Israel, which was attached to the ramp. The Arava region also farewelled four ...

San Diego Jewish World

San Diego Jewish World
Tue, 12 Jan 2016 22:05:29 -0800

Additional dates for the eighth season of Jewish Poets – Jewish Voices are Feb. 23, Jewish Poets of the Past: Zalman Schneour and Leah Goldberg; March 22, three local poets; May 10, students from the Jewish day schools. Jewish Poets – Jewish Voices is ...

The New Yorker

The New Yorker
Sun, 27 Dec 2015 20:52:30 -0800

Amichai's prevailing tone is direct, open, simple, hospitable, sensuous, witty. Credit Illustration by Riccardo Vecchio; Source: ULF Andersen / Getty. When we encounter a natural style, Pascal says, we are surprised and delighted, because we expected ...

Jerusalem Post Israel News

Jerusalem Post Israel News
Sun, 29 Nov 2015 07:23:33 -0800

Regional Development Minister Arye Deri on Sunday demanded that the government require forthcoming banknotes to include some Sephardi figures, reviving a contentious issue on the new currency series that has gone largely unmentioned since 2013.

College Times

College Times
Fri, 25 Sep 2015 14:54:47 -0700

Taking a glimpse at Michael McNally's resume of incredible achievements, it's no wonder Scottsdale Community College hired him in August as the new Athletic Director of their 10-team department. Since he received his bachelor's degree in communication ...

Jerusalem Post Israel News

Jerusalem Post Israel News
Mon, 23 Nov 2015 07:37:09 -0800

The red NIS 20 bill will have an image of Rachel the Poetess, while the orange NIS 100 note will feature Leah Goldberg. The old notes will remain in circulation for several years as the bank phases out them out in favor of the new ones. subscribe ...

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