AVROM-SHMUEL HERSHBERG (AVRAHAM SHMUEL HERSCHBERG) (December 29, 1858-August 17/18, 1943)
He was born in Kolne (Kolno), Lomzhe (Łomża) district. When he was five years of age, he moved with his family to Warsaw. He studied in religious primary schools and in synagogue study halls, at the same time pursuing secular subjects with private tutors. He was the leader in Bialystok of the Ḥibat-Tsiyon (Love of Zion) movement and one of the intimates of R. Shmuel Mohilever. He would later join the early Zionist organ Bnei moshe (Children of Moses). He penned correspondence pieces for Hatsfira (The times). After his factory closed, he left for the land of Israel, spent one and one-half years there, and then returned to Bialystok and began to publish (in various Hebrew-language journals) research on Jewish life in the era of the Mishna and the Talmud, as well as on Jewish archeology. He penned travel impression at the time in two Hebrew volumes: Mishpat hayishuv heḥadash beerets yisrael (The case of the first settlement in the land of Israel) (Vilna, 1901), 187 pp.; and Beerets hamizraḥ (In a land of the east), two parts, supplement to Hazman (The times) (Vilna, 1910), 525 pp. One year later he published his volume, Hahalbasha haivrit hakeduma (Styles of ancient Hebrew dress) (Warsaw: Tushiya, 1911), 193 pp. Together with Dr. Khazanovitsh he founded a “Ḥevra tora” (Torah society) in which he gave lectures on Jewish history and Hebrew literature; he was also the chairman of a “Ḥoveve sfat ever” (Lovers of the Hebrew language) group. Over the years 1913-1914, he published the first daily Yiddish newspaper in Bialystok—Byalistoker tageblat (Bialystok daily news). Under the German occupation during WWI, he was a cofounder of the Bialystok Jewish city council, of a hostel for the poor, and of “Mishmeret ḥolim” (Guardian of the sick).
Thereafter, Hershberg withdrew completely from community work and devoted himself all the more to scholarly research in the realm of the Hebrew Bible, Talmud, and Jewish archeology. He also researched the Jewish textile industry in ancient times and other branches of ancient Jewish cultural and ethnic history. He then began to write his detailed Hebrew work: Ḥaye hatarbut beyisrael bitekufat hamishna ṿehatalmud (Cultural life in Israel in the era of the Mishna and the Talmud), which was planned to comprise six parts; the first part was published under the title Haereg vetaasiyat haereg (Fabric and the textile industry) (Warsaw: Shtibl, 1924), 328 pp. Fragments of other parts of this and other writings were published in a variety of periodicals, such as: Hakedem (Antiquity), 1909; Ben-Avigdor’s Habiblyoteka hagedola (Grand library), 1911; Heatid (The future), Hatekufa (The epoch), Hadevir (The inner sanctuary), and Haolam (The world), 1927-1940, among others. He continued working until the last days of his life. In Bialystok he placed pieces in: Dos naye lebn (The new life), Unzer lebn (Our life), and Byalistoker almanakh (Bialystok almanac), in which he published a series of scholarly articles in the field of bible criticism. For many years he collected materials on the history of Jews in Bialystok which were included in Pinkes byalistok (Records of Bialystok)—“foundational materials for the history of the Jews in Bialystok through the post-WWI era”—published (under the editorship of Yudel Mark) in two volumes, posthumously, by the society for the history of Bialystok (New York, 1949-1950), 912 pp. In the first volume of this work, there is a meticulous listing of all of Hershberg’s works, individual articles and collected manuscripts, compiled by Y. Heylperin. Hershberg died (with his daughter and with the secretary of the Bialystok community, Bakhrakh) in the Bialystok ghetto in February 1943 (according B. Mark), though (according to Refuel Rayzner) led (together with Avrom Tiktin) to the gas chambers and murdered there.
Sources: Zalmern Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; Hadoar (New York) (Sivan 1 [=June 7], 1940); Dr. Ts. Kahan, in the yearbook for Polish Jewry (New York, 1942); Byalistoker vegn (Buenos Aires) (August 1943); Sh. Bernholts, in Poylishe yid (New York) (April 1944); Y. Rapaport, in Byalistoker shtime (New York) (May-June 1946); Shmuel Niger, ed., Kidesh hashem (Sanctification of the name) (New York: Tsiko, 1946), pp. 280, 301; R. Rayzner, Der umkum fun byalistoker yidntum, 1939-1945 (The destruction of Judaism in Bialystok, 1939-1945) (Melbourne, 1948); H. Frank, Byalistoker shtime (March-April 1949); Y. Mark, in Pinkes byalistok (New York) 1 (1949), pp. 8-9; H. Hershberg, in Pinkes byalistok 1 (1949), pp. 14-21; Y. Heylperin, “Biblyografye fun a. sh. hershbergs historishe un tsienistishe shriftn” (Bibliography of A. Sh. Hershberg’s historical and Zionist writings), Pinkes byalistok 1 (1949), pp. 25-30; Dr. P. Friedman, in Yivo-bleter (New York) 34 (1950), p. 232; M. Vishnitser, in Yivo-bleter 34 (1950), pp. 243-48; B. Mark, Der oyfshtand in byalistoker geto (The uprising in the Bialystok ghetto) (Warsaw, 1950), p. 141; Mark, Umgekumene shrayber fun di getos un lagern (Murdered writers from the ghettos and camps) (Warsaw, 1954), pp. 198-99; M. Ravitsh, in Yorbukh (New York (New York) (1949/1950); D. Tsharni (Daniel Charney), in Byalistoker shtime (September-October 1950); Y. Levin, in Byalistoker shtime (April 1951); Y. Kahan, Lebn un trakhtn (Life and thoughts) (New York, 1957), p. 113.