Sunday 4 October 2015


URI-TSVI GRINBERG (URI-ZVI GREENBERG) (September 22, 1896-May 8, 1981)
            He was born in Bilyi Kamin, near Zlotshev (Zolochiv), eastern Galicia.  His father was a rabbi who later moved the family to Lemberg.  He received a staunchly religious education which would later exert an influence on many of his poems.  He began writing, in both Yiddish and Hebrew, at an early age.  In 1912 he published his first poems in the Labor Zionist weekly Der yudisher arbayter (The Jewish laborer) in Lemberg, and in Hebrew in Hashiloaḥ (The shiloah) in Odessa.  From mid-1914 until mid-1915, he suffered horrifically with the Russian invasion of Lemberg, and out of this experience came his collection of war poems, Ergets oyf felder (Somewhere in the fields) (Lemberg, 1915), which at the time because of the war remained unnoticed by the wider reading public.  He was drafted at that time and sent to the front in Yugoslavia.  He took part in many battles, stayed with his regiment for a time in Sarajevo, published poetry in Sh. Y. Imber’s collection Inter Arma (Vienna, 1918), and later near the end of the war left the army and experienced the pogrom of November 1918 in Lemberg, in which the entire Jewish quarter of the city was pillaged.  In 1920 he moved to Warsaw where he contributed to the radical literary publications of young Jewish poets—the anthologies Ringen (Links), Khalyastre (Gang), and others—and he published Hebrew poems in Hatekufa (The epoch), issues 5, 8, and 10, and later he brought out his own serial entitled Albatros (Albatross), “journal for new poetic and artistic expression” (issue 1, Warsaw, 1922, 19 pp.; issue 2 was confiscated by the authorities due to blasphemous poems; issues 3 and 4, Berlin, 1923).  In this periodical, Grinberg challenged the established version of realism in art.  In his “Manifest tsu di kegner fun der nayer dikhtung” (Manifesto to the opponents of the new poetry), he strove to substantiate “the cruelty of the poem, the chaotic in the image, the scream of blood,” and he called for “introspective conception, greater depth,…for the free and naked human expression,” in the name of “an expressionism wrought in blood and marrow.”  In this periodical, he published his poem “In malkhes fun tseylem” (In the kingdom of the cross) and various articles.  At the time Grinberg’s journal caused a major sensation in Jewish literature.  In 1924 he left for Israel, where he published his Hebrew pamphlets Sadan (Tree trunk) and Sadana deara (Human nature) (Jerusalem, 1925), 32 pp., in which he came out publicly against modern Hebrew literature, against Diaspora nationalism, and against official Zionism.  He plunged in with his bellicose Hebraism and withdrew from Yiddish literary writing.  He spent the years 1931-1935 back in Poland and then returned to Israel, becoming one of the leaders of the Revisionist Party.  In 1949 he was elected as a representative of the Ḥerut (Freedom) party to the Knesset.

            Aside from his aforementioned first poetry collection, Ergets oyf felder, his books include: In tsaytns roysh (In the tumult of the times), verse and prose, experiences and impressions from the war years (Lemberg: Betsalel, 1919), 64 pp.; Farnakhtngold (Twilight’s shimmer), poetry (Warsaw: Di Tsayt, 1921), 208 pp.  In both of these books, Grinberg remained more than anything “the quiet poet of religious sanctity,” wrote Zalmen Reyzen, “of love poetry of which the better ones ring like prayers.”  His decadent pessimism following WWI found expression in his most popular Yiddish work, among the most strident in Yiddish literature, in his poem Mefisto (Mephisto) (Lemberg: Dos Bukh, 1921), 63 pp., second edition (fine printing, Warsaw: Farlag “Literatur-fond” baym fareyn fun yidishe literatn un zhurnalistn, 1922), 85 pp.  Grinberg assumed a prominent place in modern Yiddish poetry, especially in the tumultuous and chaotic era after WWI.  In both his poetry and his journalism, he demonstrated considerable vitality and temperament.  He thus assumed one of the most visible positions in modern Hebrew poetry.  His Hebrew poems were full of biting satire.  His principle motifs were revenge for the destruction of European Jewry and pathos and love for the new state of Israel.  He began once again in 1956-1957 to publish poems in Yiddish, an event giving rise to much repercussion in the Yiddish world press.  Among his later works: Undzere oysyes glien, bay di toyern fun trern shteyt a yid in gedenkshaft (Our letters glow, by the gates of tears stands a Jew in remembrance) (Tel Aviv, 1978), 63 pp.; Gezamlte verk (Collected works) (Jerusalem: Hebrew University, 1979), 2 vols.  Among his most important works in Hebrew: Reḥovot hanahar, sefer haelayut vehakoaḥ (The streets of the river, a work of strength and power) (Jerusalem, 1951); Ema gedola veyareaḥ (Great terror and moon) (Tel Aviv, 1925); and Kelev-bayit (Doghouse) (Tel Aviv, 1929), among others.  He was living in Ramat Gan, earlier in Jerusalem.  Grinberg won the Bialik Prize on two occasions.  He died in Ramat-Gan and is buried in Jerusalem.


Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; P. Markish, in Shtern (Minsk) (March 1923); M. Gros, in Tsukunft (New York) (September 1923); G. Bader, Medina veḥakhameha (The state and its sages) (New York, 1934), p. 69; M. Ribalov, Sefer hamasot (Book of essays) (New York, 1928); M. Yafe, Antologye fun der hebreisher dikhtung (Anthology of Hebrew poetry), vol. 1 (New York, 1948), pp. 343-558; M. Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (Montreal) (November 20, 1950); Ravitsh, “Khalyastre” (Gang), in Idisher kemfer (New York) (Rosh Hashana issue, 1957); Dov Sadan, Kaarat egozim o elef bediha ubediha, asufat humor beyisrael (A bowl of nuts or one thousand and one jokes, an anthology of humor in Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1953); Ḥaim Toren and Marcus Rabinson, Sifrutenu hayafa (Our beautiful literature) (Jerusalem, 1953), pp. 9-22; Shmuel Niger, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (May 2, 1954); G. Katsnelson, in Haarets (Tel Aviv) (July 2, 1954); A. Lifshits, in Afrikaner yidishe tsaytung (Johannesburg) (September 23, 1955); Y. Blekher, in Der yidisher zhurnal (Toronto) (October 7, 1955); Lifshts, in Keneder odler (August 22, 1955); Lifshits, in Der yidisher zhurnal (October 18, 1955); Y. Beler, in Di shtime (Mexico) (November 10, 1955); Beler, Der yidisher zhurnal (October 7, 1955); David Lazar, Roshim beyisrael (Leaders of Israel), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1955), earlier published in Maariv (Tel Aviv) (March 16, 1954); M. Yafe, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 21 (June 1957); P. Azai, in Haarets (May 10, 1957); A. Leyeles, in Tog-morgn-zhurnal (New York) (June 22, 1957); Y. Avishug, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (August 8, 1957); M. Ravitsh, in Keneder odler (September 30, 1957); Y. H. Yevin, Uri tsvi grinberg, meshorer meḥokek (Uri Zvi Grinberg, poet legislator) (Tel Aviv, 1937), p. 96; A. A. Roback, The Story of Yiddish Literature (New York, 1940); Who’s Who in Israel (Tel Aviv, 1952); Mark M. Krug, in Judaism (New York) (July 1953); Yoḥanan Arnon, comp., Uri tsvi grinberg, bibliyografya shel mifalo hasifruti uma shenikhtav alav, ba-shanim 1912-1978 (Uri  Zvi Grinberg, bibliography of his literary enterprise and what has been written about him, 1912-1978) (Tel Aviv, 1980); Yaakov Bahat, Uri tsvi grinberg, ḥeker veiyun beshirato uvehagato (Uri Zvi Grinberg, an exploration and study of his poetry and thought) (Tel Aviv, 1983); Dov Landau, Shirat hagevahot bemaamake hazman (A song of the exalted in the depth of time) (Jerusalem, 1983); Shalom Lindenbaum, Shirat uri tsvi grinberg, haivrit vehayidit (The poetry of Uri Zvi Grinberg, Hebrew and Yiddish) (Tel Aviv, 1984).

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 178.]


  1. Uri iTzvi did not die in Jerusalem. He was, however, buried in the city, on Mount of Olives.