Thursday 15 October 2015


            He was the founder of the first Jewish children’s school (initially for boys, later for girls) in Vilna in 1841.  The school was “under the supervision of Mr. Nisn Rozenthal” (as Germayze himself recounts it), and he was a teacher there of German and Hebrew.  In honor of this school, he published a booklet entitled Shire nimes (Poems of pleasantness)—in “Ivri-ashkenzi” (Yiddish), “published in Vilna in 1842,” 48 pp., and “in German with Jewish letters”: “A hymn in Hebrew German, / On behalf of the newly established Hebrew school in Vilna in the year 1841, / Published by Levin Behr Germayze” (as Zalmen Reyzen, and others who have written about Germayze, assume, this is the same Yehuda-Leib Germayze).  In his flowery preface to the booklet, he explains further that one would study in the school: “The Babylonian Talmud, the Bible with commentaries, the Twelve Minor Prophets with commentary and a bit in Yiddish, Talmud-style Hebrew, the path to learning, Russian, German, Hebrew, accounting, calligraphy.”  He was also one of the Vilna authors who in the 1820s and 1830s translated from Russian and German and revised textbooks and readers for children, such as Sefer more derekh (Guidebook), Oyfn khinekh hayeladim (Way to educate children), and Hundert un eyn anegdotin (One hundred and one anecdotes), among others, which were published anonymously.  He was also the author of Kurts gefaster robinzon (Concise collected Robinson) (Vilna, 1830), 88 pp. (an adaptation of Joachim Heinrich Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere [Robinson the younger], in German, which served as a sample for several adaptations of Daniel Defoe’s world famous Robinson Crusoe into Yiddish and Hebrew, among them as well “Robinzon, di geshikhte fun alter-leb” [Robinson, the story of Alter-Leb], which circulated in Lemberg in the 1820s, and had no connection to Gemayze’s “Robinzon”).  The preface to Kurts gefaster robinzon is signed: “Levin Behr Germayze.”  He also compiled the volume Meir nativ (The path-lighter), “a book of Hebrew, Russian, and Ashkenazi [Yiddish] roots,” a lexicon of Hebrew roots, translated into Russian and German (written with Hebrew letters), and in places here and there into Judeo-German, two parts (Vilna, 1835), 185 pp.  On the title page of this last work, it reads: “By Yehuda Lib Duber Germayze.”  He also composed Toledot rusya (History of Russia), a translation of a Russian text, published in Sudilkov, Volhynia, in 1836.  In Ch. D. Lippe’s bibliographisches Lexicon der gesammten jüdischen Literatur der Gegenwart (Ch. D. Lippe’s bibliographical handbook of Jewish literature at present) (Vienna, 1879), it is noted: “Yuda Leib Germayze, scholar of Hebrew literature, in Vilna, Russia.”  Apparently, he lived beyond this time.  Precise biographical information concerning him remains unknown.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; “Tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher haskole-literatur” (On the history of the Jewish Enlightenment literature), Yivo-bleter (Vilna) 1.3 (1931), pp. 204-7; “Naye arbetn tsu der geshikhte fun der yidisher haskole-literatur” (New work on the history of the Jewish Enlightenment literature), Yivo-bleter 2.4-5 (1931), pp. 386-87; Dr. Y. Shatski, Kultur-geshikhte fun der haskole in lite (Cultural history of the Jewish Enlightenment in Lithuania) (Buenos Aires, 1950), pp. 103, 104, 113; M. Kosover, “Vilne, yerusholaim delite” (Vilna. Jerusalem of Lithuania), in Lite (Lithuania), vol. 1 (New York, 1951), p. 1145; Kh. D. Fridberg, in Bet eked sefarim (Library) (Tel Aviv) 2 (1952), p. 531; 3 (1954), p. 996.

Yitskhok Kharlash

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