Sunday 24 January 2016


AVROM GOLOMB (July 20, 1888-May 8, 1982)
            He was born in Stravenik, Lithuania.  His father was a rabbi, ritual slaughterer, and itinerant school teacher in the town.  In 1894 his family moved to Meyshegole (Maišiagala), near Vilna.  He studied in Rameyle’s Yeshiva in Vilna and went through the classes of a Russian public school.  He later undertook to study secular subject matter on his own and in 1907 arrived at the pedagogical courses of the “Mefitse haskalah” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]) in Grodno.  From that point on, teaching became Golomb’s profession.  Over the years 1909-1912, he was a teacher in the reformed Talmud-Torah of Vitebsk, and later he spent four years at the girls’ school in Golte, Kherson district, and later still for several years in St. Petersburg and Kiev.  In 1921 he slipped out of Soviet Russia to Poland, where he became director of the Jewish teachers’ seminary in Vilna.  In 1932 the Polish government closed the seminary.  Golomb left Poland, became a teacher in a Hebrew school in Mikva Yisrael (in Palestine) and later in Ben-Shemen.  From 1938 to 1943 he was director of the Y. L. Peretz School in Winnipeg, Canada, and 1944-1964 he was director of the Jewish school in Mexico City and later of the newly founded Y. L. Peretz School there.  In 1964 he settled in Los Angeles.
            Among his books: Dos ershte mol in vald, zikhroynes fun mayn kindheyt (The first time in the woods, memoirs of my childhood) (Kiev, 1918), second edition (Bialystok, 1921), 42 pp.; Vi fun a fish iz a frosh gevorn, zikhroynes fun mayn kindheyt (How a fish became a frog, memoirs of my childhood) (Kiev, 1918), second edition (Bialystok, 1921), 39 pp.; Geviksn, lernbukh far yidishe shuln loyt g. batsh un andere (Plants, textbook for Yiddish schools according to G. Bocz and others) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1919), 127 pp., enlarged edition (Warsaw, 1922; Mexico City, 1947); Dos lebn fun a boym (The life of a tree) (Kiev: Kultur-lige, 1922), 41 pp.; Praktishe arbet af natur-limed (Practical work on the subject of nature) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1922), 46 pp. (for teachers, 52 pp.); Arbets-heft af geografye (Workbook for geography) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige, 1924), second edition (1926); Vaser-geviksn, hilfs-bikhl tsu botanishe ekskursyes afn vaser (Water plants, auxiliary booklet for botanical excursions in water) (Vilna, 1923), 55 pp.; Program fun natur-limed (Program for the subject of nature) (Warsaw, 1926), 21 pp.; Idn un idishkeyt in amerike (Jews and Jewishness in the United States) (Winnipeg, 1940), 40 pp.; Undzer nayer shas, undzere oytsres farn folk (Our new Talmud, our treasures for the people) (Winnipeg, 1941), 29 pp.; Umvegn un oysvegn, a pruv tsu formulirn a yidishn velt-banem (Detours and outlets, an attempt to formulate a Jewish world conception) (Winnipeg, 1942), 88 pp.; Agodes far shuln un heymen in hebreish un yidish (Legends for schools and homes in Hebrew and Yiddish) (Winnipeg: Fun kval, 1943), 63 pp.; Di natsyonale yesoydes fun der traditsyoneler dertsiung bay yidn (The national foundations of traditional Jewish education) (Winnipeg, 1944), 15 pp.; Geklibene shriftn (Collected writings) (Mexico City, 1945-1948), six vols.; Geviksn, lernbukh far yidishe shuln  (Plants, textbook for Yiddish schools) (Mexico City, 1947), 162 pp.; Psikhologye, algemeyner kurs (Psychology, general course) (Mexico City, 1947), 208 pp.; Mayselekh far kinder (Stories for children) (Mexico City, 1947), two vols.; Program far der yidisher shul in meksike (Program for the Jewish school in Mexico) (Mexico City, 1948), 84 pp.; Dos yingl fun geto (The boy from the ghetto), recounted by children (Mexico City, 195?), 34 pp.; A halber yorhundert yidishe dertsiung (A half-century of Jewish education) (Rio de Janeiro, 1957), 225 pp.; Humanistishe dertsiung (Humanistic education) (Mexico City, 1958), 7 pp.; Af di vegn fun kiem, eseyen (On the road to existence, essays) (Buenos Aires, 1959), 326 pp.; Di talmudishe shtetlshe kultur un dertsiung (Talmudic village culture and education) (Mexico City, 1959), 35 pp.; Vegn geshikhte-limed (On the subject of history) (Mexico City, 1960), 11 pp.; Undzer gang tsvishn felker, eseyen (Our pathway among peoples, essays) (Buenos Aires, 1961), 347 pp.; Seyfer tevye, perushim un balaykhtungen tsu hilf dem talmid un lerer (Tevye’s book, explanations and illumination to help the student and teacher) (Mexico City, 1961), 63 pp.; Uma velashon, yidish folk-yidish loshn (Nation and language, Jewish people-Yiddish language) (Mexico City, 1962); Integrale yidishkeyt, teorye un praktik (Integral Jewishness, theory and practice) (Mexico City, 1962), 45 pp.; Eybike vegn fun eybikn folk, eseyen (Eternal ways of eternal people, essays) (Mexico City, 19640, 417 pp.; Undzer morgn, esey (Our tomorrow, an essay) (Paris: Unzer kiem, 1967), 124 pp.; Tsvishn tkufes (Between epochs) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1974), 335 pp.; Tsu di haykhn fun yidishn gayst (To the heights of Jewish spirit) (Paris, 1971), 15, 350 pp.; Tsu di tifn fun yidishn gedank (To the depths of Jewish thought) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1974), 383 pp.; Tsum tokh fun yidishkeyt (To the essence of Judaism) (New York, 1976), 11, 9, 331 pp.  In 1970 a Festschrift was published to honor Golomb, entitled Ḥesed leavraham, seyfer hayoyvl leavrom golom tsu zayn akhtsikstn geboyrn-yor (Jubilee volume for Avrom Golomb for his eightieth birthday) (Los Angeles), 10, 916 pp.
            “Golomb was almost ideologically alone,” wrote Dr. H. L. Gordon.  “Hebraists took for a Yiddishist, while the Yiddishists, by contrast, believed that he was a Hebraist.  Zionists considered him a Diasporist, while the Diasporists considered him a Zionist….  Golomb maintained: A people can live only when they live their own life, in their own way, and with their own language; a people can become extinct even if they have the finest treasures in libraries and museums” (pp. 45-49).  “Golomb believed,” noted Sol Liptzin, “that Yiddish and Hebrew were like twins who complement and help one another.  Both are instruments filled with Jewishness, but only instruments….  To make a language into a cult is idolatry.  The content is more important than the form of expression….  To keep the tree of Jewishness healthy and steady, one must keep it rooted in Jewish cultural habits and in collective experience.  This would include: language, ways of life, holidays, customs, religious attitudes, and family relations.  Ideals are embodied in actions, transgressions, and good deeds, community activity and national discipline….  Living in two cultures is unhealthy….  There can be two languages, but only one culture” (pp. 93-100).  “Golomb occupies an honored place in Yiddish journalism,” wrote Yitskhok Kagan, “his distinctiveness being his critical analysis and his militancy on behalf of a fully monistic Jewishness….  He was one of our sharpest demanders in Yiddish journalism….  Golomb separated religion from religiosity.  He formulated the first of these as a community organizing principle for life,…while religiosity is but the foundation itself, the pure emotion of religious experience….  Golomb held that secularism ‘had gone astray on wrong pathways and lost itself.  It could not become an anti-traditional Jewishness or anti-religion.  National secularism is also a belief, but without theological moment.  As a form of Jewishness it must have a firm national discipline and way of life to be able to respond in a national-secular manner to all traditional forms of life’” (pp. 147-61).  “In a nutshell,” wrote M. Ravitsh, “the gospel according to Golomb: Jewishness is a great entity in the world, such that it can make sense of those things we do not understand, just as we cannot understand the ways of the cosmos.  Jewishness is an integral unity with all the light and dark sides….  First of all, we must integrate Jewishness with the world, integrate but not assimilate….  The Hebrew Bible has not preserved our Jewishness, but the Talmud did do this for the existence of the Jewish people.  It is not in vain that peoples love the Hebrew Bible and fear the Talmud.  Thanks to the Bible we have become a people, and an eternal people thanks to the Talmud” (pp. 175-79) (all citations from Ḥesed leavraham).  He died in Los Angeles.

Sources: Yankev Glatshteyn, Af greyte temes (On prepared topics) (Tel Aviv: Peretz Publ., 1967), pp. 148-52; Y. Emyot, in Forverts (New York) (September 10, 1967); F. Lerner, in Di prese (Buenos Aires) (September 18, 1967); V. Yunin, in Tog-morgn zhurnal (New York) (June 23, 1968); B. Tsukerman, Idisher kemfer (New York) (Novewmber 22, 1968); Ḥesed leavraham, seyfer hayoyvl leavrom golom tsu zayn akhtsikstn geboyrn-yor, ed. Moyshe Shtarkman; Y. Kahan, in Tsukunft (New York) (December 1970); Kahan, in Letste nayes (Tel Aviv) (September 29, 1972).

Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), cols. 126-29.

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