Tuesday 23 August 2016


            He was born in Slobodka, near Kovno, Lithuania.  His father, Arn Zilbershteyn, was a son of the well-known mystic R. Naftoli-Herts Ritever.  As a youth Sholem-Yoysef studied with Shmuel-Iser Kharif, and at age eighteen he had already received rabbinical ordination with the Memel (Klaipėda) rabbi, Gavriel Faynberg.  Over the years 1867-1868, he was rabbi in a small town in Lithuania.  He moved to the United States in 1881, settled in New York, and wrote books in Hebrew, later in English as well—mainly on issues of religion and philosophy.  His first book was entitled Gilui eynaim (Eyes open), written in verse form, an overview of the economic and socio-cultural life of Jews (Warsaw, 1881), 40 pp. (later reprinted in Jerusalem).  He subsequently published the following works: Hadat vehatora (The religion and the law), a study in psychology and theology (New York, 1887), 2 volumes; Metsiut hashem vehaolam (The existence of God and the universe), “Divinity and the Cosmos” (New York, 1893), 184 pp.  In English: The Universe and Its Evolution (New York, 1891); Six General Laws of Nature: A New Idealism (New York, 1894), 40 pp.; The Disclosures of the Universal Mysteries (New York, 1896), 297 pp.; The Jewish Problem and Theology in General (New York, 1904), 194 pp.
            In Yiddish he published Takones agunes (Remedial laws for deserted wives), “demonstrating the proper concept of the written Torah and the oral Torah, Talmud, and commentaries, with an additional treatise on levirate marriage” (New York, 1907), 62 pp.; it includes a poem by the author, “On the Hebrew Language,” and with his own preface which explains, inter alia, that this treatise was earlier published in the daily Herald (Herald) and in Folks-advokat (People’s advocate).  He was as well a contributor to Nyu yorker yudishe folkstsaytung (New York Jewish people’s newspaper) in 1880s, and was the editor of Di naye velt (The new world), “a weekly journal concerned with philosophical religion, modern science, politics, and socialism”—first issue appearing October 12, 1894 in New York; altogether three issues were published.

Sources: Ben-Tsien Ayzenshtadt, Ḥakhame yisrael beamerika (Wise men of Israel in America) (New York, 1903), p. 48; Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia), vol. 7, p. 787; S. Wininger, Grosse Jüdische National Biographie (Great Jewish national biography), vol. 5, p. 504; Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 2, pp. 336-37; American Jewish Yearbook (1904-1905), pp. 187-88.

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