Monday 13 February 2017


YUDE-LEYB (JUDAH LEO) LANDAU (May 4, 1866-August 25, 1942)
            He was born in Zalostse (Załośce), near Brod (Brody), eastern Galicia.  He descended from a great rabbinical lineage.  His father, Moyshe-Yisokher Landau, the rabbi of Grobovits (Grabovets), who was a descendant of Ḥakham-Tsvi and the Noda Beyehuda, also published Hebrew poems.  His son studied with Menakhem-Yitskhok Fishman, the author of Kesher shakhna (Connection with neighbor) and Mapelet sisera (The fall of Sisera), with his grandfather in yeshiva, and in the Lemberg and Sadigur study circles.  He later also studied secular subject matter.  In 1891 he graduated from a high school in Brody, and in 1898 he graduated from the University of Vienna with a doctor of philosophy degree, at the same time receiving permission to officiate as a rabbi from the Jewish Theological Seminary of Vienna.  While still in his student years, he joined the Zionist movement.  In 1900 he took part in the Zionist congress in London (as a representative for Hamagid [The preacher] for which he was a contributor), and on the advice of Dr. M. Gaster, he remained in England and in 1901 was accepted as a rabbi in Manchester.  In 1903 he was invited to become a rabbi at the Park Synagogue in Johannesburg, South Africa, and in 1912 he was appointed chief rabbi of the Jews in the country.  He was also the first person to assume the chair in Hebrew literature at Johannesburg University.  At thirteen years of age he began writing in Yiddish.  He debuted in print with a story “Rozele di shtiftokhter” (Rozele the stepsister) in the weekly newspaper Di yudishe tsaytung (The Jewish newspaper), published by Khayim Rohatin.  At age fourteen he wrote Yiddish stories, Yiddish prayers for women, and translations of Kalman Shulman and other Hebrew writers for the Lemberg publisher and bookseller Avrom-Nisn Zis.  The same publisher brought out Landau’s pamphlet Der kool-kantshik (The community disciplinary whip), “a poem by a ruddy little Jew who lives under the Sambatyon, where he is pelted all week with stones, and he sadly must find his way among the mountains of darkness / by a speaker of the truth / a poem / the assembly” (Lemberg: Y. Shteynberg [a made-up name], 1886).  He also published Yiddish poems in: Folks-fraynd (Friend of the people) in Kolomaye (1891), edited by Leybl Toybish; Karmel (Carmel) in Lemberg (1894), edited by R. A. Broydes; and other publications.  Impressed by Avrom Goldfaden’s performance in Lemberg, in 1890 Landau reworked into Yiddish his Hebrew play Hordos (Herod), originally published in 1887, under the title Hurdus un miryem (Herod and Miriam), which was staged with great success in the Gimpel Theater in Lemberg, with Berta Kalich and Zelig Shor in the main roles.  Twelve years later, the play was published in book form in Yiddish under the title Kenig hurdus, a historishe drame in 5 aktn (King Herod, a historical drama in five acts), “written by the well-known poet [and] rabbi, Dr. Y. L. Landau, and published by R. Mazin” (London, 1901), 99 pp.  Landau was no great proponent of Yiddish at the time, but he nonetheless recognized Yiddish as a telling force in Jewish cultural life.  In an apologetic letter to the publisher which appeared as a preface to the play, he wrote inter alia: “I did not want to have this published, because I knew, as Jews heap scorn…on their own language, this is a disgrace for them….  Yet, when I saw that there are immense communities which read only Yiddish, that a major newspaper here, the Express, comes out every day only in Yiddish, and even the rabbis and preachers must sermonize in Yiddish, then I was determined that this work should appear in print.”  In South Africa he contributed further work to Yiddish publications: Hakokhav (The star) and Der afrikaner (The African); Hofman’s Yidishe yorbukh (Jewish yearbook); and the journal Dorem-afrike (South Africa); among others—in Johannesburg.  He even sent from there to Lemberg’s Der morgen (The morning) his “A bintl zikhroynes oys dem altn galitsye” (A batch of memories from old Galicia) (1929).  In his lectures and sermons, however, he disparaged Yiddish and Yiddishism, and always campaigned on behalf of Hebrew.  In his subsequent years, he only very rarely wrote in Yiddish.  In Hebrew he wrote starting in 1879.  He published poems, stories, and articles in: Maḥzike hadat (Supporters of the faith) and Noge hayarea (The light of the moon) in Lemberg; Haeshkol (The cluster) in Cracow; and Hatsofe (The spectator) in Budapest; among others.  In 1891 (together with Y. A. Bernfeld and Dr. A. Nosig), he brought out Hamazkir (The scribe), in which he published his ballad “Ahavat yehonatan” (The love of Jonathan), concerning the Polish King Sobieski.  Landau composed a series of dramatic works in Hebrew, mainly on historical topics.  These works in book form include: Bar kokhba (Bar Kokhba) in five acts (Lemberg, 1884), 114 pp.; Aḥarit yerusholaim (The remnant of Jerusalem), about the destruction of the Second Temple, in five acts (Lemberg, 1885), 166 pp.; Hordos, in five acts (Lemberg, 1887), 184 pp.; Yesh tikva (There is hope), a play about contemporary life (Cracow, 1893), 43 pp., which was staged at the time in Brody; Dam taḥat dam (Blood for blood), the heroes of this play being Aristobulus I and Shimon ben Shetaḥ (Cracow, 1897), 160 pp.; Don yitsḥak abravanel (Don Isaac Abarbanel) (New York: Y. D. Ayzenshtayn, 1919), 112 pp.; Lefanim o leaḥor (Forward or backward), a play about Jewish life in Germany (Johannesburg, 1923), 159 pp.; Yisrael besht (Yisrael Bal-Shem Tov) (Johannesburg, 1923), 240 pp.  His other Hebrew-language books include: Hahaskala haḥadasha (The modern Enlightenment), a pamphlet opposing assimilation which at the time had considerable influence on the young Galician generation (Lemberg, 1883), 32 pp.; Neginot (Tunes), a collection of Hebrew poems (Cracow, 1895), 56 pp.; Hagezera hashava (The [Talmudic] analogy), a translation from German [original: Hermeneutische Analogie in der talmudischen Literatur] by Adolf Schwarz (Cracow, 1898), 149 pp.  Landau also published in German a monograph entitled Nachman Krochmal, ein Hegelianer (Nachman Krochmal, a Hegelian) (Berlin, 1904), 69 pp.  In English: Short Lectures on Modern Hebrew Literature from M. H. Luzzatto to S. Z. Luzzatto (Johannesburg, 1923), 184 pp.; and Judaism in Life and Literature (London, 1936), 354 pp.  He also wrote over fifty monographic entries for the Hebrew encyclopedia Otsar yisrael (Treasury of Israel), edited by Y. D. Ayzenshteyn, “with the assistance of Rabbi Y. L. Nordau.”  He also published under such pen names as: Hillel ben Shakhar, Sofer Ivri, and Dr. Morgenshtern.  In honor of his seventieth birthday, there was published in Israel a collection entitled Vezot hayehudi (And here to Yehuda) (Tel Aviv, 1936), 121 pp.  He died in Johannesburg.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2 (with a bibliography); Zalmen Zilbertsvayg, Leksikon fun yidishn teater (Handbook of the Yiddish theater), vol. 2 (New York, 1934) (with a bibliography); Otsar yisrael (Treasury of Israel), vol. 6 (London, 1935); E. Bernshteyn, in Afrikaner yidishe tsaytung (Johannesburg) (September 11, 1942), the Rosh Hashanah issue; Sh. Perlmuter, Yidishe dramaturgn un teater-kompozitorn (Yiddish playwrights and theatrical composers) (New York, 1952), pp. 120-23; L. Feldman, Yidn in yohanesburg (Jews in Johannesburg) (Johannesburg, 1956), pp. 134-37; M. Waxman, A History of Jewish Literature, vol. 4 (New York, 1947), pp. 830-31; S. Rappaport, “J. L. Landau, Thinker and Writer,” in G. Saron and Louis Hitz, The Jews in South Africa, (Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 283-97; The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 6 (New York); S. Wininger, Grosse Jüdische National Biographie (Great Jewish national biography), vol. 3 (Czernowitz, 1931).
Zaynvl Diamant

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