Wednesday 13 September 2017


DOVID MAGID (MAGGID) (November 7, 1862-ca. 1940)
            He was born in Vilna.  He came from a family which drew its pedigree back to Rabbi Saul Wahl [1541-1617] and the Maharam of Padua [ca. 1482-1565].  His father was Rabbi Hillel Noah Steinschneider-Maggid, the well-known Vilna follower of the Jewish Enlightenment and author of Ir vilna (The city of Vilna).  His mother was a daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Gordon, author of Luaḥ al elef shanim (Calendar for 1,000 years).  Magid studied in religious primary school, yeshivas, and with the rabbi of Aleksandrovsk, Zalman-Ber Anushishki, from whom in 1877 (at age fifteen) he received ordination into the rabbinate.  He later turned his attention to secular subject matter, and quickly as an external student passed the examinations to enter high school.  He later graduated from the St. Petersburg Art Academy, the Archeological Institute, and the Oriental Studies Department of St. Petersburg University.  He subsequently worked as secretary for Shmuel-Yosef Fin, when the latter was working on his Haotsar (The treasure) and Kneset yisrael (Congregation of Israel).  From 1885 he was living in St. Petersburg, where until 1917 he was a teacher of Jewish religion in various state high schools.  From 1918 he assumed A. Harkavy’s position as the librarian of the Jewish and Oriental division of the state library in Petersburg.  From 1921 he was professor in the Russian Institute for the History of Art.  In 1922 he was appointed administrator of the Jewish community library at the “Khevre mefitse haskole” (Society for the promotion of enlightenment [among the Jews of Russia]); in 1925 he became professor of Hebrew at St. Petersburg University.  He debuted in print with a correspondence piece in Haivri (The Jew) in 1879, and from that point on he contributed work—under his own name and such pen names as Dr. Maged, Onan, Ru״n, Yisrael Sifra, F. A., Ḥaver Heada, K״Y, M״D, Eḥad Haadam, Karan d’ash, Kreyon, Ada״m, Min Haadam, Adom, Aspakleri Akuma—to: Hamelits (The spectator), Hatsfira (The siren), Sefer hashana (Yearbook), Haolam (The world), Heever (Exposition), and the Russian Jewish Perezhitoie (The past) and Evreiskaia entsiklopediya (Jewish encyclopedia), among others.  In 1897 he edited the Karaite work Tsemaḥ david (The sprout of David) and Yevreiskii ezhegodnik (Jewish annual) (1904/1905-1906/1907).  Together with Shaul Chernikhovsky, he edited Luaḥ hateḥiya (The calendar revived) (1918/1919).  He wrote hundreds of articles and notices on scholarly topics in a variety of languages.  He also published original and translated poetry—in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Yiddish—as well as translated the one-act play Der fus meylekh (The foot king), among others.  In 1884 he illustrated a series of popular Polish booklets (Vilna: Blumovitsh Publ.).  On Antokolsky’s birthday (1897), he designed an artistic address for the honoree in a Jewish style.  He was also involved in Jewish community life.  He was a cofounder of the Ḥevra Shas (Talmud study group) at the businessmen’s synagogue in St. Petersburg and was a committee member of the society for Jewish folk music in St. Petersburg.  He published in book form: Teviḥat habehema (The abattoir) (Vilna, 1893); Haprofesor mordekhai ben matityahu antokolski (Professor Mordechai ben Matityahu Antokolsky) (Warsaw, 1897), 224 pp.; R. mordekhai aharon gintsburg 556-607 (1795-1846) (R. Mordechai Aharon Gintsburg, 1795-1846) (St. Petersburg, 1897), 32 pp.; Sefer toldot mishpeḥot gintsburg (Biography of the Gintsburg families) (St. Petersburg, 1899), 310 pp.; a volume in Russian on Jewish religious dogma (1919), 32 pp.; and another volume in Russian on Jews in the Caucasus.  He also placed articles in Yudisher folksblat (Jewish people’s newspaper) and Fraynd (Friend) in St. Petersburg, for which he also wrote under the pseudonyms Delmegido and “A Bazukher” (A visitor).  He also contributed to Petrograder togblat (Petrograd daily newspaper) (published 1915-1918).  In the monthly Dos leben (The life), a publication of Fraynd in St. Petersburg, he placed the beginning of his popular scientific work Di shrift-kunst (The art of writing), following the Russian work of Y. B. Shnitser, and Ilustrirte algemeyne geshikhte fun shrift-tsaykhns (Illustrated general history of writing symbols).
            Under Bolshevism, Maged did not flow with the current, not in general politics nor in the “Jewish section.”  He was close to Chabad and paid visits in the 1920s to the Lubavitcher rebbe.  Around 1935 he accepted a proposal to write a series of memoirs and characterizations of the followers of the Jewish Enlightenment in Vilna in the 1870s for M. Shalit’s anthology, Fun noentn over (From the recent past).  He contracted an eye ailment at the time, though, and underwent two eye operations.  Despite his illness, he nonetheless worked on this, and in 1936 sent the manuscript of “Vilner maskilim mit 60-65 yor tsurik, zikhroynes un kharakteristikes” (Vilna followers of the Jewish Enlightenment 60-65 years ago, memoirs and characterizations).  From there, he wrote: about his father Hillel Noah Steinschneider in Fun noentn over (Warsaw: Literarishe bleter, 1937), vol. 1, pp. 3-12, with an introduction by the editor and a preface by the author; about Matisyahu Strashun in vol. 2 of the journal, pp. 106-12; about Adam Ha-Cohen and his son Micah-Joseph [Lebensohn] in vol. 3, pp. 189-201; about Shmuel-Yosef Fin in vol. 4, pp. 281-94.  He signed all of these pieces: Prof. Dovid Magid (Leningrad).  He completed the series with lines: “With this chapter, I now end my memoirs about the old Enlightenment figures of Vilna.  If my health allows me and I am able to continue my memoirs generally, I hope to touch upon [Ayzik-Meyer] Dik, Plungyaner, and Shulman.”  These memoirs were composed in a Vilna Yiddish and were filled with vibrant moments from that earlier era.  He died around 1940 in Leningrad.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; P. Kon, in Moment (Warsaw) 223 (1925); R. Barinin, in Tog (New York) (February 16, 1931); Dr. Yisroel Tsinberg, Di geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn (The history of Yiddish literature) vol. 8 (Vilna, 1937), pp. 130-31; Fun noentn over (Vilna) 1 (1937), p. 3; Joseph Klausner, Historiya shel hasifrut haivrit haadasha (History of modern Hebrew literature), vol.4 (Jerusalem, 1954), p. 371; information from Rabbi Chaim Liberman in New York.
Zaynvl Diamant

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