The Editor, The Newspaper and the City: Hayim Zelig Slonimski and the Hatsfira

Ela Bauer

Seminar ha-Kibbutzim, Tel Aviv/Haifa University

The aim of this paper is to re-evaluate the links and connections of Hazefira and its first editor with Warsaw. Already in the introductory article in the first issue of Hazefira in February 1862, Hayim Zelig Slonimski, the founder and the first editor, presented the goal he set himself – the diffusion of popular science among Jews living in Polish lands. These Jews were keeping quiet, afraid of approaching the gates of science and afraid to educate their sons in modern ways. Thus, argued Slonimski and not for the first time, writing in Hebrew on different scientific issues could encourage progress and the integration of the Jews in the societies where they lived, particularly in Polish territory.  As a result of Slonimski’s goal, Hazefira distinguished itself from other leading Hebrew periodicals such as Hamelits and Hamagid.  Indeed Hazefira was the first Hebrew periodical that published in Congress Poland. However different studies that have examined this newspaper argue that Hazefira had minimal interest in Polish and the Polish Jewish environment. Hence in spite of these previous studies  this paper will try to assess the contribution of Hazefira to the formation of a Jewish public sphere in Warsaw in the second half of the nineteenth century. It will also discuss the involvement of  Slonimski (who had  lived in Warsaw from the early 1840s) and  what we can consider as the Hazefira circle, in Jewish public and cultural activities  in Warsaw  and how this involvement developed  and changed  until the year  1886, when Nahum Sokolow became co-editor  and turned Hazefira into the most important Hebrew daily  in Eastern Europe .

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