Devorah Baron

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Devorah Baron (also spelled Dvora Baron and Deborah Baron) (27 November 1887 - 20 Augst 1956) was a pioneering Jewish writer, noted for writing in Modern Hebrew and for making a career as a Hebrew author. She has been labeled as the "first Modern Hebrew woman writer".[1] She wrote about 80 short stories, plus a novella titled Exiles. Additionally, she translated stories into Modern Hebrew.

Early years[edit]

She was born in Uzda, about 50 kilometers SSW of Minsk. Her father was a rabbi and took the unusual step of allowing her to attend the same Hebrew classes as boys, though she had to sit in the screened women’s area of the synagogue. She also went on to complete high school, unusual for a girl. She received a teaching credential in 1907. Baron published her first stories in 1902, at the age of 14, in the Hebrew-language newspaper Ha-Melits, which was edited at that time by Leon Rabinowitz. She was engaged to the author Moshe Ben-Eliezer, but he later broke it off.

Emigration and life in Palestine[edit]

In 1910, after her father’s death and later the destruction of her village in a pogrom, she immigrated to Palestine, settling in Neve-Tsedek, a settlement outside of Jaffa that, since 1909, was part of the new city of Tel Aviv. In Palestine she became the literary editor of the Zionist-Socialist magazine Ha-Po’el ha-Za’ir (The Young Worker).[2] She soon married the editor, the Zionist activist Yosef Aharonovitz (1877–1937). Along with other Jews in Palestine, they were deported to Egypt by the Ottoman government,[3] but returned after the establishment of the British Mandate after the First World War. In 1922, Baron and her husband both resigned from the magazine. At this point, she went into seclusion, staying at her home until she died.

Hebrew writings[edit]

When the Bialik Prize for writing was first established in Israel in 1934, she was its first recipient. She later was awarded the Rupin Prize in 1944 and the Brenner Prize for literature in 1951.[4]

Her career as a writer is divided into two significantly different phases. First, she was an active, even daring young woman. Later, she became secluded and passive. But she wrote during both phases. Thus, we can see Baron’s life as divided into two very different halves: her first, active, daring, autonomous phase as a young woman. She wrote some angry stories about the place of women in Jewish life.

In her second phase of life, she was passive, ailing and dependent life-style,[clarification needed] and referred to some of her earlier stories as “rags”.[citation needed] The common thread throughout her life was her dedication to the art of writing, which characterized the author during her seclusion no less than before it. "Seclusion" is not an exaggeration: she chose "not to step foot [sic] out of her house", though for her husband's funeral, one eyewitness reported, "I saw her descend three steps and return to her house."[5] During this period of seclusion, she remained intellectually sharp and continued to write, composing "a group of stories depicting the world as seen through the window of an 'invalid's room' ("Be-Lev ha-Kerakh," in Parashiyyot)".[6] Rachel Shazar notes that her stories "are animated by a deep empathy for the weak and the innocent" and, at the same time, reflect profound learning: "No other woman writer in Israel was as familiar with the sources of Judaism as Devorah Baron."[6]

It was during the later part of her life that she also did some important literary translations into Hebrew, including Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. Though part of the Zionist movement, she wrote much about life back in the shtetl village life of eastern Europe.

Works by Devorah Baron[edit]

  • Stories, Davar, 1927 (Sipurim)
  • Hiding (story), Omanut, 1930 (Gniza)
  • Small Things (stories), Omanut, 1933 (Ktanot)
  • What Has Been (stories), Davar, 1939 (Ma She-Haya)
  • For the Time Being (stories), Am Oved, 1943 (Le-Et Ata)
  • From Over There (stories), Am Oved, 1946 (Mi-Sham)
  • The Brickmaker (stories), Am Oved, 1947 (Ha-Laban)
  • Sunbeams (stories), Am Oved, 1949 (Shavririm)
  • Chapters (stories), Bialik Institute, 1951; ext. ed. 2000 (Parshiyot)
  • Links (stories), Am Oved, 1953 (Chuliyot)
  • From Yesterday (stories), Am Oved, 1955 (Me-Emesh)
  • By the Way (stories), Sifriat Poalim, 1960 (Agav Orcha)
  • Selected Stories, Yachdav/ The Hebrew Writers Association, 1969
  • The Exiles (two novellas), Am Oved, 1970 (Ha-Golim)
  • Three Stories, World Zionist Organization, 1975 (Shlosha Sipurim)
  • Early Chapters (stories), Bialik Institute, 1988 (Parshiyot Mukdamot)
  • Divorcing and Other Stories, Am Oved, 1997 (Kritot Ve-Sipurim Acherim)
  • Shifra (stories), Babel, 2001 (Fradel; Shifra)
  • Chapters (Parshiot), (Jerusalem 1951)
  • The First Day and Other Stories. Translated by Naomi Seidman and Chana Kronfeld. Berkeley: 2001
  • The Thorny Path and Other Stories, trans. Joseph Shachter (Jerusalem, 1969);

Also, translations into Hebrew, including Madame Bovary

Works about Devorah Baron and her writings[edit]

  • Aharonovitz, Zipporah. By the Way (in Hebrew). Merhavyah: 1961. (Biography by her daughter)
  • Bernstein, Marc. 2001. "Midrashj and marginality: The ‘Agunot of S. Y. Agnon and Devorah Baron." Hebrew Studies 42: 7-58. doi:10.1353/hbr.2001.0017
  • Baram, Einat Eshel. 2011. "Outline of a Gender Conflict: Notes on an Early Story by Dvora Baron." Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal 8.2. online
  • Govrin, Nurit. Ha-Maḥatsit ha-ri’shonah [Early chapters]: Devorah Baron (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Mosad Byaliḳ, 1988.
  • Jelen, Sheila. Intimations of Difference: Dvora Baron in the Modern Hebrew Renaissance. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2007.
  • Jelen, Sheila and Shachar Pinsker, eds. Hebrew, Gender, and Modernity: Critical responses to Dvora Baron’s fiction (Studies and texts in Jewish history and culture, 14). Bethesda, MD: University Press of Maryland, 2007.
  • Lieblich, Amia. Conversations with Dvora: An Experimental Biography of the First Modern Hebrew Woman Writer. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Lieblich, Amia. Embroideries: Conversations with Devorah Baron (in Hebrew). Jerusalem: Shoken, 1991.
  • Pagis, Ada, ed. Devorah Baron: Mivḥar ma’amare bikoret ‘al yetsiratah (in Hebrew). Tel Aviv: ʻAm ʻoved, 1974.
  • Seidman, Naomi. A Marriage Made in Heaven: The Sexual Politics of Hebrew and Yiddish. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1997.
  • Zierler, Wendy. 1999. "In What World? Devorah Baron’s Fiction of Exile." Prooftexts 19: 127–150.

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Lieblich, Amia. 1997. Conversations with Dvora: An Experimental Biography of the First Modern Hebrew Woman Writer. Berkeley, CA. 1997.
  2. ^ Lieblich, Amia (March 1, 2009). "Devorah Baron." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 2016-06-26.
  3. ^ p. 9. Bernstein, Marc. 2001. Midrashj and marginality: The ‘Agunot of S. Y. Agnon and Devorah Baron. Hebrew Studies 42: 7-58.
  4. ^ p. 8. Bernstein, Marc. 2001. Midrashj and marginality: The ‘Agunot of S. Y. Agnon and Devorah Baron. Hebrew Studies 42: 7-58.
  5. ^ p. 272. Govrin, Nurit. Devorah Baron, Early Chapters (in Hebrew), Jerusalem: 1988.
  6. ^ a b Shazar, Rachel (2007). "Baron, Devorah." Encyclopaedia Judaica. 2nd ed. Vol. 3. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2007. p. 171. Retrieved via Gale Virtual Reference Library 2016-06-25. Freely available online via Jewish Virtual Library: [1].