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Hillel Halkin

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Hillel Halkin (Hebrew: הלל הלקין; born 1939) is an American-born Israeli translator, biographer, literary critic, and novelist who has lived in Israel since 1970.


Hillel Halkin was born in New York City two months before the outbreak of World War II. He was the son of Abraham S. Halkin, then a professor of Jewish literature, history, and culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America,[1] and his wife Shulamit, a daughter of Rabbi Meir Bar-Ilan.[2] In 1970, he made aliyah to Israel and settled in Zikhron Ya'akov. He studied English literature at Columbia University.[3]

Halkin is married to Marcia and is the father of two daughters.[4]

Literary career[edit]

Halkin translates Hebrew and Yiddish literature into English. He has translated Sholem Aleichem's Tevye the Dairyman, and major Hebrew and Israeli novelists, among them Yosef Haim Brenner, S. Y. Agnon, Shulamith Hareven, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, and Meir Shalev.

Halkin won a National Jewish Book Award in 1978 for his first original book Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist's Polemic (1977).[5] He expressed why American Jews should immigrate to Israel.[3]

Halkin's second book, Across the Sabbath River (2002), is a work of travel literature in which he goes in search of the truth behind the mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes. He became increasingly interested in the Bnei Menashe—who began to immigrate to Israel from India in the late 20th century—and helped to arrange DNA testing for the group in 2003 in Haifa.[6] Since then, he has written A Strange Death: a novel based on the local history of Zikhron Ya'akov, where he resides. His intellectual biography of Yehuda Halevi won a 2010 National Jewish Book Award.[7][8]

In 2012, Halkin published his first novel, Melisande! What Are Dreams? The critic D. G. Myers described it as a "unique and moving study of marriage, a love letter to conjugal love."[9]

In 2014, Halkin published a new biography of Vladimir Jabotinsky.

Halkin writes frequently on Israel and Jewish culture and politics. His articles have been published in Commentary, The New Republic, The Jerusalem Post , and other publications. He is a member of the editorial board of the Jewish Review of Books.

Halkin is the author of the Philologos column, originally in The Forward, and later in Mosaic. The American literary critic, Edward Alexander, identified him as the author of the column. Mira Sucharov of Canadian Jewish News claimed that "Philologos" is Halkin's pseudonym.[10][11] Halkin later admitted to being the author.[12]

Published works[edit]


  • Halkin, Hillel (1977). Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist's Polemic. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society. ISBN 978-0-8276-0207-6.
  • Across the Sabbath River: In Search of a Lost Tribe of Israel. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002. ISBN 978-0-618-02998-3.
  • A Strange Death. New Milford, Connecticut: Toby Press. 2010. ISBN 978-1-59264-280-9.
  • Yehuda Halevi. New York: Nextbook/Schocken Books. 2010. ISBN 978-0-8052-4206-5.
  • Melisande! What Are Dreams?. London: Granta. 2012. ISBN 978-1-84708-499-6.
  • Jabotinsky: a life. Jewish Lives. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. 2014. ISBN 978-0-30013-662-3.



  1. ^ Hillel Halkin, "Either/Or: A Memoir," Commentary 122 (September 2006): 48–55.
  2. ^ "Meir Bar-Ilan". Archived from the original on 2015-02-03.
  3. ^ a b "Anglo translators [first in a series]: Like being the dance partner of the greatest dancer", Haaretz
  4. ^ "'A Strange Death' by Hillel Halkin", Commentary
  5. ^ "Past Winners of the National Jewish Book Award for the Israel category". Jewish Book Council. Archived from the original on 2020-03-08. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  6. ^ Caryl Phillips, "The Disappeared Archived 2013-10-07 at the Wayback Machine," The New Republic (September 26, 2002).
  7. ^ Marc Tracy, "Halkin Wins National Jewish Book Award," Tablet, January 11, 2011.
  8. ^ "Past Winners". Jewish Book Council. Retrieved 2020-01-21.
  9. ^ D. G. Myers, "Let My People Go," Commentary 113 (April 2012): 69.
  10. ^ Edward Alexander (9 February 2017). "Reflections on Death, Mourning and the Afterlife in the Jewish Tradition". Algemeiner Journal. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  11. ^ Sucharov, Mira (24 May 2016). "Making Hatikvah an anthem for all of Israel's citizens". Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 13 February 2017.
  12. ^ Ivry, Benjamin (31 August 2021). "Why a master of languages decided to reveal his true identity". The Forward. Retrieved 31 August 2021.

External links[edit]