Peretz Smolenskin

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Peretz Smolenskin

Peretz (Peter) Smolenskin (Hebrew: פרץ (פטר) סמולנסקין‬;‎1842–1885), was part of the Haskalah movement, and the founder and editor of a literary Hebrew language journal Ha-Shachar, (The Dawn.) He also wrote several novels and short stories in Hebrew. He helped to strengthen a nationalistic Haskalah movement in partnership with Zionism.[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Peretz Smolenskin was born in Monastyrshchina,[2] Mogilev Governorate, Russian Empire (in present-day Smolensk Oblast, Russia). His family came from Smolensk. His older brother was seized by the Czar's army and never returned. His father, falsely accused of a crime, was a fugitive for over two years and died when Peretz was eleven. At the age of 12, he left home to study at yeshiva for five years. He began reading secular books and learning Russian under the influence of the Haskalah movement.

Travels through Europe[edit]

Smolenskin traveled through southern Russia and the Crimea, supporting himself by singing in choirs and preaching in synagogues.In 1862 he settled in Odessa where he studied music and languages, taught Hebrew and, in 1867, published his first story. Between his travels through Romania, Germany and Bohemia he acquired Turkish nationality. In Vienna he founded a Hebrew journal that became a literary platform for the Haskalah movement and the early Jewish nationalist movement.


He was stricken with tuberculosis in 1883 and died on February 1, 1885 in Merano, Italy. He completed his last novel, The Inheritance, shortly before his death.[3]

Ha-Shachar and influence[edit]

Smolenskin was a leader in the revolt of young Jews against medievalism and a strong voice for Jewish nationalism. His Hebrew periodical, The Dawn (Ha-shahar השחר), was highly influential in these spheres. Shortly before his death he was associated with Laurence Oliphant and became deeply interested in schemes for the colonization of Palestine. Smolenskin was among the first of Jewish nationalists to disassociate Messianic ideals from theological concomitants.

Published works[edit]

His six novels create a kaleidoscope of Jewish life in which he rejects the notion of the westernized Jew.[4]


The Joy of the Goddess, Vienna, (Simchat Hanef) Ha-Shachar, 1872.

Burial of the Ass Vienna, (Kevurat Hamor קבורת חמור) Ha-Shachar, 1873.

Pride and Fall, Vienna, (Ga'on Va-Shever) Ha-Shahar, 1874.

The Reward of the Righteous, Vienna, Ha-Shahar, (Gemul Yesharim)1875.

The Wanderer in the Paths of Life, Vienna, (Ha-toeh be-darkhe ha-Hayyim, התועה בדרכי החיים) is the story of an orphan, Joseph, and his life in the ghetto. Ha-Shachar, 1876.

The Inheritance (Ha-yerushah הירושה), depicts life in Odessa and Romania. 1877-1884.

Collected Works, Vilna, Katzenelbogen, (Col Sifrei Peretz Smolenskin) 1901.

One Hundred Letters, Vilna, Katzenelbogen, (Meah Michtavim)1905.

The Reward, Vilna, Katzenelbogen, (Meah Michtavim)1910.

Articles, Smolenskin Foundation, (Ma'amarim) 1926.

Selected Stories & Articles, Dvir, (Mivhar Sipurim Ve-Ma'amarim) 1941.


The Wanderer in the Paths of Life, Warsaw, Sefer, 1927


  1. ^ Feiner, Shmuel. "Smolenskin, Perets". The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Translated by David Fachler from Feiner's Hebrew original.
  2. ^ a b c "Peretz Smolenskin". Retrieved 2018-01-02.
  3. ^ Institute for Translation of Hebrew Literature: Peretz Smolenskin
  4. ^ Hebrew literature: Romanticism