The Zhitomiri

A Limmud FSU Delegation Traveled Ukraine in the Footstpes of Chaim Nachman Bialik

ch. 29, p. 245
"A Limmud FSU delegation has traveled through Ukraine following the fascinating life story of the national poet – Chaim Nachman Bialik.
The delegation had many stops along the way: Bialik’s date and place of birth are unknown, but what is known is that he was raised in Radi until the age of 5, then his family moved to Smolyanka district of Zhitomir. Bialik’s father died when he was only 10, which led to him moving to live with his strict religious grandfather in a suburb of Zhitomir. Because of his scholastic abilities he suffered from the jealousy of his cousins and faced their antagonism daily, but he found solace in his grandfather’s sacred books. The delegation has visited the grandfather’s house, now the home of a 76-year-old Jewish woman, Perla Gershovna Heller. At some point Bialik has left his father’s house and went to the Volozhin Yeshiva, where he received the nickname Zhitomiri, after the place he came from, made some close friends, and wrote some of his famous poems. After three months in Volozhin Yeshiva, Bialik’s interest waned. He continued to write poems and to be active in the Zionist movement, Netzach Israel. At one stage, he bitterly came to the conclusion that Volozhin was “just Gemara, Gemara, Gemara,” and he decided to leave. He arrived at Odessa with special interest in the group of Hebrew poets in the city. He met Lillienblum and let him read his poem “To a Bird”. Lillienblum sent Bialik to Ahad Ha’am, who was impressed and sent him to Yehoshua Ravnitzky, who was the editor and publisher of the influential literary journal “Pardess”, and was happy to publish the poem. In march 1982 Bialik suddenly left Odessa. He was worried that his grandfather would find out that he was no longer a student in Volozhin so he hurried back to Zhtomir. There he found out his grandfather was dying. Hid grandfather wanted to secure his financial future and had him marry Manya Averbuch. Bialik started working at her father’s business but failed so he took a position as a teacher in Sosnowiec. He returned to Odessa in June 1900, this time as a man with a solid reputation behind him. He lived there for 21 years."
About Chaim N. Bialik

The Israeli Natioanl Poet

Chaim Nachman Bialik (January 9, 1873 – July 4, 1934), also Chaim or Haim, was a Jewish poet who wrote primarily in Hebrew but also in Yiddish. Bialik was one of the pioneers of modern Hebrew poetry. He was part of the vanguard of Jewish thinkers who gave voice to the breath of new life in Jewish life. Although he died before Israel became a state, Bialik ultimately came to be recognized as Israel's national poet.
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