Tag Archives: Bialik Prize

Jew of the Week: Martin Buber

Father of Spiritual Zionism

Mordechai Martin Buber (1878-1965) was born in Vienna to a religious Jewish family. His parents got divorced when he was just three years old, so Buber was raised in what was then Poland by his grandfather. Despite growing up in a richly Hasidic home, Buber began reading secular literature and returned to Vienna as a young man to study philosophy. Around the same time, he became active in the Zionist movement and soon became the editor of Die Welt, the main newspaper of Zionism. It wasn’t long before Buber became dissatisfied with the secularism and “busyness” of Zionism and returned (partially) to his Hasidic roots. He saw in Hasidic communities the right model for a new Israel, and a better alternative to the entirely-secular kibbutz. Buber ultimately saw Zionism not as a nationalist or political movement, but as a religious movement that should, first and foremost, serve to spiritually enrich the Jewish people—along with the rest of the world. He would later be credited with being the father of “Hebrew humanism” and “spiritual Zionism”. In 1908, he was invited to address a group of Jewish intellectuals known as the “Prague Circle”, and to “remind them about their Judaism”, as the group’s leader had requested. Among the members of the Circle was (former Jew of the Week) Franz Kafka, who was greatly influenced by Buber. During World War I, Buber established the Jewish National Committee to provide relief for Jews, especially those suffering in Eastern Europe. Throughout all these years, Buber wrote penetrating works on a vast range of themes, including philosophy and psychology, mythology, mysticism, and Hasidism. He co-produced a new translation of the Tanakh into German, and published his most famous essay, “I and Thou”. In 1930, Buber became a professor at the University of Frankfurt. He resigned in protest three years later when Hitler came to power. The Nazis forbade Jews from participating in public adult education classes, so Buber founded the Central Office for Jewish Adult Education. In 1938, he made aliyah and settled in Jerusalem, becoming professor of anthropology and sociology at the Hebrew University. Several years later, he was a founding member of the Ihud party, which prioritized making peace with neighbouring Arabs and worked to establish a bi-national state. Buber was nominated for a Nobel Prize a whopping 17 times (ten times for Literature, and seven times for Peace), though he was never awarded one. He did win the Israel Prize and the Bialik Prize, among many others. Today, the 13th of Sivan, is his yahrzeit.

Words of the Week

The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.
– Martin Buber

Jew of the Week: Miriam Roth

A Beloved Writer and Educator

Anna Miriam Roth (1910-2005) was born in what is now Slovakia to Jewish-Hungarian parents. She studied psychology and pedagogy at Brno University in the Czech Republic, and was a member of Hashomer Hatzair, the Zionist youth organization. Upon graduating, she made aliyah to the Holy Land on her own and took up studies at Tel Aviv’s teacher’s college before enrolling at the Hebrew University. In 1937, she co-founded Kibbutz Sha’ar HaGolan, where she lived most of her life and worked as a teacher. Back in Europe, her entire family perished in the Holocaust. To make matters worse, during Israel’s War of Independence, the Arab forces burned down her kibbutz—including all photographs and letters from her family. In 1955, Roth published The Preschool Method, one of the first textbooks for early childhood education. She followed that up with The Theory of the Kindergarten in 1956, and The Child and You in 1958. A couple of years later, Roth relocated to New York to further her studies. She went on to earn a Master’s in education from Columbia University, as well as a Master’s in pedagogy from City College, New York. Upon her return to Israel, she continued her writing career, and soon began writing children’s books, too. Among her first were the very popular A Tale of Five Balloons (which sold over half a million copies and won a UNICEF Smile Award), HaBayit Shel Yael (“Yael’s House”), and Hot Corn. Perhaps her most famous work is Yuval HaMebulbal (“Confused Yuval”), now also an Israeli television show for kids. All in all, Roth wrote 23 books for children, along with 6 books on childhood education. She won the Ze’ev Price for Lifetime Achievement in 1990, and the Bialik Prize for Literature in 2002. Roth worked as a teacher for nearly five decades, and trained many of Israel’s educators. She is credited with being both a pioneer of Israeli education and of early childhood education worldwide.

Words of the Week

Many parents do not know how to handle their children. They have not learned the laws governing a child’s development and are not familiar with his needs. It seems that ‘parenting’, too, is a profession that must be taught.
– Miriam Roth