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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Published: 2022-02-03


Baal Machšoves (Dr. Izraelis Eljaševas), Geklibene fontn (Selected Writings), Volume 2, Yiddish, Vilnius, Š. Šreberkas publishing house, printed by Borisas Kleckinas’ printing house, Vilnius, 1910. Ref. No. VŽM 720)
This year Kaunas holds the titled of the European Capital of Culture 2022. Looking back at the contribution of the people who lived and created in Kaunas to the culture of Lithuania and the world, let us remember the famous doctor from Kaunas, who became a pioneer of professional literary criticism of Jewish literature.
Baal-Machšoves (real name Israelis Eljaševas) (1873-1924), 1909. Ref. No. VŽM 1080-5
Kaunas-born Izraelis Eljaševas studied medicine at the universities of Heidelberg and Berlin, and became a neurologist. While still abroad and when in Lithuania, he engaged in medical activities, but being a very diverse personality Eljaševas became involved in another field – literary criticism of Jewish literature – and became a professional literary critic of Jewish literature. Under the nickname of Baal Machšoves (Thinker in Hebrew), Eljaševas published works of literary criticism of Yiddish literature, studies on Jewish writers and Russian classics, and analysed characteristic phenomena of various eras that influenced Jewish literature. Eljaševas emphasized the unity of Jewish literature despite its linguistic duality, and introduced European standards and norms in the interpretation of Jewish literature. He also translated into Yiddish works of European literature, including those by Ivan Turgenev and Lev Tolstoy.
One of Baal Machšoves' works is part of the museum's collection: Geklibene fontn (Selected Writings), Volume 2, Yiddish, published in Vilnius in 1910. This volume consists of five parts: articles of literary criticism (about Abraham Mapu, Chaim Nachman Bialik, etc.), comments about literary criticism, ironic stories (street prophet, etc.), national Jewish holidays (Sabbath, Pesach, Rosh Hashanah), and the rubric In difficult times (Jewish emigration, etc.). All five volumes of Selected Writings were printed between 1910 and 1915.
In the 1930s, Eljaševas' sister Estera Eljaševaitė-Veisbartienė (1878–1941) continued her brother's work in interwar Lithuania as a literary critic of Jewish literature. Estera was famous as a prominent Jewish cultural activist and scientist. She was a literary critic, journalist, writer, translator and teacher, and studied philosophy at European universities. She defended her doctoral thesis in philosophy at the University of Bern.
The holdings of the museum contain a volume of selected Jewish stories translated from Yiddish into Lithuanian by Chackelis Lemchenas and others and published in Kaunas in 1931 by Spaudos Fondas (ref. No. VŽM 461) with the introductory word about Jewish literature by Estera Eljaševaitė-Veisbartienė:
Prepared by Ilona Murauskaitė, Head of Inventory, Research and Conservation of Holdings Department
© From the holdings of VGMJH
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