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Hebraist-Zionist publishing house. Aḥi’asaf was founded in Warsaw in 1893 by Hebrew writer and publisher Avraham Leib Shalkovich (known as Ben-Avigdor, who soon left to found the rival publishing house Tushiyah), Eli‘ezer Kaplan, and other activists of Bene Mosheh, a secret society within the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement devoted to the national-cultural revival ideals of Ahad Ha-Am. Ahad Ha-Am himself served as editor and exerted substantial ideological influence on the press. Aḥi’asaf is considered the first modern Hebrew publishing house—the first to solicit, publish, and distribute works of individual authors. Early successes gave way to relative inactivity after 1904, with a brief attempted revival by Zionist leader Ozjasz Thon in 1923.

Aḥi’asaf published popular works on Judaism and Jewish history (translations, popularizations, and biographies of Western Jewish historians and thinkers associated with conservative religious modernization; nationalist scholarship by Ze’ev Yavets and Shim‘on Bernfeld). It also issued premodern Jewish texts (medieval Sephardic poetry; Ya‘akov Emden’s Megilat sefer); contemporary Hebrew writing (Zionist works of Ahad Ha-Am and Mosheh Leib Lilienblum; literary works of Mordekhai Ze’ev Feierberg and Yosef Ḥayim Brenner); and works for youth including Avraham Shalom Friedberg’s popular historical tales Zikhronot le-vet David (Memories of the House of David; alongside a Russian adaptation). Its translations were devoted to works of Jewish interest (George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda) and popular social science (Herbert Spencer). The press also published works on Zionism for a popular audience and tools for learning the Hebrew language. It also made an abortive effort to realize Ahad Ha-Am’s plan for an encyclopedia of Judaism, the Otsar ha-yahadut.

Aḥi’asaf also published four periodicals: Luaḥ Aḥi’asaf, Ha-Shiloaḥ, Ha-Dor, and Der yud. The annual Luaḥ Aḥi’asaf (1893/94–1904; 1923) published both established literary figures and younger ones such as Ḥayim Naḥman Bialik and Sha’ul Tchernichowsky. The monthly Ha-Shiloaḥ (1896–1926) became the key Hebraist-Zionist publication under Ahad Ha-Am between 1896 and 1902; he demanded that submissions serve nationalist ends and that essays be written in clear, analytical language. In 1903, literary critic Yosef Klausner became editor, waived Ahad Ha-Am’s strictures, and made Ha-Shiloaḥ (relocated in Odessa) the premiere Hebrew literary and scholarly forum. Ha-Dor (1901–1902, edited by David Frishman) published literature by more experimental writers of the day. Der yud (1899–1902, edited by Zionist activist Y. H. Ravnitski and Hebrew pedagogue Yosef Luria) was a pioneering Yiddish periodical that helped spark the turn-of-the-century Yiddish literary renaissance.

Aḥi’asaf was a core institution of Hebraism and cultural Zionism in the 1890s. Though it sought stable commercial footing, it represented essentially an ideological effort to promote nontraditional Hebrew writing and Zionist-Hebraist ideals. Under the influence of Ahad Ha-Am’s secular cultural nationalism but also the expressly religious nationalism of other founders, it favored works that tied modern Hebrew culture to traditional Judaism reinterpreted as a national heritage—hence its emphasis on Judaica for a traditionally educated but modernizing readership, its educational focus, its indifference to literature emphasizing individual rather than collective national concerns, and its rejection of imitation and importation of European literary trends. In this, it was opposed by Ben-Avigdor’s Tushiyah, which insisted on the importance of literary translation in order to bring Hebrew literature into dialogue with European culture. As reflected in its literary journals, Aḥi’asaf eventually adjusted its policies to these increasingly popular ideas.

Suggested Reading

Mordecai ben Hillel Hacohen (ha-Kohen), ‘Olami, vol. 3 (Jerusalem, 1926/27); Yoḥanan Pograbinski, “Le-Toldot ha-molut ha-‘ivrit,” Ha-Sefer ha-‘ivri: Kovets shenati 9 (New York, 1950/51): 37–56; Samuel Werses (Shemu’el Verses), “Kitve-‘et ‘ivriyim le-sifrut be-Polin ben shete milḥamot ‘olam,” in Ben shete milḥamot ‘olam: Perakim me-ḥaye ha-tarbut shel yehude Polin li-leshonotehem, ed. Chone Shmeruk and Samuel Werses, pp. 96–127 (Jerusalem, 1997).