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Bader, Gershom

(1868–1953), author, playwright, editor, and journalist in Hebrew, Yiddish, German, and Polish. Gershom Bader was born in Kraków and was a representative figure of the mid-nineteenth-century East European Haskalah. He was the son of a learned melamed (teacher), descendant of a line of prominent rabbis, and a scholar who wrote novels under a pseudonym.

Bader received a traditional education, but studied German and Polish as well and was fully aware of the Jewish and non-Jewish political and cultural developments of his time. From the age of 13, he served as personal secretary to Shim‘on Sofer (chief rabbi of Kraków and son of Ḥatam Sofer), and as a tutor of the rabbi’s grandchildren. When Bader was 16, he went to Berlin, where he intended to study at the Orthodox seminary led by Esriel Hildesheimer. Disappointed after a year, he returned to his hometown.

Until 1888, Bader wandered among the provincial towns and villages around Kraków, often working as a private tutor. When he was 20, he settled in Kolomyja (Ukr., Kolomyia), where he edited the Hebrew scientific literary weekly Ha-Shemesh. A short while later, he returned to Kraków and taught Hebrew at a seminary for teachers. From his early youth, he regularly published articles in Hebrew papers in which he expressed his views on social and political issues. Although he maintained a religious lifestyle, Bader was sharply critical of pro-Hasidic and conservative policies of the established Jewish orthodoxy. Another area in which he departed from the common Orthodox ideology was in his enthusiastic acceptance of the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement and of Jewish emigration to the Land of Israel.

In 1894, Bader settled in Lemberg (Lwów) and continued to work as a Hebrew teacher. At the same time, he was extensively involved in cultural activities and contributed articles to various Hebrew and Yiddish periodicals in Galicia and Poland. In 1896, he published Der yidisher folks-kalendar (until 1912) and, in 1898, he became the editor of the Hebrew biweekly Ha-‘Ivri. In 1902–1903, he was the editor of Ha-Ḥermon, a Hebrew literary almanac and, in 1907, he edited a short-lived Hebrew newspaper, Ha-‘Et.

Despite being a Hebraist who for many years did not ascribe much cultural value to the Yiddish language, Bader also edited Shtraln, a Yiddish literary collection published in 1904 with an additional volume in 1909. However, his most significant contribution to Yiddish culture in Galicia was in the founding of the first Yiddish daily newspaper in Lemberg, Togblat (1904), which continued publishing until the outbreak of World War II.

In 1908, Bader left the editorial staff of Togblat and founded a new paper, Nayster Lemberger togblat, which only existed for a short while. His articles in the new paper focused on literary and theatrical matters. His special interest in the theater and his close association with actors motivated him to establish an organization to support the interests of stage artists, Goldfadn Fareyn (1908), the membership of which included musicians and choral singers, in addition to actors.

Bader wrote several plays; one of them, In keler (In a Cellar), was successfully staged in New York in 1910. In 1912, he immigrated to the United States and settled in New York, where he continued to write for local Jewish newspapers and periodicals and to expand his dramatic yield, with many of his plays produced on stage. In 1916, he published his first book, Tsvishn blut un fayer (Between Blood and Fire). Over the next few years, he published several other books, the most notable of which were Medinah va-ḥakhameha (A Land and Its Scholars; 1934) and Mayne zikhroynes (My Memoirs; 1953).

Suggested Reading

Ben Menachem, “Gershom Bader der shtoltser Galitsyaner,” Yerlekher gedenk-bukh 1 (1961): 51–59.

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 323, Gershom Bader, Collection, 1884-1953; RG 478, Joseph Hillel Levy, Papers, 1930S-1950s; RG 513, Chaim Bloch, Papers, 1920s-1960s.



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann