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Braunstein, Menaḥem Mendel

(1858–1944), philologist and educator. Raised in Iaşi, Romania, Menaḥem Braunstein (also Braunstein-Mebaşan, the latter element being the Hebrew acronym of his name) studied philology, specializing in European languages. As a young man he was part of a group of maskilim, an informal set of people with headquarters at a coffee shop in Iaşi. In 1887 he set up Doresh le-Tsiyon, an organization whose objective was to encourage immigration to the land of Israel. That same year, he founded the Yiddish newspaper Der yudishe folksfraynd.

Braunstein was a founding, active member of the Iuliu Barasch Historical Society. As the first researcher to focus on Jewish oral history, Braunstein recorded a considerable number of oral testimonies that he eventually published. In Warsaw between 1897 and 1904, he published a monumental work, his general history of the Jewish people titled Divre ha-yamim li-vene Yisra’el, in four volumes. This text was followed in 1905 by an abridged edition, published in Craiova.

Braunstein dedicated much of his time to developing textbooks for Jewish schools in Romania, especially for studying Hebrew. In Sefer ha-moreh (The Teacher’s Book; 1905), he outlined the foundations of his method, in which Hebrew was taught by using the language itself. Braunstein wrote about this approach in numerous articles, primarily in the periodical Institutorul evreu (The Jewish Teacher).

Braunstein was a member of various bodies of Jewish teachers, and he taught Hebrew at Jewish Romanian schools in Vaslui and, over shorter periods, in Bacău and Piatra Neamț. He linked his teaching activities to his Zionist beliefs, and supported the cultural Zionist ideas that had been developed by Ahad Ha-Am and in Romania by Rabbi Iacob Isac Niemirower (Braunstein even wrote a biography of the latter in 1913). One of Braunstein’s goals was to establish Jewish school libraries for teachers and students. He developed a model for them and included a basic bibliography for training teachers. Braunstein was also a translator: among his works in this area were Cuore by Edmondo de Amici and Gulliver’s Travels (published in Tel Aviv in 1944). In 1914, Braunstein immigrated to Palestine, where he worked as a journalist, continued his literary activities, and published translations.

Suggested Reading

Nicolae Cajal and Hary Kuler, eds., Contribuția evreilor din România la cultură şi civilizație (Bucharest, 1996); Liviu Rotman, Ha-Ḥevrah bi-re’i ha-ḥinukh: Bet ha-sefer ha-Yehudi ha-Romani, 1851–1914 (Tel Aviv, 1999); Liviu Rotman, Şcoala israelito-română, 1851–1914 (Bucharest, 1999).



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea