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Goldbaum, Meshulam Zalman

(1836–1915), Hebrew poet and playwright. Born in Lwów, Meshulam Goldbaum was inspired to write poetry by the revolutions of 1848 (his initial pieces have not survived). His earliest remaining poem is “Be-hakifi pe’ot roshi” (When My Sidelocks Surround Me), written when he was 15; the work protests against external marks that set Jews apart from gentiles.

Goldbaum’s first poems were printed at the beginning of a commentary on the book of Job, Iyov: ‘Im perush . . . ha-nikra Safah la-ne’emanim (Language for the Faithful) by his mentor, Naḥman Yitsḥak ha-Kohen Fishman, published in Lwów in 1854. Other titles appeared in the first issue of the periodical Meged yeraḥim, edited by Yosef Kohen-Tsedek in 1855. Goldbaum also wrote poems for special occasions and even received a note of gratitude from Napoleon III for a piece written in the latter’s honor.

Goldbaum married and settled in Iaşi in 1857. Working in commerce and teaching, he helped to promote the Haskalah, established a school, and represented Jewish interests within the local government. He published articles in German and French on the rights of Jews in Romania, and corresponded with diplomats and key figures on issues involving political status. In response to a letter, Napoleon III agreed to support the rights of Jews.

In 1873, Goldbaum published the play Yedidyah ha-isi ben Shim‘on ben Shetaḥ. Inspired by the Masonic movement, he presented the Essenes of the Second Temple—who were inclined toward secrecy, seclusion, and charity—as spiritual forefathers of the Freemasons (to which society Goldbaum belonged). Before the play was published, Goldbaum’s wife died and he became impoverished. He remarried, probably around 1879.

In 1888, Goldbaum’s political stands forced him to leave Romania, where he had promoted the Haskalah for more than 30 years. He went back to Lwów and continued to write, producing contemplative poetry and pieces about nature. In 1910, Goldbaum published his collected poems. The influence of classic German poetry, and of Goethe in particular, is obvious in his anthology. The only translation in the book is of Goethe’s poem “Das Göttliche” (The Divine), which Goldbaum translated as “Hamone ma‘alah.” Goldbaum’s perception of the unity of God and nature was affected, also, by his reading of Spinoza. In 1915, Goldbaum published a second part of his collected works. He died in Prague, where he had fled as a refugee during World War I.

Suggested Reading

Nathan Michael Gelber, Toldot ha-tenu‘ah ha-Tsiyonit be-Galitsyah, 1875–1918 (Jerusalem, 1958), vol. 1, p. 129; Nurit Govrin, “Meshulam Zalman Goldbaum: Biyografyah shel meshorer she-nishkhaḥ,” Ha-Sifrut 1.3–4 (1969): 697–716, also in Keri’at ha-dorot: Sifrut ‘ivrit be-ma‘agaleha, vol. 1, pp. 125–157 (Tel Aviv, 2002); Getzel Kressel, “Goldbaum, Meshulam Zalman,” in Leksikon ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ba-dorot ha-aḥaronim, vol. 1, p. 409 (Merḥavyah, Isr., 1965); Fischel Lachower, Toldot ha-sifrut ha-‘ivrit ha-ḥadashah: ‘Im dugma’ot shel metav ha-sifrut le-talmidim ule-mitlamdim (Tel Aviv, 1955), vol. 4, pp. 26–33.



Translated from Hebrew by Rami Hann