Trit in der nakht (Steps in the Night), by Hadasah Rubin (Warsaw: Farlag Yidish Bukh, 1957). Illustration by L. Mergszylski. (YIVO)

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Rubin, Hadasah

(1912–2003), Yiddish poet, editor, and cultural activist. Hadasah Rubin was born into a poor family in Iampol’, Ukraine. In 1921, her family moved to Zbarazh in Galicia and later to Kremenets, where she finished high school. In her youth Rubin was an ardent member of the Communist Party, and consequently spent a few years in a Polish prison. She emerged with her revolutionary zeal intact and a bundle of poems under her arm. Traces of this youthful restlessness, which pervaded her early political sensibilities, stayed present in her work throughout her literary career. Even though she later renounced communism, she maintained her original ideals, namely freedom, equality, and friendship among nations.

In 1932, Rubin moved to Vilna, where she made her literary debut in Zalmen Reyzen’s newspaper Der tog and joined the literary and artistic group Yung-Vilne. The themes of her work were established early on: with deeply felt sensitivity she wrote about people, social injustice, and later the Holocaust. She also found a source of warmth and comfort in nature. Her poetry is notable for its distinctive imagery; her trademark poems are short and prayer-like. Describing her lyrical style, the critic Dovid Sfard remarked, “In the poems of Hadasah Rubin there is deep sadness, real human sorrow. And love. A lot of tender, human love.”

Rubin spent the war years in Kirgiziia in Soviet Central Asia. Afterward she returned to Poland and continued to write poetry. She also played a prominent role in Jewish cultural life as chair of the Jewish cultural community center in Szczecin from 1948 to 1952. Subsequently, in 1953, Rubin moved with her husband and daughter to Warsaw, where she worked as a newspaper  and literary editor. That same year her first volume of poems was published in Warsaw, followed by two more collections in the 1950s. She was a staff member of the journal Yidishe shriftn from 1956 to 1959.

Rubin left Poland with her family and moved to Israel in 1960, settling in a suburb of Tel Aviv. This change of environment had a profound effect on her poetic output, which from then also drew its inspiration from life in Israel. Four more volumes of her poetry were published in Tel Aviv. Avrom Sutzkever regularly featured her work in his journal Di goldene keyt, and her poems appeared in numerous other Yiddish journals worldwide, with a number also translated into Polish, Hebrew, and English. Hadasah Rubin was awarded several literary prizes, most importantly the Dovid Hofshteyn Prize. The jury commented, “Her tears are not watery, they are not plaintive. Her tears are like pearls on a thread of sadness and sleepless nights. Her sorrow is for man’s fate, precisely because of his humanity.” Although Rubin’s last volume of poems was published in 1995, she continued writing prolifically until her death.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Glatstein, Af greyte temes (Tel Aviv, 1967), pp. 306–310; Ruvn Goldberg, “Rubin, Hadase,” in Leksikon fun der nayer yidisher literatur, vol. 8, cols. 410–411 (New York, 1981); Gitl Mayzel, “Hadase Rubin,” Di goldene keyt 51 (1965): 210–213; Hadasa Rubin, Mayn gas iz in fener (Warsaw, 1953); Hadasa Rubin, Veytik un freyd (Warsaw, 1955); Hadasa Rubin, Trit in der nakht (Warsaw, 1957); Hadasa Rubin, Fun mentsh tsu mentsh (Tel Aviv, 1964); Hadasa Rubin, In tsugvint (Tel Aviv, 1981); Hadasa Rubin, Eyder tog: Lider (Tel Aviv, 1988); Hadasa Rubin, Rays nisht op di blum (Tel Aviv, 1995).