Jüdischer Almanach, Prague, 1930–1931 [5691 in the Hebrew calendar], coedited by Friedrich Thieberger and Felix Weltsch. (Leo Baeck Institute, New York)

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Thieberger, Friedrich

(1888–1958), writer, translator, and teacher. Friedrich Thieberger was born in Golčův Jeníkov (Goltsch-Jenikau), Bohemia, to a rabbinical family. He studied philosophy and philology in Prague, where he also taught modern languages and philosophy in German secondary schools. He was dismissed from his job in 1939 and moved to Palestine. There, he worked first as writer and later as a librarian at the B’nai B’rith Lodge in Jerusalem, the city in which he died.

An active Zionist, in 1910 Thieberger became a member of the Bar Kochba Association after reading Martin Buber’s lectures on cultural Zionism, which Buber had recently delivered in Prague. Thieberger wrote numerous articles for Der Jude, the journal edited by Buber, as well as for SelbstwehrPrague’s Zionist newspaper. He also translated works from Yiddish into German, in particular the poetry of Morris Rosenfeld. In 1918, he taught Franz Kafka Hebrew. Thieberger’s sister Gertrude married the Prague-based German writer Johannes Urzidil.

In 1921, Thieberger helped found Společnost pro Pěstování Hebrejské šeči a Literatury pro Československou Republiku (Society for the Fostering of Hebrew Language and Literature in the Czechoslovak Republic) and served as its first chair. The aims of this association were to organize Hebrew courses, support research in Hebrew language and literature, present lectures, and build a library. After a few promising years, the society halted its activities in 1925. Thieberger was an active member of B’nai B’rith Lodge Bohemia in Prague and became its president in 1932. He also edited the B’nai B’rith Monatsblätter der Grossloge für den Čechoslovakischen Staat from 1926 to 1938. Between 1924 and 1931 he was a coeditor, with Felix Weltsch, of the Jüdischer Almanach, a yearbook published by the Jewish National Fund.

Thieberger’s books and articles were primarily concerned with the Jewish religion. Jüdisches Fest, jüdischer Brauch (Jewish Holiday, Jewish Custom; 1936) explains in detail the traditions and customs connected with Jewish holidays, with short stories from Jewish literature illustrating each holiday. In his article “Masarykovo kredo a židovské náboženství” (Masaryk’s Credo and the Jewish Religion; 1931) Thieberger demonstrates the closeness of Tomáš Masaryk’s theology to the ideas of the Hebrew Bible. In 1954, Thieberger published The Great Rabbi Loew of Prague, in which he gave evidence that the Golem legend had been invented centuries after the death of Yehudah Leib (Löw) ben Betsal’el (Maharal of Prague). He underscored the originality of Löw’s philosophy and asserted that Löw could be viewed as a pre-Zionist thinker.

Suggested Reading

Kateřina Čapková, “The Jewish Elites in the 19th and 20th Centuries: The B’nai B’rith Order in Central Europe,” Judaica bohemiae 36 (2000): 119–142; Friedrich Thieberger, Jüdisches Fest, jüdischer Brauch (Berlin, 1936; rpt. 1967, 1979); Friedrich Thieberger, “Masaryk’s Credo and the Jewish Religion,” in Thomas G. Masaryk and the Jews: A Collection of Essays, ed. Ernst Rychnovsky (New York, 1941); Friedrich Thieberger, The Great Rabbi Loew of Prague: His Life and Work and the Legend of the Golem (London, 1954).