Our first luncheon of the semester took place on February 17th, where Professor of Hebrew Dr. Sam Schneider spoke about the intriguing case of Yosef Haim Brenner (1881-1921), the forerunner and father of modern Hebrew Literature.  Yosef Haim Brenner, who immigrated to Palestine in 1909 and dramatically lost his life during the Yaffa riots, left a rich body of novels and stories, later translated to many languages, that were extremely influential literarily and philosophically on the generation of Israeli intellectuals that came after him.
Dr. Schneider began his talk by tracing Brenner’s early life and biography.  He described the simplicity of Brenner’s early biography, explaining that most Hebrew writers went through the same rites of passage.  Brenner was born in a shtetl in Ukraine and then went to yeshivas, moving from place to place when the shtetls began emptying at the end of the nineteenth century.  He was conscripted into the Russian army, where he encountered anti-Semitism, before deserting and moving to London.  Eventually he returned to Galicia, before moving to Israel around 1908.  During this entire time, he continued writing prolifically and publishing his work.  His writing was very autobiographical and had a wide readership.  Dr. Schneider discussed Brenner’s books and themes.  Luncheon
An important theme that evolved was the question of how to handle the past and tradition.  Brenner wanted to start focusing on the present rather than on the past, and he became an anti-religious writer, asserting that religion was the cause that brought the Jews to the current situation of anti-Semitism.   But in spite of this, the great religious figures of the time, like Rav Kook, had great respect for him.  Since Brenner was a key figure in Hebrew literature, his thoughts had a great influence.
After his talk, Dr. Schneider took questions from students and professors in the audience.
 

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