Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yakov Churgin HaSofer Now Remembered

Yakov Churgin was born on the 23 of December 1899 (י' בטבת ה'תרנ"ט, 1899 - י"ז בשבט ה'תש"ן, 12 בפברואר 1990) and died February 12, 1990. He was the son of HaRav Shmuel Yitzhak Churgin  and the younger brother of Rachel Churgin wife of David Blick - a member of the 39th Royal Fusiliers - HaGdud Ha Evri from World War I.

Just as his father, Yakov Chugin was one of the first modern day Hebrew writers and authors. He was a founding member of the first Va'ad HaLashon. He was a teacher and editor of children's books and magazines during the early years in the history of the Yishuv and during the British Mandated Period. He was a professor of literature Hebrew at Bar - Ilan University. And in 1956 he was awarded the “Lamdan” Scholarship Prize.
He was born in Neve Tzedek or (Abode of Justice) a neighborhood located in southwestern Tel Aviv, Israel. It was the first Jewish neighborhood to be built outside the walls of the ancient port of Jaffa. He learned in the Talmud Torah "Sharei Torah" which was one of the first Hebrew speaking schools in Eretz Yisrael. Later, he studied at a "Midrash" -a college for teachers "Ezra" in Jerusalem, and taught in a "Girls" school Neve Shalom in Jerusalem.

During World War I he was drafted like many members of the Yishuv into the Turkish Army. His job in the Turkish Army was as interpreter of languages ​​Arabic, Turkish and a Liason between a Commander of an Imperial German Army engineering unit and the Turks. During the First World War he accompanied the commander of the German Unit throughout the land of Israel and its surroundings until 1917. With the fall of Jerusalem in the fall of 1917 to the British Army, he returned to Jerusalem.

From 1920 until 1930 he taught in Tiberias and during the years 1936 to 1939 he was chairman of the cultural committee of the Farmers' Association.

From 1952-1954 was a professor at Yeshiva University in New - York. From 1955-1970 he served as a professor at Bar - Ilan University.

In the Fourth Knesset elections of 1959 he was a candidate for office on the list of the General Zionist Party. They merged with the right-wing Herut to form Gahal which later became the Likud.

During the early twenties he began publishing his poems and stories in the journal "HaShiloch" and "Hapoel Hatzair ". Churgin wrote a great deal of children's literature. He was an editor and writer for the Pre-State of Israel Farmers' Association.He wrote many articles for newspapers for children and youth, one weekly magazine that he wrote for belonged to the Farmers' Association. "בוסתנאי לנוער" "The Young Gardener". He also wrote stories for the "הבֹ‏קר לילדים" "The Morning Magazine for Youth".

In the center of Churgin's writings was the image of the "New Jew" or "New Hebrew", who were born in the Land of Israel during the "Yishuv" (Settling of the land) and the (Pre-State of Israel) Mandate For Palestine period . The "Cultural roots" of the new Hebrew, Churgin wrote, are derived from the ancient Hebrew culture in Eretz Yisrael that existed until the revolt of  Bar Kochba. He wrote that this new "Proud and Defiant Militarist Jew" will need to act for the creation of the Jewish Homeland but within the constraints of the social and political circumstances of the British Mandate. Churgin urged and inspired the new modern Hebrew youth  to act as modern contemporaries of Bar Kochba, the leader of the second revolt against Rome. He taught them, "You will need to act as freedom fighters and revolutionaries in order to achieve the State."
As an outcome of the bloody Arab riots of 1929 and the massacre in Hebron and as well with the murderous outpouring of Mufti inspired hatred in 1936. Churgin advocated for a more belligerent, assertive posture with actions against both the occupying British and the belligerency of the Arabs during the "Arab Revolt of 1936. He was a member of the ETZEL-the Irgun Zvai Leumi the pre-state Jewish underground. Because of  Churgin's rejection of  "practical Zionism" expoused by David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann and his "Revisionist" views he was fired from his job as editor of  "בוסתנאי לנוער" "The Young Gardener".

During the Second World War and before the creation of the state, Churgin wrote articles and stories of brave strong and defiant Jews. Be proud of your heritage as those who resist tyranny and the new threat of Nazi anti-Semitism. His words inspired many children and young adults in the pre-State period of the Mandate as well as among those living in Europe.

"His Revisionist views of the "Proud Jew" inspired many among the young Jews. Among them was the Hebrew writer Ehud Ben Ezer - and according to him many more. At his funeral in Feb 1990 at the Kiryat Shaul Cemetary Professor Meir Feldblum Head of The Talmud Department of University Bar Ilan spoke of the time of the Holocaust when he ran away at age 12 from the Vilna Ghetto to join the Partisans of Abba Kovner in the forests. That what inspired him and other young Jews to fight back and survive was Yakov's book “The Young Zealots” (הקנאים הצעירים) that had been published in 1935.

Sadly this proud and defiant Jew who had been branded the "Revisionist" did not sit well with the Labor Party dominated young State of Israel. In his obituary (Seen above) by the newspaper Yediot Achronot he is labeled the writer "הסופר שנשכח והושכח" - The writer who was forgot and forgotten. 

Yakov's research into modern Hebrew poets and poetry mainly scholarly works on: Chaim Nachman Bialik, Uri Zvi Greenberg, Saul and David Shimoni Tchernichovsky had been widely published.

Churgin also documented writings and publications dealing with his childhood and youth, in Neve Tzedek, together with David Tidhar (1897 -1970) British policeman, private detective, author, and communal leader.
Yakov had based his book "הבלש משכונת הצריפים" The Detective From Tzrifin (The British Military base located near Rishon L'Zion) on his friend Tidhar.

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