NOMBERG, HERSH DAVID


NOMBERG, HERSH DAVID (1876–1927), Yiddish essayist and short story writer. Nomberg was born into a family of rabbis and Ḥasidim, in Mszczonow, near Warsaw. Though he traveled widely, Nomberg remained associated with the Polish capital. After both a traditional Jewish and a self-taught secular education, he joined the circle of Y.L. *Peretz (to which Abraham *Reisen and Sholem *Asch also belonged), becoming an ardent and loyal disciple and one of the best interpreters of his works. It was Peretz who persuaded Nomberg to write in Yiddish, his first poem in this language appearing in 1900. Nomberg wrote for the Warsaw Hebrew paper Ha-Ẓofeh (1903–5) and was, for a time, its editor. His first collection of Hebrew stories appeared in 1905, followed by five collections in Yiddish. It was under his and Peretz's influence that the struggle between Hebraists and Yiddishists at the *Czernowitz Yiddish Conference in 1908 was resolved and a compromise resolution adopted which proclaimed Yiddish as a (not the) national language of the Jews. The anonymous hero of his masterful, psychoanalytical tale "Fligelman" ("Winged Man," 1908) served as a symbol for the entire generation of this crucial period. Indeed, most of Nomberg's heroes can be characterized as "winged men."

After 1910 Nomberg almost entirely gave up belles-lettres for politics and journalism. In 1916, he was one of the founders of the Folkspartei ("People's Party") which advocated concentration on Jewish autonomous rights in Poland, though not opposing emigration to Ereẓ Israel. He served in 1919–20 as a member of the Polish Sejm. In 1912, however, he published the later often-staged drama, Di Mishpokhe ("The Family," 1912), based on the idea of the potential for moral improvement in humans. His interest in the Yiddish theater was also expressed through reviews and translations.

In general he was a controversial figure: his characters often reverse traditional gender roles, while his language is characterized by minimalist, anti-rhetorical traits. In the press of the time he was often compared with the protagonists of his fiction in their cynicism and lack of values. His criticism of progressive movements, such as the New York group, Di *Yunge, contributed to this trend. Even so, Nomberg helped to provide a home for Jewish writers in Warsaw. He was the driving force behind, and for many years the president of, the Society for Jewish Writers and Journalists, which came to be better known as "Tlomatske 13," after the address of its building, a famed center of Yiddish cultural activity until its liquidation by the Nazis. Jewish audiences followed his perceptive articles, especially in the Warsaw Yiddish daily Der Moment, with which he was connected for a decade. When he died in 1927, tens of thousands of his readers accompanied him to his grave near that of his friend and preceptor Peretz. His was one of the few tombstones which survived Nazi destruction.

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Rejzen, Leksikon, 2 (1929), 523–33; LNYL, 6 (1965), 160–8; S. Lestchinsky, Literarishe Eseyen (1938), 58–63; M. Ravitch, Mayn Leksikon (1945), 141–3; S. Mendelson, Leben un Shafen (1949), 169–76; J.J. Trunk, Tsvishn Viln un Onmekhtikeyt (1930); Jeshurin, in: Oysgeklibene Shriftn (1956), 236–52; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 443. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: M. Meged, in: H. Nomberg, Sippurim (1969), 7–41.

[Melech Ravitch /

Shifra Kuperman (2nd ed.)]


Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.