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József Patai

PATAI, JÓZSEF (1882–1953), Hungarian and Hebrew poet, translator, and editor. Patai, who was born in Gyöngyöspata, taught at a Budapest municipal high school (1908–19).

He published a Hebrew verse collection, Sha'ashu'ei Alumim ("The Pleasures of Youth," 1902), and two anthologies of Hungarian poetry Babilon vizein ("By the Waters of Babylon," 1906) and Sulamit látod a lángot? ("Shulamit, Do You See the Flame?" 1919). A selection of his poems also appeared in English (1920). He published Hungarian versions of the Hebrew poetry of many eras, his translations eventually appearing in five volumes entitled Héber költők ("Hebrew Poets," 1910–12; 19212). Three of his most important works were his volume of early recollections, A középső kapu ("The Middle Gate," 1927); A föltámadó Szentföld ("The Holy Land Restored," 1926), on his first visit to Palestine; and his biography of Theodor *Herzl (1931; Star over Jordan, 1946).

Patai also distinguished himself as editor of the Zionist monthly Mult és Jövő, which he founded in 1912 and edited for 27 years. By publishing good translations of major Jewish writers from many countries, he imbued Hungarian Jewish intellectuals with an appreciation for Jewish literature, art, and thought. Patai also combated the anti-Zionists, he and some associates founding the Magyar Zsidók Pro Palestina Szövetsége ("League of Hungarian Jews for Palestine"), and organizing annual pilgrimages to Ereẓ Israel.

In 1938 Patai emigrated to Palestine. At first he lived in Jerusalem but later settled in Givatayim. His subsequent publications include the three-volume selection of his writings Mivḥar Kitvei Yosef Patai (1943); and a volume based on his lectures at the Hebrew University (Mi-Sefunei ha-Shirah, 1939). His son, Raphael *Patai translated two of his works into English: The Middle Gate: A Hungarian Jewish Boyhood (1994) and Souls and Secrets: Hasidic Stories (1995).

His wife, EDITH (Ehrenfeld) PATAI (1889–1976), author and lyric poet, wrote works of Jewish and Zionist inspiration, notably Engem is hiv a föld ("The Land Calls Me Too," 1927) and a novel, Szent szomjúság ("Sacred Thirst," 1936). His sons were the folklore authority Raphael Patai, and Shaul Patai (1918– ), professor of chemistry at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.


Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon, 2 (1965), 448–9; I. Pap, Patai Edith, a költő (1936).

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