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Yoḥanan Twersky

TWERSKY, YOḤANAN (1900–1967), Hebrew novelist. Born in Shpikov (Ukraine), of the famous ḥasidic family, Twersky immigrated to the United States in 1926 and taught for 20 years (1927–47) at the Hebrew College in Boston. He settled in Israel in 1947, and served on the editorial staff of the Dvir Publishing House in Tel Aviv. From 1924 he steadily produced historical novels which centered around Jewish and non-Jewish heroes, both in the remote past and in the present. These novels include Uriel Acosta (3 vols., 1935–38); Aḥad Ha-Am (1941); Alfred Dreyfus (1946); Rashi (1946); and Rom u-Tehom (1951), a novel with the Second Commonwealth as background. He also authored Lappidim ba-Laylah (1954), a series of historical stories on Saadiah, Descartes, Leibnitz, Spinoza, Moses Ḥayyim Luzzatto, Leone Modena, Mordecai Emanuel Noah, and Herzl. Both his stories and novels have a lively, staccato style.

Of special interest is Twersky's work on Ḥasidism. From his knowledge and his observation, he was able to reconstruct the exciting innovations of the founders of the movement and its latter-day epigones in a number of narrative works: He-"Ḥaẓer" ha-Penimit (1954), a partly fictionalized autobiography; Ha-Lev ve-ha-Ḥerev (1955), a novel on R. Naḥman of Bratslav; and Ha-Betulah mi-Ludmir (1950), a fictional biography of the Ḥasidic Maid of *Ludomir.

Twersky also edited a memorial volume Sefer Maximon (1935) and, together with E. Silberschlag, a Festschrift, Sefer Touroff (1938). In addition, he published many essays on education and educational psychology. Before his death, he was engaged in a multi-volume work on the story of human thought from its inception to the present time, of which only one volume appeared, Toledot ha-Filosofyah ve-ha-Filosofim (1967). His four-volume encyclopedia of world literature, Sifrut ha-Olam (1953–54), is a useful reference work.


M. Ribalow, Im ha-Kad el ha-Mabbu'a (1950), 230–7; A. Epstein, Soferim Ivrim ba-Amerikah, 2 (1952), 352–69.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.