Leah Goldberg Is Born
(L-R) Leah Goldberg and writer Ya’acov Horowitz pictured in Tel Aviv, 1935. Photo: Courtesy of the Gnazim Archive and Yair Landau
May 29, 1911

Poet Leah Goldberg is born in Königsberg, Prussia, now Kaliningrad, Russia.

Raised mostly in Kovno, Lithuania, Goldberg begins writing poetry in Hebrew and Russian around age 12. She studies at the Universities of Kovno, Berlin and Bonn, where her dissertation examines the sources of the Samaritan translation of the Torah. She participates in a Lithuanian poets circle, P’tach, in the early 1930s and has poems published in several magazines and an anthology, “Pa’am,” before moving in 1935 to Tel Aviv, where she is joined by her mother a year later.

Goldberg publishes her first poetry collection, “Smoke Rings,” the same year she settles in Palestine. Her early work features a lyrical, modernist style. Her next collection, 1939’s “Green-Eyed Spike,” focuses more on nature and less on herself. Her books published during World War II evoke the Eastern European Jewish world being wiped out by the Nazis, and her subjects and style continue to evolve throughout her career.

She moves to Jerusalem in 1950 to join the general and comparative literature department at the Hebrew University, where she begins as a lecturer and eventually becomes the department chairwoman. In addition to poetry, Goldberg writes novels and plays and translates the works of Tolstoy, Chekhov, Ibsen and others during her academic career.

She dies of cancer at age 59 in 1970, the same year she wins the Israel Prize for literature. She is one of four poets Israel decides to put on its currency in 2011, along with Rachel Bluwstein, Shaul Tchernichovsky and Natan Alterman.