Israel’s national poet Bialik honored in Odessa

ODESSA, Ukraine (JTA) — A Tel Aviv museum has opened an exhibition on Israel’s national poet, Hayim Nahman Bialik, in the Ukrainian city where he published his first poem.

Entitled “Poet’s Path,” the exhibition was curated by the Bialik Complex Museum and opened Saturday at the OK Odessa hotel during the kickoff event for the city’s third Limmud Jewish learning conference. Mayor Aleksey Kostusyev is expected to visit the exhibition later this week, organizers said.


Approximately 500 Russian-speaking Jews convened in Odessa for the four-day conference featuring lectures and activities connected to the historic ties between Odessa and Tel Aviv and on the life of Bialik – one of the 20th century’s most famous Hebrew-language poets, who was born in what is now Ukraine 140 years ago.

“The idea is to emphasize the links between the cities and show Odessa’s huge impact on the Zionist endeavor through people’s lives,” said Limmud FSU founder Chaim Chesler. Best known for his jarring poem “The City of Slaughter” about the Kishinev pogrom of 1903, Bialik established himself as a pillar of modern Hebrew prose with versatility that ranged from protest poems to playful nursery rhymes and even erotic poetry.

“When Bialik arrived in pre-state Israel in 1924, he was already aware of his status as a national poet of the entire Jewish People,” said Ayelet Bitan Shlonsky, curator of the Tel Aviv museum, at the opening.

“In Tel Aviv, he was consulted on and involved in virtually every cultural development of pre-state Israel,” she said.

The display featured photos of Bialik, poems and reproductions of archive material.

The Limmud learning festival also includes activities and lectures on other prominent former Odessans including writer Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg; Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky; Tel Aviv’s first mayor, Meir Dizengoff, and historian Simon Dubnov.