Adalberg, Samuel

(1868–1939), paremiologist (collector of proverbs), Polish state official, and advocate for assimilated Jews. Born in Warsaw, Samuel Adalberg received his elementary education at the Szkoła Realna (1878–1888), the first modern school widely attended by Warsaw Jews. There he was regarded highly by the principal, Samuel Dickstein, and also formed a friendship with Shemu’el Poznański, who later became rabbi of a progressive synagogue and a social activist.


Adalberg was then employed by the entrepreneur, philanthropist, and paremiologist Ignatz Bernstein to organize Bernstein’s library. While engaged there, Adalberg translated two collections of Yiddish proverbs; he published these anonymously in 1888 and 1890 and contributed as well to Bernstein’s Yidishe shprikhverter un rednsartn (1908). Adalberg then published Księga przysłów polskich (The Book of Polish Proverbs; 1889–1894), the first modern work on this topic in Polish. He also prepared annotated editions of older Polish literary works, which were published in the series Biblioteka Pisarzy Polskich (Library of Polish Writers) by the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences.


Financial hardship stopped Adalberg from pursuing a higher education after 1898. He worked instead at Hipolit Wawelberg’s Bank Zachodni, first as its correspondent in Saint Petersburg and later at its Warsaw headquarters. He was a member of the Commission on Philology of the Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences from 1898, even though he could not hold a university position. Before World War I he was active in the Warsaw branch of the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews (Rus., Obshchestva dlia Rasprostraneniia Prosveshcheniia Mezhdu Evreiami, better known by its acronym OPE) and was a cofounder of the Hipolit Wawelberg Foundation, which awarded prizes for scholarly works on Jewish history.


In 1918 Adalberg assumed responsibility for Jewish affairs in the government appointed by the Polish Regency Council. He also supported attempts to unite Jewish assimilationist circles in anticipation of elections to the Warsaw community board. After Poland regained its independence that same year, he supervised Jewish affairs in the Ministry of Religions and Public Education, holding positions until 1930. In this capacity he helped to regulate the legal status of Jewish religious communities. He also worked to create the State School for Teachers of the Jewish Faith, the Institute for Jewish Studies, and the Main Judaic Library in Warsaw. Officially he then retired, but representatives of the Agudas Yisroel had called for his dismissal, accusing him of favoring the Zionists by suggesting that the Jewish communities should support emigration to Palestine, which allowed institutions of Jewish self-government to allocate funds for that purpose semiofficially. During the last 10 years of his life, he served as the Warsaw representative of the Gesellschaft für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (Society for Judaic Sciences). On 10 November 1939, at the beginning of the Nazi occupation, Adalberg committed suicide.

Suggested Reading

Henryk Kroszczor, Kartki z historii Żydów w Warszawie XIX–XX w.: sylwetki, szkice (Warsaw, 1979), pp. 213–218; Julian Krzyżanowski, “Dzielo Samuela Adalberga,” Literatura ludowa 4.6 (1964): 74–83.

Author

Translation

Translated from Polish by Joanna Nalewajko-Kulikov