When the Author of Israeli Anthem Lived on the Lower East Side

Posted on: October 7th, 2011 at 10:19 am by

“Hatikvah” is the famous Hebrew poem from which Israel’s national anthem derives. The 125-year-old hymn – meaning “the hope” – has a very direct connection to turn-of-the-century Lower East Side.  Its author lived and died here.

This image has been archived or removed.

[Photo Credit: Wikipedia]

First, a quick history lesson. Naphtali Herz Imber was born in Galica in 1856, what is current day Ukraine. By age 16, the burgeoning Zionist movement at the time propelled the poet to seek Palestine. Fate eventually led him to Jerusalem, but not until 1882. Four years later, “Hatikvah” as we know it today was born. Shortly thereafter, one Shmuel Cohen set the first stanza of the poem to song, and it quickly resonated with the young pioneers of the first Zionist settlement.

New York City entered the picture in 1892, with Imber settling on the Lower East Side. Throughout his life, he loved the drink, and was infamous for being somewhat of a local boozy bohemian. The alcoholic affliction proved deadly on an October day in 1908, when he collapsed on Forsyth Street from a “stroke of paralysis.” The morbid anniversary is tomorrow. Below is a screen-grab of the pre-eulogy published in the New York Times while Imber was on his deathbed.

This image has been archived or removed.

Interestingly enough, at the time of his death, the synagogue on Attorney Street reportedly refused to hold funeral services. Imber was not orthodox enough in his beliefs. So the memorial was instead relocated to the Educational Alliance at 197 East Broadway. Thousands clogged the streets to pay tribute

“Hatikvah” became the unofficial national anthem upon Israel’s statehood in 1948. It didn’t become official until 2004.

Recent Stories

Protest Violence: LES Small Businesses Vandalized

A fifth night of protests spilled onto lower Orchard Street yesterday, as several businesses were vandalized. The Roasting Plant coffee shop, R&D (formerly Brigitte) on Canal street, and the Alexander Olch boutique, were all hit. Shattered windows and looting. It’s unclear what was taken from each store. With regard to Olch’s store, vandals tagged it […]

Scenes from the Looted Streets of Downtown [PHOTOS]

A weekend of violent protests and looting – fueled by the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minneapolis cops – left downtown Manhattan charred and shattered. Businesses in SoHo up to Union Square were some of the hardest hit. Boogie contributor Eddie Panta was eyewitness to the smash-and-grab bedlam. Part I: The Nike Store […]

DIY Banner Hung Above FDR Drive in Tribute to George Floyd

Whenever an event of significance hits the news, neighbors can easily expect a new banner unfurled on the Delancey Street foot bridge over the FDR. Indeed, for the third time in as many months, a new message. “I can’t breathe,” a tribute to George Floyd, for whom these were final words. While being placed in […]

Despite Lockdown, ‘Bel-Fries’ Overcrowded Ludlow Street with a Major Party on Sunday

What lockdown? In Hell Square, it’s almost as if the last few months were in vain. Sunday afternoon saw an overflowing party for the opening Bel-Fries on Ludlow Street. It was seemingly planned for maximum marketing value, despite the COVID-19 lockdown. A “Miami style” event with luxury cars, deejay booth, professional photo rigs, and plenty […]

Aerial Photos Call into Question City’s Decision to Fully Demolish 70 Mulberry Street

On the evening of January 23, as Chinatown residents prepared for the Lunar New Year, a devastating five-alarm fire decimated the former PS23 at 70 Mulberry Street. Nearly five months later, many in the neighborhood continue to question the city’s choice to fully demolish the facility. Especially after the emergence of aerial photos showing the […]