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Goldhar, Pinchas (1901–1947)

by Judah Waten

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Pinchas Goldhar (1901-1947), writer, was born on 14 June 1901 at Lodz, Russia (Poland), son of Jacob Goldhar, dyer, and his wife Rachael, née Hirshkowitz.

Goldhar published his first stories in Yiddish publications in Warsaw and in Lodz, where in 1922 he worked for the daily Lodzer Tageblatt. Having studied German and French language and literature at the University of Warsaw, from which he graduated, he translated a number of French and German novels and stories into Yiddish. His translation of The Weavers, by the German dramatist Gerhart Hauptmann, became a favourite on the Yiddish stage. Yiddish literature in the Polish Republic in the early 1920s experienced a minor renaissance; Goldhar was one of a highly talented group of writers which included the Singer brothers. Yiddish was still the vehicle of political and cultural expression of Jews in Poland who wanted an autonomous Jewish community with minority rights and a national language, within the confines of the Polish state. However this view was challenged by the Zionists who advocated the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine and the use of Hebrew rather than Yiddish, and by many educated Jews who had adopted Polish as their language. As the possibility of earning a living from writing in Yiddish diminished, many writers migrated, mainly to the United States of America.

Goldhar, because of family connexions, came to Australia, arriving in Melbourne in 1926. His father, brother and sisters also migrated, and his father set up a small dyeing business in Carlton known as Jacob Goldhar & Sons. Pinchas Goldhar worked in the factory as a dyer.

In 1928 he became the first editor, for about three years, of the first Yiddish newspaper in Australia, the weekly Yiddish News. He turned to exploring the fate of Polish Jewish migrants transplanted to a new land with different customs and language. His first stories of Jewish life in Australia were concerned with the theme of disintegration and doom. One of his most celebrated stories, 'The last minyan', tells of the break-up of a Jewish community in a gold-mining town, while the rabbi carries on his synagogue even though there is no longer a minyan, the ten men required by Jewish law to hold a religious service.

In 1939 Goldhar published Stories from Australia, the second Yiddish book to be published in Australia. Some of the stories were translated into English: Vance Palmer included 'The funeral' in Coast to Coast, 1944, and 'Café in Carlton' was published in Southern Stories (1945) and included in Shalom, a collection of Australian Jewish stories compiled by Nancy Keesing (1978). Goldhar admired Australian literature and in 1944 published here and abroad translations into Yiddish of stories by Henry Lawson, Vance Palmer, Frank Dalby Davison and Alan Marshall. His essay on Australian literature was translated by Nita Bluthal and Stephen Murray-Smith and published in Melbourne University Magazine in 1947.

On 24 June 1934 in the Carlton synagogue Goldhar married Ida Shlezynger, also from Poland; they had a son and twin daughters. He died at Belgrave of coronary thrombosis on 25 January 1947 and was buried in Fawkner cemetery.

As a writer Goldhar was influenced by Western literary modernism but Chekhov remained his model. His best stories are distinguished by their tightness of structure and power of compressed metaphor. While many of them deal with everyday Polish-Jewish life in Australia, they are far removed from the folk manner of classical Yiddish literature.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Brezniak, ‘Pinchas Goldhar’, Bridge, 3 (1967), no 2
  • Australian Jewish Historical Society Journal, 7 (1973), no 4
  • Australian Jewish News, 31 Jan 1947.

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Citation details

Judah Waten, 'Goldhar, Pinchas (1901–1947)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/goldhar-pinchas-6415/text10969, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 23 October 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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