In his brief life, Joseph Eliyia (1901–1931) became the most prominent Jewish writer in Greek and the most prominent Greek writer about Judaism. Eliyia’s poetic and critical works address the fraught situation faced by the Jews of Epirus and Macedonia after the Balkan Wars, when these former Ottoman territories came under Greek control. This new political situation forced the community to answer difficult questions about individual and communal identity—Greek, Jew, or both?—and more practical concerns—assimilate or emigrate? Eliyia himself was divided: a fervent poet of Zionism in his youth, his later work suggests a belief in the possibility of balancing assimilationist pressures with traditional Jewish identity. His ideas are perhaps most clearly visible in his prose biographical sketches of the medieval Jewish poet Judah Halevi and Eliyia’s older contemporary David Frischmann. Eliyia characterizes them as avatars of his own plight, celebrating their commitment to Jewish cultural and political revival in periods of radical change.


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pp. 365-388
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