Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim
Interweaving her personal experiences with nature imagery and Jewish legends, Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim became one of Israel’s most celebrated Yiddish poets. Basman began writing poetry as a teenager in the Kaiserwald concentration camp as a way to lift the spirits of fellow inmates. She saved her poems after the camp was liquidated by hiding them in her mouth. After she was freed in 1945, she moved to Belgrade and helped smuggle Jews through the British blockades into Palestine. She made Aliyah in 1947 and joined Kibbutz Ha-Ma’pil, where she taught children and joined the Yiddish poets’ group Yung Yisroel. She published her first collection, Toybn baym brunem (Doves at the Well), in 1959. When her husband became Israel’s cultural attaché to the Soviet Union from 1963–1965, Basman taught diplomats’ children in Moscow while quietly connecting with Russian Yiddish authors. Basman’s poems are primarily in Yiddish, although many have been translated into Hebrew. During his lifetime, her husband illustrated and designed her books, and after his death, she added his family name to hers. She has been honored with numerous prizes, including the Itzik Manger Prize in 1984 and the Chaim Zhitlowsky Prize in 1998.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rivka Basman Ben-Hayim." (Viewed on February 17, 2018) <https://jwa.org/people/ben-hayim-rivka>.