On the threshold of the transition from the old isolated life to a wider one was the poet Moses Hayyim Luzzatto—a contemporary of the Gaon of Vilna, Elijah ben Solomon—but the modern period of Hebrew literature really began with Moses Mendelssohn. While Nachman Krochmal and Shloime Ansky (Solomon Seinwel Rapoport) were contributing to biblical criticism and historical scholarship, writers such as Peretz (Peter) Smolenskin were devoting themselves to Haskalah, or literature of enlightenment, intended to shake the Jews of Central Europe from their medieval attitudes. Other important figures of the period are the scholar Joseph Halévy, the poet Jehuda (Leon) Gordon, and the novelist Solomon Yakob Abramovich, whose pseudonym was Mendele mocher sforim.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.