Nina Salaman
Nina Salaman.jpg
BornPaulina Ruth Davis
(1877-07-15)15 July 1877
Derby, Derbyshire, England
Died22 February 1925(1925-02-22) (aged 47)
Barley, Hertfordshire, England
Resting placeWillesden Jewish Cemetery
OccupationPoet, translator, essayist
LanguageEnglish, Hebrew
Notable works
  • Songs of Exile by Hebrew Poets
  • The Voices of the Rivers
  • Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi
Children6 (incl. Raphael Salaman and Ruth Collet)

Paulina Ruth "Nina" Salaman (née Davis) (Hebrew: פָּאוּלִינָה רוּת ”נִינָה” דֵעוִיס שָׂלָמָן; 15 July 1877 – 22 February 1925) was a British Jewish poet, translator, and social activist. She is best known for her English translations of medieval Hebrew poetry, especially of the poems of Judah Halevi.[1]

Early life

Paulina Ruth Davis was born on 15 July 1877 at Friarfield House, Derby, the second of two children of Louisa (née Jonas) and Arthur Davis. Her father's family were secular Jewish precision instrument makers, who had immigrated to England from Bavaria in the early nineteenth century.[2] A civil engineer by trade, Arthur Davis became religiously observant and mastered the Hebrew language, becoming an accomplished Hebraist noted for his study of cantillation marks in the Tanakh.[3][4] The family moved to Kilburn, London when Nina was six weeks old, later settling in Bayswater.[5] There, Davis gave his daughters an intensive scholarly education in Hebrew and Jewish studies, teaching them himself each morning before breakfast from the age of four, and taking them regularly to the synagogue.[6]

The Davises moved in learned Jewish circles, and friends of Nina's parents included the families of Nathan Adler, Simeon Singer, Claude Montefiore, Solomon Schechter, Herbert Bentwich, and Elkan Adler.[7] Arthur Davis was one of the "Kilburn Wanderers"—a group of Anglo-Jewish intellectuals that formed around Solomon Schechter in the 1880s—members of which took an interest in Nina's work and helped her find publication for her writings.[8][9]


Early career

Nina's first published translation, of Abraham ibn Ezra's The Song of Chess, appeared in the Jewish Chronicle on 22 June 1894.[10] Later that year, she contributed an essay and a poem on "The Ideal Minister of the Talmud" to the Jewish Quarterly Review, then under the editorship of Claude Montefiore and Israel Abrahams, and continued thereafter publishing translations of medieval Hebrew poetry in the Jewish press.[9] Israel Zangwill, an acquaintance of her father, provided her with an introduction to Mayer Sulzberger of the Jewish Publication Society of America, which published her Songs of Exile by Hebrew Poets in 1901.[5] The collection, which attracted widespread attention, included translations of poems by Judah Halevi, Abraham ibn Ezra, Eleazar ben Killir, Solomon ibn Gabirol, Joseph ben Samuel Bonfils, and Meir of Rothenburg, as well as passages from the Talmud and Midrash Rabba.[11]

From about 1900, her father worked with Herbert M. Adler, nephew of Chief Rabbi Hermann Adler, on a multivolume edition of the Machzor with a new and modern translation.[12] Nina and her sister, Elsie, both contributed to the work, devoting themselves to translating the metrical sections of the original into poetry, while their father rendered the prose.[13][14] The festival prayer book was published as Service of the Synagogue in 1904–9, and is still in use in synagogues across Great Britain, Canada, and Australia.[15]

Marriage and family

Nina met physician Redcliffe Salaman during Shabbat services at the New West End Synagogue in July 1901.[16] Redcliffe was one of the twelve children of Myer Salaman, a wealthy London ostrich feather merchant whose family had migrated to Britain from either Holland or the Rhineland in the early eighteenth century.[17] They were formally engaged ten days later and married on 23 October 1901, after which Redcliffe temporarily relocated to Berlin to complete advanced training in pathology.[18] He was appointed director of the Pathological Institute at the London Hospital in 1902, but ceased to practice medicine the following year after developing pulmonary tuberculosis. The Salamans spent the winter of 1903–1904 in Montana-sur-Sierre and Montreux, Switzerland, where Redcliffe slowly regained some weight. Upon their return to England, they moved to a thirty-room Elizabethan country house, Homestall, in Barley, Hertfordshire, a small village near Cambridge.[5]

Nina and Redcliffe Salaman lived comfortably in a kosher and Shabbat-observant home with numerous servants, and returned to London frequently to observe Jewish festivals and attend committee meetings.[7] Nina and Redcliffe Salaman became active in the Jewish community at Cambridge, and entertained generations of Jewish students at their home.[19] Nina travelled frequently to the town to use the university library and meet with Israel Abrahams, reader in Talmudic and rabbinic literature.[2] Like her father before her, she personally educated her six children at their Hertfordshire home until they went to boarding school (at Clifton College and Bedales School), teaching them to read Hebrew before they learned to read English.[7]

Later career

Portrait of Nina Salaman by Solomon J. Solomon (1918)

Salaman continued after her marriage to write in the columns of Jewish periodicals, principally the Jewish Chronicle, the Jewish Quarterly Review, the Menorah Journal, and the Jewish Guardian.[20] A passionate Jewish nationalist, Salaman published in 1916 one of the first English translations of Hatikvah, and later composed the marching song for the Judaeans, the Jewish regiment that participated in the British effort to seize Palestine from the Ottoman Empire during the First World War, in which her husband served as medical officer.[21]

A book of original poetry appeared in 1920 to favourable reviews, entitled The Voices of the Rivers, which includes a hymn for the 9th of Av.[22] The following year she released as a gift book for Jewish children Apples and Honey, a collection of poetry and prose by Benjamin Disraeli, Emma Lazarus, George Eliot, Israel Zangwill, Jessie Sampter, Leigh Hunt, Lord Byron, and others.[23][24] Salaman's most important work was her Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi, the second of a series of twenty-five volumes of Jewish Classics issued by the Jewish Publication Society. Released in 1924 after twelve years of preparation, the volume is divided into four sections (The Journey to Zion, Love and Bridal Songs, Poems of Friendship, and Devotional Poems) and contains an introduction by Salaman on the life of Halevi and his work.[25] The translation was based on the Hebrew text from Chaim Brody's edition of Halevi, revised for him for the collection.[26]

Activism and community work

Besides her scholarly work, Salaman served as vice-president of the Jewish League for Woman Suffrage, in which position she advocated for the right of women to vote in synagogue elections and for Hebrew education for Jewish girls,[27] was an active member of the Federation of Women Zionists and the Union of Jewish Women, and helped establish the Tottenham Talmud Torah for Girls in North London, to which she donated the royalties of her books.[7] She also participated in various non-Jewish charities, such as the Women's Institute at Barley.[25] At Friday evening services on 5 December 1919, she became the first woman to deliver a sermon in a British Orthodox synagogue, when she spoke on the weekly parashah, Vayishlach, to the Cambridge Hebrew Congregation.[28] The event was met with controversy; Chief Rabbi Joseph Hertz supported Salaman, and ruled that since she only went up to the bimah after the concluding prayer, no religious law had been violated.[5]

Salaman was appointed to the council of the Jewish Historical Society of England in 1918, and was elected president in 1922. Her ailing health prevented her from taking office, however, and her husband was elected in her stead.[19]

Death and legacy

Nina Salaman died of colorectal cancer on 22 February 1925, at the age of 47.[2] The funeral was held three days later at the Willesden Jewish Cemetery, where the Chief Rabbi officiated and delivered a eulogy, customarily forbidden on Rosh Hodesh except at the funeral of an eminent scholar.[29] An American memorial service was held by Ray Frank-Litman on 28 April, at which Moses Jung, Jacob Zeitlin and Abram L. Sachar made eulogistic remarks.[20] Abraham Yahuda, Herbert M. Adler, Herbert Loewe, Sir Israel Gollancz, Israel Zangwill, Norman Bentwich, and others published tributes in her memory.[19][30][31]

Salaman's children were Myer Head Salaman (1902–1994), pathologist and cancer researcher;[32] Arthur Gabriel Salaman (1904–1964), general practitioner;[33] Raphael Arthur Salaman (1906–1993), engineer;[34] Ruth Isabelle Collet (1909–2001), painter and printmaker; and Esther Sarah Salaman (1914–2005), mezzo-soprano.[35] (A sixth child, Edward, the twin brother of Arthur, died in 1913 at the age of 9.)[36] Salaman's granddaughter, Jenny Manson, is Chair of Jewish Voice for Labour.[37]

A portrait of Nina Salaman by Solomon J. Solomon was acquired by the Jewish Museum London in March 2007.[38]

Selected bibliography

  • Salaman, Nina (1901). Songs of Exile by Hebrew Poets. London: The Jewish Historical Society of England, MacMillan.
  • Service of the Synagogue, A New Edition of the Festival Prayers with an English Translation in Prose and Verse. Published under the Sanction of the Late Dr. Herman Adler, Chief Rabbi of the British Empire. London: George Routledge & Sons. 1906.
  • Salaman, Nina (1910). The Voices of the Rivers. Cambridge: Bowes & Bowes. hdl:2027/uc1.31175035249526.
  • Salaman, Nina (1912). Jacob and Israel. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Salaman, Nina, ed. (1921). Apples and Honey: A Gift-Book for Jewish Boys and Girls. London: William Heinemann.
  • Salaman, Nina (1923). Songs of Many Days. London: Elkin Mathews.
  • Salaman, Nina (1924). Rahel Morpurgo and Contemporary Hebrew Poets in Italy. Sixth Arthur Davis Memorial Lecture. London: George Allen & Unwin.
  • Salaman, Nina (1924). Selected Poems of Jehudah Halevi. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society.


  1. ^ Rochelson, Mari-Jane (2008). A Jew in the Public Arena: The Career of Israel Zangwill. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 19–20. ISBN 978-0-8143-4083-7.
  2. ^ a b c Endelman, Todd M. "Salaman, Nina Ruth". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/71436.
  3. ^ "Distinguished Poet-Hebraist is Mourned by Writers Everywhere". The Sentinel. Chicago. 27 March 1925. p. 19.
  4. ^ Davis, Arthur (1892). La-menatseah bi-neginot maskil: The Hebrew Accents of the Twenty-One Books of the Bible. London: D. Nutt. hdl:2027/uc1.31158001052561.
  5. ^ a b c d Endelman, Todd M. (2009). "Nina Ruth Davis Salaman". In Hyman, Paula E.; Ofer, Dalia (eds.). Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. Jewish Women's Archive.
  6. ^ Niemann, Hans-Joachim (2014). Karl Popper and the Two New Secrets of Life: Including Karl Popper's Medawar Lecture 1986 and Three Related Texts. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck. p. 39–40. ISBN 978-3-16-153207-8.
  7. ^ a b c d Endelman, Todd M. (2014). Shonfield, Jeremy (ed.). "Surreptitious rebel—Nina Davis Salaman" (PDF). Report of the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, 2013–2014. Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies: 56–73. ISSN 1368-9096.
  8. ^ Lazarsfeld-Jensen, Ann (2015). "Home and the Female Scholar: Re-visiting the Salamans' Archives". Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. 12 (1). ISSN 1209-9392.
  9. ^ a b Dohrmann, Natalie B. (29 March 2018). "Nina Davis (1877–1925)". Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. University of Pennsylvania.
  10. ^ Sienna, Noam (28 October 2016). "The Song of Chess by Avraham ibn Ezra". Al-Shatranj. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
  11. ^ Publius (22 March 1901). "About Men and Things: Songs of Exile". The Jewish Exponent. Philadelphia. p. 4.
  12. ^ Rubinstein, William D.; Jolles, Michael A.; Rubinstein, Hillary L., eds. (2011). The Palgrave Dictionary of Anglo-Jewish History. London: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 843. ISBN 978-0-230-30466-6. OCLC 793104984.
  13. ^ "Service of the Synagogue". The Academy and Literature (1707). 21 January 1905. p. 64.
  14. ^ Pollins, Harold (September 2010). "Thame and Its Jews". Oxford Menorah. 196. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  15. ^ Eden, Vivian (15 February 2016). "How to Observe Sabbath When the World Won't Stop". Haaretz. Retrieved 26 April 2016.
  16. ^ Parkes, James W. (1953). "Redcliffe Nathan Salaman, F.R.S., M.D. (President of the Jewish Historical Society of England, 1920–22)". Transactions. Jewish Historical Society of England. 18: 296–298. JSTOR 29777933.
  17. ^ Stein, Sarah Abrevaya (2008). Plumes: Ostrich Feathers, Jews, and a Lost World of Global Commerce. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-300-14285-3.
  18. ^ Endelman, Todd M. (Autumn 2004). "Anglo-Jewish Scientists and the Science of Race". Jewish Social Studies. 11 (1): 52–94. JSTOR 467695.
  19. ^ a b c Loewe, Herbert M. (1924). "Nina Salaman, 1877–1925". Transactions. Jewish Historical Society of England. 11: 228–232. JSTOR 29777772.
  20. ^ a b Litman, Simon (1957). Ray Frank Litman: A Memoir. Studies in American Jewish History. 3. New York: American Jewish Historical Society. OCLC 560906720.
  21. ^ Brylawski, Emma (2 August 1918). "Nina Salaman Writes 'Marching Song of the Judeans'". The Jewish Exponent. Philadelphia. p. 5.
  22. ^ "The Latest Books". The American Hebrew & Jewish Messenger. New York. 9 June 1911. p. 156.
  23. ^ Levinger, Elma Ehrlich (26 May 1922). "Apples and Honey, by Nina Salaman, editor". The American Hebrew. New York. p. 64.
  24. ^ "Illustrated Books". The Spectator. 127 (4877). London. 17 December 1921. p. 831.
  25. ^ a b Koren, Shira (Spring 2012). "Nina Salaman: 'The Fusion of the Old Judaism with the Modern Western World'". Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. 9 (1). ISSN 1209-9392.
  26. ^ "Poems of Jehuda Halevi: Second Volume of Jewish Classics Series Ready". Jewish Advocate. Boston, Massachusetts. 12 March 1925. p. 3. ISSN 1077-2995.
  27. ^ "Nina Salaman, 1877–1925". Jewish Lives Project. Jewish Museum London. Retrieved 22 April 2019.
  28. ^ "The Jewish Church". The Times (42288). London. 20 December 1919. p. 15.
  29. ^ "Death of Nina Salaman: Noted English Poetess Was Translator of Recently Issued Volume of Halevi Poems". The Jewish Exponent. Philadelphia. 13 March 1925. p. 9.
  30. ^ Yehuda, A. S. (17 April 1925). "Nina Salaman and Her Favorite Poet". The Jewish Exponent. p. 15.
  31. ^ Gollancz, Israel (28 February 1925). "Mrs. Salaman". The Times (43898). London. p. 14.
  32. ^ Fried, George H. (2007). "Salaman, Redcliffe Nathan". In Berenbaum, Michael; Skolnik, Fred (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica. 17 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Macmillan Reference. p. 681. ISBN 978-0-02-865928-2.
  33. ^ "Daughter of Sir Herbert Samuel Betrothed to London Doctor". Jewish Daily Bulletin. 7 (3120). New York. 11 April 1935. p. 4.
  34. ^ Kessler, David (13 January 1994). "Obituary: R. A. Salaman". The Independent. Retrieved 24 April 2019.
  35. ^ Miller, Jane (26 October 2005). "Esther Salaman". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  36. ^ Smith, Kenneth M. (November 1955). "Redcliffe Nathan Salaman, 1874–1955". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 1: 238–245. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1955.0017. JSTOR 769254.
  37. ^ Doherty, Rosa (19 June 2018). "Meet Jeremy Corbyn's devoted Jewish defender: Jenny Manson". The Jewish Chronicle. Retrieved 26 April 2019.
  38. ^ "Inauguration of painting of Nina Salaman by Solomon J Solomon". The Jewish Museum. 2007. Archived from the original on 7 July 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2019.

External links