Yehuda Heinz Zeilberger (The Father of Doron Zeilberger)

Written by: Doron Zeilberger, Dec. 29, 1995

Last Update: May 6, 2018

Yehuda Heinz Zeilberger (see his portrait when he was 17) was born on Dec. 29, 1915, in Unsleben, Bavaria, Germany, to Heinrich Zeilberger(1886-1915) and Hedwig (Bach) Zeilberger (1890-1975).

He was named after his father, who was killed before his birth, defending the `fatherland', in WW I. Until the age of 11 he lived with his mother in his maternal grandparents' farm, attending the local Cheder. When he turned 11 he moved to live with his uncle and aunt, Victor and Erna Bach, in the city of Halberstadt, so that he can attend the Gymnasium. A few years later they moved to Berlin. Between 1936 and 1941 he was a student at the University of Geneva, obtaining his `License des Lettres' in Oct. 1940. (Here is a photo with his mother Hedwig Zeilberger and an unidentified woman, ca. 1938)). he also obtained his certifacte of pedagogy, at the renonwed Institut Jean-Jacques Rousseau, where he studied under Ed. Claparede, Pierre Bovet, and Jean Piaget. Between 1941 and 1945 he was a teacher at a school for Jewish refugee children at Geneva, preparing them for Israel, and immigrating with them in 1945. During the same period he started working, part-time, on his doctoral dissertation, but had to interupt it, because of his move to Israel. Between 1945 and 1947, he worked and taught in several Kibutzim (Hazorea, Mizra, Ma'abarot). In 1948-9 he served in the Israeli army, during the war of Independence, working as a censor, in the Intelligence corps. About then, he met his wife, Ruth Zeilberger(1915-1979). They were married on Feb. 28, 1949.

In 1950 they moved to Haifa, where Doron Zeilberger was born. Shortly after, they moved into a former chicken coop, in the farm of Ruth's sister Marianne and her husband Alfred, in Kfar Bialik, near Haifa. A few months later, they moved to an apartment in shikun Pentagon, Kiryat Motzkin (Rehov Yehuda Halevy 5). In Jan. 11, 1952, his second son, Gil Haim Zeilberger, was born. Between 1951 and 1955, Yehuda taught in Ulpanim, teaching Hebrew to new immigrants. Between 1955 and 1958 Yehuda and his family were in Kopenhagen, Denmark, where Yehuda was sent, by the Jewish Agency, to teach Hebrew to the local Jews. From 1958 until his retirement in 1979, Yehuda taught English and French in various high schools.

He became widowed in 1979. He then decided to resume his doctoral studies. In 1981 he was awarded the University of Geneva Adolphe Neuman Judaica prize for his essay (in French). `Isaac Benrubi, faithful Jew, Patriotic Genevois, and Fervent Cosmopolitan'. He then studied the personal journal of his former teacher and friend, Adolphe Ferriere, that was supposed to be his dissertation topic. In 1985 he decided to change topics to the study of Jewish Youth Movements in Germany before WW II, and was expected to defend his thesis in 1995. Unfortunately, he died suddenly on Jan. 15, 1994,

He contributed an essay on "Open-Air School" and an essay on "Functional Education" to the `Encylopedia Khinukhit' (Encyclopedia of Education), in Hebrew. He wrote an article about the friendship of Adolphe Ferriere and Paul Geheeb in a special issue about Ferriere edited by D. Hameline in the periodical `Cahiers de la Section de Psychologie etudes Sciences de l'Education' of the University of Geneva, 1981, 59-66. In 1992 and 1993 he contributed two articles (in French), on Adolphe Ferriere and Isaac Benrubi , to v. 3 of the "Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle", published by Presse Universitaire de France (PUF).

He also wrote several unpublished essays, one of which is Some recollections on and around Marcel Raymond.

He was completely fluent in six languages: German, French, English, Hebrew, Danish, and Swedish, and had a working knowledge of many others. He loved books and learning, and his home was covered with bookshelves wall to wall.


Added Sept. 30, 2013: In 1993 he wrote a fascinating biographical essay (in German).
His children are: Gil Zeilberger (b. 1952) and Doron Zeilberger (b. 1950).


His parents are: Heinrich Zeilberger(1886-1915) and

Hedwig (Bach) Zeilberger (1890-1975).


Added Jan. 6, 2004: On Dec. 30, 2004 (one day after my father's birthday), I visited his grave. He is buried at the Herzlia cemetery (Bet Almin Herzlia) tha tis on Pinsker St. The location of his grave is: Gush vav, Khelka bet, Shura 40, No. 30
Added Oct. 3, 2012: My brother Gil just discovered pearls of wisdom of six-year Doron and four-and-half year-old Gil, written down by their father Yehudah (in Hebrew).
He also found the essays (in French) Lecture Globale and L'Ecole Sereine that were possibly written by Yehudah.
Added May 6, 2018: Gila DeKay kindly sent me three letters (in German) that my father sent to her mother, Irmgard Harff Goldschmidt, who was his friend from the time when they both lived in the Quaker Guest House in Geneva, in the early 1940s. Here is the Letter written March 3, 1988, Letter written Nov. 7, 1992, and a Letter written Jan. 21, 1993.
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