Literary Critic, Translator and Author
Hillel Halkin was born in New York two months before the outbreak of World War II and is the son of Abraham S. Halkin, a professor of Jewish literature, history and culture at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1970 he moved to Israel, settling in Zichron Yaakov. He studied English Literature at Columbia University.
Halkin translates from Hebrew and Yiddish literature into English. He has translated Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman, and major Hebrew and Israeli novelists, among them Yosef Haim Brenner, S. Y. Agnon, Shulamith Hareven, A. B. Yehoshua, Amos Oz, and Meir Shalev.
His first original book was Letters to an American Jewish Friend: A Zionist's Polemic (1977). He expressed why Jewish Americans should immigrate to Israel. Halkin’s second book Across the Sabbath River (2002) is a work of travel literature in which he goes in search of the truth behind the mystery of the Ten Lost Tribes. He became increasingly interested in the Bnei Menashe, who began to immigrate to Israel from India in the late 20th century, and helped to arrange DNA testing in 2003 at Haifa. Since then he has written A Strange Death, a novel based on the local history of Zikhron Ya'akov, His intellectual biography of Yehuda Halevi won a 2010 National Jewish Book Award. His most recent biography, Jabotinsky: A Life was published in 2014.
In 2012, Halkin published his first novel Melisande! What Are Dreams? The critic D. G. Myers described it as a “unique and moving study of marriage, a love letter to conjugal love.”
Halkin writes frequently on Israel and Jewish culture and politics. His articles have been published in Commentary, The New Republic, The Jerusalem Post and other publications. Under the pseudonym "Philologos," he writes a weekly column on Jewish languages in The Forward. He is a member of the Editorial Board of the Jewish Review of Books.