Samuel Mohilever

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Samuel Mohilever

Samuel Mohilever (also: Schmuel / Shmuel Mohilever / Mohilewer ; born on April 25, 1824 in Hlybokaje near Vilna ; died on June 10, 1898 in Białystok ) was a Polish rabbi , founder of Rechowot , one of the founders of Choveve Zion and the real founder of religious Zionism .

Live and act

Early life, activity as a rabbi

Samuel Mohilever came from a rabbi family and also became a rabbi himself. He received his ordination in 1842 in the yeshiva of Voloshin in Belarus and served as a rabbi in various places until his death (Hluboka 1848–1856, Szaki 1856–1860, Suwalki 1860–1868, Radom 1868–1883, Białystok 1883–1898).

He was driven by the idea of settling as large a number of Jews as possible in Palestine , and therefore became a member of the Palestinophile circles forming in Russia at an early age, and then the founder of Zionism, which is based on the Jewish religion. His life's task should be to justify and promote the mass settlement of Jews in Palestine in accordance with religion.

Promoter of the Jewish colonization of Palestine

In 1870 he was one of the rabbis who met with leaders of the Maskilim to harmonize the opposing positions. In 1875, on the occasion of the celebration of the 90th birthday of Sir Moses Montefiore , he publicly declared himself a supporter of the Jewish colonization of Palestine. In 1882 he founded the first Choveve Zion group in Warsaw and - again in 1886 - traveled to Europe to gain further supporters for the movement.

Mohilever also took - supported by Zadoc Kahn (1839-1905; since 1889 the chief rabbi of France) and M. Erlanger in Paris - influence on Baron Rothschild to support the early settlements in Eretz Israel, which were facing financial ruin. This is especially true for Ekron (now: Kiryat Ekron), which was supposed to offer Jewish farmers from Russia a new home. He also agitated among the Jews in Białystok - where he had been a rabbi since 1883 - to settle in Petach Tikwah . Mohilever appealed to the moral conscience of every Jew to "place the honor of the nation above personal gain".

In 1890 he led a group tour of religious to inspect the colonies in the Holy Land . The doctor Josef Chasanowitsch from Białystok also took part in this trip, who laid the basis for the National Library of Jerusalem in 1896 with his extensive book dedication of 32,000 volumes . Encouraged by the positive impressions on site, Mohilever drafted the concept for a Merkaz Ruchani (Hebrew for: spiritual center ) in 1893 , a spiritual center from which the movement of religious Zionism, Misrachi , emerged, which was later mainly created by Meir Bar -Ilan was developed into a powerful organization and its successors play an important role in the political landscape of the State of Israel to this day.

Promoter of religious Zionism

Mohilever was a member of the World Zionist Organization , and although he was unable to attend the first Zionist congress in Basel for health reasons , he was of great influence as the leader of the Russian Zionists and had sent a message of greeting in Hebrew, peppered with practical advice.

Location of Rechowot in today's Israel. The former settlement and today's city with over 100,000 inhabitants was founded in the 1890s by Samuel Mohilever.

His Zionist efforts were intensified by the pogroms in Eastern Europe and Russia; he tirelessly sought to create a general awareness among the refugees and possible donors that the Jewish mass settlement in Palestine was the solution to the problem of the Jewish question. With the help of wealthy Russian Zionists, he was also able to buy large lots of land (1,556 acres) near Jaffa and became the founder of Rechowot (also Rehovot , Rehobot ).

What began as Chibbat Zion consequently developed into the Mizrachi movement, which joined the World Zionist Organization in 1902, four years after Mohilever's death. When other religious leaders refused to support the Choveve Zion because of their contact with the Maskilim, Mohilever took a different stance: he encouraged Pinsker and Lilienblum , who urged the numerous local groups of the Choveve Zion to join forces. This then led to the Katowice Conference in 1884 (see Max E. Mandelstamm ), of which he was honorary president. He also presided over the conferences of 1887 and 1889.

Under Mohilever's aegis, a rabbinical committee was elected to ensure that the religious regulations were adapted to the specific situation during the settlement of Eretz Israel. For example, he allowed the Jewish farmers several times to work their land during the sabbatical year .

Mohilever and his followers (including Isaak Jakob Reines) continued their work, especially among the Orthodox Jews, and so Mizrachi became the most important pillar of religious Zionism.

Late life

In recognition of his services, on the occasion of his 70th birthday, an orchard called Gan Shmuel was planted near Hadera . The kibbutz of the same name developed from this garden in 1913 .

In his last letter, which he wrote to Russian Jews the day before his death and which is considered his legacy, he urged them to continue struggling for a deeper understanding of the imperative to settle in Palestine. For him, this mitzvah was “the livelihood of our people”.

His grandson, Josef Mohilever, followed in his grandfather's footsteps. He received a traditional Jewish and Zionist upbringing, and also became an active Zionist and rabbi. He moved to Palestine in 1920 and became director of the teachers' college and a Hebrew grammar school in Jerusalem.


  • Obituary by Isidor Schalit in "Die Welt" II / 24 of June 17, 1898, pp. 2–3
  • David Bridger, Samuel Wolk (Eds.): The New Jewish Encyclopedia . Behrman House, New York (NYC / USA) 1976, ISBN 0-87441-120-3 , p. 326. (English)

Web links

Commons : Samuel Mohilever  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Samuel Mohilever - Short biography in the Jewish Virtual Library (accessed: March 11, 2008)

Individual evidence

  1. Currents in ZionismReligious Zionism - Introduction on haGalil onLine (accessed: March 11, 2008)
  2. Merkaz Ruchani (Hebrew for: spiritual center ) was a catchphrase which many years later was associated with Achad Ha'am's cultural Zionism and was and is only mentioned in historical studies in connection with its name.
  3. a b The Misrachi in the overall Zionist organization - introduction on haGalil onLine (accessed: March 11, 2008)