Barishansky, Raphael

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BARISHANSKY, RAPHAEL (1864–1950), rabbi. Barishansky was born in Lipnishtok, Lithuania, and studied at the outstanding yeshivot of Eishishok and Mir as well as the kolel in Kovno and with the Gaon Rabbi Ḥayyim Lev. In Bialystok he studied with Rabbi Samuel *Mohilewer. Mohilwer influenced him to become a religious Zionist and Barishansky joined Hovovei Zion (see *Ḥibbat Zion).

For 30 years, beginning in 1893, Barishansky was the pulpit rabbi in a large congregation in the town of Gomel in Belorussia, even attracting non-observant Jews to Judaism. He worked to help Jewish soldiers in the Russian Army by sending them kosher food and ritual items for Jewish holidays.

Barishansky was a committed religious Zionist who sought to bring others to the cause; he attended several World Zionist Congresses. Barishansky's Zionism also brought him into conflict with the fairly large community of Lubavitcher Ḥasidim in Gomel. When *Mizrachi opened a chapter in Gomel, and there was community opposition, Barishansky vigorously defended the ideology of religious Zionism.

In the early 1920s, Barishansky publicly criticized Jewish communists for closing Jewish schools and discrediting Zionism. As a result, he was sentenced to two years in prison, but was released after six months, thanks to the intervention of several Zionists. By February 1924, he had fled Russia and arrived in New York. Because of his experiences in the "old country," when the American Jewish community wanted to ameliorate the conditions of the Jews in Soviet territories, he opposed attempts to keep them there, because even the Jewish communists were anti-religious and were suppressing Judaism, especially around the Jewish holy days.

Once in New York, Barishansky accepted a teaching position at the Talmud Torah Torat Moshe in the Bronx. He became an active member in the American Mizrachi movement and a member of the Agudat Harabbonim, but left when he disagreed with their policy of denying the certification of kosher meat in factories that also produced nonkosher meat. In 1926 he was a rabbi in Washington, D.C. When he retired in 1929, he returned to the Bronx. An autobiographical memoir of the trial in Russia in 1922 appeared in the Morgen Journal (Nov. 19, 1923) and was reprinted in M. Altshuler, "The Rabbi of Homel's Trial," in: Michael, 6 (1980), pp. 9–61.


M. Sherman, Orthodox Judaism in America: A Biographical Dictionary and Sourcebook, (1996) 26–27; A. Rand (ed.), Toledot Anshei Shem (1950), 7; Jewish Daily Bulletin (Oct. 27, 1925)

[Jeanette Friedman (2nd ed.)]