Bermann, Vasili

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BERMANN, VASILI (Ze'ev Wolf ; 1862–1896), one of the first members of Ḥovevei Zion in Russia. He was born in Mitava, Russia (today Jelgava, Latvia) and studied at the Russian-Jewish school run by his father Eliezer Bermann, who published the Russian-Jewish newspaper Russkii Yevrei in St. Petersburg. He graduated as a lawyer from St. Petersburg University. After the 1881 pogroms in South Russia, he joined the Ḥibbat Zion movement. He published and edited the Russian-language anthologies Palestina (1884, with A. Flekser, Volynsky) and Sion, which expounded the intellectual basis for the Ḥibbat Zion ideology. Bermann attended the Ḥovevei Zion Druskiniki conference (1887) and aided in the efforts to obtain an official permit for the Ḥovevei Zion society to operate in Russia. He was secretary of the founding assembly of the society in Odessa (1890). Convinced that organized emigration was essential for Russian Jewry, Bermann supported Baron de *Hirsch's plans to organize the mass exit of Jews from Russia, and regarded this as supplementing the settlement project in Ereẓ Israel. He became secretary of the ica (*Jewish Colonization Association) founded by Baron de Hirsch, conducted a comprehensive survey of the problem of Jewish emigration, and established and headed the ica's emigration department. Bermann was also a founder of the Historical-Ethnographical Committee of the Society for the Spreading of Enlightenment among the Jews in Russia. He contracted tuberculosis and went to live in Cairo, where he died.


Lu'aḥ Aḥi'asaf, 4 (1896), 46–50; Katznelson, in: Ha-Meliẓ, no. 76 (1896), 3–4; A. Raphaeli (Zenziper), Pa'amei ha-Ge'ullah (1951), 28, 88.

[Yehuda Slutsky]