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Chajes, Hirsch (Ẓevi) Perez


CHAJES, HIRSCH (Ẓevi ) PEREZ (1876–1927), rabbi, scholar, and Zionist leader. Chajes was born in Brody, Galicia, the grandson of Ẓevi Hirsch *Chajes. He studied Talmud and rabbinics with his father Solomon and his uncle Isaac Chajes, rabbi in Brody, and received a general education as well. He was considered a child prodigy. Later, he studied at the Jewish Theological Seminary and the University of Vienna, at the latter under the Orientalist D.H. *Mueller. In 1902, after serving for a short time as a teacher of religion in Lemberg and as librarian of the Oriental Institute in Vienna, Chajes began lecturing on Jewish history and Bible at the *Collegio Rabbinico Italiano in Florence. From 1904 he lectured on Hebrew at the University of Florence, where among his pupils was Umberto *Cassuto. An ardent Zionist from his youth, Chajes became the champion of Zionism in Italy, propagating his views in the Settimana Israelitica. In 1912 Chajes became rabbi of the Trieste congregation. There he founded the periodical Il Messaggero Israelitico, which he wrote almost singlehandedly. In 1918 Chajes went to Vienna as deputy to Chief Rabbi Moritz *Guedemann, whom he succeeded on the latter's death shortly thereafter. He did much to relieve the suffering of Jewish victims of World War i both in Trieste and Vienna, and continued this work in the Jewish community during the depression and political upheavals after the war. During his nine years of office in Vienna, the second largest community in Europe, Chajes was the undisputed spiritual leader of Austrian Jewry, though his Zionist views were unpopular with the wealthy and comfortable assimilationists, and his liberal scholarship as well as his Zionism antagonized most of the Orthodox. But his influence on the younger generation was considerable. In time he was recognized as one of the leading men in world Jewry. A fine orator and a charismatic personality, Chajes greatly impressed his audiences with his sermons and speeches beginning with his first address as chief rabbi of Vienna, in which he made his Zionist confession of faith. In his charitable activities he was much helped by his friendship with some American Jewish leaders, and he visited the United States twice. Chajes took a great interest in Jewish education, founding or reviving two Jewish elementary schools, a high school (which after his death was given his name), the religious teachers' seminary, and in particular, a Hebrew paedagogium, of which he was director and where he taught Bible. He also served on the board of the Jewish Theological Seminary. As a leading Zionist, Chajes attended the San Remo Peace Conference in 1920 and was elected chairman of the Zionist Actions Committee for 1921–25. The coveted lectureship at the Hebrew University eluded him (despite Bialik's interventions) because of his critical approach to the Bible. In 1923 Chajes organized the first Jewish League of Nations Association, of which he was president until his death. Chajes' contributions to modern Jewish scholarship were mainly the fruit of his years in Italy. His dissertation, Markus-Studien (1899), was devoted to the New Testament; in it he suggested that some of Jesus' sayings were translated into Hebrew to give them greater sanctity, a thesis which did not find acceptance. In 1899, too, he published Proverbia-Studien, and in 1900, Beitraege zur nordsemitischen Onomatologie. His Juedische und juedischindische Grabinschriften aus Aden (with a contribution by J. Kirste on the Indian texts) appeared in 1903. To A. Kahana's series of modern commentaries to the books of the Bible, Chajes contributed those on Psalms (19072) and Amos (1906). He also edited the medieval author Solomon b. Ha-Yatom's commentary on the tractate Mo'ed Katan entitled Perush Massekhet Mashkin, from a unique manuscript (1909). Several hundred articles, notes, and book reviews of his appeared in the learned journals of the time as well as in several Festschriften; among the former was the Rivista Israelitica, of which he was a coeditor. At the age of 13 Chajes had a Hebrew poem accepted in Ha-Ẓefirah (May 31, 1890, p. 505; repr. ibid., Jan. 13, 1928, p. 4); and he was proud to be one of the first European university teachers to accept a thesis on a modern Hebrew poet, U. Cassuto's thesis on Ḥ.N. Bialik's poetry. A memorial volume, Abhandlungen zur Erinnerung an H.P. Chajes, edited by V. Aptowitzer and A.Z. Schwarz, appeared in 1933. A collection of his speeches and lectures, Reden und Vortraege, appeared in 1933 and another, Im heroischen Zeitalter: Reden und Vortraege, in 1935; selections of his writings were published in Hebrew as Ne'umim ve-Harẓa'ot (1953) and Be-Sod Ammi (1962). In 1950, his body was reburied in Tel Aviv.


M. Rosenfeld, Oberrabbiner H.P. Chajes: Sein Leben und Werke (1933); K. Trau and M. Krein, Adam ba-Olam (1947); J. Fraenkel (ed.), The Jews of Austria (1967), index; I.I. Lewin, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Eiropah, 1 (1958), 241–53; Tidhar, 15 (1966), 4649–55; H. Gold, Geschichte der Juden in Wien (1966), 44–45, 54–55; Kressel, Leksikon, 1 (1965), 782–3.

[Salo W. Baron]

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