Chasanowich, Joseph

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CHASANOWICH, JOSEPH (1844–1919), Zionist; one of the founders of the Jewish National *Library in Jerusalem. Chasanowich was born in Grodno, Russia and studied medicine in Koenigsberg. He settled in Bialystok, where he worked for most of his life as a doctor, devoting particular attention to the poor. In 1883 he set out to settle in Ereẓ Israel, but was forced back at Smyrna because of a cholera epidemic. In 1890 he visited Ereẓ Israel as a member of a Ḥovevei Zion delegation headed by Samuel *Mohilever. Chasanowich became one of Theodor *Herzl's fervent disciples, and supported the *Uganda Scheme. During Herzl's lifetime, he represented Bialystok at the Zionist Congresses. In 1915 he was forced to move to Yekaterinoslav, where he died in the old-people's home. Chasanowich devoted a great deal of time to collecting ancient and rare books for a national Jewish library in Jerusalem. Toward this end he published leaflets urging Jews to donate books, writing: "In our Holy City, Jerusalem, all the books written in Hebrew, and all books in all languages which deal with the Jews and their Torah, all the writings and drawings dealing with their life… will be treasured…." His vision was realized in the National Library, which was first built on Mount Scopus and later at the new university campus at Givat Ram. Altogether he collected about 36,000 books, 20,000 of them in Hebrew.


A. Yaari, Beit ha-Sefarim ha-Le'ummi re-ha-Universita'i bi-Yrushalayim (1942); D. Klementinowski, Dr. J. Chasanowich (Yid., 1956); S.H. Bergmann, in: Ha-Po'el ha-Ẓa'ir (Jan. 19, 1960); Kressel, Leksikon, 1 (1965), 780.

[Avraham Yaari]