Churgin, Pinkhos

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CHURGIN, PINKHOS (1894–1957), educator, scholar, religious Zionist leader, and founder of *Bar-Ilan University. Churgin, who was born in Pohost, Belorussia, immigrated to Palestine with his parents in 1907 and settled in Jerusalem. In 1910 he was sent to study at the yeshivah of Volozhin, Lithuania. There he became interested in modern Hebrew letters and Zionist religious thought, which led to his correspondence with the founder of the Mizrachi movement, Rabbi Isaac Jacob *Reines. Churgin returned to Palestine at the end of 1912. In 1915 he went to America and accepted Hebrew teaching positions first in New Jersey and later in New Haven, Conn. He at once began to publish articles on current events and historical essays in the Hebrew periodicals, Ha-Ivri and Ha-Toren, and also wrote for the Yiddish and Anglo-Jewish press. In 1920 he began teaching at the Teachers' Institute in New York City, then under the joint sponsorship of the Mizrachi Organization and the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Yeshivah.

In 1924 Churgin was appointed dean of the Teachers' Institute. Churgin was one of the moving spirits in the development of Yeshivah University, served for many years as chairman of the Council for Jewish Education under the sponsorship of the Mizrachi movement, and was instrumental in founding a number of Hebrew day schools in New York and in other cities. In 1949 Churgin became president of the Mizrachi Organization of America. During his years in office he was the chief architect and executor of the idea for the establishment of the Bar-Ilan University. In 1955 he left for Israel to head the new university. Under his guidance, the institute grew and became an important factor in the field of Hebrew education.

As a scholar, Churgin specialized in the study of the Targumim and the history of the Second Temple Period. He wrote Targum Jonathan to the Prophets (1927), Targum Ketuvim ("Targum to the Hagiographa," 1945), and Meḥkarim Bi-Tekufat Bayit Sheni ("Studies on the Second Temple Period," 1949). In 1934 he founded the quarterly Horeb, which appeared irregularly under his editorship until 1955. He also served as co-editor of the Hebrew monthly Bitzaron (1949–55). Churgin's analysis of historical and textual material led him to original conclusions on the question of relationship between Samaritans and Jews during the time of the Second Temple. He also shed new light on the attitude of the Jewish people toward the Hasmonean dynasty and ventured a new appraisal of Josephus' and Philo's historical writings.


Hoenig, in: jba, 16 (1958), 105–7; lnyl, 3 (1960), 728–9.

[Hayim Leaf]