Klein, Samuel

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KLEIN, SAMUEL (1886–1940), historian and geographer of Ereẓ Israel. Born in Szilas Balhas, Hungary, Klein studied at the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary, where Hirsch *Hildesheimer aroused his interest in the geography of Ereẓ Israel, and at German universities. From 1909 to 1913 he served as rabbi in Dolnja Tuzla, Bosnia, and 1913–28 at Ersekujvar (Nove Zamky, Slovakia), serving as a military chaplain in World War i. His first visit to Palestine took place in 1908 with the aid of a grant from the Gesellschaft zur Foerderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums, and in 1924 he was appointed lecturer at the Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem (incorporated in the Hebrew University in 1925), while continuing until 1928 his rabbinical work in his community, and even lecturing at the Vienna Seminary. From 1929 Klein was professor of historical topography of Ereẓ Israel at the Hebrew University. For eight years he was president of the Jewish Palestine Exploration Society and was active in the Va'ad ha-Lashon as well as many other educational ventures.

Klein's great contribution to the study of the history and geography of Ereẓ Israel was his research into Talmud and Midrash as a primary source for the country's topography and the history of its settlement ("Siedlungsgeschichte"). He branched out into biblical and apocryphal geography, using also Hellenistic (Josephus) and patristic (Eusebius, etc.) sources, and making important contributions to Jewish epigraphy. Apart from numerous articles in the leading learned periodicals and his thesis (Beitraege zur Geographie und Geschichte Galilaeas, 1909), his major works include Juedisch-palaestinisches Corpus Inscriptionum (1920); Ever ha-Yarden ha-Yehudi (1925); Toledot ha-Yishuv ha-Yehudi be-Ereẓ Yisrael… (1935); Toledot Ḥakirat Ereẓ Yisrael… (1937); Ereẓ Yehudah (1939); and Ereẓ ha-Galil (1946). Klein also edited Sefer ha-Yishuv (vol. 1, 1939), and contributed most of the articles on Ereẓ Israel in the German Encyclopaedia Judaica and the Juedisches Lexikon.


Z. Harkavy, in: Yavneh, 1 (1939), 1–3; I. Werfel, ibid., 4–44 (bibl.); bjpes, 7:3–4 (1940), dedicated to the memory of S. Klein (incl. bibl.); B.M., ibid., 4:1–4 (1937), 83–94 (a bibliography); S.D. Loewinger, in: S. Federbush (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, 2 (1963), 240–8.

[Michael Avi-Yonah]