Lévi, Israel

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LÉVI, ISRAEL (1856–1939), chief rabbi of France, scholar, and writer. Lévi graduated from the Ecole Rabbinique in his native Paris. He was appointed assistant rabbi in Paris in 1882, and began teaching Jewish history at the Ecole Rabbinique in 1892 and Talmud and rabbinic literature at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in 1896. When the Société des Etudes Juives was founded in 1880, Lévi became its secretary. In 1886 he was appointed editor of the *Revue des Etudes Juives. He participated in the publication of the French Bible translation, the so-called Bible du Rabbinat (2 vols., 1899–1906), which was edited by his father-in-law Zadoc *Kahn and Julien Weill (1906). From 1919 to 1938 Lévi served as chief rabbi of the French central Consistoire.

Lévi's contributions to modern Jewish scholarship covered a wide range, from Bible, Apocrypha, Talmud, and Midrash to liturgy and history – that of the Jews of France in particular. He was a regular contributor to learned periodicals, especially the Revue des Etudes Juives, where he also proved himself an expert and painstaking reviewer of almost every publication in the field of Jewish and Hebrew scholarship. Lévi's approach to biblical and talmudic research was without dogmatic prejudice, but he shied away from the radicalism of the higher and lower Bible criticism (cf. his study on the Nash papyrus, in rej, 46 (1903), 212–7). His main published works include Le Roman d'Alexandre (1887), L'Ecclesiastique… (1898–1901; The Hebrew Text of the Book of Ecclesiasticus, 1904), Le Péché originel dans les anciennes sources juives (1907), and Histoire des Juifs de France (1903). On the occasion of his 70th birthday, Lévi was honored by the publication of "Mélanges offerts à Israël Lévi" (in rej, 86 (1926), 9–29, incl. bibl.).


J. Miklishanski, in: S. Federbusch (ed.), Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, 1 (1958), 297–309.

[Jacques K. Mikliszanski]