Netanyahu, Benzion

views updated


NETANYAHU, BENZION (1910–), scholar and Zionist. Born in Warsaw, Netanyahu moved with his family to Tel Aviv in 1920. There he became active in the Zionist-Revisionist Party and its successor, the New Zionist Organization. From 1932 to 1935 he served on its executive committee and in 1934–35 as editor-in-chief of its daily paper Ha-Yarden. In 1940 he went to the United States as a member of the delegation, headed by Jabotinsky, of the World New Zionist Organization, and in the following year was appointed executive director of the New Zionist Organization of America; until 1948 he headed its press campaign and diplomatic action in the United States. From 1946 to 1948 he was a member of the American Zionist Emergency Council, under the leadership of Abba Hillel Silver.

After the establishment of the State of Israel, Netanyahu turned to his numerous scholarly interests in the field of Judaica. He became the editor-in-chief of the Encyclopedia Hebraica (1948–62); general editor of The World History of the Jewish People (1954–64); editor-in-chief of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (1961–63); co-editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review (1959–60); and editor of the works of Herzl, Nordau, and Pinsker. He was a professor at Dropsie College from 1957 to 1968, serving as chairman of its Department of Hebrew Language and Literature from 1962 to 1968. From 1968 he was professor of Hebraic studies at the University of Denver and in 1971 was appointed professor of Judaic studies and chairman of the Department of Semitic Languages at Cornell University. Upon his retirement, he became professor emeritus of Jewish studies at Cornell and a scholar at Princeton University.

Netanyahu published numerous original studies in various fields of Jewish history and literature, including Don Isaac Abravanel (1953), 19682), The Marranos of Spain (1966), and The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain (1995).

He is the father of Binyamin *Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel in 1996–99.

[Martin A. Cohen]