Netter, Charles

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NETTER, CHARLES (Yiẓḥak ; 1826–1882), leader of the *Alliance Israélite Universelle and founder of the *Mikveh Israel Agricultural School. Born in Strasbourg, Netter went into business, first in Lille and then in Moscow and London. He moved to Paris in about 1851 and began a life-long career of public activities, establishing a Jewish vocational school in 1865, a society for safeguarding the rights of workers, and a hostel for poor artisans in 1880. A founder of the Alliance Israélite Universelle (1860), he was elected its treasurer. Various proposals submitted to the Alliance to extend its activities to Ereẓ Israel met with a favorable response on Netter's part, and the Alliance board, although opposed to the encouragement of emigration to Ereẓ Israel, was ready to help Jews already there. In 1867 Netter submitted a proposal to the Alliance to assist Jews from Persia and other Eastern countries to emigrate to Ereẓ Israel and to found agricultural settlements for them. The following year he visited Ereẓ Israel on behalf of the Alliance, and upon his return he recommended the creation of an agricultural school, to be followed by the founding of settlements for the school graduates. In his report Netter noted that Ereẓ Israel would provide a shelter for Jews fleeing from hostile surroundings and enable them, in the course of time, to occupy and settle the Holy Land. When his proposal was approved, he left for Constantinople in 1869, where he received the approval of the grand vizier of the Imperial State Council for the establishment of the school and the authorization of Rashid Pasha, governor of Syria, for the acquisition of 650 acres (2,600 dunams) of land for the annual rental of 1,800 francs, with a right of renewal for 25 years. A firman of 1870 confirmed the arrangement, whereupon he returned to Ereẓ Israel and founded the school, naming it Mikveh Israel. After a stay of four years, he fell ill and had to return to Paris, revisiting Ereẓ Israel for six months in 1873. He resumed his political activities on behalf of Jewish causes and in propaganda for the school. In 1877 he again went to Constantinople on behalf of the Alliance, and on the basis of this visit he submitted a report to the Great Powers on the situation of the Jews, especially in Romania and Serbia. In the following year he attended the Congress of Berlin. In 1880 he was at Madrid, where an international conference was deliberating the status of Morocco, and intervened on behalf of the Jews of that country. He was disappointed with the lack of success recorded by Mikveh Israel and the general unsuitability of Ereẓ Israel for the absorption of large numbers of Jews. As a result, he opposed the aliyah of Russian and Romanian Jews in the 1880s, when events in those countries created strong pressure for emigration and a movement developed to resettle Ereẓ Israel. At the end of 1881 he visited Brody, remaining there for some months, during which he arranged for the emigration of 1,200 Russian Jewish refugees to America and of a group of 28 children to Mikveh Israel. In March 1882 he even came out with a statement in the press opposing immigration to Ereẓ Israel. Similarly, a conference of Jewish organizations in Berlin, in which Netter participated, decided to support emigration to the United States and to look for other countries where Jews could find refuge, but failed to consider settlement in Ereẓ Israel. Probably under the influence of Baron Edmond de *Rothschild, who believed that an attempt should be made to turn Ereẓ Israel into a center for Jewish immigration, Netter revised his views, and in August 1882 he revisited the country. There he met Russian Jews who had settled in Rishon le-Zion and members of the *Bilu movement and offered them his help. He developed many plans for agricultural activities and the development of crafts in Ereẓ Israel, but died a month after his arrival.


Z. Szajkowski, in: jsos, 4 (1942), 291–310; N. Sokolow, Hibbath Zion (Eng. 1935), 20, 30–34; S. Jawnieli, Sefer ha-Ẓiyyonut, 2 pt. 2 (1944), 16–23, 34–37; A. Druyanow, Ketavim le-Toledot Ḥibbat Ẓiyyon ve-Yishuv Ereẓ Yisrael (1919), index; I. Klausner, Ḥibbat Ẓiyyon be-Rumanyah (1958), index; idem, Be-Hitorer Am (1962), index; B. Dinaburg, Mefallesei Derekh (1946), 69–89; J. Shapiro, Sefer Mikveh Yisrael (1970); G. Weill, in: Nouveaux Cahiers, 21 (1970), 2–36; 11 (1967), 11–16; S. Hillels, Mikveh Yisrael (1931).

[Israel Klausner]