Sneersohn, Ḥayyim Ẓevi

views updated


SNEERSOHN, ḤAYYIM ẒEVI (1834–1882), proto-Zionist. Sneersohn settled in Ereẓ Israel with his family in childhood. He was one of the first maskilim in Jerusalem, and arrived at the conclusion that redemption would come gradually and naturally. He left Ereẓ Israel on public missions a number of times. In 1861 he traveled to India and Australia on behalf of the Jerusalem committee for the establishment of Houses of Shelter and Hospices (Battei Maḥaseh ve-Hakhnasat Oreḥim). On this trip he succeeded in winning the support not only of heads of Jewish communities and rabbis, but also of Christians, among them senior ecclesiastics and statesmen. In his speeches in the large towns of Australia, Sneersohn described the project as the beginning of the return to Zion, the redemption of Israel, and the redemption of the world. He spoke in Hebrew, and his speeches were translated into English (his speech in Melbourne was printed in a pamphlet, 1862). He traveled to Paris and London and from there to the United States (1869) in order to gain assistance for the agricultural settlement of Jews of Tiberias. As a result of his representations to the U.S. government, the American consul in Jerusalem was changed, and a Jewish consul (Benjamin P. Peixotto) was sent to Romania (1870). In a letter (printed in the paper Ha-Ivri, 1872, 47–50) Sneersohn called on the *Alliance Israélite Universelle to convene a world congress in order to discuss the condition of the Jewish people and the establishment of a Jewish state. In New York he published a selection of his lectures and articles on Ereẓ Israel and Romania entitled Palestine and Roumania, a Description of the Holy Land, and the Past and Present State of Roumania and the Roumanian Jews (New York, 1872). In 1875 he returned to Ereẓ Israel. His activities aroused the opposition of the heads of the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem, who banned, cursed, and persecuted him. As a U.S. citizen, he requested the protection of the American consuls. He later left Ereẓ Israel for South Africa, where he died.


I. Klausner, in: Herzl Year Book, 6 (1965), 25–51; idem, Rabbi Ḥayyim Ẓevi Sneersohn (Heb. 1943).

[Israel Klausner]