Tag Archives: Jerusalem

Jew of the Week: Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer

The Rabbi Who Launched Zionism

Zvi Hirsch Kalischer (1795-1874) was born in what was then Prussia (now Poland) to a long line of rabbis. After receiving his own rabbinic ordination and getting married, he moved to the city of Thorn and there served as the rabbi for over forty years. Incredibly, he never took a salary for this role, and instead made a living running a small business with his wife. He wrote commentaries on the Torah, Talmud, Passover Haggadah, and a wide range of topics in Jewish law. Meanwhile, Rabbi Kalischer was deeply concerned about the state of Jewry, both in Europe and in the Holy Land. He worried about the pogroms, persecutions, and poverty experienced by Jews in Eastern Europe, and equally worried about the mass-assimilation, secularism, and rise of Reform Judaism in Western Europe. Meanwhile, he wanted to make existing Jewish communities in places like Jerusalem, Hebron, Tiberias, and Tzfat flourish and become self-sufficient, instead of relying heavily on donations from abroad. For Rabbi Kalischer, the solution to all of these problems was Jewish nationalism, and he began writing on these issues in the Hebrew magazine HaLevanon. In 1862, he put his ideas together in a book titled Derishat Zion, and followed it up with Rishon L’Zion in 1864. He argued that Jews should come together to purchase land in Israel, build agricultural schools to teach farming and land management, and to establish a Jewish military force to protect the Jews of the Holy Land. He also hoped to re-establish the sacrifices and offerings in Jerusalem as specified in the Torah. Rabbi Kalischer argued that Jews should stop waiting for God to solve their problems: “One should not think that the Blessed One will suddenly descend from the Heavens to tell his people – ‘leave!’ – or that he will send His messenger any moment to call us on the trumpet…” While many critiqued this approach, Rabbi Kalischer defended his position with citations from all across Jewish holy texts. He went on speaking tours around Europe to spread the message, and convinced countless people to join the cause. Rabbi Kalischer was a key inspiration for prominent figures like Sir Moses Montefiore, Adolphe Crémieux, and Edmond de Rothschild. His work led directly to the establishment of the first agricultural school in the Holy Land in 1870, called Mikveh Israel. He even donated his own savings of 12,000 francs towards purchasing more land in Israel. Rabbi Kalischer is widely regarded as one of the early founders of Zionism.

Torah Simulation Theory (Video)

Words of the Week

If whites are successful, it’s “white privilege”; if minorities are successful, it’s “empowerment”; if Jews are successful, it’s a conspiracy.
– Jon Stewart 

Jew of the Week: Zelda Mishkovsky

Israel’s Hasidic National Poet

Shaina Zelda Schneersohn (1914-1984) was born in what is now Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire, to a religious family of Chabad Hasidim. She was a first cousin of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. An only child, she made aliyah with her parents when she was 12. The family settled in Jerusalem, where Zelda went on to study at the city’s Bezalel Academy of Arts in the hopes of being a professional painter. She ultimately became a teacher and taught at school in Tel-Aviv, Haifa, and Jerusalem. (One of her students was renowned writer Amos Oz). Meanwhile, she wrote poems and essays for local newspapers, and slowly gained a large following of fans. After marrying Hayim Mishkovsky, Zelda became a full-time writer and poet. She published her first collections of poems in 1967, blending themes from both Israel and Russia, infused with religious symbols and mystical concepts from Kabbalah and Hasidism, often mixing Modern Hebrew with Biblical Hebrew and Yiddish. The poems were hugely popular across Israel’s social, political, and religious spectrum. She went on to publish five more collections of poetry over the next two decades, each reaching bestseller status. She became affectionately known in Israel simply as “Zelda”, going on to win the Brenner Prize in 1971, and the Bialik Prize in 1978. Her poem “Each Person Has a Name” is publicly recited in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day (which also happens to be her yahrzeit). Like her cousin the Lubavitcher Rebbe (with whom she kept a regular correspondence), Zelda never had children, but had many devoted students and foster daughters that she took into her home. She is recognized today as one of Israel’s greatest poets.

Purim Begins This Saturday Night – Chag Sameach!

Secrets of Purim

3 Quran Verses Every Jew Must Know

Words of the Week

We are immersed in an evolving, ongoing conflict: an Information World War in which state actors, terrorists, and ideological extremists leverage the social infrastructure underpinning everyday life to sow discord and erode shared reality.
– Renée DiResta

Jew of the Week: Rami Levy

Israeli Supermarket King and Palestinian Hero

Rami Levy (b. 1955) was born in Jerusalem to an impoverished Iraqi-Jewish family. After completing his military service, he took over his grandfather’s failing grocery stall at the local market. He decided to slash his prices and sell without profit for the first three months to attract customers. After that, he continued operating at wholesale prices, becoming Israel’s first official discount store. A few years later, he was able to open a bigger, second location, and in 1992 his first supermarket, Rami Levy Shivuk HaShikma, named after himself and the street where his first shop was located. He has since expanded to 44 locations across Israel. He also operates 4 locations in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) that, despite being boycotted by the Palestinian Authority, employ Palestinian workers at double the wages of other supermarkets in the area, and are hugely popular among Palestinian shoppers who appreciate the low prices. More recently, he opened a shopping mall on the outskirts of Jerusalem, where a third of the stores are Palestinian-owned. Rami Levy has supported Jewish settlements in the area and does not see them as a barrier to peace, because he strongly believes Jews and Arabs can coexist no matter where they live, and peace can be achieved through Palestinian economic development. He has been described as “the Israeli supermarket king that became a Palestinian hero”. Today, Rami Levy supermarkets are famous for their clever marketing and epic pre-holiday sales (for example, chickens, apples, and honey for less than a shekel per kilo before one Rosh Hashanah). The company went public in 2007, and has since expanded into clothing, real estate, and cellular communications, becoming Israel’s fourth mobile network. They are even trying to develop a home-delivery system using drones. Rami Levy Shivuk HaShikma is now the third largest supermarket chain in the country.

Recognizing and Fighting Fake News About Israel

Words of the Week

The state and progress of the Jews, from their earliest history to the present time, has been so entirely out of the ordinary course of human affairs, is it not then a fair conclusion, that the cause also is an extraordinary one—in other words, that it is the effect of some great providential plan?
– Alexander Hamilton