Tag Archives: Volozhin

Jews of the Week: Nathan, Benzion and Yoni Netanyahu

Nathan Mileikowsky (1879-1935) was born in what is now Belarus to an Orthodox Jewish family descended from the great Vilna Gaon. When he was ten, he joined the famous Volozhin yeshiva and after eight years of diligent study was ordained as a rabbi. During this time he became drawn to Zionism and soon dedicated his time to the Zionist cause. He traveled across Europe, Russia, and later the United States to raise support for Zionism – becoming one of the world’s most popular Zionist speakers – as well as to raise money for the Jewish National Fund. In 1920, Mileikowsky made aliyah to Israel. He headed a school in Rosh Pina, promoted settlement of the Galilee, and wrote¬†articles for the Hebrew press – often under the pen name “Netanyahu”. He continued to tour globally, at one point giving over 700 lectures in under 9 months, and publishing some of these talks in a popular book. Towards the end of his life, Mileikowsky settled in Herzliya and established a farm.

Benzion Netanyahu

Benzion Netanyahu

His son, Benzion Mileikowsky (1910-2012), was born in Warsaw while Nathan was head of its Hebrew Gymnasium. Growing up in Israel, he adopted his father’s pen name “Netanyahu”. Benzion studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, taking on a more hard-line approach to Zionism. He became editor of a number of Zionist newspapers, and later the chief editor of the Encyclopaedia Hebraica. In 1940, Benzion moved to New York to build American support for the Jewish state, serving as executive director of an American Zionist group. Later on, he became a professor of Judaic studies and medieval history at Cornell University. Benzion published five books on Jewish history, and edited a number of others. His three sons are: Iddo, a doctor and author;¬†Benjamin, Israel’s current prime minister; and Yoni, the eldest son.

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Last known photograph of Yoni Netanyahu

Yonatan “Yoni” Netanyahu (1946-1976) was born in New York, went to high school in Pennsylvania, and studied at Harvard. He first enlisted in the IDF in 1964, and fought in the Six-Day War, getting wounded while rescuing a soldier behind enemy lines. A few years later, he joined Israel’s special forces unit, Sayeret Matkal, and by 1972 became its deputy commander. For his heroic service during the 1973 Yom Kippur War he was awarded a distinguished medal. In 1976, now commander of Sayeret Matkal, Yoni led Operation Entebbe, successfully rescuing over 100 Israeli hostages held in Uganda. Sadly, Yoni was the mission’s sole casualty, and passed away during the flight back home. In 1980, his personal letters were published, and were described as a “remarkable work of literature”. Both a film and play have recently been made about his life.

Words of the Week

God treats a person the same way they treat their children.
– Rabbi Shlomo of Karlin

Jew of the Week: Wolf Wissotzky

Tea!

If you had a name like Kalonimus Kalman Vulf Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky, you’d kick ass, too.

Kalman Ze’ev Yankelevich Wissotzky (1824-1904) was the son of struggling merchants in Russia. After studying at the famous Volozhin Yeshiva, he joined an agricultural colony which paved his way into the tea trade. In 1849, he established the Wissotzky Tea company in Moscow and very soon became known as the “King of Russian Tea.” By 1904, Wissotzky Tea was popular across the world, with branches in Europe and America. Meanwhile, the situation in Russia worsened to the point that Wissotzky Tea moved their headquarters to Israel. (During the Russian Revolution, the masses protested “Jewish domination” and chanted their slogan: “Tea of Wissotzky, Sugar of Brodsky, and the Tzar is Leiba Trotsky!”) In 1936, Wissotzky Tea opened a factory in Israel, becoming the first tea company in the region. Since then it has been Israel’s leading tea brand. It would surely make Wolf Wissotzky proud – he was an ardent Zionist and one of the main shakers of the movement. He gave 10,000 rubles to the Alliance Israelite for Zionist causes, then another lump sum of 20,000, as well as 6000 rubles to start one of Israel’s first monthly magazines (called HaShiloach). Wissotzky personally traveled to Israel and laid the groundwork for the Lod, Nablus and Gaza settlements. He also established and financed the first school in Jaffa. Outside of Israel, too, Wissotzky was a great philanthropist. In 1898, he gave 70,000 to build a yeshiva in Byelostok. Most amazingly, he worked tirelessly to help the Cantonists – young Russian Jews forcibly taken from their homes and conscripted into life-long military service. Wissotzky ensured many of them had Shabbat services and Passover meals, and helped bring countless young boys back to Judaism. Ultimately, he would leave over 1 million rubles to charity. In those days, one ruble was equal to 0.514 ounces of gold, which in today’s value is nearly $1,000. So, Wissotzky donated nearly one billion dollars to charity! Now that’s philanthropy!

Words of the Week

Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
– Eleanor Roosevelt