KALISCHER, ẒEBI HIRSCH:
German rabbi and colonizer; born March 24, 1795, at Lissa, Posen; died Oct. 16, 1874, at Thorn, on the Vistula. Destined for the rabbinate, he received his Talmudic education from Jacob of Lissa and Akiba Eger of Posen. After his marriage he left Lissa and settled in Thorn, where he spent the rest of his life. Here he took an active interest in the affairs of the Jewish community, and for more than forty years held the office of "Rabbinatsverweser" (acting rabbi). Disinterestedness was a prominent feature of his character; he refused to accept any remuneration for his services, his wife, by means of a small business, providing their meager subsistence.
In his youth he wrote "Eben Boḥan," commentary on several juridical themes of the Shulḥan 'Aruk, Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ (Krotoschin, 1842), and "Sefer Moznayim la-Mishpaṭ," commentary, in three parts, on the whole Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ (parts i. and ii., Krotoschin and Königsberg, 1855; part iii. still in manuscript). He also wrote: glosses on Shulḥan 'Aruk, Yoreh De'ah, published in the new Wilna edition of that work; "Sefer ha-Berit," commentary on the Pentateuch; "Sefer Yeẓi'at Miẓrayim," commentary on the Pesaḥ Haggadah; "Ḥiddushim" on several Talmudical treatises; etc. He also contributed largely to Hebrew magazines, as "Ha-Maggid," "Ẓiyyon," "Ha-'Ibri," and "Ha-Lebanon."Palestine Colonization.
Inclined to philosophical speculation, Kalischerstudied the systems of medieval and modern Jewish and Christian philosophers, one result being his "Sefer Emunah Yesharah," an inquiry into Jewish philosophy and dogma (2 vols., Krotoschin, 1843, 1871); an appendix to vol. i. contains a commentary (incomplete) on Job and Ecclesiastes. In the midst of his many activities, however, his thoughts centered on one idea—the colonization of Palestine, in order thereby to provide a home for the homeless Eastern Jews and transform the many Jewish beggars in the Holy Land into a useful agricultural population. He proposed to collect money for this purpose from Jews in all countries; to buy and cultivate land in Palestine; to found an agricultural school, either in Palestine itself or in France; and to form a Jewish military guard for the security of the colonies. He thought the time especially favorable for the carrying out of this idea, as the sympathy of men like Crémieux, Montefiore, Rothschild, and Albert Cohn rendered the Jews politically influential. To these and similar Zionist ideals he gave expression in his "Derishat Ẓiyyon" (Lyck, 1862), containing three theses: (1) the salvation of the Jews, promised by the Prophets, can come about only in a natural way—by self-help; (2) colonization in Palestine; (3) admissibility of the observance of sacrifices in Palestine at the present day. The appendix contains an invitation to the reader to become a member of the colonization societies of Palestine.
This book made a very great impression, especially in the East. It was translated into German by Poper (Thorn, 1865), and a second Hebrew edition was issued by N. Friedland (ib. 1866). Kalischer himself traveled with indefatigable zeal to different German cities for the purpose of establishing colonization societies. It was his influence that caused Ḥayyim Lurie, in Frankfort-on-the-Main in 1861, to form the first society of this kind, and this was followed by others. Owing to Kalischer's agitation, the Alliance Israélite Universelle founded the Palestinian colony Miḳweh Yisrael (Agricultural Colonies), the rabbinate of which was offered to him, but he was too old to accept it. Although all these endeavors were not attended with immediate success, Kalischer never lost hope. By exerting a strong influence upon his contemporaries, including such prominent men as Heinrich Grätz, Moses Hess (see "Rom und Jerusalem," pp. 117 et seq.), and others, he is considered to have been one of the most important of those who prepared the way for the foundation of modern Zionism.
- Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1874, p. 757;
- Jüdischer Volkskalender, pp. 143 et seq., Leipsic, 1899;
- Sefer Anshe Shem, pp. 31a et seq., Warsaw, 1892.