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The institution of halukkah: a historical review

Cecil Bloom

<plain_text><page sequence="1">The institution of halukkah: a historical review CECIL BLOOM The Hebrew word halukkah, meaning 'division', has, from the Middle Ages, been used to describe the collection and distribution of money to Jews living in the Holy Land, and especially in Jerusalem, to enable them to study with? out having to earn a living. The duty to help the poor is derived from Deuteronomy 15:7-8: 'If there be among you a needy man, one of thy breth? ren, within any of thy gates, in thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thy hand from thy needy brother; but thou shalt surely open thy hand unto him, and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth.' Rabbinic commentators concluded that the poor of one's own township ('of thy gates') take priority over those elsewhere, but, more importantly, that the inhabitants of the Land of Israel have priority over those of other lands ('in thy land'), an idea made explicit in the definitive codification of Jewish law, Shulhan Arukh, which states: 'The inhabitants of the Holy Land must be assisted before the inhabit? ants of any other land'.1 The special status of Jerusalem was pointed out by Rabbi Moshe Schreiber, a nineteenth-century leader of Hungarian Jewry, who saw it as the holiest place in Israel because it had been the site of the Temple.2 Another reason for which residents of the Holy Land had first call on alms was the view that the Yishuv ('settlement') in Eretz Israel protected the graves of the Patriarchs and Sages among others, together with ancient synagogues and Sifrei Torah, from attack by non-Jews.3 Furthermore, Dias? pora Jewry had come to the view that it was important to support their co-religionists in the Land of Israel engaged in talmudic study, for these were seen as preparing for the coming Redemption. It was also regarded as a way of fulfilling the mitzvah of living in Eretz Israel by proxy.4 An early reference to money collected to help men devote their time to talmudic study dates to the thirteenth century, when Rabbi Jehiel took 300 students with him from Paris to set up a yeshivah in Jerusalem, found they were unable to support themselves and sent out a meshullah, 'messenger', to Paper presented to the Society on 13 July 2000. 1 Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah 251:3. 2 M. J. Burak, The Hatam Sofer - His Life and Times (Toronto 1967) 203. 3 Y. Culi, The Torah Anthology (New York 1977) 1:378. 4 M. M. Rotschild, Halukkah (Jerusalem 1969) 86-7 (Hebrew). I</page><page sequence="2">Cecil Bloom seek funds elsewhere in the Holy Land and in Turkey.5 There was a major development at the end of the sixteenth century when Rabbi Moses Alsheikh moved to Safed from Venice and pleaded with Venetian Jews to send regular donations to support the poor.6 The custom was soon taken up in Poland, Bohemia and Hungary. We have also a 1658 report of a Christian correspond? ent of Manasseh ben Israel, named Henry Jessey (or Jacey), who wrote that since the Jews in Jerusalem spent all their time in prayer and were unable to support themselves financially, collections were made for them in synagogues in Poland, Lithuania, Prussia and Russia 'on every Sabbath day' (sic). About 30,000 Imperial dollars (then roughly equivalent to ?6563) were said to be going annually to Jerusalem, but the wars that put a stop to most of this resulted in great hardship, which led to a Chief Rabbi from Jerusalem, Nathan Saphira, going to Amsterdam to collect funds from Christians as well as Jews.7 In the sixteenth century halukkah was available only to scholars and to the very poor, but with increasing poverty funds began to be distributed more widely. The growing exploitation and oppression of Jews in the Holy Land by its rulers was a major factor in making the Jewish population more depend? ent on halukkah, a situation aggravated as the Ashkenazi population increased. Up to the beginning of the seventeenth century, unspecified funds sent to Palestine were divided between the four 'Holy Cities' into twenty-four por? tions. Ten parts went to Safed and seven, four and three to Jerusalem, Tiber? ias and Hebron respectively. A prolonged dispute later broke out between Safed and Jerusalem on how to apportion the monies, and in the 1660s Tiber? ias lost three of its portions because of its dwindling Jewish population. Within another decade, the division of money was thirteen parts for Jerusa? lem, eight for Safed and three for Hebron.8 From early in the eighteenth century the Council that controlled Sephardi life in Palestine introduced con? trols and began sending out emissaries from the four Holy Cities to the Sephardi world - Turkey, the Balkans, the Middle East, India and even China, as well as to the Sephardi centres in England, Holland and Italy. Money was also collected from Ashkenazi communities in Europe. It was a great honour to act as treasurer of such funds and local dignitaries in the donating communities usually filled these posts. The emissaries were themselves respected religious figures who would receive between a quarter and a third of the sums collected (plus expenses), with the remainder divided for distribution between the four Holy Cities according to their size and importance - eleven parts for Jerusalem, seven for Safed, six for Hebron and 5 The Jewish Encyclopaedia (New York and London, 1901) 6:179. 6 A. S. Rappaport, History of Palestine (London 1931) 315. 7 C. Roth, 'The Jews of Jerusalem in the Seventeenth Century', Misc. JHSE II (1935) 100 102. 8 D. Rossoff, Where Heaven Touches Earth (Jerusalem 1998) 63-4. 2</page><page sequence="3">The institution of halukkah: a historical review four for Tiberias.9 Initially, Turkey was the mam source of funds. By 1800 halukkah had grown in importance, and one messenger, Hayyim Joseph David Azulai, a major Sephardi rabbi and an effective fund-raiser, wrote an informative account of his travels to various European communities.10 It also become the custom to place charity boxes in homes and synagogues and in other communal institutions. The funds were in the name of Rabbi Meir Ba'al ha-Nes ('The Miracle Worker'), whose name appeared on the boxes. Messengers even spread their nets to North America before the Revolution, the first being Moses Malki in 1759,11 although Aaron Selig in 1849-50 was the first to collect really large sums, collecting funds in London, Birmingham and Liverpool before sailing to New York where he appears to have suggested that donations be forwarded to the Holy Land via the good offices of Sir Moses Montefiore.12 Over a two-year period he visited all the important American-Jewish centres. The sums mentioned as having been sent through Montefiore came to only $600, but Selig must have received considerably more which went unrecorded. His total expenses in America were stated to be $73, which is surely incorrect unless he had sponsors funding his trip. Montefiore had long been distributing money in Palestine. On his 1839 visit he gave relief money equally to all, making no distinction between those receiving alms, although the Sephardi leaders told him that those engaged in full-time study and without business or trade should receive more than the others.13 When large sums were collected for charitable purposes, it was not uncom? mon for questions to be raised about the way the money was handled, and in the Diaspora there was unease that messengers were an expensive way of fund-raising. One who collected ?5200 in the course of a two-year tour of Europe was said to have received 'the usual 40 percent',14 a figure significantly higher than that received by Sephardi emissaries. Some messengers were accused of absconding with their collections or of claiming extravagant expenses.15 As early as 1664, the Lithuanian Jewish Council was concerned about possible financial temptations and instructed communities to withdraw credentials from those who spent more than two successive years on collecting missions. In 1699 the Safed community was told to stop sending messengers 9 J. Halper, Between Redemption and Renewal (Boulder, Col, San Francisco and Oxford 1991) 33-4 10 S. W. Baron, The Jewish Community (Philadelphia 1945) 2:342. 11 S. W. Baron and J. M. Baron, 'Palestinian Messengers in America 1849-1879', Jewish Social Studies 5/2 (1943) 116. 12 Ibid. 121-3. 13 L. Loewe (ed.) Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore (London 1890) 1:164-5. 14 Jewish Chronicle (hereafter JC) 5 March 1880, p. 10. 15 M. Weinstein, 'Plans for Improving the Conditions of the Jews of Jerusalem in the Mid nineteenth Century', Bar-Ilan Year Book 6 (1968) 352. 3</page><page sequence="4">Cecil Bloom to France where local collections only would be made.16 American Jewry was particularly worried about financial irregularities. Imposters were suspected of exploiting American-Jewish sympathy for the Holy Land and the Terumat Hakodesh ('Holy Contribution') Society was founded in New York in 1833 specifically to prevent fraud and deception. The money collected was chan? nelled via the Pekidim and Amarcalim ('Clerks and Officials') Committee in Amsterdam which became a major source of funds and was said to be 'better regulated' than most other collecting agencies.17 Jewish society in Palestine until the late eighteenth century was dominated by Sephardim who had been settled there for a long time and who, unlike the later Ashkenazim, never rejected the outside world. Pious, but moderate in their approach, they accepted the need for some secular as well as religious education, in contrast to Ashkenazim who received only religious instruction. They acknowledged that most men had to support themselves by their own efforts in a variety of occupations - as petty merchants, craftsmen, artisans or labourers - and they sought outside financial help primarily for their scholars. Things changed after 1777 when 300 Polish hasidim fled to the Holy Land following conflicts with their opponents, the Mitnagdim, and were the first Ashkenazim to seek halukkah. They formed themselves into a group, or kollel, for this purpose. Thirty years later some Mitnagdim (usually called Prushim) established another kollel.18 More Mitnagdim later arrived and organized themselves into kolleh, constituting associations of emigrants from the coun? try or even district where funds were collected for them. These came into being following disputes between the various donating communities about how money should be distributed, and enabled each kollel to claim money provided specifically by their kin in the Diaspora. As a consequence, the amount of money available depended on what was donated in the district associated with a specific kollel. Funds were controlled locally by a supervising rabbi who was usually also a recipient. These Prushim eventually became the most powerful section of the Orthodox communities in the country. In 1866 they formed one overall organization, Ha-Va\A Kol Ha-kollelim ('The Gen? eral Committee of all the Kollelim'') in an attempt to co-ordinate relief efforts among the discordant kolleh and to ensure halukkah funds were most effec? tively used.19 Because Sephardi Jews normally supported themselves finan? cially, there were no Sephardi kolleh and halukkah funds were controlled by the Sephardi Council. In the Diaspora, contributing to halukkah was seen as a duty, but there 16 Baron (see n. 10) 343. 17 Baron and Baron (see n. n) 118. 18 I. Cohen, The Zionist Movement (London 1945) 42. 19 Halper (see n. 9) 116. 4</page><page sequence="5">The institution of halukkah: a historical review was a perceptible change as more and more Ashkenazim were attracted by the halukkah to settle in Palestine, particularly in Jerusalem. There they spent their days in prayer and study, believing it to be incumbent upon other Jews to support them in their devotions. Ashkenazi numbers increased dramatically throughout the nineteenth century, but established no economic structures to speak of until later. Many did spend their time in full-time study, or piously wanted 'to finish their days and repose in holy ground;20 but to others halukkah appeared merely to be easier than working, even though halukkah rarely gave an adequate income. Men (and women too) had to look for work to sustain themselves despite religious objections, but this was difficult to find and, especially in Jerusalem in the nineteenth century, there was great pov? erty. By 1880 as many as 15,000-20,000 Jews were believed to be supported by halukkah, and Jerusalem was said to be one 'vast almshouse' which attracted Jews by exaggerated reports of the extent of the charity available.21 Let us now look at the demographic development of Jerusalem. In 1800 the total population was 9000, of whom 2250 were Sephardim. There were very few Ashkenazim. Fifty years later 6000 of the total 15,000 population were Jews, one-third of whom were Ashkenazim. By 1870 the Jews comprised half the population, with Ashkenazi and Sephardi numbers at 5500 each. Ten years later, in 1880, Jews were in a majority and Ashkenazim formed the largest of the four ethnic groups (Muslim, Christian and two Jewish). By 1900 the Ashkenazim numbered 18,500, a third of the total population of the city, but the Sephardi increase was also significant - they now numbered i6,500.22 At this point, 60 percent of Palestinian Jews lived in Jerusalem.23 The increase in Sephardi numbers was influenced by immigration from Rus? sian Georgia and North Africa as well as some from Iraq, Bukhara in Central Asia and the Yemen.24 But until almost the end of the nineteenth century the Prushi rabbis controlled a large part of Jewish, not only religious, life, a fact which must be remembered in considering how the halukkah system developed. This paper will focus on the nineteenth century because it was then that the main issues relating to halukkah were fully debated, and will concentrate on Jerusalem. The immigration of Ashkenazi Jews resulted in a major change relating to halukkah. As has been mentioned, few Sephardim received it, since the able-bodied poor were expected to earn their own livelihood and only benefited indirectly. Sephardim used it mainly to support genuine scholars, 20 JC 16 April 1849, p. 153. 21 JC 23 April 1880, p. 10. 22 Halper (see n. 9) 7. 23 O. Schmelz, 'Development of the Jewish Population of Jerusalem During the Last Hundred Years', Jewish Journal of Sociology 2(1) (i960) 59. 24 Halper (see n. 9) 187. 5</page><page sequence="6">Cecil Bloom but also to pay Turkish taxes (which the Prushim were generally immune from having to pay). Sephardim needed money also for traditional bribes (baksheesh) and to help their few destitute brethren, but the Prushi attitude - at least when they first started to make their presence felt in the country - was that the money should go to all Jews since all came to the Land to pray and study. Prushi rabbis expected their flock to study full-time and vehemently disapproved of any who took up ordinary work to supplement their income. This caused great poverty among many Ashkenazim, especially in Jerusa? lem, because halukkah rarely provided enough money for a family's support. Virtually all Ashkenazim received halukkah, and the larger a family the greater the amount they received, children being added to the lists of recipi? ents immediately on birth. Recognized scholars received larger sums. Of the four Holy Cities, Jerusalem was the most important and the fact that its Ashkenazi rabbis controlled most of the distribution of the money gave them great power. Their perception of halukkah differed markedly from that of most of its donors, and their views were sometimes at odds with each other. Jerusalem-born Rabbi Moshe Hagiz, an early-eighteenth-century rabbinical authority, made it clear that recipients had no obligation to show indebtedness to donors and that the latter should not expect gratitude.25 One of Jerusalem's most powerful rabbis in the nineteenth century, Rabbi Samuel Salant, ruled that halukkah was also to help build and expand Eretz Israel, especially Jerusa? lem, declaring unequivocally that halukkah was wages for those engaged in building and guarding the embryonic Jewish settlements. Because it was not viewed as being charity, even those who did not need financial help could benefit from it, just as the biblical priestly tithes were given even to wealthy priests because these were in exchange for the 'service performed, the service of the Tabernacle'.26 Others in the community argued that only the bleak economic conditions forced men to accept halukkah, and that they would prefer to earn their bread by their own hands.27 One Prushi ruling in 1823 allowed men to take up what was considered to be essential work as long as their spare time was spent fully in religious study, but the more rigid Prushim strongly believed that this contradicted the rationale for settling in the Land of Israel, and their view held sway.28 Ashkenazi recipients of halukkah were therefore not always those in need and it was not generally the custom to abandon one's share of halukkah if one prospered. At one stage tradespeople such as shopkeepers and pedlars relied on halukkah when conditions were so harsh that they were unable to 25 S. Z. Zonnenfeld, The Guardian of the Walls (Jerusalem 5733) 2:184 (Hebrew). 26 H. Danziger (ed.) Guardian of Jerusalem (New York 1983) 254-5. 27 B. Gat, The History of the Jewish Yishuv in Eretz Israel 1840-1881 (Jerusalem 5723) 93 (Hebrew). 28 Halper (see n. 9) 81. 6</page><page sequence="7">The institution of halukkah: a historical review earn a living,29 but those who received it did not later feel inclined to give it up30 and justified their action by arguing that halukkah not taken up would be lost and would remain in the hands of the European managers of the funds. Some were said to distribute their share to the poor, but the son-in-law of one of Jerusalem's richest residents admitted receiving money because 'if the foreigners are fools to send money, should I be a fool and not accept it?'31 One watchmaker admitted that he received more from halukkah than from plying his trade. The numbers of Ashkenazim seeking halukkah were initially small, but, as their influence grew, tensions and frictions developed between them and the Sephardim, with the Ashkenazi leaders demanding that money destined for them should be paid directly instead of being controlled through the Sephardi community. By 1830 the Ashkenazim were in charge of their own funds and most halukkah was soon being directed to the Ashkenazim. By the 1860s over a third of Palestinian Jewry's income came from it; in Jerusalem it accounted for half of the total income.32 But only between 10 and 20 percent of halukkah money went to the Sephardi community, quite small in relation to their num? bers. The amount of halukkah varied a great deal during the nineteenth century due to a number of economic and political factors. The Crimean War caused great distress as little money arrived from Russia,33 and the Jewish migration to Western Europe and North America also resulted in less funds. At no time was there enough money to support all those dependent on halukkah, without their trying to find other sources of income, but the situation was aggravated by the fact that it was unevenly distributed. As each Ashkenazi kollel received funds from one specific district in Eastern Europe, some were more prosper? ous than others. One group of some sixty Jews from Holland and Germany who arrived in Jerusalem in the 1830s had little sympathy for the Prushim and, while first looking on halukkah as a 'humiliating relief, soon devised a way of obtaining a share. In 1837 they formed their own kollel (Kollel Hod - an acronym for Holland and Deutschland) and, because they were able to threaten to appeal directly to the communities back in their native countries who were donating large funds, their opponents were forced to give them a greater share of the money available.34 They quickly became the most affluent of the Ashkenazi communities in the city. 29 M. Ma'oz, 'Changes in the Position of the Jewish Communities of Palestine and Syria in the Mid-nineteenth Century', in M. Ma'oz (ed.) Studies in Palestine during the Ottoman Period (Jerusalem 1975) 153. 30 JC 18 April 1879, p. 6. 31 S. and V. D. Lipman (eds) The Century of Moses Montefiore (Oxford 1985) 338. 32 H. M. Sacher, A History of Israel (Oxford 1977) 24. 33 A. M. Hyamson, The British Consulate in Jerusalem (London 1939) 1:222. 34 Halper (see n. 9) 80-5. 7</page><page sequence="8">Cecil Bloom A number of visitors to Palestine, both Jews and non-Jews, as well as other observers, took an interest in the phenomenon of halukkah. Even before two important visits by Heinrich Graetz and Samuel Montagu in the 1870s, much was written on the appalling state of Palestinian living conditions throughout most of the nineteenth century, where, in Jerusalem, poverty was widespread and many could survive only through overseas financial support. The British Government had early taken an interest in the subject, and in 1839 the British Consul in Jerusalem reported to the Foreign Secretary, Lord Palmerston, that most of the 5500 Jews in Jerusalem were very poor and almost all lived on halukkah. The 500 poorest were said to be 'acknowledged paupers', receiv? ing the equivalent of the princely sum of a penny farthing, and a further 500 receiving charity relief although they were not known openly as paupers.35 An American non-Jewish scholar, Edward Robinson, was one of the first to question the rabbis' role in halukkah administration after a visit to Palestine in 1838. He reported that a considerable amount of money was collected, but that 'as it comes into the hands of the rabbins [sic] and is managed by them without responsibility, it is understood to be administered without much regard to honesty: and serves chiefly as a means of increasing their own influ? ence and control over the conduct and consciences of their poorer brethren.'36 Another American visitor, Simeon Abrahams, was severely critical, and was supported by the Philadelphia rabbi and newspaper editor, Isaac Leeser, who wrote that something needed to be done to ensure that the money raised should reach those for whom it was intended rather than that much of it should be dissipated in commission.37 Much of the money collected was said to 'swell the pockets' of the collectors, as well as being taken up in travelling expenses.38 Concern was so great that it was decided to send donations to accredited persons such as Sir Moses Montefiore as well as through Amster? dam.39 One visitor to Jerusalem in 1849-50 wrote letters to Rabbi Akiva Lehren, head of the Amsterdam Pekidim and Amarcalim Committee which was a major source of European funds for the Yishuv, and to Sir Moses Montefiore. Bezalel Stern, principal of the Odessa Jewish school, described in detail the conditions of Jewry in Jerusalem, identifying some features which needed to be addressed such as the lack of schools and workshops. He was critical of the Ashkenazi leaders who left the poor destitute if they were not members of the Prushi, Hasidic or Habad communities (the latter had been established in 1822), and claimed that it was left to the Sephardim to help 35 Hyamson (see n. 33) 5. 36 E. Robinson and others, Biblical Researches in Palestine and the Adjacent Regions (London 1856) 1: 422. 37 Baron and Baron (see n. n) 117-18. 38 Ibid. 137-8. 39 Ibid. 126. 8</page><page sequence="9">The institution of halukkah: a historical review them, praising these as 'more sensible and better behaved'. In one letter to Sir Moses he suggested that the money should be distributed either by the Austrian Consul or the Sephardi Chief Rabbi.40 When Sir Moses Montefiore visited Palestine in 1855 he took with him money raised by public appeal after halukkah had virtually dried up because of the Crimean War, and had to face an angry crowd who criticized the 'Hahamim for getting possession of all the money and not relieving them with it'. There were nasty scenes and one irate agitator accused Montefiore of misappropriating the funds he had brought with him.41 In 1856 complaints were made that the Jerusalem rabbis were not receiving money,42 and in 1863 there was a denial of reports that two messengers sent to Australia had mis? handled funds.43 In addition to Aaron Selig's trip, Baron and Baron discuss in detail three other journeys made by messengers from Palestine to the United States in the period between 1849 and 1879, in the course of which a number of concerns about the principle and administration of halukkah emerge.44 Some observers were clearly worried about possible maladminis? tration, but despite this it was generally accepted that aid must continue in order to prevent real hardship. Donors were found across the whole country from the North to the Deep South and from the East Coast to the Far West. The main problem associated with halukkah, however, was not the messen? gers, but the way the money that reached Palestine was shared out. The leading rabbits in each kollel, who were usually responsible for this, were soon criticized for the way they did it. Halukkah was said to be a system 'shrouded in a mystery which cannot be accounted for nor easily be penetrated',45 a secrecy positively encouraged by those responsible for administering halukkah. It was not until the visits in the 1870s of two leading figures, Heinrich Graetz, the distinguished German-Jewish historian, and Samuel Montagu, the Anglo-Jewish financier, that light was eventually thrown on the subject. Concern over halukkah became a major issue as the Ashkenazi community in Palestine grew and questions began to be raised by independent observers, Jews and non-Jews, with no apparent axes to grind about the way the rabbis handled the funds. The rabbis were accused of wielding enormous power over their flocks as they held 'the material necessities of the people in their grasps'.46 Schmelz has described living conditions in mid-nineteenth-century Jerusa? lem as deplorable and its Jewish inhabitants as unable to support themselves 40 Weinstein (see n. 15) 348-52. 41 Lipman (see n. 31) 302-3. 42 JfC and HO (Hebrew Observer) 14 March 1856, p. 514. 43 Ibid. 14 August 1863, p. 2. 44 Baron and Baron (see n. 11) 115-62, 225-92. 45 24 Sept. 1880, pp. 10-11. 46 JfC 26 March 1880, p. 12. 9</page><page sequence="10">Cecil Bloom without financial aid from abroad. Widespread poverty, combined with poor and overcrowded dwellings and an inadequate water-supply, produced high mortality.47 Halper, on the other hand, contends that conditions in Jerusalem may have compared quite favourably with those in Dickens' London and in New York's tenements.48 The evidence in the first half of the nineteenth century certainly contradicts Halper's view and, as we shall see later, family income from halukkah did not compare favourably with income in Britain. James Finn provided a vivid contemporary account of Jewish life in Jerusalem in the middle of the nineteenth century.49 As British Consul in Palestine from 1845 to 1863 he described the general conditions of the Jews in 1854 as appalling. The Crimean War resulted in stagnant trade and food supplies were scarce. He wrote that the poverty exceeded anything he had previously known and that parents were said to be selling children to Muslims as the only way of preserving their lives. Some widows were living in wretched conditions since they had no claim on halukkah 'because they were women'. Finn confirmed that some affluent Jews received halukkah 'unashamed by others and unblushing for themselves', and added that the system of col? lecting funds was liable to abuse. He cited one case of fraud, 'cruel and extensive', in Hebron which had been brought before Consulate officials in 1862.50 His wife, too, reported of halukkah in 1846 that it was utterly insuffi? cient to meet the needs of a family and that a man was fortunate if he could receive 30 shillings a year to support his family. She was critical of rabbis who always took the first share of any charity, and commented that Simon Fraenkel, the physician sent to Jerusalem by Sir Moses Montefiore to run a clinic for the poor, became very angry because some of the rabbis 'lived on the fat of the land' while his poor patients were without means and 'often almost starving'.51 Although halukkah was not as crucial for Sephardim, the Crimean War affected them too because funds from Turkey became scarce. But the War did have one benefit for them in that it forced Jews to look elsewhere for support. A school was established to teach trades to young Jews, but only Sephardi youths attended because the Ashkenazi rabbis threatened a her em.51 Abraham Benisch, the editor of the London newspaper Voice of Jacob and later the Jewish Chronicle, waged a vigorous battle against halukkah and regu? larly attacked it in articles, reports and in letters.53 He wrote consistently of 47 Schmelz (see n. 23) 56-7. 48 Halper (see n. 9) 20-1. 49 J. Finn, Stirring Times (London 1878) 2:57-61. 50 Ibid. 1: 124-5. 51 E. A. Finn, Reminiscences of Mrs Finn (London and Edinburgh nd) 55-6. 52 Sacher (see n. 32) 25-6. 53 J. M. Shaftesley, 'Dr Abraham Benisch as Newspaper Editor', Trans JfHSE XXI (1968) 217-8. 10</page><page sequence="11">The institution of halukkah: 2l historical review the need to colonize Palestine with people who would make the community self-reliant. Palestine Jews, he wrote, would be 'reduced to beggary or to disreputable means of sustenance', and would become 'a running sore to the healthy body of Israel', if they continued with halukkah.5* Ludwig August Frankl, secretary of the Viennese Jewish community, was entrusted in 1856 with the establishment of the Lamel (secular) school in Jerusalem and made a study of Jewish life in the country. He was critical of conditions and com? mented that it was in the rabbis' interests that the 'present state of things should continue, that the cry for bread should reach every land and that all Jews . . . should . . . [send] alms without suspecting that by doing so they are demoralizing their coreligionists in the place which they esteem to be most holy'.55 Frankl was one of the first to criticize early marriage, one consequence of the halukkah system, and he urged that people should be given work so that they could become noble and not 'a colony of beggars'. His views were most unwelcome in Orthodox circles in Jerusalem where they were said to have been 'torn to pieces by the friends of Palestinian ignorance and fanat? icism'.56 The next report on the subject came from a non-Jew. Charles (later Sir Charles) Warren was in the country in 1867-8 in charge of archaeological excavations in Jerusalem for the Palestine Exploration Fund. He concluded that halukkah was unevenly distributed and had a demoralizing effect, and accused rabbis of keeping much of the money (which went unaudited) for themselves. Warren saw halukkah as one of the curses under which Jerusalem Jews laboured and which led the poor to be constantly expecting more help than they could ever obtain so that they were always in want and misery. The Ashkenazi population was growing and Warren predicted that 'they will cause some trouble in Jerusalem in future days if they increase to any extent without some organization, for they are subject to the wild bursts of fanatical zeal which distinguished their race so many years ago'.57 Although these inde? pendent observers were drawing Jewish attention to some of halukkaWs draw? backs, the rabbinical authorities, backed up by their supporters in the Dias? pora, were not prepared to cave in. For example, in 1863, to counter the criticism that men were too lazy to fend for themselves and were taking the easy option of halukkah, Rabbi Hayyim Zevi Schneersohn of Jerusalem wrote an open letter to English Jews in which he stated that hundreds of Jews were employed in menial tasks in efforts to provide for their families.58 It is difficult to establish how much money went into Palestine as 54 Voice of Jacob 23 May 1844, pp. 146-7. 55 P. Beaton, The Jews in the East (from the German of Dr Frank!) (London 1859) 2:129. S6JC27 April 1877, P. 4 57 C. Warren, Underground Jerusalem (London 1876) 356-62. 58 N. Sokolow, History of Zionism, i6oo-igi8 (London 1919) 253-4. II</page><page sequence="12">Cecil Bloom halukkah - the rabbis were certainly not publicizing the amounts they received - and it was not until Montagu's visit to the country that the first realistic estimate was made (see below). But there is little doubt that most Ashkenazi Jews who were attracted by halukkah found that while economic conditions did not enable them to sustain themselves without halukkah, with the exception of members of a few kolleh like Kollel Hod, the halukkah received helped only slightly. In the 1870s it probably supplied only about 10 percent of an Ashkenazi family's bare needs, for even though the more children they had the more the family income, many heads of households were forced to seek work wherever it could be found. To many, a small amount of halukkah could make the difference between a poor diet and starva? tion or between a cold or a freezing winter.59 A group of halukkah supporters called Poalei Tzedek ('Workers of Justice') began to see the importance of developing commerce and industry and in 1872 attempted, despite opposition from within the kollel leadership, to seek funds from abroad for such pur? poses. But the idea soon fizzled out when financial support was not forthcom? ing.60 It was the visits made to Palestine by Heinrich Graetz and Samuel Montagu that provided some real on-the-spot data on the subject and that heightened interest in constructively tackling the problem. Graetz's visit Graetz went to Palestine in 1872 primarily to establish an orphanage for abandoned children. He found halukkah went only to Jews living in the four Holy Cities where most of them resided, while the small numbers living in Acre, Jaffa, Haifa, Nablus and Shefa-Amar received none because they were not recognized by the leaders of the four cities as being part of Eretz Israel61 The honour of sharing in the distribution, called by Sephardim Tiferet Israel ('The Glory of Israel'), was seen as a reward for those studying Torah and kabbalah, so poor and destitute Sephardi artisans who did not study did not benefit. Graetz found that halukkah went to all Ashkenazim whether they were talmudic students or not, and that, while calling themselves Talmidei hahamim (Scholars), they took halukkah as a warranted privilege. Graetz's figures on the numbers of Ashkenazim receiving halukkah have, however, been challenged with claims that only 3000 (the elderly, widows, and infirm 59 Halper (see n. 9) 127. 60 Ibid. 151. 61 JC 20 April 1877, pp. 11-12. (The JC gave no explanation for publishing Graetz's 1872 report in 1877, but it did point out that contemporary travellers would confirm Graetz's findings.) 12</page><page sequence="13">The institution of halukkah: a historical review and talmudic scholars) were not self-supporting and that some 200 families were privately supported by European relatives.62 Graetz's criticism of halukkah applied mainly to the Ashkenazi community, because its control and distribution in Jerusalem was inefficient due to the structure of society in the city. Fourteen separate communities each looked only after their own members. Twelve kolleh were Ashkenazi and received funds from a specific European country or district, one was Sephardi and one Moghrebian. Some kolleh received more financial help than others. Jews in Kollel Hungaria, for instance, were better off because they were relatively less numerous than Poles or Russians and quite large sums came from Hungary.63 People belonged to the community in which they had lived in the previous ten years. Children, who were invariably added to the lists on birth, received equal shares to adults. The representative rabbi in Jerusalem in charge of each kollePs halukkah was himself usually a recipient and was not infrequently accused of distributing halukkah unfairly. Like Frankl, Graetz identified as a key problem the practice of early marriage which the halukkah system encou? raged. Because newborn babies were immediately added to the halukkah list, children were forced into marriage as soon as possible, usually by the time they were fifteen, in order to obtain more halukkah, a practice he regarded as equivalent to infanticide. He pointed out that if the young mother and child survived, the child could be affected physically and mentally and become a life-long pauper. Demographic statistics did not show family size to be large because infant mortality was indeed high. The Arab population fared much better because its youth married later. Graetz found the distress in Jerusalem varied from community to commun? ity and that Jews belonging to communities receiving little money from the Diaspora suffered most. The Moghrebians, immigrants from Morocco and Tunis, were the 'pariahs of the Jerusalemite population' since little came to them from their native lands and they were forced into the most degrading forms of employment. After their arrival in Jerusalem in 1837 they had fought the Sephardi Council acrimoniously to obtain part of North African halukkah and had initially been successful, losing out after their leader's death and being thrown into deep poverty. Graetz pointed out that distress would be lessened if all the money coming into the country were to be equally divided, and recommended that all halukkah money should be pooled. But this was never going to be accepted by the more prosperous kolleh. He pointed out also the importance of being on a halukkah list and that a recipient's name 62 Zonnenfeld (see n. 25) 197-8. 63 A. S. Ruppin, Three Decades of Palestine (Jerusalem 1936) 2. Zonnenfeld (see n. 25) 195-6. i3</page><page sequence="14">Cecil Bloom could only be removed by order of the contributing district (presumably on the rabbi's recommendation), which gave enormous power to the rabbis. Graetz was very critical of the rabbis' role. Graetz attributed demoralization to the fact that halukkah was unfairly distributed, which he saw as a source of 'evil passions'. Responsible Jews in Jerusalem did not, apparently, deny this, but what forms these passions took was not explored. He claimed to have found Jewish orphan children forced to seek help in German and English mission houses, and to have been aware of forty children in mission schools being prepared for baptism. But this was strongly denied by the rabbis, who insisted that all orphans were carefully looked after. Eleven rabbis were so incensed both by this accusation and by a proposal that secular education should be made available to children that they wrote to Rabbi Hildesheimer, a pillar of Orthodoxy in Berlin, who with? drew his support from the Graetz orphanage.64 Hildesheimer himself had serious reservations about the halukkah system and wanted the young to earn their own livings and be independent of halukkah, which ought to be chan? nelled to those both capable of dedicating their lives to the study of Torah,65 but he nevertheless acceded to the rabbis' wishes. Graetz was also convinced that this institution of halukkah made men shy of work. Manual labour was apparently available at the Alliance Israelite Uni verselle's agricultural colony near Jaffa, but Jews could not be found to do it. Most males in Jerusalem were said to be idle, although many pretended to be engaged in talmudic study while roaming the streets and gossiping instead. Graetz was optimistic that remedies could be found and made a number of recommendations. Contributors in the Diaspora should make it clear that their money should go to the needy - widows and orphans, religious teachers and to others who found it difficult to support themselves - and the prefe? rence given to the four Holy Cities should cease. Alms should be given irre? spective of the community to which the recipient belonged. He emphasized the need for secular education and urged that boys and girls who married below the age of eighteen and sixteen respectively should be barred from charity. Parents who withdrew children from school before a 'proper' age or who gave them over to missionaries should not receive charity. Graetz's survey showed up many deficiencies especially in Ashkenazi life in Palestine and expressed the strong suspicion that there were irregularities in the handling of halukkah funds. In order to reduce the power of the Ashkenazi rabbis he advocated reinforcing those of the Haham Bashi (the Sephardi Chief Rabbi in Jerusalem) by giving him sole authority to select the members of the Rabbinical College in Jerusalem. Graetz urged that men not so appointed 64 Zonnenfeld (see n. 25) 197-8. 65 J. H. Sinasin, The Rebbe (Jerusalem and New York 1996) 84. </page><page sequence="15">The institution of halukkah: a historical review should not be able to claim a rabbinical title or salary and should receive halukkah only if they were without means of support. Kollel presidents in the country or district gathering funds were usually the leaders of their communit? ies. He refrained from spelling out his suspicions, but suggested that new pres? idents should be elected by universal suffrage under conditions which he laid down, and that, together with the members of the Rabbinical College, they should be responsible for drawing up lists of orphans, widows and others need? ing help. Graetz's report was said to 'bear the stamp of truth',56 but, not surpris? ingly, he was severely criticized by rabbinical leaders, especially in Jerusalem. There were some inaccuracies in his survey. Not all halukkah for Ashkena zim went to those ostensibly engaged in study and Kollel Hod is a good example of this. His suspicions may have been aroused by Baron von Alten, the German Consul in Jerusalem from 1869 to 1873, who worked to strengthen his ties both with local Jewry and with German-Jewish supporters of the Yishuv. He went so far as to propose that responsibility for distribution of funds from Germany should be given to him, but abandoned the idea when he found that even Jews not in favour of halukkah were against this.66 Graetz confirmed Finn's contention that halukkah was being claimed even by 'capitalists and possessors of house property', but was met with a wall of silence when he tried to explore this. When he asked men of means not taking halukkah to name such recipients, only with great reluctance were a few names divulged. He concluded that 'the helpless, the widows and the orphans must come off very badly in the distribution of alms', and it is clear that widows suffered abominably by being deprived of halukkah. There must have been controversy about Graetz's visit even before he arrived in Palestine because a herem was placed on him and his party as soon as it reached the country. This, it has been claimed, ruined his objectivity,67 but he did put his finger on many of the Yishuvh problems. His views were reinforced when Montagu visited Palestine three years later. Montagu's visit Samuel Montagu, accompanied by Dr Asher Asher, Secretary of the United Synagogue, went in 1875 on behalf of the Sir Moses Montefiore Testimonial Fund acting under the auspices of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Fund was established to commemorate Sir Moses' services to British Jewry and was intended to gather money to improve conditions in Jewish Palestine. Montagu, a successful businessman, went to ascertain what prob 66 M. Eliav, 'German Interests in the Jewish Community in 19th Century Palestine' in M. Ma'oz (see n. 29) 433-4. 67 Zonnenfeld (see n. 25) 197. 15</page><page sequence="16">Cecil Bloom lems Palestinian Jews faced. His visit, and that of Sir Moses Montefiore who made his seventh (and last) visit to Palestine at the age of 91 in response to a plea from the Ashkenazi rabbis in Jerusalem for support in countering Mon? tagu's criticisms, have been fully discussed elsewhere.68 Montagu's compre? hensive report on the state of Palestinian Jewry69 dealt primarily with living and economic conditions throughout the country, but his main comments were reserved for Jerusalem. He received no support from the leaders of Anglo-Jewry and the Board of Deputies even refused to release his report. This was eventually published in the Jewish Chronicle after it had appeared in a Jerusalem Hebrew newspaper (an early example of a political 'leak' perhaps?). He was heavily critical of halukkah and was scathing about the beggars who saw charity as their right 'from the cradle to the grave'. Organ? ized beggary, which he believed was unknown elsewhere in the world, involved perhaps 80 percent of Jerusalem's population, and he described what he called the indiscriminate and mistaken use of charity as the great curse of Jerusalem and the cause of many evils. The numbers receiving halukkah had doubled in the previous nine years. His opinion was that most immigrants were physically incapable of manual work and that only the Sephardim took jobs as labourers and porters. Montagu made it clear that his strictures applied mainly to the Ashkenazi community in Jerusalem and, like Graetz, he viewed Sephardi Jews who did work with their hands and in whose schools both secular and religious subjects were taught much more favourably. Montagu identified two forms of financial support: halukkah gedolah ('the greater') and halukkah katannah ('the lesser'). The former, from funds donated mainly from Eastern Europe, was intended solely for Ashkenazim. Halukkah katannah, collected in Germany, Holland, England and America, was divided between the various Palestinian communities, the Sephardim receiving 40 per? cent, the Ashkenazim 25 percent, the Hasidim 30 percent and Habad 5 percent. He made no reference to halukkah collected from Sephardim in other countries. Montagu, careful with his words, clearly had doubts about whether the distri? bution of money was properly controlled. The fact that halukkah distribution was in the hands of'interested persons' gave them much power over kollel mem? bers, and Montagu added that it was easy to understand why, among the Sephardim who did not share in halukkah gedolah, greater strides had been made in education compared to Ashkenazim, among whom a father would be threatened with a her em for allowing a child to receive secular education. He suggested a fairer way of distributing money and proposed that halukkah should eventually be maintained only for the old and infirm. He went further in pro? posing that a European Agency be set up with two Europeans appointed to 68 C. Bloom, 'Samuel Montagu's and Sir Moses Montefiore's Visits to Palestine in 1875', The Journal of Israeli History 17(3) (1996) 263-81. 69 JC 20 August 1875, p. 339 and 27 August 1875, p. 350. i6</page><page sequence="17">The institution of halukkah: a historical review supervise alms-giving together with a local Board of Guardians, whose mem? bers were not halukkah-recipimts or involved in its distribution. As he put it, the rabbis would thus be relieved of the 'invidious task' of supervision. He also advocated a loan fund with zero or low interest rates to help men develop busi? nesses and be weaned from halukkah. The German Consul in Jerusalem, Baron von M?nschhausen, who seems to have been Von Alten's successor, supported Montagu's evaluation. In a report to his Government, he attacked both traditional education in Jerusalem and the halukkah, commenting that 'the Jews of Palestine were open to the terrorism of their rabbis'. He also wrote to Dr Sternheim, head of the Jewish community in Germany, that the rabbis 'were only interested in their own gain' and that no one could stop them from this.70 Montagu's attack on Ashkenazi life in Jerusalem clearly reached its target because his report produced a torrent of objections from the Jerusalem rab? binate. The two senior rabbis, Rabbis Auerbach and Salant, sent an 'Open Letter' to Sir Moses Montefiore soon after Sir Moses had returned from his own trip.71 They dealt with Montagu's report point by point, but most (although not all) of their comments were trivial and even feeble. Montagu's views on halukkah were completely rejected. Montagu - a deeply religious and traditional Jew - was accused of showing hatred to Orthodox Jewry in the Holy Land. The two rabbis dismissed Montagu's view that there were differences between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities, and denied there were beggars who sought only an idle life. They claimed that most Jews were engaged in some trade or business and only a few were obliged to beg for bread. Salant's halakhic ruling on halukkah funds were never referred to in this Open Letter, the first attempt of any significance by the rabbinical authorities to challenge criticisms of halukkah. Little effort had previously been made to do so and there were few subsequently. Auerbach and Salant claimed that 'there was not a soul who would not try to maintain himself by the work of his hands', and that even those who studied in the colleges sought their livelihoods by manual exertion. All in Jerusalem were said to long for the day when charity would be unnecessary. The overseers of 70 Zonnenfeld (see n. 25) 205-6. 71 M. Auerbach and S. Salant, 'An Open letter addressed to Sir Moses Montefiore, Bart, on the day of his arrival in the Holy City of Jerusalem, Sunday, 22 Tamooz 5635, A. M. - July 25, 1875' (London 1875). This open letter was published in the same volume as that which included Sir Moses' narrative of his visit to Palestine that same year. The open letter was published both in English and in Hebrew. The Montefiore narrative (in English only) was entitled 'A narrative of a forty days' sojourn in the Holy Land, devoted to an investigation of the state of schools, colleges and charitable institutions. Given to the friends and well-wishers of Zion, by Sir Moses Montefiore, Bart, F.R.S., on his return from his seventh pilgrimage to the Land of Promise. 9 Ellul 5635 - September 9th, 1875.' 17</page><page sequence="18">Cecil Bloom halukkah, moreover, 'do their work faithfully. Some take no share whatsoever of charitable contributions. There are others who receive the amount assigned to them by the treasurers abroad. . . . Every one receives the exact amount of money allotted to him without the least diminution. . . . Lists [of halukkah recipients] are kept in every Congregation and you will see yourself whether anyone in Jerusalem receives more than 50 or 60 francs (about ?2) a year with the exception of those . . . who are specially favoured by their countrymen.' This was not amplified. Auerbach and Salant's responses to Montagu's findings were full of inconsistencies and contained some venomous comments, but they failed to answer Montagu's critical observations.72 (An aside is worth recording here. When Montagu, an important financier in the City of London, first arrived in Jerusalem, he warned Rabbi Auerbach of the probable failure of the Turks to meet their interest payments on Government stocks. Auerbach, who was reported to have taken a fortune of 100,000 rubles with him when he went on aliyah,73 took his advice and sold his stock, but in pique rebought it after he had seen Montagu's report. He suffered accordingly.) The Jewish Chronicle summed up Montagu's report as a 'plain, unvarnished and ungarbled statement of the impression Jerusalem made on him', and added that he may have seen more than he was intended to see. It expressed regret that the seal of the Open Letter had ever been broken, for 'It passes over in ominous silence all the grave points of Montagu's report. . . [and] is more like the pet? ulant scolding of a cross old woman than the solid arguments of scholars'.73 Montagu's was not a completely accurate evaluation of the Jerusalem leaders' attitude towards halukkah. There were some notable Prushi figures who spurned it74 and some of these and their families suffered greatly in their efforts to be independent. Rabbi Yeshayahu Bordacki, who was for thirty-five years one of the most important rabbis in Jerusalem, lived an ascetic life and always refused halukkah. His family was left destitute on his death. Mordecai Salomon, son of another leading Prushi, denounced halukkah as 'shameful and contemptible' and was in favour of men working to support themselves. He even presented to Sir Moses Montefiore a proposal for agricultural devel? opment in the country. Eliahu Hacohen was a well-known Lithuanian rabbi who settled in Jerusalem in 1845, having learned the trade of shoemaker in order to earn his own living and not be dependent on halukkah. He tried to conceal his identity, but was recognized and forced to close his shoemaker's shop.75 His son Mikhal was a talmudic prodigy who returned to Europe to learn the novel trade of lithography so that he could be self-supporting back in the Holy Land. He joined forces with another prodigy, Mordecai Salo 72 Ibid. 5-39. 73 Halper (see n. 9) 115-16. 74 JC 18 February 1876, p. 750. 75 Halper (see n. 9) 81-2. i8</page><page sequence="19">The institution of halukkah: a historical review mon's son Yoel Moshe, but both faced considerable opposition for their inde? pendent stands.76 When Yehoshua Yellin, a tobacconist, campaigned against the principle of giving extra halukkah to selected people, his own share was withdrawn and for ten years he campaigned unsuccessfully for its restora? tion.77 Israel Bak, a Habad Hasid from Safed, campaigned against halukkah in his newspaper Havatzelet, in which he accused the rabbis of having powers that could lead to corruption. His son Nissan, a Hasidic leader in Jerusalem, also supported the mti-halukkah campaign, as did his son-in-law, Israel Dov Frumkin, an early maskil until he returned to the Orthodox fold late in life. Frumkin took over control of Havatzelet from Bak and campaigned vigor? ously against halukkah? With some supporters he founded Tiferet Yerush alayim ('Splendour of Jerusalem') in 1872 to fight halukkah and to encourage self-support activities. His campaign was welcomed by the Sephardi Chief Rabbi. A little later, Frumkin also founded Ezrat Israel ('Aid of Israel') spe? cifically to fight halukkah in the light of a Prushi reaction to Tiferet Yerush alayim.79 Frumkin campaigned continuously against the whole system80 and attacked financial corruption in Jerusalem. The Sephardi authorities supported Montagu's findings, but, following a visit which was carefully stage-managed by the rabbis, Sir Moses Montefiore made it clear that he was impressed with much of what he saw. He made little comment on halukkah except to say that, when little work was available or when famine and disease were prevalent, Jews in other lands should step forward to help.81 He made no reference to the official purpose of halukkah: to allow men to study full-time. Montagu only later became powerful in Anglo-Jewry and his recommenda? tions were largely ignored. He kept relatively silent in public after his visit, although in private he was at pains to defend himself and he did receive sup? port.82 Jewish leaders in Britain were anxious not to contradict Montefiore and, no doubt, there were those who resented Montagu's rise up the communal ladder. His attitude to Zionism was always ambivalent and these experiences may well have helped turn him against it, especially since, on his return from Palestine, he was quite positive about what could be achieved there.83 Later he more openly expressed his views on what he had found in Palestine.84 He 76 Ibid. 110-12. 77 Ibid. 174-6. 78 Ibid. 129-30. 79 Ibid. 132-4. 80 P. Abrahams, 'Abraham Sussman - from Berdichew to Bevis Marks', Trans JHSE XXI (1968) 250. 81 Auerbach and Salant (see n. 71). 82 Bloom (see n. 68) 275-6. 83 C. Bloom, 'Samuel Montagu and Zionism', Trans JHSE XXXIV (1997) I7-41 84 Bloom (see n. 68) 278. 19</page><page sequence="20">Cecil Bloom received support also from the United States, where his report was given extensive coverage in the Jewish press. The Jewish Messenger wrote that 'pau? perism has been the curse of the Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.. . . Under the name Cholucah [sic] every Jewish child born in Palestine is inscribed in a book as entitled to receive his portion of alms. One of the results of this disgraceful system is that most common marriages that take place are between boys of 15 and 16 and girls of 13 and 14, the moving idea being that every child born will produce an additional income from the Cholucah and hence procreating is regarded as a legitimate means of livelihood'.85 Montagu had not referred to the problems of premature marriage which Graetz described as a 'deeply rooted evil', but they featured prominently in the discussions on this subject. Gradually more criticism of halukkah emerged. The Jewish Chronicle of the 1870s and 1880s did not adopt Benisch's radical stance, but it condemned halukkah56 and in occasional articles on the subject drew attention to the 'curse of the land' and to the methods of its distribution which were 'unjust, inefficient and tended to aggravate the very evils it should have alleviated'.46 More and more, the word 'curse' came to be associated with halukkah. In 1883, Blackwood 's Edinburgh Magazine commented that Jews were finding life so difficult in Romania that their only hope was beggardom in Jerusalem or Safed where a share of the halukkah could be obtained.86 The greater part of the Jewish population of Tiberias was said to be living on halukkah, and the magazine pleaded with Western Jewry to encourage 'agricultural pursuits and honest manual labour' among the Jewish population of Palestine.87 Collection costs still gave rise to concern. In 1897, for example, an Anglo-Jewish