How Did Napoleon Bonaparte Invent a Rabbinical Court?

With the breakout of the French Revolution, the supporters found themselves having to face what was called “the Jewish question”.

With the breakout of the French Revolution, issues of civil rights, freedom of religion and from religion moved to the top of the popular agenda. The revolution’s supporters found themselves having to face what was called “the Jewish question.”

When they were not engaged in destroying the old world order and creating a brave new one, the Jewish question gnawed at the French revolutionaries until it came to symbolize the most difficult question of all for the Enlightenment: Is it in the power of man to change? The Jew, who more than any other group symbolized the “Other” (and mainly an “other” who was not Christian), was now at the top of the great “Renewal” project that the French revolution had intended for its people.

Bound up with the idea of “Renewal” was also a cold political calculation: it considered which of the groups in post-revolutionary French society will be prepared to accept political rights and contribute their share toward the establishment of a more enlightened, rational world that was free of prejudices. The initial inquiry carried out by the revolutionaries touched on the question of citizenship: whether France’s poor, among them the Jews, were entitled to “active citizenship” – that is, the right to elect and be elected to the revolution’s political institutions or whether they were entitled only to “passive citizenship” embodied most clearly in the defense of the patrimony of the Republic? Even for the most ardent supporters of emancipation of the Jews there was a precondition: France’s Jews must renounce any aspirations of Jewish nationalism and assimilate as individuals within the French nation. The Judaism of the Jews of France was, therefore to be solely an expression of their faith and nothing more.

The most interesting expression of the ambivalent, yet also positive, attitude toward the Jews in the revolution is found in an essay by the revolutionary Henri Gregoire who argued that the poor condition of the Jews stemmed from two main reasons: Christian discrimination against them and the ridiculous theories spread by their rabbis. He called upon the French nation to extend their hands toward its Jews in order to raise them up from the gutter, and for the Jews to respond in kind and make themselves over into more modern individuals.

Advocate of the Jewish Renewal, Henri Gregoire, etching by S. J. Le Gros

In September 1791, unprecedented legislation called for the abolition of any legal distinction between Jews and non-Jews in the French Republic. From a legal standpoint, during the decade of the revolution, the Jews had stopped being a distinct group. However, this step was both a blessing and a curse. Their unexpected emancipation allowed for Jews to more easily integrate into French society as individuals. However, as a society with a distinctly communal nature, there was no collective body – rabbinic or other – that could approach the government to bargain for its collective rights.


The French Giant Steps onto the Stage of History

In 1789, the glorious general Napoleon Bonaparte stepped into the revolutionary fray.  In a military coup, he unseated the Republic and established the short-lived Consulate regime.  At the head of this new governing body, which replaced the failed revolutionary directory, stood the first consul, Napoleon himself, along with two other consuls below him.

Out of a deep desire to learn from the failures of the revolution, First Consul Napoleon, who had meanwhile crowned himself emperor in 1804, sought to reach a series of historic agreements and compromises, among them reconciliation with the pope (the Concordat) in 1801, and recognition of the legitimacy of the Lutheran and Calvinist churches in France. Rabbinic authority in France which, with the revolution, had lost much of its power and its role turned to the new regime demanding a similar solution.

In an attempt to legitimize the dictatorial regime whose origins lay in an illegitimate military takeover, Napoleon chose the Jews as a case study in propaganda. After solidifying his position as liberator of the Jews with the abolishment of the obligation to reside in ghettos, on 30 May 1806, he invited an assembly of Jewish leaders that included rabbis, enlightened Jewish officials and leaders and other well-known figures. The meeting was arranged following a complaint filed against the usurious practices of the Jews of Alsace. Napoleon’s aim was to bring about the integration of the Jews and even to their full assimilation into French society. Napoleon was especially eager that Jews give up their erroneous ways – mainly the source of their livelihoods as moneylenders to the Christian populace – and adopt crafts and occupations that will benefit them and the French nation.

The Emperor Napoleon Grants Emancipation to the Suppliant Jews, from a French print, source unknown


Between Church and State: The New Sanhedrin

In order to formalize, consolidate and expand the conclusions of the meeting, Napoleon convened an even larger gathering not only from France but from across Europe. As with everything the emperor did, behind this step was an ambitious vision for the future: Napoleon demanded the creation of a religious constitutional codex for Jews to which they would be beholden as they were to the Talmud. He called the new body established in February 1807, “The Great Sanhedrin,” and decreed that like its ancient counterpart it have seventy-one members. But unlike in the past, twenty-five of its members would not be clerics.

The document issued by “The Great Sanhedrin”, which was written in French and translated into Hebrew, offered twelve answers to twelve questions posed by Napoleon. The members of the Sanhedrin tried their hardest to offer solutions that would please both sides: they declared that Jews must work toward integrating into the realm in which they lived but must also preserve their religious identity. But when loyalty to state conflicted with loyalty to halakha, apparently loyalty to the state took precedence. An example of this is the sixth amendment in the document, which states that when a Jew’s military duties clash with religious observance, he may refrain from certain religious observance in order to defend his country.

Introduction to the document issued by “The Great Sanhedrin,” printed in 1814. The complete document can be downloaded from Hebrew Books


In the rest of the amendments, an attempt was made to integrate the two authorities – the French state and the Jewish religion – and find a middle way. The most prominent example is the wedding ceremony: in order for the wedding ceremony to be “kosher” according to the Sanhedrin, the couple must register the marriage with a government official in addition to the religious ceremony performed by a rabbi.

The Sanhedrin debate the questions: Is a Jewish man permitted to take more than one wife? The complete document can be downloaded from Hebrew Books

With the Sanhedrin’s presentation of its learned answers to the twelve questions posed by Napoleon, the Emperor called it to disband and in its stead called for the establishment in France of six consistories, official bodies whose role it would be to enforce the rulings of the Sanhedrin.

If all this sounds somewhat familiar, you would not be mistaken. This was in fact the first modern incarnation of the “Chief Rabbinate,” an idea that made its way across various communities in France and Germany, and even to the State of Israel. As a mark of appreciation for the tireless efforts of the French Emperor (and of the French Jews), the Jews of Napoleon’s expanding empire composed dozens of songs, sermons and religious texts hailing Napoleon as “God’s chosen one.” The Jewish community used every opportunity to celebrate every positive event in the life of Napoleon: his escape from an assassination attempt, the victories of his army, his crowning as emperor, his birthday, his royal marriage, the birth of his son and more.

“A Blessing for the Emperor” from the National Library collections

Hava Nagilah – The Birth of a Song

The story of ecstasy that produced the most famous Jewish song in the world.

General Allenby entering Jerusalem, and the famous song inspired by the event

During the First World War, the small Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel experienced a series of tragedies which threatened its very survival. The residents of Jaffa and Tel Aviv were expelled from their homes, export to Europe – the new settlement’s source of financial support – was completely ceased, and the threat of a repeat of genocide to the Jews of the Israel seemed more and more like a practical reality. There were very few reasons for happiness and rejoicing during that time, but this was all soon going to change.

The arrival of the British forces in the Land of Israel in late 1917 was the development which led to cautious hope in the hearts of many people in the Jewish Yishuv and throughout the Jewish world. There were those who translated this hope into bold deeds: the N.I.L.I network led by the Aaronsohn brothers and their friend Avshalom Feinberg who acted against Ottoman-ruled Palestine, others in the Jewish world in Europe and the USA enlisted in the British army. There were those who chose to exploit their natural talents to encourage the armed forces, and as soon as the British fight to capture the Land of Israel ended – to celebrate the new state of affairs.

The researcher, composer and music teacher Avraham Zvi Idelsohn belonged to the latter group. Idelsohn may have encountered General Allenby’s name for the first time when hearing about the victories in his glorious campaign of conquests throughout the Land of Israel but, this did not prevent him from being swept away by the waves of enthusiasm which flooded his city of Jerusalem with the two great tidings of 1917 – the Balfour Declaration on November 2 and the surrender of Jerusalem to the British on December 9.

A portrait of Avraham Zvi Idelsohn, from the Schwadron Collection in the National Library

The musicologist Eliyahu HaCohen fills in details about the writing of the song Hava Nagilah: “When they began to celebrate the day of redemption in Jerusalem, all eyes turned to Idelsohn, in the hope he would provide the ultimate song to express the events and the public emotion” (quoted from: Eliyahu HaCohen, ‘The First Ten Years: From the Songs of Jerusalem at the Beginning of the Mandate Period, 1918-1928’, Jerusalem During the Mandate Period: Activity and Heritage, 2003, pp. 480-481).

Avraham Zvi Idelsohn was a great researcher and scholar of Jewish music.  Idelsohn published ten volumes of tunes which he compiled from the various musical traditions under the title “Otzar Neginot Yisrael”, the first five volumes of which were dedicated to the Jews from the East and the remaining five volumes to the music of European Jewry. The original tune appears in the tenth volume of the “Otzar” of Hassidic tunes which was only published in 1932, but was written years earlier. The original tune is number 155, but in the song Idelsohn switched the parts of the tune.

The original notes

Idelsohn was also a cantor, music teacher and composer. He was an avid Zionist and wanted to create Israeli music based on traditional Jewish music. So, consciously or unconsciously, he grafted the words “Hava Nagilah” “Uru Achim” onto the Hassidic niggun he had heard from Hassidim.

As a researcher of Jewish music responsible for the revival of the Jewish source in the age of Zionist renewal, Idelsohn chose, instead of composing a completely new tune, to graft new words onto an old Hassidic niggun which he most likely heard in the ‘Tiferet Yisrael’ synagogue of Sadigura Hassidim in Jerusalem as early as 1915. Eliyahu HaCohen suggests two accounts of the manner the words of the song were composed – either Idelsohn alone or with the help of his students in the Lemel School in Jerusalem. Either way, the new words hint to verse 24 of chapter 118 of the book of Psalms, “This is the day God made, let us rejoice and exult in it’.

Let’s rejoice, let’s rejoice

Let’s rejoice and exult.

Let’s sing, let’s sing,

Let’s sing, let’s sing,

Let’s sing and rejoice.

Awaken my brothers with a glad heart.

The Secret Drafts of the Balfour Declaration

On November 2nd, 1917, a declaration that changed the course of history was published.

The document that would lay the foundation for the establishment of the state of Israel was  sent in the form of a letter by Lord Arthur James Balfour to Lord Walter Rothschild. Rothschild was to pass it on to the Zionist Organization headed by Dr. Chaim Weizmann.

The unpublished drafts of the Balfour Declaration allow us a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into one of the most significant episodes in the history of Zionism.

As the Hebrew settlement in the Land of Israel kept establishing and expanding itself, the leaders of the Zionist movement realized they would need political support from one of the world’s great powers, specifically the British Empire.

When the British ousted the centuries old Ottoman presence in Palestine, Chaim Weizmann presented a draft for the founding of a state. This draft was a declaration sent to the then British Foreign Secretary, Lord Arthur James Balfour, on July 1917. The draft declared that Britain would recognize the Land of Israel as the land of the Jewish people.

The declaration did not leave the Foreign Office as it was drafted, of course. In fact, it went through several rewrites. By early October 1917, the draft was processed by the War Office in conjunction with the Zionist Organization delegation.

It was in one of the final drafts of the declaration that the section regarding the Jewish people’s right to the land was omitted and the “Jewish state” became a “National Home” – an unprecedented legal and diplomatic term.

Before the declaration was officially presented to Lord Rothschild by Lord Balfour, the draft was presented to Jewish leaders of every political stripe, both Zionist and non-Zionist. One of these leaders was Sir Philip Magnus, a Reform rabbi and British politician whose opinion on the declaration was sought.

The British Rabbi and Politician, Sir Philip Magnus (1933-1842)

The National Library of Israel holds the draft of the declaration the War Office sent Sir Magnus. The differences in the draft sent to Sir Magnus and the final historic letter were slight, but significant. In the finalized version we see the wording: “His Majesty’s government views with favour the establishment in Palestine of a National Home for the Jewish People”, while the earlier draft speaks of a “National Home for the Jewish Race”.

“….a National Home for the Jewish race” – The draft of the declaration sent to Sir Philp Magnus, the Schwadron Collection at the National Library of Israel

With this change the British government strengthened the Zionist position of the Jews being a nation among nations, rather than just an ethnic group with their own religion.

Sir Magnus’ reply and draft changes can also be found in the National Library of Israel collections, shedding light on the opinions of non-Zionist British Jews at the time. Sir Magnus refused to distinguish between his opinions as a Jew and as a British subject in a stroke of political brilliance. Sir Magnus made the claim that ever since the Roman exile, the Jewish people had ceased being a political body and shared only a religion and as such did not have a national aspiration in the Land of Israel.

Sir Magnus’ suggested changes, which were later incorporated into the final declaration, had more to do with the people of other faiths and cultures in the region. This is clearly stated in the final draft of the declaration as: “It being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine.”

Sir Philip Magnus’ reply to the War Office. The Schwadron Collection at the National Library of Israel

The original letter sent to Lord Rothschild by Lord Balfour is kept in the British Museum to this very day.

If you liked this article, try these:

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N.I.L.I’s Story Told Through the Diary of the Man Who Gave It Its Name

Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn is not the first name which enters our minds when we hear the name N.I.L.I, but his diary gives us a glimpse into the activities of the first Jewish espionage organization in the Yishuv.

לוי יצחק (ליובה) שניאורסון. התמונה לקוחה מתוך "בית אהרנסון – מוזיאון ניל"י"

It was on a December night in 1914, several months after the First World War began raging through Europe, that a group of young people from Hadera, a Moshava that was part of the Jewish Yishuv, went on a nighttime trip to the beach. “Suddenly Yocheved Madorsky cried out that something had got into her eye,” Levi Yitzchak (Lowa) Schneersohn writes in his diary. “Dr. Glicker was also with us and he treated her eye by the light of a pocket flashlight which my brother Mendel happened to have with him.” The light from the flashlight aroused the suspicion of several nearby Bedouins, and they approached the group, who greeted them.

The entire meeting lasted no longer than a few short minutes. The Jewish youngsters offered cigarettes to their guests, who happily accepted them and parted from them a short while later. The event is unlikely to have left an impression on its participants, if not for what took place a few days later.

Levi Yitzchak (Lowa) Schneersohn

On Saturday, January 18, 1915, a delegation from the Ottoman government, made up of a unit of mounted riders and masses of furious Arabs, entered Hadera. The delegation first separated the Arab laborers from the Jews of the Moshava. The head of the delegation, Sheikh Abu-Hantesh then began to interrogate the laborers about the secret intelligence activities the members of the Moshava have been carrying out with the British army.

As the investigation proceeded, the Sheikh’s frustration from the responses he received grew, and the questions were replaced with shouts and blows. During the exchange it became clear to the members of the Moshava that the Ottoman delegation saw the pocket flashlight the doctor used to check Madorsky’s eyes as proof which aroused their suspicions about a connection between the members of the settlement and the British. Even after the delegation was disbanded, following intervention of a senior Arab who passed by, tempers did not subside.

A few weeks later, a Turkish officer appeared in the Moshava and arrested 13 of its members, including Levi Yitzchak, his brother Mendel and their close friend Avshalom Feinberg. This was a turning point in the lives of Levi Yitzchak and his friend Feinberg, and they discussed the possibility “of concrete help to the English, who are going to liberate the Holy Land.” What exactly should they do, the pair did not know. ​

At the end of March 1915 Feinberg first raised the plan he had previously kept to himself. He did so before Schneersohn and their mutual friend by the name of Aaron Aaronsohn. “There is still no clear-cut plan” Schneersohn wrote in his diary, but “Avshalom already knows. He will travel to Egypt. He will reach English headquarters. He will tell them: Listen gentlemen, we are a group of young Jews, who are familiar with all the roads in Israel, we will help you!”

Almost five months passed until Feinberg managed to carry out his plan and board an American refugee ship on its way to Egypt. In the meantime, life on the Moshava settled into a worrying routine: the farmers worked in the fields, the Turks continued to sniff around, occasionally bursting into the Moshava to confiscate the farmers’ weapons. Feinberg returned in November with glad tidings: the British accepted his proposal and will make contact from now on at Atlit Beach.

A month passed, then two months and there was no sign the British intended to keep their word. The unpleasant silence led Feinberg to concoct a new daring plan: to contact the British through Sinai. It was only though Aaronsohn’s efforts that Feinberg was released after being caught on the way.

The women of the city didn’t stop there; they introduced other initiatives – distributing clothes to children in collaboration with the city committee and women of Haddasah, helping the hospital staff and taking thousands of orphans under their wings – first in an orphan assembly and later by bringing them to attend classes they arranged.

1915 passed with no practical success, and 1916 began with even more worrying news.

Massacre of the Armenians, Oppression in the Land of Israel

Sarah Aaronsohn, Aaaron’s sister, returned at the beginning of 1916 from Constantinople in Turkey to the Land of Israel with the terrible news: the enormous Armenian massacre committed by the Ottomans. A terrible fear spread through all the listeners: would the Jewish Yishuv suffer the same fate? The fear encouraged Feinberg, Schneersohn and the Aaronsohn siblings to redouble their efforts to contact the British.

Once again, it was Feinberg who took matters into his own hands. This time, he decided to make his way to Constantinople. Upon arrival, he received an urgent telegram from Aaronsohn instructing him to rush back to Israel: on March 16, 1916, the British had made contact on the Atlit Beach.

Sarah Aaronsohn in the agricultural experiments station in Atlit, it is not known what year the picture was photographed. The picture was taken from “Beit Aaronsohn – N.I.L.I Museum”

With a vague promise to make contact again, the members of the organization began to gather all the information they could about the Ottoman army’s movements, its level of preparation for a British attack and its future plans regarding the Land of Israel.  The success of the secret organization, which was soon joined by Sarah Aaronsohn and other friends, actually caused great frustration. “If this material was given to the British, it would be of substantial help to them in beating the Turkish army fast,” Schneersohn overly estimated the achievements of his organization in mid-May 1916.

The members of the organization ran out of patience at the end of May 1916 and Aaaron Aaronsohn decided to travel to Constantinople, from where he would travel to England via Berlin. “The plan is to take me along as his secretary,” Schneersohn wrote on the page in his diary dated the end of May 1916. “Although only God knows how I will explain my journey at home.” Fortunately for him, his father chose not to challenge his son and accepted his explanations with a blank face.

The pair reached Constantinople at the beginning of August. Schneersohn’s reception when he descended from the train proved to be a preview of what awaited him in the Turkish city: the clerk refused to authorize Schneersohn – who was using an alias – to enter the city. After threats from Aaronsohn and numerous thoughts and considerations from the clerk, he came to like the idea, “and when he received baksheesh [a bribe] his thoughts became clear and he allowed us to continue on our way.”

In Constantinople, Schneersohn attempted to maintain his false identity, Mr. Chaim Cohen – Aaronsohn’s clerk. It was not always easy. The hotel the pair stayed in was “a center for people from the Land of Israel. All the young people from Jaffa who study in the officials’ school near the city come here.” There were also several familiar faces who could have mistakenly disclosed Schneersohn’s true identity.

In testimony from his diary dated the end of August Schneersohn relates about one such incident. “This morning, Dr. Rupin entered the hotel, saw me, recognized me, greeted me heartily and said: “How are you Mr. Schneersohn?” Without batting an eyelid, I replied: “I am Chaim Cohen”. Dr. Rupin didn’t flinch. He smiled and immediately corrected himself: “How are you, Mr. Chaim Cohen?” We chatted a little. I didn’t ask why he had come. I also did not tell him anything.”

Schneersohn’s experiences in Constantinople show the sometimes amateur behavior of the organization he and his friends established. His alias was not revealed, but as he did not have any official documents, he was not allowed to continue with Aaronsohn to Berlin. Aaronsohn had to carry on alone, and Schneersohn worked to obtain a permit to return to Israel – a mission which proved to be complex in its own right.

Personal secretary and transcriber of manuscripts for Dr. Rupin, vendor of matches on street corners – the refugee did all sorts of jobs to avoid using the last few coins he had left for his journey home. With Dr. Rupin’s help, Schneersohn managed to catch a military train to the Land of Israel as the servant of a German officer, Mauer Klein. With a new red tarbush on his head, Schneersohn finally set out for home.

With Mauer Klein on the way to the Land of Israel, documented in Levi Schneersohn’s diary

Back in Israel

At the agricultural experiments station established by Aaronsohn in Atlit, which served as the organization’s base, Schneersohn discovered that Feinberg had disappeared after setting out once again to the Sinai Desert on his way to British controlled Egypt. Schneersohn did not share his feelings with his friends, but was sure that Feinberg had met with disaster.

“I am lying on the sofa in Avshalom’s room. My friend, my friend!” Levi Schneersohn hides from the Turks in the Feinberg house

The connection with the British was re-established in February 1917. At ten o’clock in the morning, after the “Managam” intelligence ship transmitted the agreed-upon signals, the members of the organization split into two groups and went out to the Atlit beach to meet their contact people. That night, Baruch Rav and Yehuda Maldin returned with “A terrified, confused and half-crazed person”, shaking from fear and cold.

A warm blanket, steaming cup of tea and the friends gathered around him encouraged him to stutter, with a mouth reeking of alcohol, “Aaronsohn…ship…come…Reuven…where is Chaim Cohen? … come…”, and while stammering, he pulled a medallion out of his pocket and gave it to Sarah”.

Sarah recognized the medallion, testimony in Levi Schneersohn’s diary

Sarah recognized her brother Aaron’s medallion and realized it her brother who sent the mysterious man sitting before her. Once the mysterious man recovered from the whisky the British had fortified him with, he identified himself as Leibel Bernstein – a former soldier in the Zion Mule Corps who joined the British intelligence.

The friends tried to help him to return to his ship with the information they had gathered, but the tempestuous sea led him returning to the station an hour later – this time naked and shuddering with cold – and begged them not to let the Turks discover him.

The connection was renewed on February 28, and Schneersohn was the first to alight on the deck of the British ship to the encouraging cries of Aaron Aaronsohn – “Come up, come up: you are standing on English ground, and are a free man!”. Schneersohn requested to know what had befallen Avshalom.

He did not receive an answer until the following day. “Avshalom was killed in the desert” was all Aaronsohn told his friend. He was unable to respond – not with tears, nor screams, he sat “like a rock”, indifferent to the passage of time.

The shock of the discovery is clearly expressed in the diary

After he recovered, Aaronsohn and a British officer asked Schneersohn: “Lowa, perhaps you know what name is suitable for our affair?” It took Schneersohn a few seconds to understand. The solution was provided by an old habit of Schneersohn’s – he took the Bible he carried with him everywhere out of his pocket, opened it at random, pointed at a line without looking and counted seven lines down “Netzach Yisrael Lo Yeshaker {The Eternity of Israel will not deceive}”, or in an acronym – N.I.L.I.

The British officer, who heard the name, smiled teasingly at the pair and said in English: “Oh, how nice. She must be a lovely girl, this Nili”.

A memo a few pages long about recruitment to the NILI organization

The End

From that moment and until the spy network was discovered in September 1917 following the capture and torture of one of its members, Na’aman Belkind, Schneersohn served as the contact officer between the members in Atlit and the British. He spent most of his time on the ship, or in various bases in Egypt – deciphering and translating the reports supplied by the members in Atlit. Even after Belkind’s capture, the residents of Atlit refused to escape on the intelligence ship.

They initially believed they would manage to arrange for the prisoner’s release (they did not know that Belkind had broken in the interrogations he underwent, until it was too late for them). Additionally, they were afraid that them leaving would bring disaster upon the Jewish Yishuv.

In early October 1917, the Ottoman Army surrounded Zikhron Ya’akov and arrested many Nili members. Among them, Sarah Aaronsohn. After days of torture, she shot herself, making sure she would not reveal anything about Nili, its activities and members. She lay dying for three days before she finally passed away. During investigations in Nazareth, the body of Nili member Reuven Schwartz was found hanging in the detention cell. Yosef Lischinsky, another member of Nili, managed to escape the Ottoman army for 20 days. We was eventually captured and was hung together with Na’aman Belkind on December 16, 1917, in Damascus.

A letter in the Schneersohn archive attests to the attitude toward the members of the organization after they were discovered. When the surviving members of N.I.L.I were revealed they received negative treatment from most of the Yishuv, who saw them as impetuous youngsters who had endangered the entire Yishuv. The letter was sent in 1919 to Dr. Chaim Weizmann, and relates the story of the ring and lists the names of its members. We do not know if Schneersohn and his surviving friends received a response from the head of the Committee of Zionist Delegates in Israel.

It was the British army which recognized the organization’s contribution, and awarded most of them various honors. Schneersohn copied the certificate of appreciation he received into a notebook.

The transcription of the certificate of appreciation Schneersohn received, from one of his many notebooks kept in the Levi Schneersohn collection

It was not until the 1960’s that attitudes toward the N.I.L.I organization changed. Two events brought this change about: the discovery of Avshalom Feinberg’s corpse in Sinai after the Six Day War, and the public discussion in the wake of the discovery. In the same year, 1967, the book “From the Diary of a NILI Member”, based on Schneersohn’s diaries, was published.

Levi Yitzchak Lowa Schneersohn died in 1975. His personal archive was donated to the National Library a year later.

The article was written with the help of Ivgi Slutzk, the archive department of the National Library.


The Levi Yitzchak Schneersohn Archive has been reviewed and described thanks to the generous support of The Leir Foundation.