Judah Leib Benjamin Katzenelson (pseudonym Buki ben Yogli was a physician, writer, and scholar. Born in Chernigov, Ukraine, he studied at the yeshivot of Bobruisk but became attracted to the Haskalah, and attended the government rabbinical seminary at Zhitomir. He later studied medicine at the Military Medical Academy at St. Petersburg, where he practiced medicine.
Katzenelson wrote both in Hebrew and in Russian and, from 1879 to 1884, he was a correspondent for the Russian-Jewish newspaper, Russki Yevrey, using it as a means through which he called on the Russian-Jewish intelligentsia to help their persecuted brethren. Katzenelson believed that the Haskalah with its particular emphasis on trades and agricultural work would solve the problems of Russian Jewry.
In 1891, he published a series of articles in Ha-Meliẓ in which he called for a return to the soil. He became a member of the Central Committee of the Jewish Colonization Association, which was established for this purpose. Katzenelson was also active in Ḥevrat Mefiẓei ha-Haskalah (
The Society for the Dissemination of Enlightenment) and was chairman of Agudat Ḥovevei Sefat Ever (
Society of Friends of the Hebrew Language) in Russia. A lecturer at the Institute of Jewish Studies established by Baron David Guenzburg in St. Petersburg, he headed the school after the death of its founder.
In 1909, Katzenelson visited Palestine and returned to Russia full of enthusiasm for Jewish agriculture and the renaissance of the Hebrew language.
In 1905, the first and only volume of Kol Kitvei J.L. Katzenelson, entitled Ḥezyonot ve-Hirhurim, was published. His studies on early Jewish history were mostly written in Russian; he was also one of the editors of the Jewish-Russian encyclopedia Ỵevreyskaya Entsiklopediya. Among his literary endeavors, his best-known work is Shirat ha-Zamir (
The Song of the Nightingale. 1895), a novel whose protagonist is a rabbinical student yearning for agricultural life. The motif recurs in Adnei ha-Sadeh, an allegorical legend in which a wanderer comes upon a race of men who are tied to the soil by a living cord. His envy and longing also to be bound to the land echoes that of the student in Shirat ha-Zamir. A collection of Katzenelson's legends and stories were published posthumously in 1918 and, in 1944, Jacob Fichmann edited an anthology of his stories entitled Shirat ha-Zamir (the main work included in it), to which he wrote an introduction on the life of the author.
D. Frishman, Parẓufim (1931), 54–61; M. Ribolow, Sefer ha-Massot (1928), 72–77; Z. Shazar, Or Ishim, 1 (1964), 154–62; S.R. Kagan, Jewish Medicine (1952), 555; Waxman, Literature, 4 (19602), 154ff., 702ff.; Rejzen, Leksikon, 3 (1929), 536–9; Kressel, Leksikon, 2 (1967), 790–1; P. Lachower, Meḥkarim ve-Nisyonot, 1 (1925), 135–41; J. Klausner, Yoẓerim u-Vonim, 1 (19432), 293–7; B. Katz, in: J.L. Katzenelson, Mah she-Ra'u Einai ve-Shame'u Oznai (1947), 169–277.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.