NEW ISRAEL (Rus. Novy Izrail), Jewish religious sect initiated in Odessa during the 1880s. At the beginning of 1882 Jacob Priluker, a teacher at the government Jewish school of Odessa, published an article in the Odesskiy Listok in which he proclaimed the 15 principles of a sect to be known as New Israel, whose objective was to introduce reforms in the Jewish religion which would reconcile it with Christianity. These principles recognized the Mosaic law only, and articulated "an attitude of contempt" toward the Talmud. The day of rest was transferred from Saturday to Sunday, while circumcision and the dietary laws were abolished. The members of the sect were required to consider Russian as their national language and to observe the laws of the state. The Russian government was requested to grant civic rights to the members of the sect, to authorize them to spread their doctrine among the Jews, and to permit them to wear a special sign which would distinguish them from other Jews. Their platform was to be a breakthrough for Russian Jewry after the tribulations it had suffered through the riots and increased antisemitism which followed the assassination of Czar Alexander II in 1881. However, even those maskilim who strove for reforms within Judaism regarded Priluker's proposals with reserve. They pointed to the utilitarian nature of his reforms, which suggested that part of the Jewish heritage be abandoned in exchange for civic rights. On the other hand, Priluker was encouraged by the Russian authorities. During the same year, his book Reform Jews (published under the pseudonym of E. Ben-Sion) was published in St. Petersburg with government assistance. It contained a violent attack on the Talmud and traditional Judaism, thus supplying material for antisemitic propaganda. In 1887 Priluker traveled to Western Europe at the government's expense to establish contacts with missionaries. However, his preaching to the Jewish masses of southern Russia met with no success and the Russian government's sympathy for him declined. Indeed, his appeals for support in the publication of a Jewish newspaper which would propagate his ideas were rejected by the government. In 1891 Priluker apostatized to Protestantism and immigrated to England, and this marked the end of the attempt to establish the New Israel sect.
N.N. (I.L. Gordon), in: Voskhod, 8 pt. 2 (1882), 1–29; S. Ginsburg, Meshumodim in Tsarishn Rusland (1946), 90–115.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.