Bookstore Glossary Library Links News Publications Timeline Virtual Israel Experience
Anti-Semitism Biography History Holocaust Israel Israel Education Myths & Facts Politics Religion Travel US & Israel Vital Stats Women
donate subscribe Contact About Home

Israel Ruzhin

RUZHIN, ISRAEL (Friedmann; 1797–1850), ḥasidic leader. Israel was a great-grandson of Dov Baer, the Maggid of *Mezhirech. Ḥasidim claimed to recognize his outstanding qualities almost from birth. His uncle Mordecai of Chernobyl declared that the baby had the soul of the Ba'al Shem Tov. At the age of six Israel lost his father. At the age of 13 he married and moved to Botosani.

When Israel was 16 years old his brother Abraham died, and he was appointed to succeed him as the leader of the Ḥasidim. Possessed of great organizing ability, he rapidly established a large Ḥasidic center attracting thousands of followers. He then moved to Ruzhin where he set up a splendid "court" and like his father, Shalom Shakhna, lived in great luxury and unusual splendor. His dwelling place was that of a noble with all its opulence. He rode in a splendid carriage with silver handles, harnessed to four galloping horses, and surrounded by many servants. The ideological explanation given by Israel himself for his mode of behavior was that Satan is already involved in all the behavior of the Ḥasidic Ẓaddikim, although he is unaware that within the external extravagance and wealth a precious stone is concealed.

In 1838 Israel was accused of having given the order to put to death two Jewish informers – Isaac Ochsman and Samuel Schwartzman – who had been engaging in illegal exploitation and informing. When their activities began to endanger the Jews and their communities, the lay communal leaders decided to put them to death. One was put into the boiler of the ritual bath and the other was drowned. For a long time the Ḥasidim and members of the community succeeded in hiding the affair, and even after the body was found in the river the cause of death remained a secret until revealed by a third informer. An extensive investigation was then initiated, and the case was transferred to a higher authority. Hundreds of persons were imprisoned and subjected to severe tortures. Eighty of them were brought before a military court in a trial that lasted a year and a half. Six lay leaders were sentenced to hard labor for life and flogging, from which most of them died. Israel was imprisoned for 22 months, during the whole period of the investigation. He was placed in solitary confinement in prison in Kiev, but was permitted to receive food in his own utensils.

On the conclusion of the investigation in 1840, in which the defendants did everything in their power to exonerate Israel from the accusation leveled against him, he was released, but was placed under continual surveillance as he was also suspected of an ambition to become ruler of the Jews. Policemen went in and out of his room while he was praying. He moved to Kishinev where the provincial governor was better disposed toward the Jews. However, when his followers learned that their leader was to be exiled to a distant place, they speedily obtained a travel permit to Moldavia for him, promising that he would return if required to do so. He then settled in Jassy in Romania. The Russian governor who provided the permit, in fear of his superiors, hastened to send emissaries in secret to Jassy to have Israel extradited. However, the Ḥasidim anticipated this and removed him to Shatsk in Bukovina, which belonged to Austria. He moved from town to town including Kompling, and Skola, until after many efforts, described in numerous Ḥasidic legends, he was authorized by the Austrian emperor Ferdinand I (Dec. 20, 1845) to live in Sadgora in Bukovina. Israel's Ḥasidim purchased an estate for their leader called Zolotoi-Potok near Sadgora.

At Sadgora thousands of Ḥasidim streamed to him, and he built himself a splendid palace there, continuing the same life of opulence that he had led in Ruzhin. Israel had a great influence upon the numerous Ḥasidim and Ẓaddikim, especially the Romanian Ḥasidim.

On the death of the rabbi of *Apta, Israel was also appointed head of the Volhynia Kolel in Ereẓ Israel, and did much on behalf of the Jews in Ereẓ Israel. The splendid synagogue Tiferet Yisrael in Jerusalem (destroyed by the Jordanians after 1948), also called the Nisan Bak synagogue, was named after Israel of Ruzhin because he provided the funds for buying the ground and building the synagogue.

The impressions of contemporaries who knew him are interesting. Dr. S. Rubin describes him as follows "He spoke little, confining his remarks to the absolute essential. All his movements were deliberate… He sat upon his throne dressed in immaculate and expensive garments, like one of the Russian nobles, and on his head a hat embroidered in gold. From the tips of his toes to his head, there was an elegance about his expensive clothes." Dr. Mayer, who visited him in 1826, was filled with enthusiasm for Israel's personality: "When I visited him in his home, I found there Field-Marshal Witgenstein who honored him in every possible manner and wanted to present him with one of the most beautiful of his palaces, in a neighboring town, so that he should take up residence there… in truth he deserves all this honor. Although not particularly educated, he has a preeminently naturally keen mind. With his sharp eye and keen intellect he immediately penetrates to the heart of any difficulty brought to him, however obscure and complicated, and arrives at a decision. His imposing presence and his stature make a pleasing impression upon the onlooker. He is noble and refined: He has no beard, only a moustache. His eyes exercise a hypnotic charm so that even his greatest opponent is compelled to submit to him."

Ruzhin, Israel

Israel of Ruzhin wrote no books. His teachings are collected in Irin Kedishin, Beit Yisrael, Tiferet Yisrael, Keneset Yisrael, Pe'er Yisrael, etc.

Six sons of Israel of Ruzhin established Ḥasidic dynasties which attracted large numbers of followers.

The eldest SHALOM JOSEPH (1813–1851) made Sadagora his center, and died in Leipzig ten months after the death of his father. His son ISAAC (1834–1896) was the founder of the Buhusi dynasty and was the main propagator of Ḥasidism in Romania. Isaac's sons dispersed throughout the country, ISRAEL SHALOM JOSEPH (1863–1923) in Buhusi, and ABRAHAM HESCHEL (d. 1940) in Adjud, MOSES LEIB (d. 1947) in Pascani, while the fourth son, JACOB (1878–1953), was appointed to succeed his father-in-law Israel of Husyatin, the author of Oholei Ya'akov. Other descendants were his grandson SHALOM JOSEPH OF MELNITSA-PODOLSKAYA (d. 1927), who also made Lemberg (Lvov) his center. MENAHEM NAHUM OF ITCANI (1873–1933), the son of Abraham Heschel of Adjud, was a scholar and kabbalist who wrote works on philosophy. ISAAC B. JACOB OF HUSYATIN, the last head of this dynasty (1900–1968), was chosen as leader in Ereẓ Israel. David, the son of Isaac of Buhusi, had two sons, MENAHEM MENDEL OF BUHUSI (d. 1943) who was the son-in-law of Israel Shalom Joseph, and SHALOM JOSEPH OF SPIKOV (1877–1920). JACOB DAVID (1892–1955), the son of Moses Leib of Pascani, died in Jaffa.

The last survivor of this dynasty, ISAAC OF BUHUSI (1903–1992), the son of Shalom Joseph of Spikov, settled in Tel Aviv. A devoted Zionist, he was active on behalf of the Jews in Romania during the Holocaust. His brother, DAVID OF PLOESTI (1898–1941), perished in the Holocaust.

The second son of Israel of Ruzhin, ABRAHAM JACOB (1819–1883), was the principal successor of his father and retained his residence in Sadagora. He married the daughter of Aaron of *Karlin. As a result of calumny, he was arrested in 1856 and remained in prison for 15 months. He was succeeded as head of the dynasty of Sadagora by his son ISRAEL (1853–1907), whose elder brother ISAAC (1850–1917) founded the important dynasty of Boyan in Bukovina.

Of the sons of Israel of Sadagora, AARON (1877–1913), the author of Kedushat Aharon, had considerable musical accomplishment; SHALOM JOSEPH (1879–1936) was head of the dynasty of Chernovtsy (Czernowitz); ABRAHAM JACOB (1884–1961) of Sadagora, a leader of the Agudat *Israel, settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1938; and ISAAC OF RYMANOW (1887–1929). The last head of the Sadagora dynasty was MORDECAI SHALOM JOSEPH (1897–1979) who, after serving as admor in Sadagora and Przemzyl, settled in Tel Aviv in 1939. He was the author of Keneset Mordekhai.

The Boyan dynasty spread to an even greater extent. Of the sons of Isaac, the founder of this dynasty, MENAHEM NAHUM (1869–1936), the author of Devarim Niḥumim and Zeh Yenaḥamenu, had his seat in Chernovtsy. ISRAEL (1879–1951) lived in Leipzig, but settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1939. ABRAHAM JACOB (1886–1942) lived in Lemberg (Lvov) and perished in the Holocaust. MORDECAI SHELOMO (1891–1971) was the last head of the dynasty. After residing in Vienna for 20 years he emigrated to New York. His remains were interred in Ereẓ Israel. The dynasty was continued by the sons of Menahem Nahum; AARON OF CHERNOVTSY, who perished in the Holocaust in 1941–42, and MORDECAI SHRAGA.

The third son of Israel of Ruzhin, MENAHEM NAHUM OF STEFAN-ESTI in Romania (1827–1869), left an only son ABRAHAM MAT-TATHIAS (1848–1933). With his death the Stefanesti dynasty came to the end.

The fourth son of Israel of Ruzhin, DOV OF LEOVO (1827–1876), was a tragic figure. An admor in Husi in Romania, he was successively in Seuleni, in Ukraine, and lastly in Leovo in Romania. In 1869 he published a manifesto attacking Ḥasidism, left his home, and moved to Chernovtsy, where he took up residence with one of the local maskilim. The incident caused a storm in the Jewish world, and gave rise to a particularly fierce controversy between the Ḥasidic dynasty of Zanz (see *Halberstamm) and that of Sadagora, which led to a burning hatred between them, bringing in its wake excommunications and recriminations. This controversy, known as the Zanz-Sadagora conflict, produced a vast polemical literature. Dov later repented and returned to Sadagora, but he no longer received any of his followers. This did not, however, put an end to the controversy, which continued until the death of Ḥayyim Halberstamm, the admor of Zanz. Dov left no children.

The fifth son of Israel of Ruzhin, DAVID MOSES (1828–1900), author of Divrei David, was one of the greatest Ẓaddikim of his time. His center was first in Potek, but in 1859 he moved to Chortkov. His followers were the aristocracy of the Ḥasidim of Poland. He was succeeded by his son ISRAEL (1854–1934), the author of Tiferet Yisrael, an outstanding leader of the Agudat Israel. After World War I he moved to Vienna. Israel was succeeded in his turn by his son NAHUM MORDECAI (1874–1946) who settled in Ereẓ Israel in 1939 where he became a member of the Mo'eẓet Gedolei ha-Torah of the Agudat Israel. The last leader of the dynasty was his son SOLOMON (1894–1959).

The sixth and last son of Israel of Ruzhin was MORDECAI SHRAGA OF HUSYATIN (1834–1894). His followers were the outstanding Ḥasidim of Galicia. He was succeeded by his son ISRAEL (1856–1949). A noble character, he was one of the first members of the Ḥovevei Zion movement. After World War I he moved to Vienna, and in 1937 emigrated to Ereẓ Israel. Both MOSES OF CRACOW (1881–1943), author of Darkhei Moshe, the spiritual head of the Yeshivat Ḥakhmei Lublin, and his brother MENAHEM NAHUM OF HUSYATIN (1880–1943), who had his center in Lemberg (Lvov), were the grandsons of Mordecai Shraga, the sons of his son Shalom Joseph, and both perished in the Holocaust. There was no successor to this dynasty.

Israel of Ruzhin had three sons-in-law: MENAHEM MENDEL HAGER OF *VIZHNITZ, a noted Ḥasidic leader, and Joseph Manzon and David Halperin, who belonged to wealthy families. Joseph Manzon's son ḤAYYIM DAVID (1850–1932), the admor of Brod, was severely persecuted by the local maskilim, while another son, LEVI ISAAC (1847–1917), author of Bekha Yevorakh Yisrael, had his center in Vienna. Two sons of Ḥayyim David acted as admorim, DOV BAER in Brad, who perished in the Holocaust, and ISRAEL (1879–1961) in Kalisz, who emigrated to the United States in 1939. SHALOM (1856–1940) the son of David Halperin was admor in Vaslui in Romania; he had a phenomenal memory, and had an extensive knowledge of secular subjects. He was succeeded by his son ḤAYYIM DOV (1876–1957), who after residing in Vaslui and Bucharest emigrated to Ereẓ Israel in 1956. The last leader of the Vaslui dynasty was JACOB JOSEPH SOLOMON (b. 1902), who settled in Tel Aviv.


H.M. Hillmann, Beit Yisrael (1907); A.D. Twersky, Sefer ha-YaḤas mi-Tchernobil ve-Ruzhyn (1938); E.E. Dorf, Ateret Tiferet Yisrael (1969); L.H. Grosman, Shem u-She'erit (1943); Horodezky, Ḥasidut, index; A.J. Bromberg, Mi-Gedolei ha-Ḥasidut, 6 (19673); Yeshu'ot Yisrael (19552).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.