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Samuel Salant

SALANT, SAMUEL (1816–1909), chief rabbi of *Jerusalem and one of the foremost 19th-century rabbis in Jerusalem. Born near Bialystok (Russia, now Poland), Salant studied at yeshivot in Vilna, Salant, and Volozhin. His second wife was the daughter of Joseph Sundel *Salant, who had inspired the Musar movement, and he continued studying at his father-in-law's house. He set out for Ereẓ Israel in 1840, but was delayed for a few months in Constantinople, where he first met Sir Moses *Montefiore, with whom he established a firm friendship. In 1841 he reached Jerusalem, where the heads of the kolel Lita appointed him rabbi of the Ashkenazi community. A leading figure in Jerusalem, he became Ashkenazi chief rabbi in 1878, holding the position until his death. Salant strove to develop the institutions of the Ashkenazi community, which increased from 500 members at his arrival to 30,000 at the time of his death, and succeeded in obtaining for the Ashkenazim the official status previously enjoyed only by the Sephardi community. Between 1848 and 1851, and in 1860, he traveled to several European countries to collect money for religious institutions in Jerusalem. Salant was a founder of the Eẓ Ḥayyim Talmud Torah and Yeshivah, the Bikkur Ḥolim Hospital, and the Keneset Israel General Committee, which united all the kolelim under a single administration. He also encouraged the establishment of the Jewish quarters, such as Me'ah She'arim, Keneset Israel, and others, outside the Old City walls. His only son, BEINUSH, was one of the seven founders of the Naḥalat Shivah quarter. Salant's attitude to the Haskalah movement and Zionism was moderate. He favored the introduction of Hebrew and Arabic into the curriculum of the Talmud Torah schools and opposed the excommunications pronounced by zealots on "modernists." He also tried to lessen the friction between the veteran settlement and the new yishuv, combated the activities of the mission schools and ameliorated the relations between the Ashkenazi and Sephardi communities.

Salant lived an exemplary life of the utmost frugality. He devoted himself without stint to the needs of his community, even in the last years of his long life when his eyesight was affected. In his method of study he tended toward the plain meaning, eschewing pilpul, and followed the minhag of *Elijah b. Solomon Zalman, the Gaon of Vilna. He was an outstanding posek, distinguishing himself by his power of decision, and showed a definite tendency toward leniency in his decisions.

Some of his novellae have been published in the talmudic journals Torat Ẓiyyon and Torah Or, and in the Ha-Tevunah of Israel Lipkin *(Salanter). They are also found in the works of contemporary rabbis. On his 90th birthday, in 1906, the Keren Shemu'el Fund was launched in Jerusalem.


Frumkin-Rivlin; Yaari, Sheluḥei, index; idem, Zikhronot Ereẓ Israel, 2 vols. (1947), index; E. Cohen-Reiss, Mi-Zikhronot Ish Yerushalayim (1967), index; J. Rimon, Shemu'el be-Doro (1961); Y. Gelis, Shivim Shanah bi-Yrushalayim, Toledot Ḥayyavshel Rabbenu Shemu'el Salant (1960).

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