Friday 20 March 2015


SHIMEN BERMAN (1818-January 26, 1884)
     Born in Cracow, his father was an overseer of the forests of R. Berish Mayzles, the rabbi of Cracow at the time.  Raised in a village in the woods, from his youth he evinced a love for agriculture.  He married at age twenty-three and lived in Cracow where he engaged in the timber business.  From 1848 he was living in Groysvardeyn (German, Großwardein; Hungarian, Nagyvárad), Hungary; in 1851 he returned to Cracow, and from there he tried to found a Jewish colony on uncultivated land in Hungary.  From 1852 he was in New York where he was involved with business and agitated for Jewish immigration from Galicia to be devoted to agriculture.  In 1853 he was in Cincinnati where he published a call for the same in the local German press.  In the United States, Berman worked as a rabbi, cantor, ritual slaughterer, and mohel.  In 1866, during the cholera epidemic, his wife and children died.  In 1870 he moved to England where he attempted to interest Moses Montefiore in a plan to help create Jewish colonies in Palestine.  He then moved on to Paris in an effort to pursue the same with the Association of All Jews Are Friends.  During the Franco-Prussian War, Berman established connections with the group “Drishat Tsiyon” (Quest for Zion) of R. Zvi Kalischer in Berlin, and from there he traveled on to Budapest and Cracow.  In 1871 he made aliya to Palestine, and there he tried to settle Jews in the village of Abu Shusha near Tiberias.  When he did not succeed at this effort as well, Berman left the land and traveled across Europe and everywhere preached a return to Zion; and when everything ended in failure, he returned to Tiberias where he died and was buried.  He was the author in Yiddish of Seyfer masoes shimen (The travels of Simon) (Cracow, 1879), 297 pp.  He described in this book his travels through Palestine and the possibilities for settling Jews there.

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 1; D. Tidhar, in Entsiklopedyah lealutse hayishuv uvonav (Encyclopedia of the founders and builders of Israel) (Tel Aviv, 1947-1971), vol. 3, see index; Gershom Bader, Medina veḥakhameha (The state and its sages) (New York, 1934), p. 144; M. Unger, in Yorbukh fun amopteyl fun yivo (Annual from the American branch of YIVO) (New York, 1938); E. R. Malachi, “Shimon Berman,” in the anthology Yisrael (Israel) (New York, 1949), pp. 102-23.

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