A new issue of Perspectives magazine uncovers a fascinating plot of the Rebbe Rashab’s transcontinental maneuvers to stop the Haskalah expansion – Free download.
The notice first appeared on page 3 of the Friday, 1 Adar II, 1900, edition of the Russian Hebrew language daily Hamelitz. Tucked away in the middle of a serialized dispatch from its French correspondent, in a digression from a longer report of the Middle Eastern activities of the Haskalah-affiliated Alliance Israélite Universelle, appeared the following few lines:
“Having mentioned the Haskalah, I can also report, from a reliable source, that Baron David Ginzburg, who spent the past few days in Paris, has succeeded in securing from the JCA a sizeable sum (one million francs), for the purpose of establishing elementary schools for Jews in Russia, by the “Promoters of Haskalah’ association (Chamah) in Petersburg.”
One million francs. Simple arithmetic reveals the impact such a staggering sum stood to bring. At the time, a million francs would have converted to roughly $200,000 USD, and over 5 million USD today. Of greater relevance was the value of the pledge in the currency it would be spent: 400,000 rubles.
The new schoolhouse in Lubavitch – which had already been paid for from Paris, by way of Petersburg – had cost some 5,000 rubles, plus 6-800 per year to be kept running.
This meant that this single JCA pledge could be used to build at least eighty new schools from scratch, or to keep afloat all of the Chamah schools in the Russian Empire for several years. And for all anyone knew, this was only the start of a closer relationship between Chamah and the JCA.
The Rebbe Rashab, having caught wind of this report almost immediately after publication, spelled out its implications succinctly: “With the power of Baron Hirsch’s vast wealth, they are able to establish schools in every place, and G-d forbid they will destroy the world.”
A new front in the battle with the Haskalah had opened.
The year was 5760/1900, and the Rebbe Rashab had discovered that one million francs had been pledged by the Jewish Colonization Association (JCA) towards the opening of Haskalah schools throughout Russia. What could be done to stop it? Could the Rebbe Rashab convince the modern Parisian executives that Haskalah posed a threat to the future of Judaism? Will he make it there before it’s too late?
Read a riveting account of this historic affair in One Rebbe, Two Barons, Three Years, and Four Hundred Thousand Rubles – The Battle for the Soul of the Russian Cheder.
Perspectives Twenty-Two, published by Merkaz Anash, brings you many other fascinating essays, such as Snapshots of the Rebbe on Chinuch, When Google Is Better Than A Rov, the Rebbe’s very own yeshiva, and more.
Download Perspectives magazine at http://www.merkazanash.com/perspectives-magazine or subscribe online to receive a hard copy by mail at chassidicdigest.com.