Jakob Lestschinsky (second from right), historian Simon Dubnow (center), Meyer Abraham Halevy from Bucharest (left), and other delegates to the YIVO Conference pose at the grave of Tsemaḥ Szabad, a physician, leader of the Folkist party, and founder of YIVO, Vilna, 1935. (YIVO)

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Halevy, Meyer Abraham

(1900–1972), rabbi, historian, and philosopher. Meyer Abraham Halevy was born in Piatra Neamț, Romania, into a religious family; his father was a rabbi and his mother also came from a rabbinic family. After completing his heder education, Halevy studied at the Beit Israel yeshiva in Buhuşi.

In 1920, Halevy was granted a scholarship to attend the Rabbinical Seminary of Paris; simultaneously he studied at the Sorbonne. He was ordained in 1924, and in 1925 defended a doctoral thesis on apocrypha related to Moses. Halevy also was a graduate in theology of the École Pratique des Hautes Études and obtained a degree in archaeology from the École du Louvre.

Halevy returned to Romania in 1926 and was appointed rabbi in Iaşi, where he preached at several synagogues. He subsequently moved to Bucharest and served at three major institutions: Sinagoga Mare (The Great Synagogue; 1927–1935), Templul Unirea Sfântă (The Temple of the Holy Union; 1935–1940), and the renowned Templul Coral (Choral Temple; 1940–1945).

Halevy was a key Romanian advocate of the Science of Judaism movement. He edited the scholarly journal Sinai: Revista pentru studii iudaice (Sinai: A Review of Judaic Studies) in Iaşi and Bucharest in 1926 and 1927 (it was later issued as an annual; 1928–1933). He founded the Romanian Society of Judaic Studies and also edited its newsletter in 1928 and 1929. He published the Buletinul Societății de studii iudaice din România (Newsletter of the Library, Museum and Historical Archive of the Choral Temple) from 1935 to 1939, and wrote for a variety of Jewish publications, including Egalitatea, Curierul Israelit, Hasmonaea, Junimea Evree, and Adam, as well as for Romanian journals.

During World War II, Halevy lectured at the Jewish University College (1940–1944), which was attended by students who had been expelled from public universities as a result of anti-Jewish legislation. After the war he continued to teach in Jewish high schools, until the government imposed an official ban on private and religious education. He left Romania in 1957 and settled in France.

Halevy’s major contributions to the field of Romanian Jewish history were his critical analyses of historical sources. He published histories of both the Great Synagogue and of the Choral Temple in Bucharest, as well as more general studies of Romanian Jewish history. In his research, he explored a wide range of topics, from biblical and exegetic studies to the history of medicine.

Suggested Reading

Lya Benjamin, Evreii din România în texte istoriografice (Bucharest, 2002), pp. 410–530; Carol Iancu, “Chief Rabbi Meyer Abraham Halevy: Exegete and Historian,” Studia Hebraica 2 (2002): 287–305.

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 81, Elias Tcherikower, Papers, 1903-1963.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea