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Kahaneman, Yosef Shelomoh

(1886–1969), rabbi, head of yeshiva, and communal activist. Kahaneman was born in Kool (Kuliai), Lithuania. In 1896 he left home to study in the nearby small town of Plungian (Plunge) and in 1901 continued his education at the Telz yeshiva, where he remained for six years. After an additional short stay at the Novaredok yeshiva, he moved in 1908 to Radin, studying at the yeshiva of Yisra’el Me’ir ha-Kohen (known as Ḥafets Ḥayim; 1838–1933). In 1910 Kahaneman was appointed rabbi of Vidze, Lithuania, married Feige Rubin, and shortly thereafter founded a yeshiva. During World War I, he remained in Lithuania, and in 1919 was appointed rabbi of Panevėžys (Ponevezh), a position he held for 20 years. While in Panevėžys, he founded a yeshiva that gained national fame.

Between 1923 and 1925, Kahaneman served as a representative in the Lithuanian Seimas (parliament). He was a member of the autonomous National Council of Lithuanian Jewry and was active in the Agudas Yisroel party. World War II broke out while Kahaneman was visiting Palestine in 1939, and when the Red Army occupied Lithuania in October of that year, he remained in Palestine rather than following his plan to continue on as a visitor to the United States. After fruitless attempts to save European Jews, Kahaneman relocated the Ponevezh yeshiva to Bene Berak in December 1943, and founded several related educational institutions for teenagers and families throughout Palestine and later in Israel. Kahaneman recognized the religious significance of the establishment of the State of Israel, based upon his understanding that, in light of the Holocaust, it was part of God’s plan. He reportedly displayed the Israeli flag on the roof of his yeshiva. Kahaneman wrote Talmudic commentaries and an exegesis on the Passover Haggadah. These, as well as transcripts of his lessons, were published posthumously.

Suggested Reading

Yitzhak Alperovitch and Gershon Weiner, eds., Sefer Vidz: ‘Ayarah be-ḥayehah uve-khilyonah (Tel Aviv, 1998); Dov Katz, “Slobodka, Telz, Ponivez,” in Yahadut Lita, ed. Natan Goren et. al., vol. 1, pp. 226–242 (Tel Aviv, 1959); Shemu’el Kol, Eḥad be-doro: Korot ḥayav, ma’avako u-fo‘olo shel Rabi Yosef Shelomoh Kahanman ha-Ga’on mi-Ponivez (Tel Aviv, 1970); Dov Levin, ed., Pinkas ha-kehilot: Lita (Jerusalem, 1996).