Image from a postcard produced by the Mizraḥi Zionist organization to commemorate Rabbi Tsevi Hirsh Kalischer. Illustration by H. Goldberg. Printed by Omanut, Warsaw. (YIVO)

Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

NOTE: you will be redirected
to the Web site for the

Kalischer, Tsevi Hirsh

(1795–1874), rabbi and the most prominent “harbinger of Zionism.” Tsevi Hirsh Kalischer was born in Leszno (Lissa) in western Poland. He was a disciple of Ya‘akov Lorbeerbaum of Lissa and of Akiva Eger, two of the leading halakhic authorities of his generation. Kalischer served his entire adult life as the unpaid rabbi of Thorn (Toruń), supported by his wife, who had a small shop.

Kalischer was raised in a Polish Jewish environment; he was among the first Orthodox rabbis to serve in the border region between Poland and Prussia. The Orthodox stream created by Kalischer was that of national Orthodoxy, which arose as a response to the Reform movement, which had shifted Jewish loyalty from the Land of Israel in favor of the Jews’ host countries in the Diaspora. Kalischer’s struggle with the Reform movement was inseparable from his Zionist teachings. Among his colleagues in the battle against Reform were Eliyahu Guttmacher of Grätz, Ya‘akov Tsevi Mecklenburg of Königsberg, Yisakhar Dov Haltrecht, Yeḥi’el Mikhl Sachs of Berlin, and others who wrote approbations to his book Dorshe Tsiyon. Kalischer formulated the ideology of national Orthodoxy, explicitly declaring that the identity of the Jewish people was no less valid than that of other nations and that their aspiration to reestablish their historical homeland was fully legitimate.

Kalischer was a leader of the Jewish Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land, founded by Ḥayim Lorje of Frankfurt am Oder (1860), which was the first group to propagate the idea of renewing settlement in the Land of Israel. Kalischer believed that in the wake of emancipation, Jews would be able to achieve self-emancipation as well. On this point he differed from later Zionists who argued that it was precisely because of the failure of emancipation that Jews had the right to demand self-determination—in other words, a Jewish state.

Kalischer remained in close contact with contemporary Jewish leaders, both rabbinic and lay. He corresponded with Moses Montefiore, Anschel Rothschild, and Albert Cohen; with rabbis in Germany (Esriel Hildesheimer, Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Seligmann Baer Bamberger); with rabbis and public figures in Russia (Yitsḥak Elḥanan Spektor, David Friedmann, Yehoshu‘a Heshel Levin, and Eliyahu Krotinger), and with Rabbi Me’ir Auerbach in Jerusalem. He had a hand in every initiative connected to the Land of Israel, whether sponsored by the Alliance Israélite Universelle (in Paris), the Jewish Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land (in Germany), or the Dorshe Tsiyon vi-Yerushalayim society (in Grodno). In particular, he gave his support to the mission to various Jewish communities of Hungarian Rabbi Yosef Natonek on behalf of the Company for the Settlement of the Holy Land.

Kalischer published his views in Hebrew journals and newspapers, such as Ha-Magid and Ha-Levanon. His first book was Emunah yesharah (Proper Faith; 1843), in which he tries to reconcile faith and contemporary philosophy, his intention being to defend his beliefs against the attacks of critics. His most influential text was Dorshe Tsiyon (1862), in which he formulates his religious Zionist position in what became the foundation of subsequent religious Zionist thought. A collection of Kalischer’s letters published in 1946 by Israel Klausner contains rich source material regarding Kalischer’s contemporaries and their attitudes toward those issues that most engaged him.

Suggested Reading

Zevi Hirsch Kalischer, Derishat Tsiyon, ed. Yehudah ‘Etsion (Jerusalem, 2002); Jacob Katz, “Demuto ha-historit shel ha-Rav Tsevi Hirsh Kalisher,” in Le’umiyut yehudit, pp. 285–307 (Jerusalem, 1979); Jody E. Myers, Seeking Zion: Modernism and Messianic Activism in the Writings of Tsevi Hirsch Kalischer (Oxford, 2003).



Translated from Hebrew by David Strauss