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Landau, Yisra’el

(1758–1829), Hebrew-language printer in Prague and an influential figure in that city’s Haskalah. Yisra’el Landau, the third son of Yeḥezkel Landau (chief rabbi of Prague from 1754 to 1793), was born in Prague. In his youth, he studied in Brody with Yisra’el Zamość (ca. 1700–1772), the Talmudist and early maskil, who had previously taught Moses Mendelssohn in Berlin. Landau was actively involved in the Prague Haskalah, as were such other influential figures as Baruch Jeitteles (1762–1813).

Employed from about 1782 as a Hebrew printer in a Christian printing house in Prague, Landau was responsible for publishing numerous traditional and maskilic works. Among the former were his father’s texts: the Talmudic commentary on tractates Berakhot (1791) and Betsah (1799) and a commentary on the Shulḥan ‘arukh, titled Dagul me-revavah (1794). In 1793, Landau republished Avraham Farissol’s Igeret orḥot ‘olam. In his introduction, he praises the Prague University library (which the censor Karl Fischer had given him permission to use) for being a rare place in which individuals of different religions could sit together without fighting. His remarks allude to the strong segregation that still existed between Jews and Christians even after the issuing of the Toleranzpatent in 1781. In 1798, Yisra’el published Ḥok le-Yisra’el, his translation of MaimonidesSefer ha-mitsvot (Book of the Commandments) into “böhmische Judendeutsch,” the western Yiddish spoken by Bohemian Jews. He hoped that this work would enable Prague Jews, many of whom lacked familiarity with Hebrew texts, to learn about Maimonides.

Disapproving of the acculturation of Prague Jews, Landau’s wife demanded that they and their two sons return to her Polish homeland. When he refused, she asked for a divorce. His older son, El‘azar (1778–1831), became a prominent rabbi in Brody, and the younger, Yehoshu‘a, served as a rabbi in Olkusz. Yisra’el later remarried a more “modern” Dutch woman. His child from this marriage was Mosheh Landau (1788–1852), the progressive leader of Prague’s next generation of Jews. Mosheh Landau followed in his father’s footsteps, establishing his own Hebrew press in Prague.

Suggested Reading

Sharon Flatto, “Prague’s Rabbinic Culture: The Concealed and Revealed in Ezekiel Landau’s Writings” (Ph.D. diss., Yale University, 2000); Yekuthiel Aryeh Kamelhar, Mofet ha-dor: Toldot Rabenu Yeḥezkel Halevi Landa . . . (Piotrków, Pol., 1933; rpt. Jerusalem, 1968); Ruth Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den böhmischen Ländern, pt. 1, Das Zeitalter der Aufklärung, 1780–1830 (Tübingen, 1969).