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Wissotzky, Kalonymus Ze’ev

(1824–1904), businessman, Zionist activist, and philanthropist. Kalonymus Wissotzky was born in a town near Kovno (mod. Kaunas) into the family of a small merchant. At 18, he married and his wife’s parents agreed to support his Talmud studies for three years. He attended the Volozhin yeshiva but had to leave because of illness.

In 1853 Wissotzky studied with Yisra’el Salanter, the father of the Musar movement; subsequently, Wissotzky decided to direct 10 percent of his income to charity. In 1858 he moved to Moscow and worked in the tea business. During the 1860s and 1870s he became a major tea trader in Russia, and eventually opened branches in New York, London, and elsewhere in Europe.

From the 1870s, even before the Ḥibat Tsiyon movement was founded, Wissotzky explored the idea of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel. In 1876 he supported the Mazkeret Mosheh Foundation, an organization that set up Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. In Russia, Wissotzky helped Jewish soldiers who were stationed in Moscow; provided material support to the Alliance Israélite Universelle; and contributed to the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (OPE). When Agudat Ohave Tsiyon was organized after the pogroms of 1881, Wissotzky agreed to serve first as treasurer and later as chairman. As a representative of this organization, he attended the Ḥoveve Tsiyon conference in Katowice and was elected to the movement’s central committee. In 1884–1885 he visited Palestine, publishing impressions of his trip in Ha-Asif, and including copies of his correspondence from this period in his book Kevutsat mikhtavim (1898). He helped to finance a Jewish school in Jaffa and also funded land purchases for Jewish workers in Palestine.

Wissotzky was also a member of Ha-Va‘ad ha-Odessa’i (Odessa Committee). In 1896–1897 he contributed financially to the periodical Ha-Shiloaḥ. Other beneficiaries of his philanthropy included the Zionist movement, ORT, and the yeshiva of Volozhin. His daughter, Liba Miriam Gavronskii, helped to establish the yeshiva of Ponevezh (Lith., Panevėžys). In Wissotzky’s will, he bequeathed his share of his tea company—a total of 1 million rubles—to charity. From this sum, 100,000 rubles were used to found the Technion in Haifa.

Suggested Reading

Derekh tsedakah: Prati ḥag ha-yovel she-ḥagenu (Warsaw, 1895); Menahem Mendel Dolitzky, Mofet le-rabim (Frankfurt am Main, 1892); Yosi Goldshtain, Ben Tsiyon le-tsiyonut: Toldot ha-tenu‘ah ha-tsiyonit, 1881–1914 (Jerusalem, 1998); Jacob Masè, Zikhronot / ha-Rav Ya‘akov ben Yesh‘ayahu Maz’eh (Tel Aviv, 1936); Kalonymus Ze’ev Wissotzky, Kevutsat mikhtavim she-nishleḥu le-anshe shem be-‘inyan yishuv Erets Yisra’el (Warsaw, 1898; rpt. Jerusalem, 1980); Wissotzky Tea Web site available at