Find more information about

at the Center for Jewish History:

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

Barbash, Shemu’el

(1850?–1922?), banker, Zionist activist, and philanthropist. Nothing is known of Shemu’el Barbash’s childhood beyond the fact that he was given a traditional Jewish education. He also was familiar with modern Hebrew literature, had acquired some secular knowledge, and excelled in mathematics.

Barbash moved to Odessa in the early 1880s, where he established the Bankovskaya Kontora Barabasha, a bank that gradually was transformed into one of the largest financial institutions in the city. He supported Ḥibat Tsiyon, becoming treasurer of the Odessa Committee of the organization founded in 1890. Through his work with Ḥibat Tsiyon, Barbash became familiar with Mosheh Leib Lilienblum.

With Kalonymus Wissotzky, Barbash supported the periodical Ha-Shiloaḥ, which began publication in 1896 under its first editor, Ahad Ha-Am. Barbash went to the second Zionist Congress (1898) and attended subsequent meetings through 1913. At Theodor Herzl’s behest, he joined a committee to develop plans for founding a bank for the Zionist movement. In 1901, Barbash was part of a delegation that went to Paris to see Edmond de Rothschild; their mission, which was unsuccessful, was to convince Rothschild not to agree to let the Jewish Colonization Association (ICA) retain control of colonies in Palestine.

Barbash was an early supporter of land development in pre-state Israel. In 1904 he helped to set up and later was on the management committee of the Geulah Society, an organization that acquired real estate in Palestine and constructed houses in Tel Aviv. He contributed funds to buy land in the Talpiot district of Jerusalem, and as a participant at the Seventh Congress of the Zionist Movement (1905), he urged support for a financially troubled modern Hebrew school in Jaffa.

Barbash was also a prominent leader in the Odessa Jewish community. From 1891 he was a gaba’i (member of the board) of a modern yeshiva, and with Ahad Ha-Am and Simon Dubnow he played a role in the Odessa branch of the Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (OPE). In 1900 when famine struck the region, he organized aid for its victims. He also was a member of the Committee for the Nationalization of Jewish Education (1901–1902) and headed the Commission for the Distribution of Charity to Poor Jews. In 1903 Barbash was among the prominent residents who successfully asked the city’s mayor for the right to elect the crown rabbi of the city of Odessa; the rabbi there, in contrast to other cities, had been appointed by the authorities. After the Bolshevik Revolution, Barbash’s assets were confiscated and he spent the rest of his life in poverty, a factor that may have hastened his death.

Suggested Reading

Joseph Goldstein, Aḥad Ha-‘Am: The Prophet of Zionism (Jerusalem, 1992); Mikhail Polishchuk, “The 1903 Rabbinical Elections in Odessa,” Shvut, n.s. 1–2 [17–18] (1995): 1–16; Mikhail Polishchuk, Evrei Odessy i Novorossii: Sotsial’no-politicheskaya istoriya evreyev Odessy i drugikh gorodov v Novorossii; 1881–1904 (Jerusalem and Moscow, 2002); Stenographische Protokoll der Verhandlungen des 7 Zionisten Kongress (Berlin, 1905).