8 Things You Need to Know About…Nissim Behar

Sephardi Jewish educator

1. Nissim Behar, born in Jerusalem in 1848, is considered the father of modern Hebrew language education. He was the son of Rabbi Eliezer Behar, originally of Rumania, who taught him Talmud. But he learned modern Hebrew from Eliezer ben Yehudah [see my post of 2/16/13].

2. In 1863, the Behar family moved to Constantinople. There, Adolphe Cremieux [see my post of 2/19/14] spotted him as a gifted student and in 1867 arranged for him to go to Paris to study at the Ecole Orientale.

3. Having complete his studies, Behar returned east to organize schools on behalf of the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Aleppo (1869), Bulgaria (1874) and Constantinople, where he headed the school (1873-82). In 1879 he authored a biography of Cremieux in Judaeo-Spanish (Ladino).

Nissim behar4. In 1882, he returned to Jerusalem, where he was involved in founding the Alliance Israelite Universelle. He both directed the school (1882-7) and taught there. He was a proponent of the “direct method” of language education, which involved submersion in the language. If you’ve studied Hebrew in an ulpan, you’re an indirect beneficiary of his work.

5. In 1901, having ended his teaching career, he moved to New York City to represent the Alliance.

6. In 1906, he founded the National Liberal Immigration League, the mission of which was to lobby against anti-immigration laws such as literacy tests. He was voluble, speaking before Congressional hearings and in other ways giving a public face to a cause that other Jewish organizations thought better handled behind the scenes. He was active in the league until 1924.

7. He was a founder of the Federation of Jewish Organizations, an editor of the Federation’s Review, and a founder, too, of the Jewish Big Brothers League.

8. Nissim Behar died and was buried in the US in 1931. The following year in Jerusalem, his remains were re-interred beside those of his father on the Mount of Olives.

 In Jerusalem, you’ll find Nissim Behar Street running north-south between Agrippas and Bezalel.

7 Things You Need to Know About… Karl (Charles) Netter

Father of Jewish agriculture in Israel

1. Karl Netter was born in Strasburg in the mid-1820s. As a young man he traveled within Europe, doing business in London, Moscow and Lille, and finally settling in Paris.

2. In May 1860, in Paris, he became one of the six founders of the Alliance Israelite Universelle [see my blog post of February 19, 2014]. He served as its general secretary, and for a long time its offices were housed chez Netter (ie, in his home).

220px-Charles_Netter3. He visited Palestine in 1868 as a representative of the Alliance Israelite Universelle for the purpose of studying the needs of Jews there. He recommended that an agricultural settlement be founded there with an agricultural school. Toward this end, he obtained an audience with the Sultan and was awarded 250 hectares near Jaffa. Mikveh Israel was founded on this land in 1870, the first modern Jewish agricultural settlement in Eretz Yisrael.

4. The school taught the many branches of horticulture, including viniculture, and grew asparagus, artichokes and other promising crops. Netter managed it personally until 1873, when he was forced to return to Europe for health reasons. He continued to raise funds for its support and to be involved in its activities from afar.

5. He worked tirelessly, too, on behalf of the rights and protection of Jews in the “eastern lands:” submitting memoranda to AIU conferences (1876 and -8), arguing the rights of Moroccan Jews at a European conference in Madrid (1880), arranging passage to America for refugees from the Ukraine (1881) and working on a special committee in Paris to help other refugees from the pogroms in Russia.

6. In October 1882, Netter made a return visit to Palestine and died there. He is buried in Mikveh Israel.

7. Kfar Netter, a moshav near Netanya founded in 1939, commemorates him; several Israeli cities have named streets in his memory, as well.

In Tel Aviv, Netter Street runs south off Montefiore, just north of Rothschild.