« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »

The “Rothschilds” of Pinsk and Karlin

A Historical Evaluation (cont'd)

by Dr. Wolf Zeev Rabinowitsch

In 1862 Aharon Lourié drew up a petition on behalf of the Pinsk merchants to the Minsk provincial governor "concerning the railway from Pinsk to Bialystok". In his above-quoted letter of the 19th Iyyar 1863 to Y. L. Gordon, Lourié remarks that he wrote the petition in Russian, and then himself translated it into Hebrew for publication in "Hacarmel" (1863, Vol. 30, pp. 241-244). Ten of the twelve leading merchants of the town who signed the petition were either members of the Levin and Lourié families or related to them by marriage, a fact which testifies to the great importance of these families in the commercial life of Pinsk. Here is the list of the signatories of the petition:

"Pinsk, November 8th, 1862
Moshe [Yitshak] Levin, merchant of the second guild
Hayyah Lourié, merchant of the second guild
Meir, the son of R. Moshe [Yitshak] Levin, merchant of the second guild
Moshe Lourié, merchant's son
Shelomo [son of Moshe Yitshak] Levin, merchant's son
Yosef Ettinger [husband of Gite née Lourié], merchant
Nehemyah Kolodny, merchant
Wolf Naidich, merchant
Shabbethai Simhovich, merchant's son
[Yitshak] Isaac, the son of R. Moshe Eliasberg [son-in-law of Wolf Levin, the son of Shaul Karliner], merchant's son
Aharon, the son of R. Moshe Lourié, merchant's son".

Nehemyah Kolodny and Wolf Naidich were distinguished citizens of the town, and also among the leaders of the Karlin hasidim[30].

Aharon Lourié established four public institutions in Pinsk. In 1880 he founded the Mutual Credit Society and served as chairman of its control committee until 1905. The president of the board of governors of this fund was Aharon Lourié's son, Grigory, and its auditor was for some time the well-known talmudic scholar R. Barukh Epstein. In 1885 Aharon Lourié set up a trade school for boys, which he enlarged and improved in 1888. He presided over and saw to the proper upkeep of this institution, the primary aim of which was to teach Jewish youth ship-repairing. In 1900, together with the officially appointed rabbi Semezhovski, he founded the Jewish Charitable Society. And in 1901, he established the Halvaah ve-Hisakhon [Loan and Saving] bank for the benefit of the middle classes and the small merchant, taking care to ensure that it was run on sound economic principles. He was also president of the governing body of the Karlin hospital; and, together with Gite Ettinger, his father's step-sister, he ran the Beth Gemiluth Hasadim [Loan Society] set up with the assistance of the Lourié family and other benefactors in 1872. From 1884 onwards, Aharon Lourié was one of the principals of, the Karlin Talmud Torah school that had been built by Hayyah Lourié. When, in 1902, new premises were erected for this school, thanks to a donation from his father, Moshe Lourié, Aharon supervised the actual building operations. The members of the Lourié-Halpern-Eliasberg families at all times gave active support to the two Talmud Torah schools, the one in Karlin and the other in Pinsk -- financially, academically (syllabus, teaching methods, choice of teachers), and administratively (as principals). Those that particularly devoted themselves to this work were, besides Aharon Lourié, his brother Isidore, his son Leopold, and his brother-in-law Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg; Gite Ettinger (nee Lourié), her husband Yosef Ettinger and their son Mikhal; Shabbethai Simhovich and Yonah Simhovich (apparently Shabbethai's son), the son-in-law of David Lourié[31]. Like his father, Aharon Lourié was a member of the "Society for the Promotion of the Enlightenment Among the Jews in Russia". The two of them were the first members of the "Society" in Pinsk[32]; and Aharon Lourié was later for many years the only member in the town[33]. It was characteristic of Pinsk Jewry that only members of the Lourié family joined the "Society": Aharon Lourié's brother, Alexander; his son, Grigory; and his brother-in-law, Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg[34]. Aharon Lourié was instrumental in bringing about the appointment of Beilin as the official rabbi of Pinsk; and when the local priest paid a visit to Beilin, Lourié succeeded in purchasing from the church a plot of land for the extension of the Karlin Jewish cemetery. For 25 years Aharon Lourié served as a Russian-appointed "advisor" on the Pinsk municipal council.

Despite his wide education and homely character[35], Aharon Lourié fought against changes in the cultural and political life of his community similar to those that he himself introduced in the economic sphere. He was opposed to Zionism, to the socialist movement, to the democratization of public institutions, and to reforms in Jewish education, even though he himself sent two of his sons to learn in the government "Realschule" in Pinsk. However, the realities of contemporary Jewish life proved too strong for the community's most powerful personality in his struggle to resist the new ideas of his time.

In the election of representatives to the First Duma (parliament) in Russia the list of candidates headed by Aharon Lourié was defeated by the Zionist list. At a time when there was a threat of a pogrom in Pinsk, emissaries from the Jewish socialist party came to Lourié and asked for a contribution to the Jewish self-defense organization. After first refusing and even insulting them, he eventually agreed to contribute 500 rubles. It was at this time that, so the report goes, he was attacked and beaten on his way home from the synagogue on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and a primitive scare-bomb exploded in his house. Significant of the change in the times was Aharon Lourié's having to relinquish the chairmanship of the Halvaah ve-Hisakhon bank, which he had founded and developed, in favor of the Zionist candidate for the position, Pinhas Mandelbaum; and Aharon Lourié's successor as head of the Mutual Credit Society band, which he had also founded and over which he had presided for more than twenty-five years, was the Zionist, Moshe Soloveichik. A bitter conflict broke out between Lourié and the Zionists in 1900, following on the order issued by the provincial governor for the election of a president of the Pinsk Talmud Torah school. The Zionists wanted to take advantage of the election to gain control of this important institution, in order to educate the younger generation in Zionism. Lourié, together with certain orthodox Jews, strongly opposed the Zionists, and in the struggle that followed his son, Grigory, defied his authority. The Zionists succeeded in getting changes introduced into the syllabus of the school. Together with Yosef Halpern and a group of orthodox Jews, Lourié sought to prevent the appointment of the Rav R. Tsevi Valk as the Pinsk Av Beth-Din, in place of the deceased R. Elazar-Moshe Hurwitz. Lourié wanted the Rav R. David Friedman, the Karlin Av Beth-Din and son-in-law of Shemaryahu Lourié of Mohilev, to become the Av Beth-Din of both communities. But most of the Jews of Pinsk were opposed to this arrangement, and he was obliged to yield to their wishes.

Unlike his father, Aharon Lourié had nothing to do with industry. He was a contractor for the supply of railway-sleepers in Central Asia, and of iron and bricks for the construction of bridges and railway-stations. He was also a partner in a timber concern and an agent of the "Northern Insurance Company". He died in the town of Bobruisk, in the province of Minsk, and was buried in the Karlin Jewish cemetery (1910). On the way from the railway-station to the cemetery, the funeral procession stopped outside the institutions with which he had been actively associated in his lifetime, while pupils of the Karlin Talmud Torah school and the choir of the Pinsk great synagogue recited passages from the Psalms. Representatives of the societies that he had founded or directed accompanied him to his last resting-place[36].

A particularly remarkable member of the Lourié family was a man with all the virtues and faults of the unworldly idealist. This was Grigory (GavrieI), the eldest son of Aharon Lourié, whose public activities -- mainly in the Zionist cause -- extended beyond the confines of his native town throughout the "Pale" of Jewish settlement in Russia, and even further afield. In fact, this Grigory deserves a monograph all to himself. His life and work in Pinsk belong to the early days of Herzl's Zionist movement. Born in Pinsk in 1861, he was sent as a youth by his father to Germany to attend the "Gymnasium" [high school] in Frankfurt-on-Main. After this, he went to Karlsruhe to study at the Polytechnic Institute there. But before he had completed his course of studies in Chemistry, he went on to France and spent two years in Paris. On his return to Pinsk, he set up a large oil-processing mill (1888), built a small chemical factory in which the student Chaim Weizmann worked for a year (1895 - 6) as a chemist, and developed a chalk-manufacturing enterprise. His personality is perhaps best revealed in his revolutionary -- in terms of contemporary social conditions and ideas --- act of introducing an eight-hour working day in his enterprises, a humane and progressive step that was completely unrealistic in terms of the economic viability of industrial concerns in those days. This experiment is known to have been one of the first, perhaps actually the very first, of its kind in all Europe. In accordance with this new work schedule, his oil-mill was the first industrial concern in which there were three shifts of workers in a 24-hour day. Grigory Lourié founded a bank in Pinsk, and, together with his brother Shemuel, opened banks in Homel and in the small towns of Klintsi, Pochep, and Zhlobin. Like all the other Louriés, he took an active interest in educational and cultural institutions; only in place of the Talmud Torah established and maintained by earlier generations of his family, the recipients of his benefactions were now the "progressive heder", the first Jewish club, the library and reading-room. He was also chairman of the governing board of the Mutual Credit Society, an institution of great economic and social importance which had been founded by his father, Aharon Lourié, in 1880. It was this fund that played a major part in putting an end to the extortionate terms for loans which were still customary at that time in Pinsk: money was lent against the security of valuables and at a high rate of interest, with repayment of both interest and capital having to be made weekly. Grigory Lourié was not content with caring for the cultural welfare of his fellow-townsmen, but also aspired to improve their economic condition. However, the actual director of this Credit Society was presumably the experienced man of commerce, Aharon Lourié, and not his son Grigory, who was not a businessman at all.

Throughout the period of the Hibbath Tsion movement, Grigory Lourié was one of its loyal supporters. His advice was sought, for example, on the question of the "progressive heder" which was opened in Pinsk in 1895; and Herzl's biographer (A. Bein) mentions him as one of the most important members of Hovevei Tsion. When the Zionist movement carne into being, Grigory was one of its active leaders in Pinsk. He was sent as one of the Pinsk delegates to the First Congress, and on his return to Pinsk, he was responsible for the opening of a Zionist club which became the center of the Zionist activity in the town. He was also one of the chief speakers at the Zionist meetings held in the well- known synagogue "Mokhes ShuIchen". And he was one of the two Pinsk delegates chosen to take part in the Zionist consultation held in Bialystok about three months after the First Congress, to discuss the implementation of the resolutions passed at the Congress and the whole programme of Zionist work in Russia. He particularly devoted himself to the establishment and development of the Colonial Bank (for Jewish settlement), without of course deriving any personal advantage from the whole scheme. The shares of the Bank began to be issued in Pinsk, as in other Russian towns, even before the Second Congress, on the announcement by the Bank's temporary committee of a preliminary subscription.

On the eve of the Second Zionist Congress, the Russian Zionist delegates to that Congress, including those from Pinsk, met to discuss the setting up of a "bank for Jewish settlement in Palestine". Since Grigory Lourié was one of the Pinsk delegates to the Second Congress, as well as the First, he must have been present at this meeting, especially in view of the subject discussed. After the meeting, he went on to Cologne where a conference was held on the problems of setting up the Colonial Bank. We find his signature among those of the participants in this conference, at which it was decided to propose the establishment of the Bank to the Second Congress. Another signature was that of his uncle, Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg, who was a Pinsk delegate to the Second and Sixth Congresses[37].

At the Second Congress, Grigory Lourié took part in the drawing up of the resolution calling for the immediate establishment of the Bank. He was also one of the nine members of the Bank Committee elected at this Congress. The year between the Second and the Third Congress was a year of intensive activity on Lourié's part, both in Pinsk itself, which became the center for the distribution of the Bank's shares throughout Russia, and London and Vienna, where he took part in consultations and meetings in connection with the Bank. During this period, he was Herzl's advisor on all matters concerning the Bank in Russia. On the eve of the Third Congress, Herzl pressed Lourié to accept the post of the Bank's chairman in London. Herzl stressed that "the appointment of Lourié will make a good impression in Russia", and he further urged "the Russian leaders that they too should call on him to make this sacrifice for the cause".

When, immediately after the Second Congress, the Zionist Executive Committee assigned Grigory Lourié the task of obtaining subscriptions for the shares of the Colonial Bank, Pinsk (as already remarked) became the center of the propaganda drive for the sale of these shares. So much so, that the leaders of the Zionist movement used to come to Pinsk from Warsaw and Vilna in connection with the organization of the Bank's activities; and enquiries about the Bank poured into Pinsk from the large and small towns within the "Pale", and even from outside it[38].

Lourié established and maintained contact between Pinsk and London, to such good effect that the Jewish public associated the affairs of the Bank with the small Russian town rather than the English metropolis. Since the Bank's work was illegal, the shares were not sent from London to Pinsk by post, but carried across the Russian border in a parcel by a special emissary. The addresses that reached Pinsk from Warsaw and London were written, in great secrecy, on batches of the Bank's prospectuses, which were then placed in sacks, and taken at night to the post-office and handed for dispatch to a clerk who was well paid for his collaboration. All these clandestine activities were directed by Grigory Lourié. At the same time, printed copies appeared of the "Programme for a National Bank", translated from German into Hebrew by Efraim-Dov Lifshits, a native of Pinsk and one of the town's leading Zionists. There is no doubt that it was Grigory Lourié that encouraged his fellow-townsman and friend, who was a gifted publicist, to translate the programme, so that it could be widely distributed for propaganda purposes. To the same end, Lourié also wanted to publish the regulations of the Colonial Bank in Russian, but was forbidden to do so by the government censor. Thereupon, his fellow-townsman Yehudah-Leib Berger, the great Zionist who had been the other Pinsk delegate to the First and Second Congresses, traveled from Pinsk to Vilna to try to find some way of getting the censor's prohibition revoked, a mission in which he was eventually successful. This journey to obtain permission for the publication of the Colonial Bank regulations was also undoubtedly undertaken at Lourié's instigation[39].

Lourié's work in setting up the Bank raised him to a leading position in the Zionist Organization. The news of Herzl's meeting with the Kaiser Wilhelm II in Constantinople (on Oct. 13th 1898) was sent to him in Pinsk, and it was he that passed it on to other towns. Even after he had ceased to be an active member of the World Zionist Organization, he was consulted by Chaim Weizmann -- in 1902, 1903 -- from Geneva about the state of the Zionist movement and asked to assist in the establishment of a Hebrew University in Palestine.

As a member of the Colonial Bank committee ejected at the time of the Second Congress, Grigory Lourié played a particularly active role in the setting up of this important institution. During Hanukkah 1898 he took part in the committee's meetings in London, after the formal procedures for the foundation of the Bank had been completed and the regulations drawn up. He also appeared, together with Wolfson and Jacobus Kan from the Hague, at a large rally of members of the Benei Tsion association. Three weeks later, at a meeting of the inner executive committee held in Vienna (on Jan. 1st 1899), he signed an undertaking, together with Herzl, Wolfson, Kan and others, to pay two hundred pounds to cover the cost of setting up the Bank. At the meetings of the full executive committee, which were held in Vienna on Jan. 26 - 28, 1899, Lourié, together with Wolfson and Heiman from London, submitted a report on the Bank's regulations and on the work that had been done in preparation for the registration of the Bank and the sale of its shares. After this, Lourié made a journey to London to attend to the arrangements in connection with the Bank. Herzl addressed him, in his letters, as "Highly respected Director", and placed the pages of the Zionist press at his disposal. In the days preceding the registration of the Colonial Bank in London, Herzl sent a constant stream of telegrams and letters from Vienna to the office of the Bank, demanding that prospectuses and other material about the Bank be sent in particular to Grigory Lourié in Pinsk. In one of his letters to Wolfson (Mar. 11th 1899), Herzl wrote: "Attention must be paid to the enclosed letter from Lourié. Russia is what matters most. Don't leave him [Lourié] without help in his difficulties …”. While David Wolfson, aided by Kan, was furthering the interests of the Colonial Bank in Western Europe, Grigory Lourié was encountering numerous difficulties in the same task in Russia. Nevertheless, Herzl was able to write (on May 27th 1899): "According to information received ... the necessary minimum of [bought] shares (250,000) is at last assured for the Colonial Bank. Of this total Lourié is responsible for 175,000". Lists were now published giving the names of the banks throughout Russia at which shares of the Colonial Bank could be purchased. In Pinsk, the four banks chosen -- no doubt by Grigory Lourié -- for this purpose were the following: Grigory Lourié's own bank, the Mutual Credit Society bank (of which Grigory was chairman), the bank of Idel and Sam. D. Lourié, (two of Grigory's relatives) and the local branch of the Minsk Commercial Bank. In the first years of the Colonial Bank's existence, 2150 shares were sold in Pinsk. Subscriptions and payments for shares were likewise received in the banks of G. (Grigory) and S. (Shemuel, Grigory's brother) Lourié in Homel, Klintsi, Pochep, and Zhlobin. Herzl was highly appreciative of Lourié's work in those difficult days, as can be seen from his letter of May 16th 1899 to Jacobus Kan and his telegram of June 8th 1899 to Wolfson.

In the meantime, Lourié was encountering increasing difficulties in Russia: the Finance Minister, Vitte, instructed the censor to forbid the distribution of all material printed by the Colonial Bank. When Herzl decided that it was necessary "to find... an industrious chairman for the Bank" (Sept. 17th 1898), his choice fell on Grigory Lourié. Lourié's reply, as reported by Herzl to Wolfson, is characteristic of the man and of the way in which he worked for the realization of his ideals. Herzl writes as follows (July 6th 1899): "... On Kan's advice... I yesterday sent Lourié a telegram, offering him the position of chairman at an annual salary of a thousand pounds. He replied that he was reluctant to accept, for fear of doubts being cast on his financial integrity". And again, on the same day, in a letter to Kan: "...From Lourié I have received the following telegram in reply to my offer of the chairmanship at an annual salary of 1000 pounds: 'I am afraid that my acceptance might disappoint many Zionists who covenanted to buy Colonial Bank shares because of my devoted work for which I received no remuneration; but I shall consider the matter, nevertheless".

In a second letter to Kan, on July 12th 1899, Herzl writes: "I am doing all I can to bring Lourié to London. The executive committee will officially offer him the chairmanship. In addition, I shall also ask the Russian Zionist leaders to urge him to make this sacrifice for the cause. In this way we shall make completely sure of him. Your proposal that Lourié should at first be appointed 'director' (i.e. should have a vote on the board) seems a good one to me... Lourié's appointment will make a good impression in Russia...". At the Third Congress Lourié was again elected as one of the directors of the Colonial Bank, but was not at that time rich enough to join the other Russian directors in personally helping to finance Herzl's plans in Turkey. The seven directors of the Bank elected at this Congress set up a sub-committee consisting of two of their own members -- Kan and Lourié. Herzl's letters to Wolfson after the Third Congress (written on Sept. 18th 1899 and Sept. 30th 1899) show that Herzl had not abandoned the idea of making Lourié chairman of the Bank, with a view to improving its condition. Herzl writes: "Is Lourié in London?.. Lourié will organize the Bank in London", and he goes on to request Wolfson to see that Lourié is assigned this task. The shares of the Colonial Bank were issued (Mar. 23rd 1900) over Lourié's signature. However, as a result of being jointly run by Kan from the Hague and by Lourié from Pinsk, in the absence of a chairman with overriding powers in London, the Bank did not develop as it should have done. This led to differences of opinion between Herzl, on the one hand, and Kan and Lourié, supported by Wolfson and Bodenheimer, on the other. Echoes of this disagreement can be found in Herzl's diary and letters, in the minutes of the meetings of the Zionist Executive Committee and of the Bank's board of governors, in Zionist literature, and in Lourié's letters (now in the central Zionist archives in Jerusalem). On May 8th1900 Lourié sent a letter of resignation from Pinsk to the Bank's directors and board of governors. Despite the severe blow dealt to his own pride, Lourié's only thought was for the interests of the Bank, and with his characteristic modesty he wrote to those in charge of it as follows: "...My leaving the Colonial Bank is a loss of no great importance which can easily be made good. But Mr. Kan's expert services to the Bank are irreplaceable, and it is therefore my duty to advise you to telephone to Mr. Kan and insist on his withdrawing his resignation. I leave the Colonial Bank with an easy mind, since I know that, as long as Mr. Loewe is the Bank's secretary and Mr. Lewis its lawyer, they are sufficient insurance against misuse of the Bank's funds...".

Lourié's recognition of Kan's pre-eminence as an expert in banking matters shows that, even at the moment of his resignation, his chief concern was for the future of the Colonial Bank which he had done so much to bring into being. Down to the time of the Fourth Congress (August 1900), he remained loosely connected with it and was actually co-opted on to the Bank's economic committee. However, after the Fourth Congress he ceased to take a leading, active part in the Bank's affairs, though he was again elected to its committee at the Fifth Zionist Congress, which he attended as a delegate from Pinsk. In contrast to his fellow-townsman and fellow-delegate, Moshe Y. Rom, Lourié opposed the setting up of the Jewish National Fund by the Congress on the basis of nothing more than a bare outline of the Fund's regulations, and demanded that the regulations of this financial institution should be carefully drawn up in full by experienced jurists and presented to the Sixth Congress. This proposal, arising apparently from Lourié's bitter experience during the establishment of the Colonial Bank, was lengthily debated by, among others, Herzl, Bodenheimer, Kokesh, Victor Jacobson, Shalit, and Lourié's own brother Leopold. As a man to whom cultural work was also of deep concern, Grigory Lourié was amongst those that pressed for its inclusion in the Zionist effort, and we find his name in the list of delegates who expressed their wish to address the Fifth Congress on this subject. When the Democratic Faction walked out of the debating hall on this issue, Lourié, though not a member of the Faction, joined them[40]. Grigory Lourié's name does not appear among those taking part in the Zionist conference held in Vienna, between the Fifth and Sixth Congresses, on Oct. 28-30th, 1902, nor yet among the directors of the Colonial Bank who were elected at that conference.

Striking testimony to the power of Lourie's personal influence within the Zionist movement is to be found in four letters written to him from Geneva at the end of 1902 and the beginning of 1903 by Chaim Weizmann, three of them in German and the fourth in Russian[41]. After reminding Lourié of their conversations in Pinsk, Weizmann informs him that groups have been formed to propagate the idea of establishing "a Jewish school of higher learning" (i.e. a university) and requests him "to help us in our work... since with your personality and your connections you can do a great deal for us... The questionnaires will be sent to you for you kindly to express your opinion of them... After you have put in a good word for us to Mr. Kan, we shall write to him...". In the third letter, Weizmann writes about "the Jewish school of higher learning" and discusses the (as it seems to him) precarious condition of the Zionist movement. He stresses the power of Lourié's influence -- even at that date -- both in connection with the establishment of the proposed Jewish university and in helping to clarify and improve the general Zionist situation, and adds: "It is your duty to help us... I know that you have always adopted a balanced attitude to the activities of our party and I therefore very much want to hear your opinion...". The contents of this letter would seem to suggest that, in his replies to Weizmann's previous letters, Lourié had expressed opposition to the decision to support the establishment of a university on condition that it be set up on]y in Palestine. We do not know what action Lourié took after receiving Weizmann's letters.

The Weizmann letters in the Rehovoth archives testify to the close personal relationship between Weizmann and Grigory Lourié. As already stated, there was a disagreement between them in about the middle of 1903. Grigory's house was a meeting-place for the Pinsk Jewish intelligentsia, and a year later, on April 4th 1904, we find Weizmann writing: "I have just had a visit from Shaichik [Shaul Lourié],... We shall meet today at Grigory's. All the Pinsk 'Europeans' have been invited to his house".

In 1902 Lourié attended the Zionist conference at Minsk and was elected (presumably on the strength of his having formerly been one of the Bank's directors) to the committee charged with the organization of "clubs for the sale of Colonial Bank shares" in Russia. The conference accepted his proposal calling for the publication of detailed information about the Bank's activities (including its balance-sheets) in the Russian Jewish press, and also adopted various suggestions of his for the improvement of the Bank's management. He himself appeared before the conference to present the Control Committee's report on the financial state of the movement.

On his way home from the Minsk conference (which ended on Nov. 10th 1902), Grigory Lourié met Major Evans-Gordon, a member of the British Royal Commission on Alien Immigration, brought him back with him to Pinsk, and took him on a tour of the neighboring small towns to show him the conditions of Jewish life there. In Pinsk itself, he arranged for Evans-Gordon to meet the local Zionists, and Gordon's visit was remembered by Georg Halpern in 1961. Chaim Weizmann also took part in this tour. Afterwards, Grigory Lourié wrote the following letter (now in the central Zionist archives in Jerusalem), to Nahum Sokolow with a copy to Dr. Herzl who, of course, had appeared before the above-mentioned British Commission.

Lourié wrote (in German) as follows:

"Pinsk, Sept. 3/16, 1902,

My dear Mr. Sokolow,

I think that, after having visited several Jewish communities in Russia, Major Gordon has now formed roughly the following opinion: that the Jews are industrious and intelligent artisans who love their work, but are subjected to innumerable oppressions; that the statistics given by Mr. Joseph (WeIt, No. 29, p. 3) are not correct; and that the word 'persecution' means, for its victims, brutal expulsion from their homes, and the like.

Legislation limiting the entry of aliens into England may perhaps reduce the numbers of aliens entering the country (as in America) by 10% or 15%. But, as against this, it will increase the importance of the Jewish problem and add to the Jews' sufferings. Rumania, Russia, and the other countries are likely to conclude that the Jews are indeed a harmful entity... and it is unworthy of England, the champion of freedom, to bring about anything of this kind.

Please visit Major Gordon in the Bristol Hotel and be so good as to let me know your impressions. In my humble opinion, it is your lofty duty to try to arouse his [Gordon's] interest in Zionism. I think that he is sympathetically disposed to every good cause.

With sincere regards,
Yours most respectfully,
G. Lourié"

To the copy of the above letter sent to Dr; Herzl, Lourié appended the following note:

"My dear Dr. Herzl,

On the other side of this sheet you will find a copy of my letter to Mr. Sokolow.

With the greetings of Zion,
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
G. Lourié
Pinsk, Sept. 3/16, 1902".

Herzl's visit to the Russian minister, Pleve, in Petersburg in 1903, after the ban on the sale of Colonial Bank shares in Russia, was arranged with the help, not of Lourié, but of Dr. Nisan Katzenelson, one of the Bank's directors; and Lourié's name was missing from the list of the six Russian representatives of the Bank which Herzl handed to Pleve on Dec. 12th 1903. Nor was Lourié present at the Sixth Congress, which was held in August 1903. He did attend the Seventh Congress (in August 1905), once again as a Pinsk delegate, but his name does not appear in the list of speakers or as a member of any of the committees. After that, he attended only the Eleventh Congress (in 1913), where once again he is not mentioned among the speakers.

From the time of the Minsk conference of Russian Zionists (in 1902), Lourié's Zionist and other public activity was mainly confined to his native town of Pinsk. In 1904 he founded a library which was instrumental in the spread of general education, especially among the town's Jewish youth. At the time of the anti-Tsarist ferment in the Pinsk "Realschule", Lourié joined the ranks of the fighters for civil rights. He was also a representative of the lCA (Jewish Colonization Association) information bureau set up to answer questions about the possibilities of Jewish emigration from Russia. When Druyanov visited Pinsk (in 1911) and held a meeting in the house of Ozer Weizmann (Chaim Weizmann's father) to encourage the sale of the Colonial Bank shares, Lourié was one of those present. He also helped the Pinsk Women's Charitable Association in its activities, being the only male member of the organization. And he of course did all this work without asking for, or receiving, any remuneration.

It has already been remarked that Grigory Lourié was idealistic to the point of unworldliness, completely neglecting his own private affairs in his selfless work for the good of the Jewish community. The money-grabbing clerks employed in his factories took advantage of his not keeping a watchful eye on them to cheat him out of his wealth and reduce him to abject poverty. In this desperate plight, he abandoned all his remaining property to his creditors, left the town in which his family had lived for generations, and went to live in Petersburg (before the outbreak of the First World War). Although his lack of business ability may also have been partly responsible for these developments, there is no doubt that his idealism was an important factor in his material failure. In Petersburg, Lourié made a bare living, during the First World War, from various odd business jobs. The members of the Zionist Center (which was for a time located in Petrograd) treated him with respect, as did Ussishkin, remembering Lourié's youthful services to the Zionist cause and his co-operation with Herzl, Wolfson, and Kan in the early days of the movement. But Lourié himself no longer took any active part in Zionist work, visiting the Center only on rare occasions and the offices of the Zionist paper "Petrograder Togblat" not at all. Hayyah Weizmann-Lichtenstein, who took part in the Zionist conference in Petrograd in May 1917 and was personally acquainted with Grigory Lourié, her fellow-townsman and neighbor, refers to many of her acquaintances (including the veteran Pinsk Zionist, Meir Lieberman) who attended the conference, but makes no mention of Lourié's name[42]. Grigory Lourié died of a heart attack in Petrograd, at the end of 1917.

His wife Rivkah -- "Reveka Savelyevna" as she used to be called in Pinsk -- was the daughter of Shepsel (Shabbethai?) Simhovich of Kiev and of Feige (?), the daughter of Meir Levin originally from Pinsk, who later settled in Kiev. This Meir Levin was (as noted above) the eldest son of Moshe-Yitshak Levin, the brother of Hayyah Lourié and second son of Shaul Karliner. Since Grigory Lourié's mother, Beileh, was also (as stated by Aharon Lourié in his above-quoted letter of Iyyar 19th 1863 to Y. L. Gordon) a daughter of Meir Levin, Rivkah was Grigory's cousin. This was in accord with the Lourié practice of marrying within the Lourié-Levin family. Of Shabbethai Simhovich we know that, in the eighties of the last century, he was head of the Pinsk Talmud Torah[43]; and we also find his name among the Pinsk merchants who signed a petition to the Minsk provincial governor, on Nov. 8th 1862[44]. He too moved from Pinsk to Kiev, like his father-in-law, Meir Levin. Yonah Simhovich, who was most probably Shabbethai's son, married Odel, the daughter of David Lourié, and remained a resident of Pinsk, where (as described in detail below) he continued his father's tradition and was associated with the members of the Lourié family in their concern for the education of the rising generation[45].

Rivkah Lourié was a loyal helpmate to her husband, Grigory. Besides actively assisting him in the running of the Pinsk Trade School for Girls, she all her life patiently and uncomplainingly bore the burden of her husband's neglect of his own affairs in his selflessly devoted pursuit of his ideals. This was the time of the early Zionist Congresses and the establishment of the Colonial Bank in London, when Grigory's thoughts and energies were completely taken up with organizing the sale of the Bank's shares throughout Russia. As one of the directors of the Bank (an office for which he received no emolument) he was obliged in those days to travel to meetings in London and Vienna, and sometimes also to stay in London to attend to the affairs of the Bank. This life of constant traveling, together with his numerous and varied activities on behalf of the Pinsk Jewish community, had a disastrous effect (as already described) on his management of his own business concerns, with the result that he and Rivkah were compelled to turn for assistance to their relatives and friends. Although all this must have caused Rivkah Lourié great mental and emotional suffering, her understanding and admiration for her husband never wavered and she nobly supported him in all his idealistic undertakings. She agreed to their home in Pinsk being thrown open as a meeting-place for the town's Jewish intelligentsia, particularly for Zionist activities; and it was thanks to her generous and hospitable spirit that anyone in need of help or advice was made to feel welcome there at all times. It is no mere chance that Chaim Weizmann, when a pupil at the government "Realschule" in Pinsk, was a frequent visitor to Grigory and Rivkah Lourié's home, as he was again later when, as a student, he returned from abroad to his home-town.

We have already described how, on the eve of the First World War, Grigory Lourié lost all his money and, leaving all his property in Pinsk in the hands of his creditors, moved with his family to Petersburg. It is related that when they were about to set out, penniless, on their way, his wife expressed a wish to take with her just one thing -- her Sabbath candlesticks. But Grigory would not let her, on the grounds that the candlesticks too were now no longer his, but also belonged to their creditors. In Petersburg, Rivkah lived in very difficult circumstances. When Grigory died at the end of 1917, she returned to Pinsk with her younger son, Miron, and was very warmly welcomed by her family (the Louriés and Eliasbergs) and old friends. But Miron left Pinsk and went to Odessa to continue his training as a sailor; while Sasha, Rivkah's elder son, remained in Western Europe and she lost touch with him too, thus being left completely alone, without husband or children. Nevertheless, despite all her hardships and trubles, Rivkah Lourié did not lose her energetic determination and earned her own living as a cashier in one of the Pinsk banks. She thus worked as a clerk in a public institution the prototype of which had been established in Pinsk forty years earlier by her father-in-law, Aharon Lourié, and in the very same bank of whose board of directors her husband, Grigory, had been the chairman. She died in Pinsk (in 1935 or 1936).

Sasha Lourié, Grigory's and Rivkah's eldest son (born, probably in Pinsk, in 1891), completed his studies at the Pinsk government "Realschule" at the age of seventeen. During Sasha's schooldays, the student Chaim Weizmann boarded in his parents' house and helped him by giving him private lessons. Sasha grew up to be a man of outstanding intellect and wide reading, a polyglot, and a gifted orator. When the Russian-language newspaper "Pinski Listok" ["The Pinsk Bulletin"] began to appear in Pinsk (1910/11), Sasha Lourié was one of the three members of the editorial board, contributing mainly popular reviews and articles on current questions. Before the First World War he left Pinsk and moved with his parents to Petersburg. There, in 1912, he began to study archeology and joined the Jewish Students' Association. In 1915 he proceeded to Stockholm, where he edited the Russian-language paper "Skandinavski Vestnik" ["The Scandinavian Herald"]. At the end of the First World War, an attempt was made to set up a "National Byelorussian Republic"; and this idea of autonomy for Byelorussia, as for Poland and the Baltic countries, continued to be supported by the Allied Powers even after most of the territory in question, including the intended capital, Minsk, had been occupied by the Bolsheviks, as well as the remaining western part by Poland. This "Autonomous Byelorussian Republic" had "representatives" in various countries. In 1921, Sasha Lourié was the "Byelorussian representative" in the Lithuanian capital, Kovno. It was in this state -- Lithuania -- that one of Grigory Lourié's friends and fellow- townsmen, the lawyer Shimshon Rosenbaum, set up an autonomous Jewish political unit which he himself headed, first as the Chairman of the Jewish National Council, and afterwards as the Minister for Jewish Affairs. At the same time and in the same country, one of Grigory Lourié's sons was serving as the representative of a foreign -- though actually fictitious -- state, and devoting all his energies to the cause of obtaining independence for it. This meeting of two men from the same town and the same Jewish background, but with such diametrically opposed outlooks, is symbolical of the two main courses taken by modern Jewish history, and in particular it strikingly brings out the great contrast between the way chosen by Sasha Lourié and that followed by his ancestors. In 1922, Sasha was the Byelorussian representative in Danzig. While in Kovno and Danzig, in the years of the great movements of population following on the First World War, he helped many stateless people by providing them with passports and official documents. I myself was so helped by him in 1921, when I escaped to Lithuanian Kovno from the advancing Polish army. Sasha Lourié married a Finnish Christian woman, the owner of an estate near Zoppot, which was close to Danzig where he lived. After the hopes of establishing an independent Byelorussia had finally come to nothing, we find Sasha Lourié working as the correspondent of a German newspaper and living in Kiel, in northern Germany, a town without any Jewish population and notorious for its anti-Semitism even in the time of the Weimar Republic. He remained there until the Nazis came to power. When last heard of, he was living in the Negro republic of Haiti.

Here, then, is the history of six generations:

Shaul Karliner (Levin) -- communal leader and philanthropist.
Hayyah Lourié, his daughter – philanthropist.
Moshe Lourié, her son -- a patriarchal Jewish figure.
Aharon Lourié, son of Moshe -- one of the leaders of the Pinsk and Karlin communities.
Grigory Lourié, son of Aharon -- nationalist, Zionist, worker for Jewry.
Sasha Lourié, son of Grigory -- remote from Judaism and unable to find his place in the world.

Six generations representing six chapters of Jewish history.

Miron Lourié was Grigory and Rivkah Lourié's younger son. His lJewish name was apparently Meir, after his father's and mother's grandfather Meir Levin, the eldest son of Moshe-Yitshak Levin (see above). Miron was born in 1900. He made the sea his career and sailed on ships based on the port of Odessa. After the First World War, when his mother returned to Pinsk, he joined her there, but soon returned to his port. Further details of his life are unknown.

Grigory Lourié's brother Leopold, was also a man of wide learning and a Zionist. Wishing to diffuse general education among the young generation of Jews in his town, he in 1888 taught secular subjects in the Karlin Talmud Torah. Not having a license to teach, he was fined by the police, but only the nominal sum of three rubles since "he did his work without remuneration". He then moved to Lodz, and attended the Fifth Zionist Congress as one of that town's delegates. His name appears in the list of those who took part in the debates on the Jewish National Fund and the Colonial Bank. In 1903 he attended the Sixth Zionist Congress. In the thirties of this century, Leopold Lourié, with his wife Dora and his brother Asir (Asher), returned from Lodz to spend their last years in their native town, but took no part in public life there. They were presumably wiped out in the Nazi holocaust.

The other children of Aharon Lourié were: a son Shemuel who, together with his brother Grigory, opened the previously mentioned banks in Homel and in the small towns of Klintsi, Pochep, and Zhlobin; a son, Alexander, who remained in Moscow; a son, Ovsei (Hoshea?, Asher ?) whose own son AIexander is now living in Tel Aviv and whose daughter MarIa is living in Paris; a son ShauI, now in Dresden; a son, Yitshak, who lived in Warsaw; a daughter, Rahel, who married Shaul Weinreich and who also went, with her mother, to live in Dresden. Her two daughters immigrated to Israel. One of them, Frieda Hanf-Weinreich lived in Haifa till her death there (1965); the other daughter, Dr. Anni Samuelsdorf lived in Tel Aviv and was an active worker in the Zionist Organization till her death there in 1971. A brother of theirs, Ismar, lives in London. Another brother, Max, lived in Tel Aviv and died there.

On Dec. 2nd 19l7, an "Association to Help the Jews of Pinsk" was founded in the Moscow home of Yitshak-Asher Naidich. Its members were all natives of Pinsk (like Naidich himself), who, in the light of the report by the Central Jewish Committee in Copenhagen, had decided to band together to help relieve the hardships of their brethren in Pinsk. Among their number we find the names of "As[ir] and Y[itshak], the sons of A[haron] Lourié".

All the above details show the extent to which the members of one branch of the Lourié family from Pinsk became scattered in various parts of the world.

Next, the other children of Moshe Lourié:

Shemuel Lourié (born in 1850), who was married to Tirzah, the sister of Yosef Halpern, and died young (1888).

Iser – Isidore Lourié (born in 1851), who established large industrial enterprises in Libau (Latvia). His wife was Agatha, the daughter of his maternal uncle and brother-in-law Eliyahu Eliasberg, who built the Pinsk tallow candle factory. In 1880, Isidore Lourié donated a large sum for the building of the Pinsk Talmud Torah school to be named after his first wife, BeiIeh[46]. He also took charge of the Karlin Talmud Torah and provided for its needs, after Mikhal Ettinger left Pinsk (in about 1879). A journalist of those days calls on "... the noble gevir [rich man] Isidore Lourié (who should intervene in the affairs of the Talmud Torah school and be greatly moved by the fate of its young pupils) to see... and note every shortcoming"[47]. And in a subsequent article we read the following: "... Those in charge of the Talmud Torah school, the noble gevir, Isidore Lourié, and the maskil, H. Ratin, have also ceased to exercise any supervision or control over it and pay no attention to the pupils' conduct and the methods of teaching… Rouse yourself and take new courage, Isidore Lourié, noble and generous gevir"[48]. Isidore Lourié died in Wiesbaden in 1920.

A daughter, Beileh, (born in 1844) who was married to Idel Lourié, the son of her paternal uncle, Shemuel Lourié. As already noted, this Idel Lourié was the pioneer of private banking in Pinsk and in other towns in the Jewish "Pale".

A daughter Zeldah (born in 1845, died at the age of 33) who was married to her maternal uncle, Eliyahu Eliasberg.

A daughter Rahel (born in 1847, died in Pinsk in 1931) who was the wife of Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg, the son of her mother's cousin (see below).

These marriage details have been mentioned here in illustration of the practice then prevalent among the Louriés, as among the Rothschilds, of marrying either within their own family or into other well-known families that were related to them.

Shemuel Lourié, the second son of Hayyah and Aharon Lourié, (born 1826 in Pinsk) moved to the provincial capital, Minsk, where he opened a private bank. His son IdeI (born 1845) returned to Pinsk, after marrying Beileh, the daughter of his paternal uncle, Moshe Lourié, in 1861. His father-in-law had made Pinsk an industrial center in the second half of the 19th century; now, at the century's end, Idel Lourié established a private banking system for the town's factory-owners and businessmen. Together with his cousin, Shemuel, the son of David Lourié, he set up -- in addition to the Pinsk bank -- a whole banking network with branches in the towns of Dubno, Lutsk, Zhitomir, Polonnoye and other places. Since the main office was in Rovno (Volhynia), the whole network was called "the Rovno Bureau" ("Rovner Kontor”). Run on the pattern of all the large European banking houses of the day, these banks were known in the Russian business world as "the bank of Idel and Sam[uel] D[avidovich] Lourié". They financed deals in agricultural produce in three provinces, and employed a large staff of Jewish clerks. The regular appeals made by the Jews of Pinsk to this financial concern for contributions to charity and to institutions of social welfare were usually answered, though not with that devoted concern for the Jewish poor which was so characteristic of the Lourié tradition. Idel Lourié spent his last years in Wiesbaden where he died in 1928.

Round about the year 1890, Chaim Weizmann was living in Idel Lourié's house as private tutor to his son, Shaul. In the Weizmann Archives there are six letters from Weizmann to Ovsei (Yehoshua) Lourié, Shaul's brother, written after Ovsei had gone to the town of Mitau (in Courland) to continue his studies. These letters from the years 1890 - 1892, which were written by Weizmann while he was living in Idel Lourié's house, testify to the sincere friendship between Weizmann and Ovsei Lourié, and also to the atmosphere in which the younger generation grew up in such Pinsk Jewish homes as those of the Lourié and Weizmann families. In the letters, Weizmann adopts a tone of pedagogical exhortation to his friend (who was only one year younger than himself). He quotes (inaccurately) an example from the Talmud, but mostly lhe writes about Russian literature -- the letters are actually written in Russian -- and about the reading of its basic texts. The influence of Weizmann's education at the government "Realschule" in Pinsk can be felt throughout the letters, but without any dimming of his Jewish consciousness. Idel Lourié's views on Jewish education are described by Weizmann in a letter of Nov.11th 1890 to Ovsei Lourié, as follows: "Your parents… want you to be a virtuous and noble youth, and to grow up into a well-educated and mentally developed man and an exemplary Jew". This combination of a general and a Jewish education, of polished social manners and pride in being Jewish, was also, according to Weizmann, the ideal of the whole Lourié family. Ovsei Lourié subsequently studied in Riga. Till 1914, he assisted his father. During the First World War the latter transferred his banks to Yekaterinoslav, where they were finally closed, in 1920. Ovsei went to London and became a business partner of his brother, Shaul. He died in London in 1941.

Idel Lourié's son, Shaul (born 1879), was Chaim Weizmann's private pupil from about 1888 to 1892. From the above-mentioned letters of Weizmann to Ovsei Lourié it can be seen how much care Weizmann took with the education of Shaul, who was five years his younger. In 1897, at the age of 18 Shaul Lourié went to Germany. After registering there as a student at the Darmstadt technical institute, he traveled to Basel to attend the First Zionist Congress. For this reason, I reproduce here some of his reminiscences of that time, as written by him in a letter to me in reply to my questions: "I went to Basel, because the Congress aroused my interest. I remember the great impression made on me by the large banners with Zionist slogans on them flying over the Congress building, when in Russia everyone was afraid of mentioning the name 'Jew' in public. I telephoned the secretary of the Congress, Herr Reich from Austria, to enquire whether I could take part in the Congress. He replied: 'Yes. There are some communities in South Africa which were unable to send delegates and have therefore asked me to find people to volunteer to serve as their representatives and report to them on the proceedings'. I think that I represented Bulawayo in Southern Rhodesia; at any rate, in the report published by Herr Reich after the Congress my name appears as the representative of that country. Another similarly appointed 'representative' of a Jewish community in South Africa was Leon Simon, who later became a well-known Zionist and translated Ahad Haam's works. At the Uganda Conference I was not actually a delegate, but was in close contact with Weizmann. I also knew Herzl. At the time of the split over the Uganda Programme, I sided with the opposition. Later, I helped to bring about a reconciliation between the supporters of the Programme and the Democratic Faction. In one of the published photographs from the Congress, I appear together with Herzl and Weizmann"[49]. In 1901 Shaul Lourié worked in Chaim Weizmann's laboratory in Geneva. On his return to Darmstadt he became one of the founders of the "Maccabiah" Zionist Students Organization. We find his name, together with those of Motzkin, Weizmann, Buber, Leib Yafe, his relative and fellow-townsman Georg Halpern, and others, in a list of leading Zionists lwho undertook (in 1903) to travel to university towns in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, and other countries, in order to propagate the ideas of the Democratic Faction. During the years 1905 - 1939 Shaul Lourié was a businessman in lLondon. He then went to the United States (Santa Monica. California) and died there at the age of 91 on August 1970, one of the last surviving participants in the First Zionist lCongress.

David Lourié (born 1828), the third son of Hayyah and Aharon Lourié, was associated with his brother Moshe in lthe establishment of the firm of "The Brothers Lourié & Co.", which was the first Jewish commercial company in lPinsk. The two brothers brought there steamboats from Germany and were among the first to put these vessels into operation between Pinsk and the towns of southern Russia. The author of a contemporary monograph on Pinsk (Janson), who writes approvingly of their work, notes that the firm of "The Brothers Lourié & Co." owned three ships which in 1867 plied the waters of the Pripet and the Dniepr. And Y. L. Gordon in one of his letters to Moshe Lourié's son Aharon, writes in 1868: "... Tell me... what kind of business is carried on by your firm 'The Brothers Lourié & Co.'. I have heard that you have a steamboat... Do you deal in ltimber and grain, as your family has done for generations?”. The Lourié steamboats were used for the transportation of timber, corn, and fats. David Lourié took no active part in Jewish communal life. However, it is known that in 1887 he and his brother Moshe gave a free weekly distribution of bread to the poor, and he was undoubtedly one of the "Karlin philanthropists” who in 1878 provided two free meals a day -- breakfast and lunch -- for seventy pupils of the Karlin Talmud Torah, and also supplied them with winter and summer clothing. A contemporary witness (Mordekhai Kerman) records David Lourié's readiness to help needy individuals, and also relates how, like all the other members of the Lourié family, he used to visit the Karlin Av Beth-Din, the Gaon R. David Friedman, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah to exchange greetings with him for the New Year. David Lourié is included among the people referred to in the anonymous article (signed 'B') of the year 1880 which has been quoted above[50]:

“... After them [sc. after Moshe-Yitshak Levin, Hayyah Lourié, Gad-Asher Levin] there are still their sons, the famous gevirim, who also continue to perform innumerable works of charity and to maintain the Talmud Torah and the Bikkur Holim [hospital], so that all the people of Karlin look to them for support... How much longer will they [sc. the people of Karlin] say, 'Let the gevirim [sc. the Lourié's] give; we need not bother' ?". David Lourié lived in Karlin and contributed to the upkeep of the Talmud Torah built by his mother"[51].

The fact that all the Lourié family, in those days resided in Karlin gave Karlin a certain preeminence over Pinsk. Thus, in the article just quoted, we read: "Among the leaders of the Pinsk community. .. there are no gevirim... Whereas in our town Karlin there have always been famous gevirim, and to this day their renowned and glorious sons still live there... If you ask... who is called a gevir, you will immediately be told 'the wealthy Louriés' ". On the other hand, in the same year another article-writer from Pinsk voices the following complaint: "Why does the respected Lourié family remain silent when the poor are suffering? Moreover, I marvel at the great unfeelingness... that our philanthropists do not bestir themselves to do something for them"[52]. These words were, of course, directed at the whole Lourié family.

David Lourié died in 1888. He had four sons, all of whom took up banking. But, whereas Moshe Lourié's son Aharon established a bank to serve the whole community -- The Mutual Credit Society -- in his native town Pinsk, David Lourié's sons opened private banks in other towns. One son, Aharon, started a bank in Kiev; another, Isidore {?), in Minsk; a third, Iser, in Warsaw; and only the fourth son ShemueI, opened a bank in Pinsk, which was later amalgamated with that of his cousin, Idel. These two cousins also started up banks in other towns, including Rovno, Dubno, Lutsk, Zhitomir, Polonnoye (see above). And Shemuel alone opened a bank in Korbin. David Lourié himself had nothing to do with the establishment or management of social institutions, but his wife Rushka (the daughter of Shemuel Eliasberg from Ivenets) and his son-in-law Yonah Simhovich (his daughter Odl's husband) were active in this respect. Rushka Lourié, together with her sister Miriam-Lea Lourié (the wife of Moshe Lourié) and her husband's step-sister, Gite Ettinger, and Yosef Halpern, ran the Somekh Nofelim [Supporter of the Falling] social welfare society. While Yonah Simhovich, aided by Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg (the son-in-law of Moshe Lourié) and Aharon Lourié, took over the management of the Karlin Talmud Torah built by Hayyah Lourié, and also founded a trade school in the town"[53]. The treasurer of this Talmud Torah was David Lourié's above-mentioned step-sister Gite Ettinger, the wife of Yosef Ettinger and mother of Mikhal Ettinger, all of whom took their share in the work of running the institution.

Yosef Ettinger also occupies a significant place in the annals of Pinsk (see the respectful reference to him in Y. L. Gordon's above-quoted letter of 1862 to Aharon Lourié). He took an active interest in the Pinsk Talmud Torah[54], befriended rabbinical scholars and used to lead the talmudic study-circle in the Karlin "Neistat" synagogue (as reported by Mordekhai Kerman in his reminiscences). His name appears among those of the Pinsk merchants who signed the petition of Nov, 8th 1862 to the Minsk provincial governor (see above).

Mikhal Ettinger, the son of Yosef and Gite, was (as already stated) the principal of the Karlin Talmud Torah from 1876 onwards, in place of Meir Levin, who had left Pinsk. A contemporary writer reports that people then began "to bring their sons to the school very willingly. The principal is the keen-witted, wise and highly estimable Rav and gevir, Mikhal Ettinger (long may his light shine!), who has this year raised the number of pupils to three hundred"[55]. Mikhal continued as the successful head of this institution for three years, till 1879 when he left Pinsk. In an article about the Karlin Talmud Torah dated the 28th EIul, 1880, we read: "However, one great lack is also evident in this school. For since the respected gevir M. Ettinger left our town in pursuance of his business affairs, the Talmud Torah has been without a trustworthy supervisor to keep close watch over the pupils' conduct..."[56].

Yonah Simhovich, the son-in-law of David Lourié, had four daughters. The first, Teklah, was married to Sigmund Frumkin, a member of the Warsaw communal council and a road-building contractor. His son settled in Geneva. The second daughter, Rahel, was married to a man named Kogan, the owner of a sugar factory in Kiev. The third, CIara, was the wife of a lawyer named Ettinger. She too left Pinsk. What happened to the fourth daughter, Aka (Rivkah), is not known. Surviving descendants of this Simhovich fami1y lived in Warsaw, Geneva, and England.

The Eliasberg Family

For all their public activities and their many contributions to social welfare, the members of the Lourié family held themselves aloof from the community as a whole. On the one hand, we have the testimony of one of their descendants, Yaakov Eliasberg (a grandson of Hayyah Lourié's son, Moshe) that, in addition to their active concern for communal institutions, the Louriés were always ready to help anyone with their advice, or to aid him in getting a position, obtaining credit, and the like. But, at the same time, they kept strictly to themselves and married only within their own family, as described above. In the course of time, however, the Lourié family circle was widened to include the members of the Eliasberg family, who belonged to "the aristocrats of Ivenets" (a small town in the province of Minsk) and who prided themselves on their descent from the Gaon R. Yehezkeel Landau of Brody and Prague (the author of the book "Noda bi-Yehudah"). The wealthy and cultured Eliasbergs were, like the Louriés, part of the 19th century Lithuanian Jewish aristocracy. After intermarrying[57] with the Louriés, the Eliasbergs joined them in their work on behalf of communal institutions in Pinsk. The marriage connections between the two families go back to the time of the Levin family's ascendancy in Pinsk. The daughter of Wolf Levin, the third son of Shaul Karliner (see above), was given in marriage to Yitshak-Isaac Eliasberg of Ivenets. Her husband was a man of wide education and culture who is reported by the Pinsk writer, A. D. Dobzevich, to have befriended the first maskiIim in the town[58]. He was also one of the signatories to the already mentioned petition submitted, on behalf of the merchants of Pinsk, to the Minsk provincial governor on Nov. 8th 1862. Miriam-Leah, the wife of Moshe Lourié, together with her relative Feigel Levin, founded (c. 1875) the Somekh Nofelim ve-Yoledoth [Sick Aid and Maternity] society in Karlin, and was also one of the directors of the Karlin Beth Osef Zekenim [Old Age Home] which had been established by her mother-in-law, Hayyah Lourié. Miriam-Leah's sister, Rushka, the wife of David Lourié, was also a director of the Somekh Nofelim society. Their brother, Eliyahu Eliasberg, a son-in-law of Moshe Lourié, was one of the owners of the candle factory in Albrekhtovo, a suburb of Karlin (1872). He was the last member of the Eliasbergs to hold the title of “gabbai of the Volozhin yeshivah”, and was known as one of the fiercest opponents of Zionism in the Lourié family. He was a particularly generous supporter of the Karlin Talmud Torah[59].

Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg, another son-in-law of Moshe Lourié (through his marriage to the latter's daughter, Rahel), was the son of Yeshayahu Eliasberg from Ivenets, later of Minsk. As a Pinsk timber merchant, Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg had business connections with Memel, Danzig. Konigsberg, and Berlin. Of the town's communal institutions, he displayed a particularly active interest in the Talmud Torah built by Hayyah Lourié in Karlin. He was one of this school's principals (together with his brother-in-law, Aharon Lourié, and another member of the family, Yonah Simhovich), and used personally to examine the pupils in their studies. He and these two relatives of his also founded a trade school in the town" for the unpromising boys who have no talent for intellectual studies" (see above). Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg was a widely read thinker, the course of whose life reflects the pattern of Jewish thought in the second half of the 19th century: Haskalah -- Hibbath Tsion -- Zionism. Of his personal qualities his son, Yaakov Eliasberg, writes in his autobiography as follows: "My father... made do with a talmudic and self taught general education... He spent all his spare time reading books, newspapers, and journals. He was an annual subscriber to 'Hamelits', 'Novosti', 'Voshod', 'Berliner Tageblatt', and the Russian monthly 'Rusko ye Bogatstvo'. Later, 'Die Welt' and 'Hashiloah' were added to this list. Even before the founding of the Zionist government, my father was a member of Hovevei Tsion, the Pinsk representative of the Odessa Committee, and a serious student of Ahad Haam's teachings... He was a devotee of Hebrew, of which he had a fluent command though not as a spoken language, since it was not spoken then... He used to read... the works of Y. L. Gordon, Avraham Mapu, and eventually Ahad Haam too... He had the writings of the best Russian authors and critics in his house... for in his youth he had studied not only Talmud, but also Russian, and had got to know Russian literature... so that his father-in-law regarded him as a man of wide general culture". Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg joined the Hovevei Tsion in the eighties of the last century, after Eliezer Ben-Yehudah had visited Pinsk together with Yaakov Shertok (a native of Pinsk and the father of Moshe Sharett). According to Mordekhai Kerman, it was through the influence of the well-known preacher, Hirsch Maslianski, that Eliasberg became the Pinsk representative of the Odessa Committee and one of the leading active members of Hovevei Tsion in the town. When Herzl brought political Zionism into being, Eliasberg was one of the first to join the movement. He was a Pinsk delegate to the Second and Sixth Congresses; and his signature appears among those of the participants at the conference held in Cologne (on Aug. 25th 1898) before the Second Congress, to discuss the setting up of the Colonial Bank[60]. According to one source, he was also appointed by the Russian government to be inspector of the Jewish schools in Pinsk. In 1904, Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg left Pinsk with his family and settled in Berlin, though he still for some time continued to maintain his office in Pinsk and to export timber to Germany. He died in 1920. His wife, Rahel, returned at the age of 81 to Pinsk, to the home of her son Yaakov, and died there in 1931.

Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg's eldest son, ShemueI, completed his studies at the "Gymnasium" in Riga, where his paternal grandfather was then living. In 1900 he moved to Berlin and lived there for most of his life. He was the owner of a factory and a partner in an architect's office. During the Nazi regime he was in Warsaw, where he suffered a severe nervous breakdown and died in the hospital in the Jewish ghetto.

Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg's second son, Aharon (born in Pinsk in 1879), followed in his father's footsteps, both politically and culturally. He joined the Zionist Organization, and was director of the publishing press of the "Jüdischer Verlag” in Berlin. After a childhood spent in Pinsk, he moved as a young man, for health reasons, to Wiesbaden where he lived in the house of the local Rav and attended the "Gymnasium”. After that, he became a university student in Heidelberg, together with Yosef Klausner, Tschernihovski, and others. He was at that time very closely associated with his fellow-townsman and family-friend. Chaim Weizmann, both as a member of the Democratic Faction and as an active supporter of Weizmann's idea of establishing a Hebrew university in Jerusalem. Before the Fifth Congress, the office of the Democratic Faction was requested by the Zionist Executive Committee to name those of its members who wanted to attend the Congress as delegates, but had not received mandates. Aharon EIiasberg's name was one of those submitted by the office, and he was one of the Faction's 37 delegates to this Congress. In the debate that took place during the conference of German Zionists (1902), he spoke in defense of the Faction. He also appears in the photograph of the members of the Faction with Dr. Herzl, taken at Basel in 1901[61]. Among the delegates to the Fifth Congress who walked out of the proceedings in protest against the attitude of the Congress to the Faction's demands we find three members of the Lourié family: Aharon Eliasberg, Shaul the son of Idel Lourié, and Grigory the son of Aharon Lourié (though the last was not actually a member of the Faction). Yaakov Eliasberg records that his brother Aharon was prevented by illness from attending the Sixth Congress. During this Congress (1903), Weizmann expressed to Yaakov Eliasberg his regret at Aharon's being compelled by his illness to discontinue his share in the work of collecting and preparing the material for the founding of the university in Jerusalem. After his recovery, Aharon resumed his assistance to Weizmann in these efforts. In the Weizmann archives there are appreciative letters from Weizmann to Aharon Eliasberg which testify, to the friendly relations between the two men (Weizmann refers to Eliasberg by the affectionate diminutive "Aharonchik", presumably a habit from their childhood and youth in Pinsk). Eliasberg settled in Berlin, where he ran a publishing firm. In 1907 the "Jüdischer Verlag" was taken over by the Zionist Organization, and when in 1911 its offices were transferred from Cologne to Berlin, Aharon Eliasberg became its director, a post that he held until 1920. The publishing house developed and prospered under his management and printed important books on Zionist and Jewish subjects. The warm nostalgic regard that Aharon Eliasberg continued to feel for Pinsk throughout his residence in Berlin is illustrated by the following story told by the well-known journalist Dr. Yehoshua Gottlieb, himself a native of Pinsk: "One day, I visited the main office of the Zionist Organization in Berlin. Suddenly, a man entered the room, came up to me, and said: 'Mr. Gottlieb, I invite you to my home for supper.' -- 'Thank you... but... I don't yet know... with whom I have the honor:..', I stammered out in surprise. 'What difference does that make?' replied the man, with a smile. 'I heard that you were from Pinsk, and I too am from Pinsk. Isn't that fact sufficient to warrant our spending the evening together?'. The man who spoke to me was A. [Aharon] E-g [Eliasberg]. Although he was a very busy publisher, he spent from seven in the evening till two in the morning talking and thinking of nothing more lofty than the town where Jews sink into the mud to above their knees"[62]. Aharon Eliasberg immigrated to Palestine in 1933, and worked for Keren Hayesod. He died in 1937[63].

Yaakov Eliasberg, the youngest of Moshe-Hayyim Eliasberg's sons (born in Pinsk in 1881), was already 84 when he published his book “Be-Olam h-Hafekhoth” [“In the World of Revolutions”] (Jerusalem 1965). This autobiographical work begins with memories from his childhood and youth in the Eliasberg and Lourié homes in Pinsk and goes on to tell of his wanderings in Germany and Russia during the revolutions, his return to Pinsk after the First World War and his life there for fifteen years under Polish rule till the Bolshevik occupation of the town (1939), and his immigration to Palestine during the Second World War (1943). As a background to these details of his own life, the author gives a description of the members of his family and of Jewish society as a whole, particularly that of his own town Pinsk. His book is therefore an important historical source of information -- occasionally the only such source -- about Pinsk and the importance of the Lourié and Eliasberg families in the life of the town during the second half of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, from the time of Hayyah Lourié, the mother of the author's grandfather, Moshe Lourié, down to the author's own day. As in all autobiographies, the author from time to time expresses his own personal opinion on the society and events that he describes. But in this case, the sober realism characteristic of advancing years can be felt in his judgments. He tells us that he was, in his time, "the only descendant of Moshe Lourié in Pinsk". From his description of the Louriés of his own generation who had left Pinsk, we learn that, while a minority of them remained loyal to their ancestral heritage in foreign lands, many of them turned aside -- some of their own free will, other under compulsion -- from the historical path of Judaism. Yaakov Eliasberg's life exemplifies both of these opposite developments, as he himself tells us in his book. On the one hand, he conducted prayers on the Day of Atonement for political prisoners in the Moscow jail where he was himself detained, and wrote with great respect of the hasidic rebbes of Stolin and Chernobyl. The youthful Chaim Weizmann, in one of his letters, advised his friends to apply to Yaakov Eliasberg for financial support for the programs of the Democratic Faction[64]. He also attended the meeting of the Jewish Agency in Basel as a member of the Keren Hayesod delegation, accompanied his father to the Sixth Zionist Congress, and visited Palestine in 1933. He fought with courageous and vigorous determination to protect the rights of the Jewish workers in the factory under his direction (including the right not to work on the Sabbath), despite the strong pressure brought to bear on him by the anti-Semitic Polish government. He wrote with affectionate pride of the abilities of the Jewish worker, stressing that the unity of all the factory workers was an expression of their national consciousness. He was a member of Jewish self-defense organizations, both in his student days in Riga, and in later years in Pinsk. He kept up the family tradition that he first learnt on his return to Pinsk after the First World War, from the owner of the family factory, his cousin Paul, the son of Leopold Lourié: "For our enterprise regularly supports all the local Jewish institutions, and this social aid is simply the necessary continuation of the traditional acts of charity performed for generations by the Lourié family". On the other hand, he married a Christian woman from a family of Russian aristocrats, who had been brought up by a Russian general, whose brother was a student at a naval officers' academy in St. Petersburg, and one of whose relatives was a Russian admiral. He writes most affectionately of his Christian wife's daughter and also of her son, who emigrated to the U.S.A. where he became friendly with the descendants of the Lourié family living there. Yaakov Eliasberg's home in Pinsk was a meeting place for members of the Jewish, Polish, and Russian intelligentsia, including Jewish "renegades" who had adopted Christianity to improve their material position and social prospects.

In striking contrast to these assimilationist tendencies was the moral nobility displayed by Yaakov Eliasberg's Russian wife, Lydia, in becoming a proselyte to Judaism. She took this step at the time of the Bolshevik revolution, when her husband had been thrown into prison without charge and without trial, and his property arbitrarily confiscated, so that she and her daughter by her first, Christian husband were left entirely dependent on the charity of friends. In this desperate situation she decided to embrace Judaism. What moved her to take this decision? Here is her own reply: "What made me decide to do this?.. Neither I nor my husband had felt the need of a religious ceremony [in addition to their civil marriage]... My desire to become a Jewess was connected with a need to identify myself with "my husband's people, and in this way I thought that I could break down the prison walls". When she told their family-friend, Lifshits, of her intention, he asked her, “'Why do you Have to do this?'. 'I don't actually have to do it', I replied, and explained my state of mind to him… The next day he tried to dissuade me: 'Remain a Christian and a Russian aristocrat... Does he [sc. her husband] know of your decision?'. 'No' ". When she went, on the day after this, to Rabbi Mazeh in Moscow, he asked her: “'Why is it that you have come to me?'. I explained the matter to him. 'I beg you not to change your ancestral faith, but to remain faithful to your church', he said. 'We are satisfied', I told him, 'with only a civil marriage. But my husband has now been shut up in prison for five months and heaven alone knows what worse fate may yet befall him. By becoming a member of his people I shall feel closer to him'... He bowed courteously to me and I left him with a lighter heart... He said to Lifshits: 'Arrange for the mikveh... and then come to fetch me'... I returned from the mikveh in a carriage together with Rabbi Mazeh, who was sunk in silent thought".

After his return to Pinsk, Yaakov Eliasberg played an active and important part in the Jewish economic life of the town. He was, together with Beni Halpern chairman of the board of directors of the Jewish Commercial and Industrial Bank; was a great worker for the artisans' association, the "0ze" society and the orphans' home, and a member of the Benei Brith lodge; was elected consultant member of the Vilna office of commerce and industry; was arbiter in the dispute between the directorate of the Tarbuth high school and the teaching staff; and the like. At the height of the Second World War, in 1943, he emigrated with his wife and daughter (Tamar) from Russia to Palestine and settled in Jerusalem. There he lived in modest circumstances and worked indefatigably at the writing of his memoirs, which were published by Ha-Sifriah ha-Tsionith, with an introduction by S. Y. Agnon. Yaakov Eliasberg died in Jerusalem in 1966, and was followed shortly afterwards by his wife. They are survived by a daughter, Tamar Shrik, who lives in Bath Yam.


The story of the "Rothschild" families of Pinsk and Karlin is a reflection of six generations of the history of Russian Jewry. First, the growth and ramification of the families in their own town, and then, towards the end of the period, their dispersion all over the world. First, the influence on them of the centripetal pull towards Jewish values within Pinsk itself, followed by the effect of the centrifugal drift away from Judaism in lforeign lands. In the clash between these two opposing forces, a minority of the latter-day descendants of these families succeeded in preserving their ancestral faith and tradition even in distant parts of the world. They found an outlet for their Jewish loyalties mainly in the Zionist movement and in lsettlement in Palestine, or in lmemories and stories of the legendary figure of the family's founder, Shaul Karliner, of "grandmother Hayyah", and of the patriarchalism of her brothers and sons. But many were the "grandsons" who were lost to Judaism through assimilation. At this same time, Pinsk was occupied by the Bolsheviks who put a stop to all Jewish religious and cultural life in the town. And after them came the Nazis who exterminated the Jewish population, leaving behind nothing of the Jewish communities of Pinsk but heaps of ruins and martyrs' graves.

« Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page »


This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Project for the purpose of
fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities.
This material may not be copied, sold or bartered without JewishGen, Inc.'s permission. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder.


JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.

  Pinsk, Belarus     Yizkor Book Project     JewishGen Home Page


Yizkor Book Project Manager, Lance Ackerfeld
This web page created by Max Heffler

Copyright ©1999-2014 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 19 Dec 2002 by LA