Judah HeHasid (Jerusalem)

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See Judah he-Hasid for other people who used this name.
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A sepia photograph shows three elderly Jewish men sporting beards and holding open books, posing for the camera. Against a backdrop of leafy vegetation, the man in the centre sits, wearing a black hat and caftan, while the two others stand, wearing lighter clothes and turbans.
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History of the Jews and Judaism in the Land of IsraelHistory of Zionism (Timeline) • Haredim and ZionismEdah HaChareidisShaDaRYishuvThree Oaths

Judah he-Hasid Segal ha-Levi[1] (Hebrew: יהודה החסידYehudah he-Hasid, "Judah the Pious"; ca. 1660, Siedlce – October 17, 1700, Jerusalem, Ottoman Syria) was a Jewish preacher who led the largest organized group of Jewish immigrants to the Land of Israel in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Departure from Europe[edit]

Judah traveled from one Jewish community to another throughout Poland, urging repentance, ascetism, physical mortifications, and calling for aliyah.

In 1697, he and 31 families of his followers left for Moravia and made a stop at Nikolsburg. Judah spent a year traveling throughout Germany and Moravia gaining followers. Many joined the group, influenced by his fervor. By the time the whole group gathered in Italy, they numbered about 1,500.

Almost a third of the pilgrims died of hardships and illnesses during the trip. On the way, they contracted debts, and in exchange for permission to enter the Ottoman Empire they were forced to give the Turkish authorities financial guarantees in the name of Jerusalem's Jewish community.

Arrival in Jerusalem[edit]

The group arrived in Jerusalem on October 14, 1700. At that time, about 200 Ashkenazi and about 1,000 Sephardi Jews lived in the city, mostly on charities from the Jewish diaspora. The sudden influx of between 500 to 1,000 Ashkenazim [2] produced a crisis: the local community was unable to help such a large group. In addition, some of the newcomers were suspected to be Sabbateans,[3] whom the local Jews viewed with hostility. The situation grew worse when Judah He-Hasid died within days of his arrival to Jerusalem. He is buried on the Mount of Olives.

Emissaries were sent to the Council of the Four Lands for aid, but it didn't arrive.

Ban on Ashkenazim[edit]

The newcomers went deeper into debt to build a small synagogue. In 1720, Arab creditors broke into the synagogue, set it on fire, and took over the area.

The Turkish authorities blamed all Ashkenazi Jews for the mess, refused to make a distinction between the old Jerusalem community and the newcomers, held them collectively responsible for the debts, and banned all Ashkenazim from the area.


The dome of Hurva Synagogue rises above the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem's Old City. Pre-1948 photo.

Some of the Ashkenazi Jews moved to other cities (mainly Jewish holy cities other than Jerusalem: Hebron, Tiberias, and Safed). Others started to dress like Sephardi Jews.

The synagogue, called Hurvat Yehudah He-Hasid (Destroyed Place of Judah He-Hasid), was rebuilt in 1810 by the Perushim, becoming the chief Ashkenazi synagogue in Jerusalem. The building was destroyed by the Arab Legion in 1948. It was then rebuilt and rededicated in 2010.


  1. ^ Folktales of the Jews: Tales from the Sephardic dispersion p. 38
  2. ^ Sources vary on the number:The Churva, by Dovid Rossoff puts the number at "over 500"; others put it at 1000.
  3. ^ Aviezer Ravitzky. Messianism, Zionism, and Jewish religious radicalism. 1996, page 228

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