Friday, September 21, 2007

Yashar of Candia and his equally colorful descendants

Yashar (pictured, right) (Yosef Shlomo Rofe) Delmedigo of Candia, Crete (1591-1655) was a colorful Jewish personality of the 17th century, what some might call a true 'Renaissance Rabbi'. A wandering Jew, he toured most of the major European capitals, temporarily settling in some of them and even accepting Rabbinical posts in others. He finally settled in Prague and died there in 1655.

Continuing in his tradition are his descendants: the Nachmani family [1]. At the end of the 19th century, the patriarch of the family, then 18 year old Mordechai Gorodinsky (pictured, left) (later changed to Nachmani in honor of a biblical figure who ascended to the land during the time of Nechemia), a passionate Zionist, left the Volozhin Yeshiva-where he had just received his Rabbinical ordination- and his hometown Gorodin in white Russia, to work in the swamps of the burgeoning yishuv. He did not belong to any particular organization or group but was motivated solely by religious Zionism. In fact the family maintained close ties with the Ashkenazic chief Rabbi, and seminal religious Zionist figure Rabbi Abraham Kook. Mordechai married there and went on to become one of the founders of the city of Rechovot.

Two of Mordechai's six children later left Israel to study in the United States where they settled permanently . One of them, Amihud studied engineering in New York and is remembered fondly by the writer Reuven Alpert who remembers him as one of the jolly old timers in the Synagogue he attended as a child. Alpert, in his Caught in the Crack: Encounters with the Jewish Muslims of Turkey [2] describes Amihud as a bit of an eccentric. His (Amihud) testimonies and visions (one describes a ship of Hebrew sailors-what Alpert calls the Jewish version of the 'flying Dutchmen'- another talks of the Yiddish poet Yehoash coming to him and his wife in a dream appealing to be reburied in Israel) appear in Aaron Zeitlin's [3] book on parapsychology[4] המציאות האחרת .


[1]. See the family tree (Hebrew) here

[2]. Alpert Reuven, Caught In The Crack. Wandering Soul Press, 2002. pp.151

[3]. See my brief biographical sketch of Zeiltin here

[4]. Zeiltin, Aaron, Ha-meziut ha-aheret (The other Dimension). Tel Aviv: Yavneh, 1967.

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