Porozow Luminaries

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Moshe Avigdor Amiel (1883-1946)

Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv


Although some sources place the birth of Rabbi Moshe Avigdor Amiel (1883-1946) in Lida, the Jewish Encyclopedia of Russia (Rossiyskaya Evreiskaya Entsiklopediya; Moscow: 1995) maintains that it took place in Porozow.


Amiel, who was an orthodox rabbi, author, orator and philosopher, studied under his father at the Telz Yeshivah and was ordained at 18. In 1905, he was appointed Rabbi of Swieciany, where he established a large yeshiva. In 1913, he became Rabbi of Grajewo, a town on the Russian-German border.


He became rabbi of Antwerp, Belgium in 1920 and went on to become chief Ashkenazi rabbi of Tel Aviv in 1936. He was the founder of Hayishuv Hehadash, the first modern high school yeshiva in Eretz Yisrael.


Rabbi Amiel drew on his extensive background in Talmud, Halachah and Midrash in his analytical writings, which included sermons and several books, among them Light for an Age of Confusion and Ethics and Legality in Jewish Law. An ardent Zionist, he spoke out on the character and legal system of what was to become the Jewish state in Palestine.

Ester-Ruchel Kaminska (1870-1925)

"Mother of the Yiddish Theater"


Ester-Ruchel Kaminska, ne Halperin, known to audiences as "the mother of the Yiddish theater," was surely Porozow's most famous native-born daughter. A member of a theatrical dynasty that included her husband, Abraham-Isaac Kaminski (1867-1918) and her famous daughter, Ida Kaminska (1899-1980), she performed in Warsaw, St. Petersburg, Kiev, London, Paris and New York. She was born in Porozow to Chaim Yochanan Halperin and his wife on the festival of Purim in 1870.


According to the Encylopedia Judaica, she was "hailed as the Yiddish Duse," a reference to her contemporary, world-famous Italian actress Eleanora Duse (1858-1924). She was also compared, during her lifetime, to Sarah Bernhardt.


Her daughter Ida, nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in "The Shop on Main Street" (1965), remembered her this way in her 1973 memoir, My Life, My Theater: "When my mother suffered onstage, she felt that she suffered not only for herself; when she protested, she could clearly hear the protest of all those to whom injustice had been done. She raised the individual characteristic to the universal."

Michel and Malka Chmielnitzki, Pioneer Vinters in the Holy Land


Michel and Malka Chmielnitski (also known as Chamiletzki), left Porozow for the Holy Land, and in 1882 first set foot in Zichron Yaakov. Michel made his home in Shefeya and was asked by the Baron Edmund de Rothschild to develop vineyards. In 1925, the famous poet Chaim Nachman Bialik visited and gave Michel a new family name, "Tishbi," an acronym for the Hebrew Toshav Shefeya B'Eretz Yisrael (a resident of Shefeya in Israel). The prophet Elija, Eliyahu HaNavi in Hebrew, was also called haTishbi, and performed many of his miracles in the Carmel area, not far from the winery.


Members of the Tishbi family have been grape growers for more than a century, and today's Tishbi Estate, whose site you can visit by clicking on the label at left, produces four series of kosher wines that bear the likeness of Michel and Malka on the label.

2004-2020  Scott D. Seligman