Russian journalist. According to Zeitlin he was born in 1836 in Tultschin, Russian Poland; but Fuenn, who knew him well, states that he was born in British India. He died in London Nov. 12, 1886. Taken to Constantinople when quite young, and later brought to Jerusalem, he grew up in the latter city and there received a Talmudical education and the strictly Orthodox training common to natives of Russia living in Palestine. In 1863, with the assistance of his father-in-law, the traveler Jacob Safir, he established the Hebrew monthly "Ha-Lebanon," which, after the appearance of the twelfth number, was suppressed by the Turkish government. After many tribulations Brill went to Paris, where he again commenced to publish the "Lebanon," first as a semi-monthly (1865-68), and later as a weekly (1868-70). The Franco-Prussian war and the siege of Paris, by cutting off communication with his readers—practically all of whom were outside of France—forced him to suspend the publication of his journal for the second time. He went to Mayence, where he established a Hebrew printing-office and renewed the publication of the weekly "Lebanon," this time as a Hebrew edition of the "Mainzer Israelite," edited by M. Lehmann, who occupied in German Jewry a position corresponding to the one occupied by Brill among the Jews of eastern Europe.
In Mayence the publication of the "Lebanon" was continued from 1872 to 1881. This journal became the acknowledged organ of ultra-conservative Jews; and many pious rabbis contributed to and took an interest in its Talmudical literary department, the "Yarkete Lebanon." During part of this time Brill also edited and published a Yiddish or Judæo-German weekly entitled "Ha-Yisrael," which, like his Hebrew publication, circulated mainly in Russia. The Orthodox class, however, never evinced sufficient interest in journalism in general to make its organ a financial success; and the "Lebanon" had for the third time to be discontinued.
When the movement to establish colonies in Palestine or its vicinity was inaugurated, after the outbreak of persecutions in Russia, Brill, who was well acquainted with the Holy Land and with the languages spoken there, was, through the recommendation of Rabbi Samuel Mohilever, chosen by the Alliance Israélite Universelle and by Baron Edmond de Rothschild to conduct from Russia to Palestine a small group of experienced farmers, who were to be established in or near the Alliance colony, Miḳweh Israel. He started from Rosinoi, Russian Poland, with eleven men—ten farmers and a "melamed" (teacher)—Nov. 21, 1882, and arrived at Palestine the following month. The story of his journey and of its results is given in detail in his work, "Yesod ha-Ma'aleh" (The Base of the Slope), which Brill published in 1883 in Mayence, whither he had returned a sadly disappointed man. In 1884 Brill settled in London, and there established a new Yiddish weekly newspaper, the "Sulamith." In 1886 he started, for the fourth time, to publish the "Lebanon," but was forced to announce its suspension after the publication of a few numbers. He died suddenly in London the same year.
"Yesod ha-Ma'alah" is the only book written by Brill. He published, while in Paris, three works containing inedited manuscripts from the library of Baron Günzburg, which are described in Zeitlin, "Bibliotheca Hebraica Post-Mendelssohniana," p. 42. He also published, with an introduction, an old anonymous manuscript, "Be'er ha-Golah," on Jewish archeology (Mayence, 1877), with notes by Jacob Tarpower and Reuben Rapoport.
- Fuenn, Keneset Yisrael, pp. 520, 521;
- idem, in Ha-Ẓefira, 1886, No. 172;
- Zeitlin, Bibliotheca Hebraica Post-Mendelssohniana, pp. 41, 42.