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DISKIN, JOSHUA LÖB BEN BENJAMIN:

Russian rabbi; born at Grodno, Russia, Dec. 10, 1818; died at Jerusalem Jan. 22, 1898. At thirteen he married Sarah, the daughter of a good family of Volkovisk, known later as "Die Brisker Rebitzin." Diskin obtained a rabbi's diploma at eighteen, and seven years later succeeded his father as rabbi of Lomza. He was successively rabbi at Meseritz, Minsk, Kovno, Sklow, and Brest-Litovsk, whence he was called "Der Brisker Rov." A profound and thorough student, he became a recognized authority on rabbinical law, his admirers comparing him to Akiba Eger. He was, if not aggressive, fearless when once convinced that a thing was right. Thus, when rabbi of Kovno, he insisted upon the dismissal of a meat-tax collector. The Russian government, however, did not share his views, but ordered him to leave the town within forty-eight hours. Again, in 1877, the last year of his rabbinical office at Brest-Litovsk, he gave a legacy decision against the civil authorities. Compelled again to leave the town, Diskin decided upon settling at Jerusalem. There, too, he became a center of controversy by forbidding in 1889, a Sabbatical year, the cultivation of land in Palestine, though several Russian rabbis, among whom was Isaac Elhanan Spector, had decided to the contrary. The statement that Diskin was opposed to colonization in Palestine is not correct; he was not opposed to those who went with sufficient capital to buy and till land. A tireless champion of Orthodox Judaism, he endeavored to counteract the influence of Jewish reformers and English missionaries. He founded at Jerusalem an orphan asylum in opposition to a similar institution established by the liberal Jews, prohibited the use of the English missionary hospital, and refused Jewish burial to patients who died there. He also founded the yeshibah Ohel Mosheh.

Diskin was once accused of having been guilty of actions unbecoming a rabbi, but the charges were groundless. The very men who had been accustomed to visit him, and in whom he had the greatest confidence, committed the deeds with which he was charged. It should be said, furthermore, that his wife was prominent in all the struggles between him and his adversaries.

Bibliography:
  • Ha-Meliẓ, xxix., No. 2; xxxviii., Nos. 44, 50; xl., No. 115;
  • Aḥiasaf, vi, 347;
  • Ha-Yehudi, i., No. 14;
  • Ha-Ḥabaẓelet, xxvii., No. 35; xxviii. No. 14;
  • Eisenstadt, Dor Rabbanaw we-Soferaw, iii. 10, 11.
L. G. M. Sel.
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