Jeremy Bentham and the Rabbi of Slonim: a Forgotten encounter in the 1780's

  • Date: –17:00
  • Location: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) Gamla torget 3, 3rd floor, IRES Library
  • Website
  • Organiser: Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES)
  • Contact person: Jevgenija Gehsbarga
  • Phone: 018 471 1630
  • Föreläsning

Israel Bartal, is Avraham Harman Professor of Jewish History, member of Israel Academy of Sciences, and the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Hebrew University. Since 2006 he is the chair of the Historical Society of Israel.

On December 9, 1787, the renowned English philosopher of Utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham was traveling through Eastern Europe, where his brother Samuel, a prominent engineer and industrialist, was serving in the employ of Prince Potemkin and Empress Catherine the Great. Jeremy spent some time with his brother hoping to implement some of the innovative architectural ideas that he was developing in his Panopticon. In the course of a journey through the town of Slonim (now in Belarus), Jeremy discovered to his chagrin that he was unable to find a vacancy at any of the town’s respectable inns. He was forced to lodge for the night with a Jew, a rabbi who was the proprietor of a hardware store. Bentham was surprised to note that his host possessed two glass-enclosed bookcases that housed between 250 and 300 volumes. The rabbi took particular pride in two scientific works in his collection: a book on astronomy to which he had added a diagram of his own, and a Hebrew edition of Euclid's Elements. Prof. Bartal will discuss this lesser-known encounter, revisiting the conventional historiography on late 18th century Eastern European Polish and Jewish enlightenment.

Israel Bartal, is Avraham Harman Professor of Jewish History, member of Israel Academy of Sciences, and the former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at Hebrew University. Since 2006 he is the chair of the Historical Society of Israel.