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Lippe, Karpel

(Natan Petaḥyah ben Barukh Mosheh Lipa; 1830–1915), physician, writer, and Zionist activist. Karpel Lippe was born in Tyśmienica (near Stanisławów, Galicia) into a traditional family. Influenced by the ideas of the Haskalah, he stopped preparing for the rabbinate and decided to study medicine. Unable to complete his program, in 1860 he moved to Iaşi and worked as a secondary physician at the Israelite Hospital. He finally received his medical degree from the University of Erlangen in Germany, and practiced in Iaşi, where he helped the poor and was the first Romanian physician to give free consultations at designated hours.

In addition to his medical career, Lippe published books, booklets, and articles in Hebrew, German, and Romanian. His Hebrew pieces appeared in the journals Ha-Magid, Ha-Tsofeh, Ha-Levanon, and Ha-Mitspeh; other articles were issued in Romanian in maskilic publications such as Anuar pentru Israeliți. He also published polemical booklets on the fight to emancipate Romanian Jewry, including “Lupta evreilor din România pentru emancipare” (The Struggle for the Emancipation of Romanian Jewry; 1879), after the Congress of Berlin. Like Lev Pinsker, Lippe considered antisemitism to be a disease and wrote the polemical booklet “Symptome der antisemitischen Geisteskrankheit” (Symptoms of the Antisemitic Disease of the Mind) in 1887. He also fought against Jewish assimilation by publishing apologetic booklets on Judaism, in which his ideas reflected the thinking of Galician maskilim.

Linking Talmudic learning with his medical knowledge, Lippe published an article in Hebrew on medicine in the Talmud, “Torat ha-‘ubarin be-me‘e iman lefi hakhme ha-Talmud” (The Science of Embryos in the Womb of Their Mothers According to the Sages of the Talmud). As the first study on embryology in modern Hebrew, it was joined in a booklet with another article in Hebrew that compared the philosophy of Spinoza with ideas of the Talmudic sages (1901).

Considering emigration to be the best response to anti-Jewish politics (probably under the influence of the American consul Benjamin Franklin Peixotto), by the end of the 1870s Lippe had become a Jewish nationalist. In 1880 he served as the founding president of the Yishuv Erets Yisra’el society, and in 1882 he supported the emigration of Jews to Palestine and the foundation of agricultural colonies in Rosh Pinah and Zamarin. With his friend Menaḥem Mendel Braunstein, the secretary of the Yishuv Erets Yisra’el society, Lippe proposed buying land in Palestine for growing etrogim for export.

In 1884, Lippe participated in the founding conference of Ḥoveve Tsiyon in Katowice. After Theodor Herzl’s Judenstaat was published, Lippe clarified his position in the journal Zion (Berlin, 1896), rejecting the idea of a Jewish state but advising Jews to settle in Palestine as Turkish citizens and to seek autonomy similar to that of Galicia in the Austrian Empire. Nonetheless, he participated in the first Zionist Congress (1897), and was president of the first session, even delivering the opening speech. In 1902, he published some of his memoirs, Meine 25-jährige zionistische Agitation (My 25-Year-Long Zionist Agitation), and wrote that he considered himself to be one of the three initiators of Zionism, together with Lev Pinsker and Isaak Rülf. In 1903, Lippe was elected president of the Conference of Romanian Zionists.

In the first decade of the twentieth century, Lippe cofounded Toynbee Hall in Iaşi, with his new friend, the young rabbi Iacob Isac Niemirower. Lippe delivered lectures there, mainly about Judaism, Jewish culture, German literature, and classical music; he had to accept, however, that young intellectuals preferred Yiddish literature. When Herzl asked him to publish articles in the Yiddish edition of Die Welt, Lippe was unhappy, but agreed in the interests of propaganda to use the spoken language of the masses. In 1911, after the death of his wife, Lippe moved to Przemyśl, Galicia, to live with his daughter. When World War I broke out, he fled to Vienna, where he died.

Suggested Reading

Gheorghe Brătescu, “Medicina,” in Contribuția evreilor din România la cultură şi civilizație, ed. Nicolae Cajal and Harry Kuller, pp. 159–160 (Bucharest, 1996); Lucian-Zeev Herşcovici, “Hebrew Maskilim Writers in Romania, 1850–1900,” in Studia judaica 6 (1997): 147–167; Israel Klausner, Ḥibat Tsiyon be-Romanyah (Jerusalem, 1958); Yitsḥak Yosef Kohen, “Sifrut ḥilonit be-‘ivrit,” in Pinkas ha-kehilot: Romanyah, vol. 1, pp. 75–83 [Hebrew pagination] (Jerusalem, 1969), see specifically p. 82; Lascar Saraga, “Karpel Lippe,” in Cultura (Bucharest) 2.10 (1939): 13–15.

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 513, Chaim Bloch, Papers, 1920s-1960s.