Monsieur Chouchani biography

Monsieur Chouchani

1895 – 1968

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Who was Monsieur Chouchani?

Monsieur Chouchani (French pronunciation: ​[məsjø ʃuʃani]; Hebrew: מר שושני‎; ), or "Shushani," is the nickname of an otherwise anonymous and enigmatic Jewish teacher who taught a small number of distinguished students in post-World War II Europe and elsewhere, including Emmanuel Levinas and Elie Wiesel.

Not much is known about "Chouchani," including his real name, a secret which he zealously guarded. His origins are completely unknown, and his gravestone (located in La Paz, Canelones, Uruguay, where he died in January 1968) reads, "The wise Rabbi Chouchani of blessed memory. His birth and his life are sealed in enigma." The text is by Elie Wiesel who paid for this gravestone. The name "Shushani," which means "person from Shushan," is most probably an allegorical reference, or possibly a pun. Elie Wiesel hypothesizes that Chouchani's real name was Mordechai Rosenbaum, while Hebrew University professor Shalom Rosenberg asserts that Chouchani's actual name was Hillel Perlman. An article published by Yael Levine in 2015, based on genealogical research, brought documentation supporting the view that Chouchani was none other than Perlman, a native of Brest-Litovsk (Brisk).

Although there is no known body of works by Chouchani himself, there is a very strong intellectual legacy seen in the influence on his pupils. By all accounts, Chouchani had the appearance of a vagabond and yet was reputed to be a master of vast areas of human knowledge, including science, mathematics, philosophy and especially the Talmud. Most of the biographical details of Chouchani's life are known from the works and interviews of his various students, as well as anecdotes of people whom he encountered during his lifetime. Chouchani appeared in Paris after the Second World War, where he taught between the years of 1947 and 1952. He disappeared for a while after that, evidently spent some time in the newly formed state of Israel, returned to Paris briefly, and then left for South America where he lived until his death.

A French journalist named Salomon Malka wrote a 1994 book about him, entitled "Monsieur Chouchani: L'énigme d'un maître du XXe siècle" (Mister Shushani: The enigma of a 20th century master).

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"Monsieur Chouchani." Biographies.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2020. Web. 27 Oct. 2020. <https://www.biographies.net/biography/monsieur-chouchani/b/3777b2d7>.


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Born
Jan 9, 1895
Also known as
  • Chouchani
  • Shushani
Religion
  • Jewish
Profession
Lived in
  • Jerusalem
  • Paris
  • Kibbutz " Be'erot Yitzhak"
  • Kibbutz "Sa'ad"
  • Kibbutz "Sde Eliahou"
  • Montevideo (Uruguay)
Died
Jan 26, 1968
Montevideo

Submitted by davidb
on December 09, 2019

Modified by davidb
on February 20, 2020

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