(of Speyer; 12th century), rabbi and liturgical poet, the brother of R. *Judah b. Samuel he-Hasid. Abraham b. Samuel and *Judah b. Kal-onymus, together with R. Shemariah b. Mordecai, later constituted the bet din of *Speyer, and are referred to as "the wise men of Speyer." *Eliezer b. Nathan of Mainz describes Abraham as "the sun of our orphaned age." Abraham’s retort to a baptized Jew is recorded in the Sefer Nizzahon. In contrast to his father and brother, who were both famous for their mysticism and pietism, Abraham was known for his exoteric teachings and only slight traces of esoteric ideas can be found in his writings. Abraham wrote four elegies in which he described Jewish suffering during the first two Crusades (1096 and 1147).


(second half of 13th century), rabbinical scholar in northwestern France. Abraham was the chief spokesman in a religious disputation in Paris with Paul, a Spanish "cordelier" (conceivably to be identified with Pablo *Christiani) under the reign of Philip the Bold (1270-85). He evidently wrote a commentary on the Book of Daniel, from which was derived an explanation of Daniel 9:24 mentioned in the record of the controversy. It was formerly thought he came from Dreux.


(1670-1729), poet, physician, artist, and philosopher. Born in Crete when the island was under Venetian rule, he studied medicine and philosophy at the University of Padua and then practiced on the island of Zante. He was the author of Kehunnat Avraham (Venice, 1719), a paraphrase of portions of Psalms in rhymed verse in various meters, to which was appended Benei Keturah, a similar paraphrase of Pirkei Shirah. The title page of the book is followed by an engraved self-portrait of the author, who was also probably responsible for other engravings in the book. He also published a volume of homilies on the Pentateuch, Kevod Hakhamim (Venice, 1700).


(15th century), pseudonym of the unknown author of a supposedly comprehensive guide to "the divine magic" according to the Kabbalah, especially the conjuration of the Guardian Angel who presides over every man’s spiritual life. The author tells at length the story of his life and describes his wanderings that began in the year 1409 and lasted for decades. He lists the heroic deeds which he accomplished with magic devices. The author alleges that he wrote the book for his young son La-mech. The book is found in numerous German, French, and English manuscripts, dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries. Part of it was translated (c. 1700) into Hebrew under the name SegullatMelakhim ("Treasure of Kings"). The book was no doubt written originally in German, although the author claims it to be a translation from Hebrew. The question of its authorship, whether Jewish or Christian, is a matter of dispute. The general style of the book shows the author’s knowledge of Hebrew. The work may well have been written by a Jew, with the passages with clearly Christian content added later. It may also have been written by a Christian kabbalist who had read the writings of *Pico della Mirandola and Johannes *Reuchlin. The German version was printed at the beginning of the 19th century, bearing, however, the date 1725. The book has had great influence among those interested in the occult in England and France since the end of the 19th century. In its English version (1898) it is attributed to Abra Melin "The

Mage," which is but a corruption of the name Abramelin, mentioned as the main teacher of the author. Abramelin seems to be taken from Abraham Elymas, the latter being the name of a magician mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles. The magic material in the book is essentially of Jewish origin, and constitutes one of the main channels of Jewish influence on late Christian magic. The German and the French-English versions differ considerably.


(c. 1400), Oriental biblical exegete, possibly from Yemen. His commentary on the Bible is written in Arabic, but contains some Hebrew excerpts. He makes use of very early midrashic sources, some otherwise unknown, quotes "Simeon b. Yohai in the Zohar," and draws upon authorities who preceded him, primarily Saadiah Gaon, Jonah ibn Janah, Nathan b. Jehiel, Tanhum b. Joseph Yerushalmi, and David Kimhi. In his commentary, Abraham draws linguistic parallels between Arabic, Aramaic, and Hebrew, and includes details of the life of Jews and Arabs in the Orient. Parts of his commentary, known as Midrash Alziani, written about 1422, are extant in various Yemenite manuscripts in Jerusalem, Oxford, and London. The British Museum manuscript, copied in 1513, contains his commentary on the Early Prophets, while a Bodleian manuscript, comprising three volumes, includes that on the Early Prophets, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.


(15th century), French physician. Cesar Nostradamus praises Abraham as a scholar, philosopher, and physician of Provence (Histoire et Chronologie de Provence (1624), 618). It was probably Abraham and other Jewish physicians who drew the attention of Rene of Anjou, count of Provence (1409-1480), to the deplorable situation of the Jews in his kingdom. Rene issued a decree in 1454, which lessened the hardships brought about by the proclamation of Charles 11 forcing all Jews to wear the wheel-shaped badge. It also confirmed the right of Jews to practice medicine. Rene set an example by making Abraham his personal physician and exempting him from all taxes levied on Jews. It has been suggested that Abraham may be identical with Abraham Avigdor 11 (1433-1488) of Marseilles (rej, 6-7 (1883), 294). Gottheil (ej, 1 (1928), 120) adds that Abraham might be the son of Solomon b. Abraham Avigdor 1, the translator.


(b. 1482), chronicler. Born in Spain, after the Expulsion of 1492 he was brought to Fez by his 70-year-old father, Solomon of Torrutiel, an expert in Talmud and a pupil of R. Isaac *Canpanton. In Fez he participated actively in the life of the Jewish community. In 1510 he wrote his Hebrew chronicle, probably not preserved in its entirety. As he indicates in the introduction, his plan was to continue the Sefer ha-Kabbalah of Abraham *Ibn Daud. In the first part of his book he gives additions to that work, including some Jewish sages not enumerated by Ibn Daud. In the second part he continues the history of Jewish scholars and scholarship up to 1463, in his own time. The third section is a chronicle of Spanish kings seen from a Jewish perspective, followed by the history of the expulsion of the Jews from Spain and their establishment first in Portugal and later on in Fez, until 1510.

In his introduction he speaks of his intention to include in his book the prognostications of Abraham *Zacuto. From this and other indications it has been concluded that Abraham used for his chronicle the works of Abraham Zacuto (Sefer Yuhasin) and Joseph b. *Zaddik of Arevalo. Detailed analysis of the three works shows all used the same Hebrew source, consisting of a chronology of Jewish scholars and a scanty summary of a well-known Spanish world chronicle. Abraham also mentions traditions which are not found in the works of the other two authors. Particularly valuable are his notes on the fate of the Spanish exiles, based on his personal eyewitness observations. The work, first published in Neubauer’s Chronicles (V. 101ff.), has appeared in a Spanish translation by J. Bages (Granada, 1921). He seems to be also the author of a kabbalistic work, Avnei Zikkaron, translated into Spanish by F. Cantera (1928).


(d. 1840), rabbi and hasidic leader in the Ukraine. Abraham succeeded his father David as rabbi of Khmelnik. He subsequently became rabbi in Ovruch and Zhitomir. He was a devoted disciple of Nahum of Chernobyl, and after Nahum’s death kept in contact with his son Mordecai. Abraham Dov went to Erez Israel in 1831, settling in Safed, where he became leader of the H asidim. During the calamities which struck Safed at that time, caused by Druze attacks and an earthquake, Abraham organized relief and encouraged the people to remain. His teachings are recorded in his book Bat Avin (Jerusalem, 1847).


Fiscal agent of Sancho iv of Castile, 1284-95. Abraham was born in Toledo. His close connection with Don Lope de Haro, a grandee of Sancho’s court, helped to augment his influence. After holding various fiscal offices, Sancho leased him his principal state revenues, including the prerogative to mint gold coins, the collection of the debts of Jewish creditors, receipts from fines and penalties imposed for fiscal offenses, export duties, and the arrears of all the taxes farmed during the reign of Sancho’s father, Alfonso x. Abraham was also authorized to regain for the Crown all alienated estates. A series of documents of 1287-88 dealing with this matter bears his signature in Hebrew. Abraham continued in office even after Lope de Haro’s execution in 1289, now working in partnership with the poet Todros Halevi.


(tenth century), head of the Palestinian yeshivah. Abraham was a great-grandson of the gaon *Aaron b. Meir who was involved with *Saadiah in the calendar controversy of 921-22. The view that Abraham was the founder of the Palestinian gaonate has been shown to be untenable, since this gaonate existed at least a century before Abraham and its supremacy was then recognized by its Babylonian counterpart. Manuscripts of genealogical tables mentioning Abraham refer to four of his sons. One of them, Aaron, became the successor to his father’s successor, Josiah, av bet din. Isaac was "third man" (i.e., next in rank to the av bet din) under Abraham’s immediate successor, Joseph ha-Kohen, i.e., while Meir was head of the academy (rosh ha-seder), probably in Egypt.


(d. c. 1760), h asid, talmudic scholar, and kabbalist. He was probably born in Kutow (Kuty), Ukraine, where his father was rabbi. He was the brother-in-law of *Israel b. Eliezer Ba’al Shem Tov. As a youth, he moved to Brody where he continued to study at a klaus. According to hasidic tradition, Abraham resented his sister’s marriage to the Ba’al Shem Tov and at first slighted him, but later became one of his most ardent disciples. In 1747 he went to Erez; Israel, intending to spread the teachings of H asidism there, settling first in Hebron and later in Jerusalem. He formed especially close ties with the Sephardi scholars in Jerusalem and in other countries. The correspondence between him and Israel Ba’al Shem Tov is an important source of information for the beginnings of the h asidic movement. According to a tradition transmitted by R. Israel of Kuznitz,R. Abraham Gershon told the Besht how ideal prayer is connected to a divestment of corporeality and the speech of the Shekhinah from the throat of the person who prays.


(apparently early 11th century), grammarian. Abraham ha-Bavli is mentioned by Abraham Ibn Ezra and Jacob b. Meir (Rabbenu Tam). His Sefer ha-Shorashim ("Book of Roots"), only part of which has been published (1863), deals with roots of one to four letters, interchanges in the order of the root letters, homonymic roots, and an elision or interchange of one of the root letters for another letter. Some scholars mistakenly identify him with the Karaite grammarian David b. Abraham *Alfasi.


(15th century), leader of the Jerusalem community. Abraham went on a mission to the Mediterranean islands and Italy in 1455, two years after the Turkish capture of Constantinople. The capture had aroused many messianic hopes among Jews in Jerusalem. These hopes were strengthened by the tales told by pilgrims from Babylonia, Persia, and Yemen. They told of a war in Ethiopia against the Christians, an earthquake in Jerusalem which uncovered remains of the First Temple, the expulsion of the Franciscans from Mount Zion, and the dream of an aged Babylonian kabbalist to the effect that the "Prince" (Guardian Angel) of Israel would overcome the "Prince" of Edom (Rome). Abraham also appealed for help in maintaining the holy places of Jerusalem. In the course of his mission he arrived at Corfu, then under Venetian rule. There he was denounced to the authorities, who destroyed his credentials. Abraham’s letters are an important source for the history of the Jewish community in Jerusalem in the 15th century.


(1750-1816), Gali-cian rabbi. Abraham studied under his father Gedaliah b. Benjamin Wolf, who was av bet din in Zloczow. He was a disciple of *Dov Baer the "Maggid of Mezhirech," *Jacob Joseph of Po-lonnoye, and *Jehiel Michel of Zloczow. He was also a pupil of the two brothers: Samuel Shmelka Horowitz of Nikolsburg and Phinehas Levi Horowitz, his first father-in-law. When Is-sachar Baer (his father-in-law by his second marriage) immigrated to Erez Israel, Abraham H ayyim succeeded him as av bet din of Zloczow. He was a brilliant exegete and facile writer, possessed of an easy, graceful style, and is referred to as a "learned exponent of hasidic thought." His Orah Hayyim (Zolkiew, 1817) on the Bible is a treasury of thoughts and sayings of the h asidic rabbis. It was published posthumously by his stepson, Joseph Azriel b. H ayyim Aryeh Leibush, with an introduction by Ephraim Zalman Margolioth, who praises his piety and charity and gives biographical details. Abraham Hayyim wrote a commentary on Pirkei Avot, Peri Hayyim (1873), and a commentary on the Haggadah, under the same name (1873).


(also "Novy Bydzov-Israelites"), Bohemian judaizing sect, a product of the Counter-Reformation. They revered the Old Testament, rejected the Trinity, abstained from pork, and rested on Saturday; some members practiced circumcision. The existence of the sect became known to the authorities in 1747 in the region of *Novy Bydzov. A commission of inquiry was then appointed and proceedings were instituted against 60 Abrahamites, which lasted until 1748, when the leader, Jan Pita, a tailor, and three others were executed. As Pita admitted to having had contact with Novy Bydzov Jews, one of them, R. Mendel, was burnt at the stake (1750) after separate proceedings; others of the accused Jews adopted Catholicism. The sect continued clandestinely until the patent of toleration of non-Catholics was issued in 1781, when the Abrahamites came into the open. However, since they refused to comply with an official injunction to declare themselves either Christian or Jewish, they were deported to garrisons on the Hungarian border and the men forced into military service. The sect subsequently disintegrated.


(Opatow;d. 1825), Polish h asidic *zaddik, known as "the Rabbi of Apta." He was the disciple of *Elimelech of Lyzhansk (Lezhaisk) and possibly also of the maggid *Jehiel Michel of Zloczow (Zolo-cher). He served as rabbi of the communities of Kolbuszowa Apta (Opatow) from 1809 to 1813 and Jassy (Moldavia), in 1813-14 settling in Medzibozh (Podolia), where he lived until his death. Abraham strongly opposed the maskilim in Brody for disseminating what he considered heretical ideas among Russian Jewry. Following the discriminatory legislation passed by Czar ^Alexander 1, depriving Jewish contractors (aren-dars) and taverners of their livelihood, Abraham and Isaac of Radzivilow ordered a public fast. As president of the Volhyn-ian kolel, he was active in fundraising for the community in Erez Israel. Acknowledged as an authority by many zaddikim in his old age, Abraham was called upon to excommunicate deviationists in the controversy between the Bratslav and *Przysucha (Pshiskha) H asidim, and did his best to promote unity and peace in the hasidic camp.

Abraham left instructions that his sole epitaph should be Ohev Yisrael (a lover of Israel), a description by which he is remembered among the H asidim. The problems of Jewish leadership and care for his people exercised his imagination, and he would recount fantastic "reminiscences" about the events he said that he had witnessed in former incarnations as high priest, a king of Israel, nasi, and exilarch. His revelations were regarded by the Hasidim as mysteries of the type experienced by *Rabbah b. Bar H ana. A religious ecstatic, he delivered homilies on Sabbaths and festivals emphasizing love of the Creator and the importance of cleaving (*devekut) to Him. He exerted a wide popular influence. His adherents believed that the violent gestures with which he accompanied the sermons denoted hitpashetut ha-gashmiyyut (the shedding of bodily existence). One of Abraham Joshua Heschel’s contemporaries recounts that "in the midst of the meal, when the spirit was upon him, he cried out in a loud and dolorous voice and gesticulated; his head fell back almost to his heels, and all the people who sat round the sacred table, trembled and feared. and he started to relate secrets of the Torah and hidden mysteries; he opened his saintly mouth and spoke with great fervor; his face was [like] a torch, he raised his voice in ecstasy." Nevertheless, Abraham Joshua Heschel concentrated on the system of practical Z addikism and held that the zaddik "through his wisdom lifts up Israel to bind them to heaven and to bring prosperity, blessing, and life from the source of blessings" His works include Torat Emet (Lemberg, 1854) and Ohev Yisrael (Zhitomir, 1863).

Abraham’s son isaac meir (d. 1855) succeeded his father as zaddik of Medzibozh, later moving to nearby Zinkov. His grandson meshullam zussia (d. 1886) was also zaddik in Zinkov; he edited his grandfather’s sermons, Ohev Yisrael. His descendants continued to be revered as zaddikim in various places in Podolia (Krolevets, Kopycznce, Ternopol).


(Abraham of Bohemia; d. 1533), banker and tax collector. Abraham first served as banker to Ladislas ii, king of Hungary and Bohemia. He emigrated to Poland in about 1495 and settled in *Cracow. Armed with recommendations from Ladislas and Maximilian i of Germany, he soon became banker to the Polish king Alexander Jagellonski and later to Sigismund i. In 1512 Sigis-mund appointed him collector of the taxes paid by the Jews in Greater Poland and Masovia, and in 1514 the office was extended to include the Jews throughout Poland. The king warned the Jews, and especially the rabbis, to cooperate with him and not to interfere with him by excommunicating him, or in any other way. Abraham was several times acknowledged to be under the sole jurisdiction of the king. Abraham used his influence to act as *shtadlan at the royal court for his fellow Jews. Sigismund had to remind the Jews of Cracow to pay the promised 200 florins to Abraham "for defending them against accusations brought up against them." In 1518 Abraham was granted freedom of commerce and banking in all Poland. According to tradition he was the father (or grandfather) of Mordecai *Jaffe.


(second half of 15th century), Portuguese traveler and linguist. He was apparently also a Hebrew scholar and styled "rabbi" for that reason. In 1485 King Joao ii of Portugal sent Joao Perez of Covilhao across Africa to investigate the country of the mythical Christian king Prester John, and to discover the land route to India. Impressed by Abraham’s knowledge of languages, King Joao sent him across the Mediterranean to join up with the expedition together with another Jew, Joseph Capatiero, who already had travel experience in the East. In due course he linked up with Perez in Egypt and continued with him as far as Ormuz in India. At that point he was left to return westward by the caravan route, via Damascus and Aleppo.


(early ninth century), merchant in Muslim Spain who traded mostly with the Franks and eventually settled in the Frankish kingdom. There he received (around 835) a privilegium from Louis the Pious, one of the three extant privileges granted to Jewish merchants by a Carolingian monarch. It became the standard for succeeding privileges, including the following aspects: court oaths and trial procedures, services and representation, right to trade, and imperial protection. According to this privilege, Abraham entrusted himself to the emperor in a manner similar to a royal vassal.


(late 15th century), Italian Hebrew poet. Abraham was born in Sarteano, Tuscany. He wrote a poem of 50 tercets entitled "Sone ha-Nashim" ("The Woman Hater") in which he denounces women, drawing examples from the Bible, from rabbinic legends, and from Greek and Roman history and mythology. The poem aroused a spirited literary controversy over the merit of women which continued into the 16th century. Abraham’s remarks were challenged by Avigdor Fano in Ozer Nashim and by Elijah *Genazzano in Melizot.


Family of English rabbis and scholars. ABRAHAM suzman (c. 1801-1880) migrated from Poland to England in 1837, becoming principal shohet in London in 1839. He spent the end of his life in Palestine. He wrote an autobiography Zekhor le-Avraham (1860). His son barnett (1831-1863) was the dayyan of the Sephardi community in London (although himself an Ashkenazi) and was appointed principal of Jews’ College in 1856. A graduate of |University College, London, he was the first English rabbi to hold a British university degree. He died at the age of only 32 of acute rheumatism. Barnett’s three sons, Joseph, Moses, and Israel, devoted their lives to serving the Jewish community. Joseph (1855-1938) was rabbi in Melhourne, Australia, from 1883 to 1923 and rabbi emeritus from 1924 until his death. He helped found the United Jewish Education Board of Victoria and was its president (1896-1901). He wrote a number of monographs on Jewish subjects, the most important one being The Sources of Midrash Echah Rabba (Berlin, 1883). moses (1860-1919) was the minister of the Jewish community of Leeds. He was the author of Aquila’s Greek Version of the Hebrew Bible (1919). Israel "Abrahams was a noted scholar.


Family of English athletes. sir adolphe abrahams (1883-1967), physician and author, studied at Cambridge, where he was sculling champion (1904-05). During World War i he was a major in the Royal Medical Corps and subsequently held several important medical posts in London hospitals. He was also medical officer in charge of the British Olympic teams from 1912 until 1948, president of the British Association of Sports and Medicine, and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. His many publications included: The Photography of Moving Objects (1910); Indigestion (1920); Woman – Mans Equal? (1954); and two books written with his brother, Harold: Training for Athletes (1928) and Training for Health and Athletics (1936).

Sir Sidney ("solly") abrahams (1885-1957), British colonial official, brother of Adolphe and Harold. Born in Birmingham, he studied at Cambridge and entered the British Colonial Service, becoming town magistrate in Zanzibar (1915), advocate general, Baghdad (1920), attorney general of Zanzibar (1922), chief justice of Uganda (1933-34), Tanganyika (1934-36), and Ceylon (1936-39). A noted athlete, he represented Cambridge in the long jump (1904-06) and the 100-yard dash (1906), and competed for Great Britain in the 100-meter race and long jump in the 1906 Olympics, finishing fifth in the long jump with a leap of 6.21 meters. He also competed in the long jump at the 1912 Olympics, finishing in 11th place with a jump of 6.72 meters, just shy of 22-feet. Sidney was elected president in 1947 of Britain’s oldest athletic club, the London Athletic Club, becoming the first Jew to hold the post.

Harold maurice abrahams (1899-1978), athlete and lawyer who became the first European to win an Olympic sprint title when he won the 100-meter dash in 1924. Born in Bedford, he began racing at the age of eight following his brother Solly, and at the age of 12 won his first 100-yard race in 14.0 seconds. He won the English public schools’ 100-yard dash and long jump titles in 1918. He studied at Cambridge, where he won eight victories against Oxford in the 100-yard, 440-yard, and long jump from 1920 to 1923. Harold was also the president of the university’s Athletic Club.

At the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, Harold was a member of the sixth place 4 x 100-meter team, but failed to advance past the preliminary heats in the sprints or long jump. In 1924 Harold established a British long jump record of 24 feet, 2/ inches, a record that stood for the next 32 years. Six months before the 1924 Games, Harold hired a personal coach, Sam Mussabini, thus becoming the first British amateur to pay for a personal trainer. At the 1924 Olympics, he won a silver medal in the 4 x 100-meter (41.2), and finished in sixth place in the 200-meter finals. For the 100-meter final, his key British rival, Eric Liddell, withdrew from the competition because it was held on Sunday and Liddell was a devout Christian. Facing his main competition against Americans Jackson Scholz and Charles Paddock – the 1920 gold medallist and world-record holder – Harold surprised everyone by winning the gold medal in 10.6 seconds.

Soon after his Olympic triumph of 1924, he suffered an injury while long jumping and retired from international athletics. He remained a prominent figure in the athletics world however, and was captain of the British Olympic team (1928) and chairman of the British Amateur Athletic Board from 1968 to 1975. He also reported on athletics for English press and radio. During World War ii, he served in the Ministry of Economic Warfare, was head of the statistics section (1941-42), and in 1946 became an assistant secretary at the Ministry of Town Planning. He became one of the most famous Olympic athletes in history with the release of the film Chariots of Fire in 1981, which told of the struggles of Harold, Liddell, and Mussabini.

Philip Noel-Baker, Britain’s 1912 Olympic captain and a Nobel Prize winner, wrote of Harold in 1948: "I have always believed that Harold Abrahams was the only European sprinter who could have run with Jesse Owens, Ralph Metcalfe, and the other great sprinters from the U.S. He was in their class, not only because of natural gifts – his magnificent physique, his splendid racing temperament, his flair for the big occasion – but because he understood athletics, and had given more brainpower and more willpower to the subject than any other runner of his day."

Harold wrote several books, including Sprinting (1925), Athletics (1926), The Olympic Games, 1896-1952, and The Rome Olympiad (1960).


(also known as Abraham ben Naphtali Tang; d. 1792), English scholar; grandson of the Prague dayyan Abraham Taussig Neu-Greschel (d. 1699) and like his grandfather signed himself with the Hebrew initials y’30 (tng) and therefore generally known as Tang. Apparently born and brought up in London, Abrahams was well-grounded in Jewish and secular studies. In 1772 under the pseudonym "A Primitive Hebrew" he published an English translation of the mishnaic tractate Avot including *Maimo-nides’ commentary and observations of his own. He also wrote two parallel mystical commentaries in Hebrew on Ecclesias-tes (1773, unpublished), which include a concise account of classical mythology, with quotations from Ovid, Vergil, and Seneca. A Hebrew treatise (unpublished) attempts to establish the politico-historical setting of the talmudic reference to the "sages of Athens" (Bek. 8b). Abrahams also translated into Hebrew William Congreve’s Mourning Bride (1768, Ms. in Jews’ College, London). He had some ability as a scribe and copied and illuminated a Passover Haggadah (now in the Jewish Museum, London). He was a pronounced English patriot and a political radical.

Another abraham abrahams (d. 1813) criticized the tax system in Hampstead in the Book of Assessment (1811), the earliest work of this type by an English Jew.


(1897-1955), English author, editor, and Zionist leader. Abrahams was head of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s New York Bureau in 1933 and editor of The Jewish Standard from 1940 to 1948, after which he took an increasingly active part in the strengthening of the Zionist Revisionist Movement. For a time he was political secretary of the Revisionist Party in England. Abrahams published Poems (1932) and Background of Unrest (1945); his wife, Rachael Beth-Zion Abrahams, was also a writer and journalist.


(1720-1796), religious official and merchant, who was known throughout the American Colonies as a mohel and Hebrew teacher. He spent most of his life in New York City. The Congregation Shearith Israel directed him to "keep a publick school in the hebra [community hall] to teach the Hebrew language, and translate the same into English, also to teach English Reading, Writing and Cyphering." He was "rabbi" of the congregation from 1761 and hazzan from 1766. In addition to his religious duties, he was a distiller, snuff maker, tobacconist, and merchant, and was elected a constable in New York City in 1753.


(1907-1980), British lawyer, chess master, and writer on chess. Abrahams was born in Liverpool. At 18 he developed the "Abrahams Defense" adopted by many noted players. He won several championships in Britain and prizes in international master tournaments. His books include Teach Yourself Chess (1948); The Chess Mind (1951); Technique in Chess (1961); and Lets Look at Israel (1966). Abrahams also wrote several original works on Jewish identity, including The Jewish Mind (1961), and many works on law.


(1756-1832?), physician. He was the first Jewish graduate of Columbia (Kings) College, receiving an A.B. degree from that institution in 1774. At commencement he delivered a Latin oration "On Concord." After 1786 Abrahams took up permanent residence in New York where he became involved in the affairs of the synagogue, as he previously had done in Philadelphia and Baltimore. He served as president of the Congregation Shearith Israel in 1801. There is some difficulty in an exact identification since there was at least one other contemporary of the same name.


(1858-1925), English scholar. In 1902 he was appointed reader in rabbinic and talmudic literature at Cambridge, succeeding Solomon *Schechter. He played a considerable role in the university, both personal and scholastic, and had some distinguished non-Jewish pupils. For many years his home was the focus of university Jewish life. His influence was greater, however, as a writer than as a teacher, and over many years he was the chief exponent of Jewish scholarship in England. Although in some respects a popularizer, even his most ephemeral writings were nevertheless distinguished by their scholarship, just as his most learned writings did not lack charm. He was also one of the founders of and most devoted workers for the *Jewish Historical Society of England and similar bodies. In religion, he favored extreme reform and was the intellectual bulwark of the Jewish Religious Union when it was established in 1902, and of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue which developed out of it. Though not ordained as rabbi or minister, he was a frequent lay preacher. His most important works were his Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (1896; 2nd ed. by C. Roth based on author’s materials, 1932); Studies in Pharisaism and the Gospels (2 vols., 1917-24); Hebrew Ethical Wills (2 vols., 1926); notes to the Authorized Daily Prayer Book edited by his father-in-law, S. Singer (1914); and numerous collections of essays on Jewish literature. His weekly literary causeries and reviews over the signature I.A. were for many years a feature of the *Jewish Chronicle, and when in 1919 the anti-Zionist Jewish Guardian was founded, he was among its literary mainstays. Nevertheless, he was an ardent advocate of the establishment of a Jewish university in Jerusalem, even as early as 1908 when he visited Erez; Israel (cf. Jewish Chronicle, Feb. 28, 1908). He edited the *Jewish Quarterly Review, from its establishment in 1888 down to 1908, in association with his friend, collaborator, and supporter Claude G. *Montefiore. Abrahams was an ardent champion of Britain, viewing it as more favorable to its Jews than any other European country.


(1903-1973), South African rabbi and scholar. Born in Vilna and educated at Jews’ College and London University, he was rabbi in London and Manchester before going to South Africa in 1937 as chief rabbi of the Cape Town Hebrew Congregation. In 1951 he became chief rabbi of the United Council of Hebrew Congregations of the Cape. From 1938 he held the chair of Hebrew at Cape Town University. He retired in 1967 and settled in Israel. An eloquent speaker, he held high office in all important communal institutions in Cape Town and was especially active in promoting the Zionist movement and Jewish education. He was a consulting editor to the Encyclopaedia Judaica. His major scholarly work was his translation into English of *Cassuto’s Hebrew commentaries: Documentary Hypothesis (1961); The Book of Genesis, 2 pts: From Adam to Noah (1961) and From Noah to Abraham (1964); Exodus (1967); and The Goddess Anath (1970); he also translated tractate Hagigah for the Soncino Talmud (1938). His other writings include: a history of Cape Jewry, The Birth of a Community (1955); Pathways in Judaism (1968); and Living Waters (1968).


(1935- ), British sculptor. Abrahams was born in Wigan, England, and studied in London. He was later apprenticed to a bronze foundry and worked as a display artist before becoming a teacher of sculpture in 1960; between 1960 and 1970 he lectured at a number of British art schools. His sculpture was always informal, using unusual, non-sculptural materials. His first one-man exhibition was in 1962, but it was not until 1970 that he established his reputation when he held his first exhibition in New York. He subsequently exhibited his work regularly in America, London, and Europe. His three-dimensional prints, incorporating collage techniques, won him international fame. Abrahams is represented in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, Bibliotheque Natio-nale, Paris, Boymans Museum, Rotterdam, and other public collections throughout the world. In 1991 he was elected to the Royal Academy.


(1869-1919), English civil servant and Anglo-Jewish historian, nephew of Israel "Abrahams. A graduate of Balliol College, Oxford, in 1902 Abrahams became financial secretary for India, in which capacity he successfully reorganized the Indian currency. In 1912 he was appointed assistant undersecretary of state for India. As an Oxford student, he wrote The Expulsion of the Jews from England in 1290 (1895). He contributed a number of important studies on the medieval period to the Transactions of the Jewish Historical Society of England. He was president of the society from 1916 to 1918. In 1912 he became involved in what became known as the "Indian Silver Case," in which accusations were made that a Jewish merchant bank in London had improperly suggested that an order for silver required by the Indian government be placed with its firm. As a result, antisemitic innuendos about Abrahams and others were made in sections of Britain’s press, but those named were cleared of any wrongdoing by a House of Commons Select Committee.


(1798-1870), Danish author and literary scholar. After graduating from the University of Copenhagen, Abrahams taught there from 1829 and became professor of French literature after his baptism in 1832. Abrahams, who helped to popularize French culture in Denmark, published a Description des manuscrits fran-gais du Moyen-Age de la Bibliotheque Royale de Copenhague (1844). His autobiography, Meddelelser af mit liv (1876), appeared posthumously.


Designation in the New Testament (Luke 16:22-31) of the abode of the blessed souls of the pious and poor in the other world (compare iv Macc. 13:17; Matt. 8:11, where all three patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, are enumerated as those in whose company the pious souls dwell). The Hebrew expression be-heiko shel Avraham ("in Abraham’s bosom") is mentioned in aggadic literature (e.g., PR 43:180b) dealing with the martyrdom of Miriam (*Hannah) and her seven sons. She urges her youngest child to die for the sancti-fication of God’s name, saying: "O my son, do you wish that all thy brethren sit in Abraham’s bosom, except you?" Abraham’s bosom is mentioned also in Midrash ha-Gadol to Genesis (ed. Margulies (1947), 206) and in the Talmud (Kid. 72b) where it probably refers to the covenant of Abraham (see also PdRK (1868), 25b, S. Buber’s emendation). In Christian mythology, Abraham’s bosom stands also for the abode in the netherworld of the unbaptized children and for purgatory, from where, after punishment, Abraham conducts the purified souls into paradise. This notion is hinted at in the talmudic passage (Er. 19a) which describes Abraham as shielding from punishment in hell all those who have not effaced the sign of circumcision (compare also, Gen. R. 48:8). Whether Abraham’s bosom is the abode of bliss, or, on the contrary, a place in Gehenna, it expresses the popular Jewish belief about Abraham as the warden in paradise and protector of the meritorious souls in the other world.


(1903-2002), U.S. criminologist and psychiatrist. Born in Trondheim, Norway, Abraha-msen worked in Oslo and London. In 1940 he moved to the United States, where from 1948 to 1952 he served as director of scientific research at Sing Sing Prison. He was research associate at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons from 1944 to 1953 and founded the university’s Forum for the Study and Prevention of Crime. In 1966 he was appointed medical and psychiatric director of the Foundation for the Prevention of Addictive Diseases. Abrahamsen taught at Columbia University, Yale Law School, the New York School of Social Work, and the New School for Social Research, New York.

While he wrote several books on psychological themes -Men Mind and Power (1945); The Road to Emotional Maturity (1958); The Emotional Care of Your Child (1969) – Abraham-sen’s works are principally devoted to criminological subjects. They include Crime and the Human Mind (1944); Study of 102 Sex Offenders at Sing Sing Prison (1950); Who Are the Guilty? -A Study of Education and Crime (1952); The Psychology of Crime (1960); "Study of Lee Harvey Oswald: Psychological Capability of Murder," in: New York Academy of Medicine Bulletin, 43 (1967), 861-88; Our Violent Society (1970); The Murdering Mind (1973); The Mind of the Accused: A Psychiatrist in the Courtroom (1983); Confessions of Son of Sam (1985); Murder and Madness: The Secret Life of Jack the Ripper (1992); and Nixon vs. Nixon: An Emotional Tragedy (1997). Abrahamsen’s interest in Jewish life is seen in Jeger Jode ("I Am a Jew," 1935), a cultural and humanitarian document about the life of Jews and their contribution to culture.

In 1982 he donated a large collection of his papers to Columbia University’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, dating from 1902 to 1981. The papers relate primarily to the research and interviews he conducted while writing Nixon vs. Nixon and to his close relationship and correspondence with convicted multiple murderer David Berkowitz. There are more than 140 letters to Abrahamsen from Berkowitz, aka "Son of Sam," who murdered a succession of young people in New York City in the mid-1970s. The papers also reflect Abrahamsen’s interest in other famous crimes, such as the Leopold/ Loeb kidnapping and murder of Bobby Franks, and in politics (particularly Adlai Stevenson’s 1952 campaign).


(1780-1828), rabbi and posek in Poland. In his youth he lived in Piotrkow near Lodz, where he studied under his grandfather, Solomon b. Jehiel Michel, and Moses, the av bet din. In 1800 he served as rabbi of Pilica, and later, before 1819, as av bet din of Piotrkow. In formulating his rulings Abraham Z evi utilized the pil-pul method employed in the Urim ve-Tummim of Jonathan *Eybeschuetz, the Noda bi-Yhudah of Ezekiel *Landau, and the Haflaah of Phinehas *Horowitz. He gave his rabbinical works the general title Efod Zahav, but designated each by a special name. The only two that have been published are Berit Avraham (Dyhernfurth, 1819), responsa on sections of the Shulhan Arukh, and Gufei Halakhot (pt. 1, Lodz, 1911), novellae to the tractates Shabbat, Pesahim, and Ketubbot. Remaining in manuscript form are Maalot Yuhasin, novellae to the Even ha-Ezer; Halvaat Tien, novellae on the halakhot concerning usury; pt. 2 of his Gufei Halakhot containing novellae on the rulings of the great posekim; and Paamonei Za-hav, his sermons.


(16th century), agent and diplomat in the service of the Portuguese viceroys in *Goa, India, from 1575 to 1594; Abrahao’s full name and personal background are unknown. That he played a leading role in the affairs of Portuguese India is attested to by numerous letters preserved in the Portuguese historical archives in Goa. These letters praise him for his trustworthiness and reliability, and the continual reference to him as "Coje Abrahao Judeo" shows his Jewish identity. Abrahao was entrusted with important diplomatic missions to the rulers of the kingdom of Bijapur, and accompanied the ambassador of Shah Yusuf Ali Adil of Bijapur on a diplomatic mission to Portugal in 1575. As a reward for his services, King Sebastian of Portugal granted Abrahao a pension in 1576. In 1582, on behalf of Portugal, he was attestor to a peace treaty with the shah.


(1918-2000), U.S. attorney, civic leader, second president of Brandeis University. Abram was born in Fitzgerald, Ga. Following service as a major in Air Force Intelligence during World War ii, Abram was counsel in the U.S. prosecution staff at the Nuremberg Trials (1946), then assistant to the director for the Marshall Plan (1948). As counsel for the Anti-Defamation League in the South (from 1955), as well as member of several civic committees, Abram led a prolonged fight against the Georgia county unit election system, which culminated in a 1963 Supreme Court ruling known as the one-man one-vote principle. Abram was appointed the first general counsel of the Peace Corps by President Kennedy, later serving in several positions in the United Nations, to which he was appointed by Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. He was an appointee of three additional presidents – Jimmy *Carter, Ronald *Reagan, and George H.W. *Bush. He led U.S. delegations to numerous international meetings, including the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the former Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and was a former vice chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

As president of the American Jewish Committee, 1963 to 1968, Abram led talks on Catholic-Jewish relations with Pope Paul. He was president of Brandeis University from 1968 to 1970. He served as chairman of the National Conference on Soviet Jewry (ncsj) from 1983 until 1988, at the peak of the movement to free Soviet Jews. During that period, he also served for three years as chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Under President Bush, he served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva and founded United Nations Watch following his term as ambassador. He was a president of the American Jewish Committee, chairman of the United Negro College Fund, and chairman of the board of Cardozo Law School.

For many years he was a senior partner at the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. Abram published The Day Is Short in 1982, in which he reviewed his career and his battle with an acute form of leukemia.


(1966- ), Russian billionaire of Jewish origin. Abramovich was born in Saratov of a non-Jewish mother who died soon after giving birth to him, and later defined himself as "Ukrainian." His father, Arkady Nahimovich, who worked at the Siktivkar economic council (sovnarkhoz), died in an accident when he was four years old. Abramovich was then adopted by his uncle Abram and lived with the family in Moscow, where he finished his secondary schooling. According to Abramovich, he graduated later from the Gubkin Institute of Oil and Gas. After the fall of Communism, Abramovich became active in business, taking over control of the Sibneft (Siberian oil) company after his mentor Boris *Berezovsky, who brought him into Yeltsin’s inner circle, fled the country in the wake of a criminal investigation. Abramovich also owned 50% of Rusal (Russia’s biggest aluminum company) and 26% of Aeroflot. In December 1999 he was elected deputy of the State Duma from the Chukotsk

Autonomous Region. In December 2000 he was elected governor of the region.

In 2003 Abramovich bought London’s Chelsea soccer club. He also owned the Russian Avangard Omsk ice hockey team. In 2003 he was included in Fortune magazine’s list of the world’s richest men under 40, with his personal wealth estimated at $8.3 billion. In the same year Forbes also included Abramovich in its list of billionaires, placing his wealth at $5.7 billion.


(Jacob, also Men-dele Moykher Sforim; 1835 or 1836-1917), Hebrew and Yiddish writer, often called the "grandfather" of modern Judaic literature. Abramovitsh was born in Kapulia (Kopyl), near Minsk; he lived in Berdichev from 1858 to 1869 and subsequently in Zhitomir. In 1881 he was appointed principal of the talmud torah in Odessa, a position he held until 1916 – except for two years spent in Geneva, Switzerland, following his traumatic experience of the 1905 pogroms. Abramovitsh’s long life spanned several periods in the development of Jewish society in Eastern Europe: the *Haskalah and the period of reform under Czar ^Alexander ii, the aftermath of the 1881 pogroms, *Hibbat Zion, the Socialism of the *Bund, and Zionism.

Abramovitsh began his literary career as a Hebrew essayist and fiction writer but soon turned to Yiddish. With five short novels written between 1864 and 1878, he laid the foundation for modern Yiddish fiction. In 1886, he returned to Hebrew with a series of short stories that literary historians have often viewed as a seminal contribution to the revival of modern Hebrew literature. He also expanded his early Yiddish works and translated them into Hebrew. As an integral member of the Jewish intelligentsia in Odessa, Abramovitsh was in contact with the Yiddish writer *Sholem Aleichem, with the historian Simon *Dubnow, and with Hebrew writers such as H.N. *Bialik, Y.H. *Rawnitzki, and *Ahad Ha-Am.

Readers and critics have often referred to Abramovitsh as "Mendele Moykher Sforim" ("Mendele the Book Peddler"), yet Dan Miron showed in A Traveler Disguised (1973; 1996) that this is misleading. First appearing in 1864 and evolving in Yiddish and Hebrew over the next half century, Mendele is a character or persona in Abramovitsh’s works. Hence it is inaccurate to use the designation as if it were simply the author’s pen name. Abramovitsh seems to have created the Mendele persona as a way of reaching a broad readership. Instead of speaking from above, as did many Hebrew maskilim, he uses the folksy Mendele as his mouthpiece. Sometimes the enlightened Abramovitsh employs irony at the expense of the more naive Mendele. The Jubilee editions of his complete works, in both Hebrew (1909-12) and Yiddish (1911-13), try to circumvent this problem by having it both ways, using a title followed by a parenthesis: Ale verk fun Mendele Moykher Sforim (S.Y. Abramovitsh).

Abramovitsh was the son of H ayyim Moyshe Broyde, a prosperous and respected man who was one of the outstanding talmudic scholars in the small town of Kapulia. Situated in the Minsk province of Czarist Russia (now Belarus), this shtetl was culturally associated with Jewish Lithuania ("Lita"). Hence Abramovitsh was schooled in the prevailing Lithuanian rabbinic style, with emphasis on the Hebrew Bible, its Aramaic translation, and the Talmud. He received an unusually rigorous heder education from a talented melammed (teacher) named Yose Rubens; according to Abramovitsh’s own account, during his years at heder he memorized most of the Hebrew Bible. Instructed by Rubens until the age of 11, Abramovitsh was impressed by his artistic abilities as a wood carver. Following the death of his father in about 1849, Abramovitsh studied at yeshivot in Timkovitz, Slutsk, and Vilna. After two years in Slutsk he returned to live with his mother, now remarried and living in the picturesque village of Mielnik, which was surrounded by a forest. His experiences there may be reflected in his story "Dos Tosefos-Yontev Kelbl" ("The Calf," 1911), in which a yeshivah boy returns home and becomes engrossed by the world of nature. At about the age of 17, Abramovitsh wrote his first Hebrew poetry, consisting of odes to nature in the neo-Biblical style known as melizah.

Abramovitsh later traveled south with an aunt in an effort to find her husband, who had fled his creditors when his business failed. Their resourceful guide, Avreml Khromoi (Abraham the Lame), regaled them with stories about the better life that awaited them in Volhynia. Avreml did not travel by the shortest route but made as many stops as possible to collect charity. The difficult experiences during these circuitous travels became the impetus for Abramovitsh’s greatest Yiddish novel, Fishke der Krumer ("Fishke the Lame," 1869/1888). At the end of their journeys Abramovitsh settled in Kamenets-Podolski, where he was briefly married to a mentally ill woman. There he also met the maskilic author Avra-ham-Ber Gottlober, probably his model for the impoverished writer Herr Gutmann in Dos Kleyne Mentshele ("The Little Man," 1864). Although Gottlober was not impressed by the juvenile Hebrew verses that the young Abramovitsh showed him, he recognized his talent. As a teacher at the government school for Jewish boys, Gottlober was able to direct Abramo-vitsh’s studies and introduce him to the wider world of literature, mathematics, and science. With the assistance of Got-tlober’s daughters, Abramovitsh learned German and Russian, passed a teacher’s examination, and taught at the Kamenets-Podolski government school in 1856-58. During that time education became the subject of his first publication, "Mikhtav al Devar ha-Hinukh" ("A Letter on Education," 1857), published with Gottlober’s help in the Hebrew journal Ha-Maggid.

Abramovitsh married Pessie Levin in 1858 and moved with her to Berdichev, supported by his father-in-law, while he continued his autodidactic education and literary activities. Berdichev was heavily populated by hasidim, which led Abramovitsh into conflict with a form of Jewish life that he had seldom encountered in the north, except during his studies in Timkovitz. His fiction, in which a town resembling Berdichev is called "Glupsk" (= a town of fools), expressed his hostility toward the Jewish community leaders. In Dos Vint-shfingerl ("The Wishing-Ring"), he mocked hasidic resistance to modernization: "The hasidim were not pleased, because Gutmann dressed like a German. And when the floor of the school was washed, they became furious. ‘What’s the meaning of this? To do such a thing in a school! What’s this, washing off the mud that our ancestors left behind?!’" (1865, p. 7).

In 1860 Abramovitsh published his first book, a collection of Hebrew essays entitled Mishpat Shalom ("The Judgment of Peace," alluding to the author’s name), which included a translated article on whether corporeal punishment of children is permissible. A cause of much subsequent debate was his lead essay, "Kilkul ha-Minim" ("The Confusion of Gender"), which critiqued a work by Eliezer Zweifel. He occupied himself with natural sciences and began to translate Harald Othmar Lenz’s Gemeinnutzige Naturgeschichte ("Natural History for General Use," 1835-39), which appeared in Hebrew as Sefer Toledot ha-Teva ("The Book of Natural History," 3 vols., 1862-73). This project reflected his concern that Jews were not sufficiently educated in matters of science and nature, yet it achieved limited results because the audience for secular Hebrew writing was small. Abramovitsh’s first Hebrew novel, Limdu Heitev ("Learn to Do Well") was published in Warsaw in 1862. The Russian title page calls it "a novel in the pure Hebrew language," which shows Abramovitsh’s early adherence to the literary principles of the Berlin Enlightenment, including a strong preference for the supposedly "pure language" (leshon zah) of the biblical prophets. Because he emulated that allusive, ornamental style, his early Hebrew writings were derivative and aesthetically unremarkable. He revised his short novel and published it under the new title Ha-Avot ve-ha-Banim ("Fathers and Children," 1868), alluding to the 1862 novel of the same title by Ivan Turgenev.

Prospects for advances in the Jews’ material conditions and educational privileges improved in the 1860s under Alexander 11. At that time, Abramovitsh followed the maskilic bent in the didactic goals of his fiction: according to his 1889 autobiographical account in Nahum *Sokolow’s Sefer Zik-karon, "I said to myself, here I am observing the ways of our people and seeking to give them stories from a Jewish source in the Holy Tongue, yet most of them do not even know this language and speak Yiddish. What good does a writer do with all of his toil and ideas if he is not useful to his people? This question – for whom do I toil? – gave me no rest and brought me into great confusion."

In November 1864, serialization of Abramovitsh’s Dos Kleyne Mentshele ("The Little Man"), to which many scholars trace the beginning of modern Yiddish literature, began in Kol Mevasser ("A Heralding Voice" – the Yiddish supplement to Ha-Meliz, edited by Alexander Tsederboym (*Zederbaum)). The book was reprinted in 1865 with the subtitle: Oder a Le-bensbashraybung fun Yitzhok Avrom Takif ("Or, a Life-description by the Powerful Man Isaac Abraham"). While no author’s name appeared on the title page, Abramovitsh hinted at his identity by attributing the book to "a man" (ish, Aleph-Yod-Shin, Abramovitsh’s initials in reverse). Such anonymity was a common stratagem among Yiddish authors, both because their political views often drew censure and because Yiddish writing was held in low esteem.

Abramovitsh raged against the complacent rich who, as he wrote in a letter to Lev Binshtok, "rest in the shadow of money." His own financial circumstances were especially difficult around 1866, when he published his second collection of Hebrew essays, Ein Mishpat ("Fountain of Judgment") and the second volume of Sefer Toledot ha-Teva, for which he drew terminology from talmudic sources and in this respect influenced modern Hebrew usage. Some critics believe that his descriptions of nature and animal behavior anticipate his later fiction.

At a time when modern Yiddish theater was still in its infancy, Abramovitsh wrote the play Di Takse ("The Tax," 1869; it bore the ironic subtitle: Oder di Bande Shtot Baley Toyves, "Or, the Gang of City Benefactors"). Written in order to advance his reformist goals, it is more successful as social criticism than as drama. He had encountered widespread corruption among the community leaders of Berdichev and depicted the wrongdoings of these false benefactors in a transparent satire. According to one account, the powerful men of Berdichev forced Abramovitsh to leave the town after his satiric portrayal was published. Abramovitsh then moved to Zhitomir, where he studied at the Rabbinical Institute. Since this school educated many young Jewish men seeking higher education, and not only would-be rabbis, it was not unusual that Abramovitsh ended his studies there without receiving a degree.

In the 1870s, Abramovitsh experimented with writing Yiddish verse, favoring outmoded tetrameter and pentameter couplets. His poetic efforts ranged from an allegorical poem about the Jewish people, "Yudl" (1875), to traditional Judaic literature. He wrote Yiddish translations of Sabbath songs called Zmires Yisroel ("Songs of Israel," 1875) and compiled nature hymns in a Yiddish adaptation of the h asidic Perek Shirah (1875). He planned to translate the prayer book and the Psalms into Yiddish, but this project remained unfinished and only fragments are extant. In contrast to the German maskilim, Abramovitsh (like Mendel Lefin) recognized the importance of reaching common Yiddish readers in their mother tongue while also combating the influence of the Tsene-Rene with its archaic language and heavy reliance on midrashic elaborations.

One of Abramovitsh’s most widely read books was his allegorical novel, Di Klyatshe; Oder Tsar Baley Khayim ("The Nag; or, Cruelty to Animals," 1873). Its epigraph quotes from Song of Songs 1:9, which Abramovitsh expands in Yiddish: "To my mare among Pharaoh’s chariots I compare you – People of Israel." During the period of reform between 1856 and 1881, the number of Jews at Russian high schools and universities increased from about 1% to over 10% of the total population of students. Yet Isrolik, a typical boy who has received a traditional Jewish education, runs into difficulties because of his unfamiliarity with subjects such as history and Slavic folklore. As he becomes mentally imbalanced, Isrolik hallucinates about meeting a talking horse and trying to improve her lot. Her sufferings are "as old as the Jewish exile," because she represents the fate of the Jewish people.

Unlike most of Abramovitsh’s fiction, which concentrates on Jewish life in the impoverished shtetlekh in the Pale of Settlement, Di Klyatshe presents a wider panorama of Czarist Russia, with special attention to relations among antisemites and Jews; hooligans who torment the nag obviously represent antisemites. There is even a critique of the well-intentioned maskilim, when Isrolik reads aloud his letter to a benevolent society – an oblique representation of the Society for the Spread of Enlightenment (ope). The nag refers to the ornamental, pseudo-biblical Hebrew style when she responds bitterly: "Melitza, melitza, melitza!" She rightly doubts whether any practical results will ensue from Isrolik’s highfalutin rhetoric. Yet Di Klyatshe was a bold political allegory: in one of his nightmarish fantasies, for instance, Ashmodai – the King of the Demons – seems to represent the Czar.

Kitser Masoes Binyomen Hashlishi ("The Brief Travels of Benjamin the Third," 1878) centers on a pair of hapless, would-be explorers, Benjamin and Senderl, who somewhat resemble Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. Instead of depicting a petty nobleman who has read too many chivalric romances and acts as if he inhabits one, Abramovitsh portrays Benjamin as a Jew who has read too many narratives about travel to the Holy Land. Abramovitsh attacks the impractical-ity and worldly ignorance of Benjamin and his sidekick Send-erl, because they are stereotypical traditional Jews whose life experience consists almost exclusively of Torah study. Benjamin’s provisions for travel consist of little more than his prayer book, prayer shawl, and tefillin; only Senderl has the sense to bring food. Their wives are market women who eke out a meager living and dominate their families. Toward the end of the book, Abramovitsh takes aim at the horrific phenomenon of khappers (press-gangs) who kidnap Jews for induction into the Czar’s army; in this comic account, however, Benjamin and Senderl are discharged because they prove to be more trouble than they are worth.

A reprint of Dos Kleyne Mentshele (1879) brought to a close the most productive period of Abramovitsh’s Yiddish writing. The comparatively optimistic period of reform begun in 1855 by Alexander 11, the so-called "Liberator Czar," had ended abruptly with his assassination in 1881 – followed by anti-Jewish pogroms and a period of reaction during which the conditions for Yiddish publishing also changed. During the same period Abramovitsh experienced personal and family troubles. His daughter Rashel, a talented art student, died in St. Petersburg, while his son Meir (Mikhail), a Russian poet, was exiled for political activism and later converted to Christianity. Abramovitsh described his malaise in a letter to Lev Binshtok on January 16, 1880: "As soon as I take up the pen, I feel an overwhelming heaviness: my hands are bound as if by magical chains" (see Dos Mendele Bukh, 107). On June 5, 1884, he wrote to another friend that "the misfortunes of the recent period have turned my heart into stone, so that my tongue has not allowed me to speak and my hands have not allowed me to write a word" (ibid., 128). For several years he produced no major works in Yiddish. Subsequently, in 1886-1896, as part of the movement to revive Hebrew, he devoted much of his creative energy to writing Hebrew short fiction.

In 1888, Sholem Aleichem sought out Abramovitsh, hoping to include his writings in the anthology he was editing, Di Folksbibliotek ("The Jewish Popular Library"). Their correspondence quickly assumed an intimate tone, with Sholem Aleichem referring to Abramovitsh as "Grandfather," while Abramovitsh referred to Sholem Aleichem as "Grandson" -although their difference in age was only 23 years. At first Abramovitsh was evasive, complaining of insufficient time because of his work as principal of the Odessa Talmud Torah, but he did contribute the first two parts of the expanded and quite altered version of Dos Vintshfingerl ("The Wishing-Ring," 1888-89). This narrative of Hershele’s impoverished childhood in Kabtsansk ("Beggarsville"), replete with irony and satire, still shows traces of nostalgia for shtetl life.

Although Abramovitsh had continued publishing sporadically in Hebrew throughout the 1870s, he devoted this decade mainly to writing in Yiddish. He returned to Hebrew with the story, "Be-Seter Ra’am" ("In the Secret Place of Thunder," 1886-87), his first Hebrew belletristic work since 1868. Hebrew became Abramovitsh’s literary focus in the 1890s, when in addition to publishing Hebrew short fiction he began translating his Yiddish novels. One of his most successful Hebrew stories is "Shem ve-Yefet ba-Aggalah" ("Shem and Japheth on the Train," 1890), in which Mendele the Book Peddler abandons his horse and carriage and travels in a third-class train compartment. There he meets Moyshe the Tailor, a latter-day Moses who has no Torah to offer beyond stratagems for the survival of the oppressed.

Following a decade in which Abramovitsh printed his Hebrew short fiction, 1896-97 saw the publication of Hebrew versions of Masaot Benyamin ha-Shlishi ("Travels of Benjamin the Third") and Be-Emek ha-Bakhah ("In the Vale of Tears"). A few years later, H .N. Bialik translated the first eight topics of Fishke der krumer ("Fishke the Lame") as Sefer ha-Kabezanim: Nun Kefufah ("The Book of Beggars: A Crooked Letter Nun," 1901), but Abramovitsh was not satisfied. For the most part Abramovitsh translated or adapted his own works into Hebrew. In the late novel Shloyme, Reb Khayims ("Solomon, Hayyim’s Son") – or, in Hebrew, Ba-Ya-mim ha-Hem ("In Those Days") – Abramovitsh is less satiric than in his early works.

Critical Assessment

Abramovitsh records the plight of Russian Jewry suffering tyranny and hate from without and exploitation by the Jewish upper classes from within. In some works Abramovitsh continues the Haskalah tradition of satirizing folk beliefs (e.g., in Fishke der Krumer and Kitser Masoes Binyomin ha-Shlishi). Elsewhere he evokes the intimate experiences of Jewish childhood, as in works such as the late verion of Dos Vintshfingerl and the autobiographical novel Shloyme, Reb Khayims. Many of his characters are drawn from Jewish life in the towns and cities of Belorussia and Lithuania, where he spent his childhood, while other works portray characters from Volhynia and southern Russia, with the action taking place in Berdichev, Zhitomir, Odessa, and other towns in the Jewish Pale of Settlement. Following a Russian tradition, Abramovitsh uses fictitious place names that satirically describe the qualities of their inhabitants – such as "Glupsk," the town of fools modeled on Berdichev; "Tsviatshits," a town of hypocrisy; "Tuneyadevka," suggesting parasitism; and "Kabtsansk," or Paupersville. Although Abramovitsh was immersed in Judaic traditions, he also was influenced by European fiction, as reflected in his parody of Don Quixote (in Kitser Masoes Binyomin ha-Shlishi). His Dos Kleyne Mentshele ("The Little Man") and Fishke der Krumer ("Fishke the Lame") reflect the Russian satiric tradition of Gogol and Saltykov-Shchedrin as well as the picaresque novel of authors such as Henry Fielding. He adopted some typical patterns of the sentimental adventure story in Fishke der Krumer, in which surprising coincidences occur. Based on that novel, Chaver-Paver wrote a screenplay and Edgar Ulmer directed the powerful Yiddish film Fishke der Krumer (known in English as "The Light Ahead," 1939).

Although Abramovitsh began writing in Yiddish for the practical purpose of reaching a larger reading public, he eventually came to regard his work in Yiddish to be of intrinsic artistic value in its own right. Abramovitsh’s style is an effective instrument for satire and irony, especially when it is deliberately incongruous: phrases originally expressing the sacred are applied to the profane, and the reverse. In a 1907 letter to Y.H. Rawnitzki, for example, Abramovitsh alluded to the Creation story when he recalled his original goal: "Let us create a Hebrew style that will be lively, speaking clearly and precisely, the way people do in our time and place, and let its soul be Jewish." In many of the prefaces to his novels, Mendele Moykher Sforim uses mock prayers that begin, "Praised be the Creator.," and then turn into attacks on corruption. Abramovitsh’s traditional narrators – such as Mendele Moykher Sforim, Isaac Abraham Takif, or Alter Yaknoz – provide Abramovitsh with many opportunities for ironic play and enable him to achieve artistic distance from his story.

Abramovitsh’s Hebrew style went through a number of stages. In the 1860s he was still under the influence of Abraham *Mapu’s neo-biblical rhetoric, particularly in his early Hebrew stories. Abramovitsh carried on the tradition of expanding the Hebrew language, as introduced by Haskalah writers such as Isaac *Satanow, Menahem Mendel (Lefin) Levin, and Joseph *Perl, whose style absorbed elements of Mishnaic Hebrew, medieval philosophical literature, and h asidic literature influenced by spoken Yiddish. Abramovitsh’s process of creating a synthetic Hebrew style composed of many historical layers reached its peak after 1886. On the occasion of Abramovitsh’s 75th birthday, in 1910-11, H .N. Bialik asserted that Abramovitsh was the "creator of the nusah" which he described as a new synthesis drawing from many historical layers of Hebrew. According to Bialik, Abramovitsh’s nusah had already become the dominant style in Hebrew literature. Many 20th century critics accepted Bialik’s view, although some writers such as Y.H. *Brenner countered with a kind of anti-nusah. In any event, Abramovitsh contributed to greater fluidity in Hebrew style by moving beyond the more rigid biblical melizah of his predecessors.

Abramovitsh wrote in both Yiddish and Hebrew throughout his career, which led to a productive interaction between his writings in these languages. Simon Dubnow made an important observation on Abramovitsh’s bilingual creativity: when he "had the Yiddish original of the first parts of Dos Vintshfingerl in front of him, he made the Hebrew translation – or more precisely, the reworking – masterfully and without any difficulties. When it came to writing more without the Yiddish original, however, he sensed that it would not go smoothly. One cannot create content and language at the same time, but only one after the other; one must create the content first, in the language of the life that is portrayed in the artwork. On this foundation, then, he could build the style of the revived Hebrew language (Fun "Zhargon" tsu Yidish ("From ‘Jargon’ to Yiddish"), 1929, p. 46). In his striving for artistic perfection, Abramovitsh continually reworked his novels and stories, enlarging and polishing them. The later versions of his works, and particularly the Jubilee Edition, moderated his satiric stance; he also diminished the pro-Enlightenment propaganda that was present in early works such as Dos Vinshfingerl. During the process of bilingual recreation, in later adaptations of his works, Abramovitsh introduced important variations in content and style. He did not merely translate his works from Yiddish into Hebrew but rather reinvented them.

Abramovitsh is rightly remembered for his descriptions of nature, his trenchant satire, and his sympathetic portrayals of the poor. The lack of natural descriptions in Judaic literature prior to Abramovitsh is legendary. Abramovitsh’s narrator Mendele, however, pays great attention to the natural world. Satire had been a common literary device among the maskilim writing in German and Hebrew, and Abramovitsh became the most powerful satiric author in Yiddish letters. Because his basic ideology was that of the Jewish Enlightenment, Abramovitsh continued writing in a satiric vein even after the political setbacks of 1881. Later in life, in part because of his position at the talmud torah in Odessa, Abramovitsh tempered his critiques. Beyond his satiric impulses, Abramovitsh shows ample sympathy toward the underclass and unusual sensitivity to the plight of poor Jewish boys.

Abramovitsh’s Yiddish and Hebrew writings attracted attention from the start, but critical interest in them grew especially in the 1880s, after he had published his major Yiddish works. This interest increased early in the 20th century as Abramovitsh’s Hebrew fiction won admiration, on the one hand, and drew reserved and even negative reaction on the other. From an ideological point of view, critics have been interested in his attitude toward the Hibbat Zion movement and his stand on the social problems of the oppressed multitudes in Russia. Readers have sometimes seen Abramovitsh as a preacher, loyal to his people and calling for a radical change in Diaspora life. Other critics such as David Frishman stressed the documentary character of Abramovitsh’s descriptions of the shtetl, which might someday serve as a historical testimony to the Jewish way of life in the 19th century. Some other critics have thought that his harsh portrayals of shtetl life give a distorted image of Jewish existence there. While critics have admired his descriptions of nature and his epic achievement in recreating Jewish shtetl types, they have occasionally argued that – because he uses exaggeration and grotesque caricature – Abramovitsh inadequately represents the lives of individuals.

A unique source of information about Abramovitsh’s formative years is an essay in the Russian-Jewish journal Vosk-hod ("Sunrise," 1884), by his childhood friend Yehuda-Leyb (Lev) Binshtok. Also essential are Abramovitsh’s essay "Reshi-mot le-Toledotai" ("My Life Story," in Nahum Sokolov’s Sefer Zikkaron, 1889) and his many letters contained in Dos Mendele Bukh ("The Mendele Book," ed. Nakhman Mayzel, 1959). A fictionalized account of Abramovitsh’s childhood may be found in his autobiographical novel Shloyme Reb Khayims, which appeared serially in Yiddish starting in 1899 (printed in book form, 1911); in Hebrew, the autobiographical novel appeared as Ba-Yamim ha-Hem ("In Those Days," starting with the Petikhtah, 1894; printed in book form, 1911).

On the occasion of Abramovitsh’s 75th birthday and in celebration of his wide popularity based on 50 years of writing, the Jubilee editions of his works were published in 1909-11 (Hebrew, in three volumes) and in 1911-13 (Yiddish, in 16 volumes). Some important studies of Abramovitsh are by Shm-uel Niger (1936), Meir Viner (1946), Gershon Shaked (1965), and Dan Miron (1973). In English, Ken Frieden (1995) gives an overview of his life and work and interprets his major fiction in relation to the other classic Yiddish writers – Sholem Aleichem and I.L. Peretz. In a new vein, Naomi Seidman (1997) discusses gender issues in Abramovitsh’s writing.

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