Herman Rosenthal

This is an article published in Volume 4 of the Jewish Encyclopaedia, Funk & Wagnalls, New York and London (1916). Mr. Rosenthal was a distinguished scholar, poet and translator. He was born in Friedrichstadt in 1843 and emigrated to the United States in 1881, where he became the first chief of the Slavonic Division (now the Slavic and Baltic Division) of the New York Public Library. The article is reprinted here in full and dedicated to the memory of this outstanding Jewish scholar and immigrant.

The headings in the body of the text are those in the original article, but we have created an index of both names and topics to assist readers in finding entries of particular interest. This article is 5 times as long as the article on Courland currently available in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Judaica and it gives testimony to the distinctive importance of the Jewish community of Courland as seen at the turn of the last century.

This work contains much information of value to family historians. Numerous individuals are referred to by name, together with brief biographical information about them. Where names or places appear in capital letters, this indicates that the Encyclopaedia had separate entries for that individual or place. Over the next months the Courland Research Group will be restoring these links and putting this additional material on line so that this wonderful work of scholarship can be appreciated in full.

Remember that this account of the history and importance of the Courland Jews was written in 1904 and revised sometime between 1914 and 1915 prior to its publication in 1916. Place names are therefore in their German/Russian versions and citations follow accepted academic style for the time. The point of view is that of a scholar writing long before the Holocaust. Despite its age this account is an impressive introduction to the life and times of the Jews of Courland that has stood the test of time and is as readable today as it was nearly a century ago.


A government in the Baltic provinces of Russia, bounded on the west and north by the Baltic Sea; on the north east by the river Duna; and on the south by the government of Kovno. At the end of the eighteenth century the Jewish population was 9,000; in 1835, 23,030; in 1850, 22,743; in 1858, 25,641; in 1891, 42,776; and in 1914, 57,200 in a total population of 783,100; or 7.3%. Before the European War the Jews were distributed among the following cities and towns of Courland: BAUSK, Friedrichstadt, Goldingen, Grobin, Hasenpot, Jacobstadt, Libau, MITAU, Pilten, Talsen, Tuckum, Windau, Griva-Semgallen, Illuxt, Polangen, Sasmaken, Frauenburg, Zabeln and in the villages Kandau, Neu-Subbat, Schoenberg, etc. Owing to the disturbed condition of the country no recent statistics are available.

Early History: In the thirteenth century Courland was an independent territory, consisting of the two duchies of Courland and Semgall and of the bishopric of Pilten, and was under the domination of the Livonian Order of the Knights of the Sword. The Livonian Knights offered little encouragement to the settlement of Jews in Courland, as is shown by the following extract from a decree of their grandmaster Zeyfridt (Siegfried) von Feuchtwangen (1309): Mary, whose servants we are, we decree that no Jew, necromancer, magician, or waydeler [pagan priest] shall live in this country; and that any one sheltering one of such shall suffer with him. (Jolowicz, Gesch. Der Juden in Konigsberg I: Pr. 1887, p 1).

Notwithstanding this decree, the Jews toward the end of the fourteenth century found their way into the country from Lithuania as is intimated in the chronicles (Hennenberg, cited by Jolowicz l.c. p. 2). At that time Vitold, Grand Duke of Lithuania, had already granted to the Jews of the neighboring Lithuanian towns the privileges of June 24 and July 2, 1388. Two gravestones were excavated in the vicinity of Mitau in 1857 which, it has been claimed, show that Jews had lived in that country even earlier than 1388; but the claim is hardly well founded, as there is the possibility that Kirkovitch, who was consulted in the matter, was guilty of deception (see Wunderbar, in Allg. Zeit des Jud., 1857, No. 1)

Under Polish Rule: When Courland came into the possession of Poland, according to the treaty between the last Grand Master of the Order, Gottland Kettler and King Sigismund Augustus (Sept. 1561) it was stipulated that no Jews should be permitted to engage in commerce or to lease customs duties or taxes in Livonia (Pacta Subjectionis in Codex Diplomat. Regni Polon. V. cxxxviii. 238; Moraczewski, Dzieje Rzeczypospolitej Polskeih iv 231. The treaty of 1461 did not, however forbid the Jews to settle in Courland or to sojourn there temporarily for any particular commercial transaction. It was without any effect whatever in the bishopric of Pilten, where the Jews had not only been tolerated from the earliest time of the Order, but were permitted by law to organize communities and to engage in trade and commerce.

Pilten: The district of Pilten contains the present districts of Grobin, Hasenpot, and a part of Windau. The last Bishop of Courland, Johann von Munchaussen, who owned the bishopric by inheritance, induced rich Jews to settle in his territory, and said he derived considerable income by taxing them for the right of residence and the privilege of engaging in trade.

As early as 1570 the Jews of Pilten enjoyed the rights of citizenship and many of them owned real estate (Wunderbar l.c. p. 17). When in 1611 Pilten became part of Poland the position of the Jews became still stronger. As throughout Poland, the Jews of that district not only enjoyed all civil and religious rights, but also were made citizens of Hasenpot, a rare privilege at that time for Jews. Of the history of the Jews in this district during the 17th century there is but scanty information. The archives of Pilten have not yet been published and the only complete history of the city of Hasenpot, written by Huhn, lies hidden in manuscript in the Rittenbibliothek in Riga. It is known, however, that during the great Northern War (1718) a synagogue existed in Pilten (Manteuffel, iltyni Archivum Piltynskie in Warsawska Biblioteka No 2, p. 177; cited by Brutkus in Voshod 1896 Nos 7-8 p. 26). During the 18th century Pilten lost its importance.

The greatest number of Courland Jews lived in Hasenpot, where they carried on a considerable export trade; but at the last division of Poland toward the end of the 18th century only 896 males among the Jewish inhabitants were registered as citizens. They enjoyed all civil rights and were often chosen to fill honourable positions. Thus in 1797 the Jew Euchel of Hasenpot was elected councilman ("Rathsherr"). Jewish affairs were governed by a kahal; and the Jews paid a special tax on their synagogue which tax was called Jüdische Capellengelder.

The oldest community in the district of Pilten is that of Polangen, which formerly belonged to the grand duchy of Lithuania. In the pinkes (record of the Jewish community) of that town, begun in 1831, there is an entry on the first page which states that, according to the preceding pinkes which had been destroyed by fire during the Polish Revolution, the cemetery and the burial brotherhood of Polangen were established in 1487. Though doubts have been expressed as to the correctness of that date, the Jewish community of Polangen obtained a charter confirming that of King Stanislaus IV (dated 1639) granting the Jews of Polangen and Gorzhd rights of citizenship and the privilege of engaging in commerce, handicrafts, and agriculture. The Jewish houses of prayer and cemetery were exempted from all taxes. The Jews were under the jurisdiction of the royal aldermen, with the right of appeal to the supreme court and to the king. This privilege was subsequently confirmed by Augustus III (1742), and remained in effect until the annexation of Courland by Russia (1795), when the whole district of Zhmuda, in which Polangen was situated, was added to the government of Courland (Brutzkus, l.c. p. 29)

Other Parts of Courland: In the other parts of Courland, including Semgall, the condition of the Jews was not so favourable. Notwithstanding the fact that the Duke of Courland was a vassal of Poland, and was not able to prevent entirely the influential Polish Jews from visiting his dependency, their sojourn there was made unpleasant and difficult at all times, especially after 1561. The cities jealously guarded their privileges not only from the Jews, but from all foreigners, both before and after the subjection of the country by Poland, as is evident from some well-preserved gravestones with Hebrew inscriptions at Mitau and other places, dating from the first and last decades of the 16th century. During the uprising of the Cossacks in 1648-54 the people of Courland also expelled the Jews from their country. The barons Hector Frederick and Reinhyold von der Osten Sacken, when they founded on their estate the town of New-Subbat, inserted a paragraph in its constitution (April 5, 1686) forbidding Jews to live in the town or to establish a tavern there.

According to Zeigenhorn, no Jews lived in Courland, except at Pilten, from its subjugation by Poland up to about 1670 (Staatsrecht para 576). Toward the end of the 17th century Jews again began to settle in Courland: they even leased the customs duties and engaged in commerce. Although these privileges were soon curtailed (Landtaglicher Abschied 1692 #6 29) the Jews were permitted to live both in the towns and in the country, and to do business as retail traders, innkeepers, distillers and middlemen. In Mitau, the capital of Courland, they could live only in the so-called Jewish street (now known as Doblensche Strasse) as protected Jews (Schutzjuden). On the remonstrance of the burgesses, the dukes repeatedly ordered the Jews to leave the country; but the nobility, to whom they made themselves useful, protected them until Duke Ferdinand published an edict, March 23, 1714, in which the Jews were ordered to leave the country within six weeks, under pain of the severest penalities. This edict was evidently not carried out, for on September 20, 1760, Duke Karl repeated it in the same form. Soon afterward the magistrate, notwithstanding the Duke’s edict, permitted Jews as well as Jesuits to reside in Courland on the payment of 400 Albertus thaler annually; and the duke did not object to their admission (Gebbardi, Gesch. Von Kurland p 166, Halle, 1789). In 1737 Duke Ernst Biron entrusted the court Jew Lipman (Levi) with the management of his finances, dividing the profits with him, and granting him certain privileges. This naturally created ill feeling against the Jews (Ersch and Gruber, Engyc section I part 10 p. 247).

At this period Jewish communities existed in Mitau, Bausk, Jacobstadt, Friedrichstadt, and other towns. Friedrichstadt was a situation for the Jewish merchants of White Russia, who came down the Duna annually in barges and on rafts, bringing lumber, grain, flax and other Russian merchandise to Riga. The edict of Empress Elizabeth (1742) expelling the Jews from Russia interfered considerably with this business. The council of Riga, fearing that the Jewish merchants might direct their trade to Windau, Libau, and Konigsberg, petitioned the Senate in the matter, and, pending the resolution of the Senate, the vice governor of Livonia stopped the Jewish traders in Friedrichstadt.

In 1760 the Jews of Courland, as already stated, were again expelled from the duchy. In order to prevent evasion, Jews having permission to bring Polish-Lithuanian merchandise to Mitau were required to present themselves to the mayor and obtain from him a special permit to remain in the city for the transaction of business and that none should be permitted under any circumstances to stay longer than a day or two on any one occasion. Those who brought no merchandise had to pay a "sechser" on each house designated by the city authorities. In some places the execution of the order had already been carried out when, fortunately for the Jews, the Emperor Peter III of Russia recalled from banishment Duke Ernst Biron. With his reinstatement the Jews regained their old liberties and even secured some new privileges. These liberties and privileges were not, however, legally recognised, as is seen from petitions of the Jews made to Duke Ernst Biron in 1765, and to his son and successor, Peter Biron, in 1775.

In 1770 the Russian government interfered in the solution of the Jewish question in Courland. Governor-General Browne of Livonia asked the Duke of Courland to expel the Jews from his possessions (Orshanski, Russkoe Zakonodatelstvo o Yevreyakh p. 374, St. Petersburg, 1877); but the plan could not be carried out on account of the opposition of the Courland nobility. Empress Catherine II, desiring to settle "New Russia", gave a secret order to Governor Browne (1765) to issue passports to Jewish inhabitants of Mitau who would travel to this territory, her purpose being to admit some of the Jews of Courland to settle in Riga and St. Petersburg (Buchholtz, pp. 57-60) By a later order (1785) Catherine again showed her favour to the Courland Jews by detaching the village of Schlock from Courland and annexing it to Riga, thus permitting the Jewish residents of Schlock to become recognised inhabitants of Riga (Wunderbar l.c. p. 9).

Concerning the origin of the Jews of Courland opinions differ. Some think that the majority arrived by sea from Prussia and North Germany: and the biographies of rabbis and other prominent men enumerated below show that most of these were born abroad. Nevertheless, Brutzkus may be right in his statement that the greater part of the Courland Jews immigrated from the neighbouring countries of Lithuania and Poland.

Kalman Borkum

In spite of occasional disturbances, the life of the Jews in the duchy of Courland was a peaceful one, and they were permitted to trade outside the city limits of Mitau, the capital. Even in the centre of the city a Jew, Meyer Kreslawe, received a license to open an inn, which was called Hotel de Jerusalem (the house still existed in the middle of the 19th century); and in 1784 Kalman Borkum laid the foundation of a synagogue, which was built at his expense. Borkum, his brother Samson and the court jeweller Rabbi Bar ben ha Kadosh Rabbi Benjamin stood high in favour with the duke Biron. They were thus often enabled to afford protection to their co-religionists in Courland and to those in Mitau in particular; and in addition extended them much financial and other assistance.

The year 1787 was especially marked by discussions of the Jewish question in Courland, not only officially but also in various pamphlets devoted to the subject. Of these latter the first appeared anonymously and without date under the title "Die Duldung der Juden" etc. (The Toleration of the Jews of the Duchies of Courland and Semgall) but Witte von Wittenheim, councillor of justice, was later identified as its author (Recke and Napierski, Schriftseller Lexikon iv. 554) He advocated the opinion that the Jews should be tolerated under conditions conducive to the welfare of the country and the respective towns in which they might settle. He further recommended that they be allowed to have their own schools, houses of prayer, synagogues, cemeteries, and courts for the settlement of internal disputes, and expected an improvement in their religious and judicial affairs to be manifest before another generation should have passed. In case the Jews should not be able to maintain their own schools, they should be permitted to send their children to the Christian schools, where they might acquire a knowledge of German and other necessary subjects. The higher schools should also be open to them. Wittenheim was in favour of limiting the occupations of the Jews: he would permit them to engage only in handicrafts, petty trading and distilling, which were the main occupations of the Jews of Courland at that time.

Another pamphlet appeared the same year under the title "Bemerkungen über die Duldung der Juden" (Mitau, 1787). The author, supposed to be Christian David Braun (Recke and Mapierski, Schriftsteller-Lexikon) was very much opposed to the idea of giving the Jews, "the despisers of the Christian religion", any social or political rights. This pamphlet called forth a reply under the title "Beantwortung der Bemerkungen über die Duldung der Juden" refuting the views of Braun. The author was Dr. Lachman, a Jewish physician born in Prussia, who practised medicine in Bausk, and later removed to the interior of Russia. He showed that the Jews were useful citizens, occupying themselves with agriculture in Lithuania and engaging in the arts and sciences, and in handicrafts wherever they were not hampered in their activity by the gilds.

About this time there appeared, under the title "Meine Gedanken, bei der Frage: Ob Man in Unserm Vaterlande Juden dulden Solle, oder Nicht?" a most touching apology for the Jews. The author, Georg Gottfried Mylich, a Lutheran pastor at Nerft, looks at his subject not only from a utilitarian standpoint, but also from an ethical point of view. "Our honour and our Christian duty demand", he says, "that we should not look with indifference on the deplorable condition of the Jews of Courland and that we should no longer tolerate it. As patriots we must concentrate all our energy on the improvement of the present state of affairs. Indeed, the word Jew should not indicate any class of people different from us, but only a different religious body; and as regards their nationality it should not hinder them from obtaining citizens’ rights and liberties any more than the people of Sleswick, the Saxons, Danes, Swedes, Swiss, French or Italians who also live among us". On the other hand, the author appeals earnestly to the Jews to lay aside their specific costume and to follow the example of their more enlightened brethren.

These extracts indicate the attitude of the educated classes of Courland toward the Jews. The influence of the activity of Lessing, Mendelssohn, and Dohm had already reached the duchy. Though the broad-minded people in Courland were in a great minority, they nevertheless forced the lords and burgesses to discard their medieval intolerant views. After many long debates in the various Diets concerning the emancipation of the Jews of Courland, the Jews of Mitau, through their aldermen Aaron Lipman (Levi) and Issac Moses Eides, presented a memorial to the duke March 18, 1793, in reply to which they were directed to submit propositions on the subject. Accordingly, on January 20, 1795, propositions were presented in which they asked only: (1) Admission to the towns, villages, and estates in proportion to the number of inhabitants and industries, so that the Jewish families should not become a burden on the general population. (2) Reduction of the number of Jewish families in Mitau from 200 to 60, to be selected from among those whose ancestors had lived in Mitau, and who were known to be persons of irreproachable character. They would certainly become more useful citizens on obtaining equal rights with the other inhabitants. (3) The right of the community to settle all disputes concerning religion and unimportant civil matters among the Jews without recourse to the general courts - a right similar to that enjoyed by the kahal of Hasenpot; the kahal, however, to have the authority to appeal to the magistrates whenever necessary. (4) Permission for Jewish children to attend the public schools and the local academy.

In this memorial the Jews of Courland for the first time called themselves "Hebrews", by which name they have been designated up to the present day in the official documents of Russia and the Baltic provinces. The memorial was signed on behalf of the community by Isaac Judah, Solomon Borkum, Issac Moses Eides, Isaac Moses, Wulf Jacob, Elijah Isaac, Lewin Wulf, Heimann Solomon, Aaron Lipman (Levi) and others.

While the Duke and the Landtag were still discussing the Jewish question, the Polish Revolution broke out, so that nothing further could be done in the matter. Such was the uncertain legal position in which the Jews found themselves when Courland was annexed to Russia, March 16, 1797. Emperor Paul, during his visit to Mitau in the same year, received a deputation from the Jewish community. The government ordered an investigation of the occupations of the Jews, of the taxes paid by them, and of their legal status. The Courland authorities replied that the Jews had "never been legally tolerated - with the exception of those who live in the District of Pilten". In presenting the case to the emperor Paul, the Senate declared:

"Although the Courland administration reports that the Jews have never been tolerated legally, yet, since Jews have lived there for more than 200 years, they can not be considered as having entered the country surreptitiously; nor ought they to be deprived of such an old home while Jews are not prohibited from living in other parts of Russia". The Senate therefore ordered the Courland authorities, having in view the local conditions, to present a scheme of legislation for the further residence of Jews in Courland, "for the general welfare as well as for their own". At the same time the Jews addressed a petition to the senate in which they asked (1) that they be permitted to organise kahals for the maintenance of Jewish communal life (2) that Jews who join the gilds be granted all the rights of such gilds (3) that agriculturists receive land at an annual rental, and be not claimed by any one as serfs (4) that Jews be permitted to build synagogues; to conduct their religious services in the towns as well as in the villages; and to have their cemeteries and slaughter-houses (5) that wherever there are no Jewish schools, permission be accorded the Jews to send their children to the German schools; and that the talented Jewish pupils be allowed to attend foreign academies and universities.

After considering this petition the Russian government resolved that the Jews be permitted to live in Courland and that their settlement in that country be used for the benefit of the government and community at large. Jews were permitted to follow their various callings and to be included in the lists of the burghers and merchants on payment of double the amount of tax imposed on Christians. They were declared eligible for election to municipal offices; were allowed to conduct their religious services without hindrance, to organise kahals to build synagogues, etc., and were granted immunity from being bound as serfs. The approval of Emperor Paul was given to the foregoing resolutions March 14, 1799 (Complete russian Code xxv., No 18 889).

During the reign of Alexander I (1801-25) the condition of the Jews of Courland, as well as that of the Jews in the other cities of the Russian empire, was much improved. The enactment of Dec. 9, 1804 and the resolutions passed thereupon by the Courland legislature (March 6, 1806; affirmed Dec. 1, 1806) practically secured the rights of citizenship for the Jews of that government and by a ukase of Nov. 8, 1807, the double poll and guild taxes hitherto levied on the Jews were abolished.

This was the legal position of the Jews of Courland until 1829; but the rights granted them in 1799 in respect to trade and commerce did not please the local Christian merchants and artisans. On May 24, 1829 the merchants and artisans asked the Senate to limit the number of Jewish families registered there. The Governor-General of the Baltic provinces was commissioned to present a plan for the diminution of the Jewish population in Courland and Livonia. He replied that in regard to Livonia there was no necessity to take any steps for lessening the number of Jews there, since they were living nowhere except in Riga and Schlock, and were registered in the latter place only. In order to decrease the number of Jews in Courland he suggested the deportation to Siberia of (1) such Jews as had no fixed occupations; (2) such as appeared to be illegally registered and such as were omitted from the registry list. Only such Jews he considered should remain in the country as belonged to the gilds, had their own houses, occupied themselves with handicrafts or held bona fide positions.

This plan was transmitted for consideration to the government committee on Jewish affairs and this body proposed the following measures: (1) That there be recognised as inhabitants of Courland only such Jews as at the last census had been entered in the registry lists of the Courland Chamber of Justice. (2) That each family of such Jews receive a certificate of its right to settle in Courland. (3) That Jews from other governments be prohibited from settling in Courland. (4) That Jews who removed from Courland lose the right of returning thither. (5) That the marriage of a Courland Jewess to a Jew from another government confer upon such Jew no right to live in Courland. (6) That Jews not holding the above mentioned certificates leave the country; and that those who do not present their certificates in time or were guilty of violating any of the foregoing regulations, be sent to settle in Siberia. All these measures were sanctioned by the Czar May 24, 1829 (Russian Code iv., No 2 884; Myah p. 217)

In 1836 Emperor Nicholas issued a manifesto offering inducements to those of his Jewish subjects who should settle in the agricultural colonies of South Russia. The first families to avail themselves of this offer were seventy from Courland led by Meyer Medelsohn and Elijah Mitauer. Another group from Courland, consisting of 117 families, applied for permission to settle in the provinces of Siberia. In 1840, 341 families consisting of 2,530 persons from Courland joined the agricultural colonies to the government of Kherson. By a ukase of Dec. 19, 1844, all kahals in the empire were abolished. This affected the Jewish communities in Courland and placed them under the direct supervision of the municipal councils in the respective cities. The Jews had nevertheless the right to elect several of their number aldermen in the tax department and office, the duties of which were to receive and record all the Jewish taxes. The Jewish community was also represented on the school board and on the board of charities. Moreover, the governor general for the Baltic provinces had assigned to his staff a Jewish adviser on Jewish affairs in Courland.

In accordance with Part V, art. xii, of the Regulations on Passports, issued in 1890, only those Jews have a right to live in Courland or in the village of Schlock whose families were registered in the census of April 13, 1835. The admission to Courland of Jews from other governments is prohibited. These restrictions do not apply to Jews who by virtue of special legislation have the right to live anywhere in the empire. The singular position position of the Jews of Courland compared with that of Jews in other governments of Russia is apparent from the case of Jacob Thal, who in 1895 appealed against the decision of the Courland administration, which expelled him from the estate of Autzhoff on the ground of the May Laws of 1882. The Senate found (September 24, 1895) that the measures prohibiting the settlement of the Jews outside of the cities and towns referred only to those governments which came within the Pale of the Settlement; and as Courland was not included in the number of such governments, it must be held that the May Laws could not be applied to the Jews of Courland (Mysh, p. 135).

At the end of the 18th century the Jews of Courland followed generally the same trades and professions as were followed by the Jews of Lithuania and Poland. In the villages they were small traders, peddlers, distillers, and artisans, especially locksmiths and tinsmiths; in the cities they were wholesale dealers in dry and fancy goods, agents, jewellers, etc. Important business firms were to be found in Mitau, Jacobstadt, Friedrichstadt, and especially in Hasenpot, where the Jews carried on a considerable export trade. It has been shown that many Courland Jews were engaged in agriculture also.

The Jews of Courland have always shown themselves eager for enlightenment. That intellectual regeneration of Judaism which had begun in Germany in the time of Mendelssohn, did not pass without leaving its trace in Courland. The Courland Jews at that time, as at the present day, were more like their co-religionists of Germany than any other Russian Jews. Their life among a cultured people, their knowledge of German and their relationship with Germany soon removed the exclusiveness which still continued in Lithuania and Poland. At the beginning of the 19th century they represented the most cultured element of the Russian Jewry.

The first Jewish school conducted on modern principles was founded in Mitau in 1824 by a lawyer named Wolf. Here Lilienthal began his activity and here Mordecai Aaron Gunzburg wrote his first works. The Courland Jews, like the rest of the Russian Jews, are still awaiting full emancipation, although economically and intellectually they seem to be better situated than the Jews of Poland and Lithuania.

Even the poorest of the Jewish inhabitants send their children either to the Christian schools or to the Jewish religious schools, if they can not afford to give them a better private education; and with the exception of some aged people, the number of those who can not read and write German is very small; the Judaeo-German jargon seems to be disappearing in the rising generation. In the cultured families a pure German is spoken as well as good Russian and French; as regards their home education, the Jews of Courland are not behind the intelligent Christian mercantile class.

Among the prominent Jews of Courland in the 18th century were the following: Rabbi Samuel ben Elkanah of Teonim Family, author of "Meom Shemuel" Altona 1722. He was born at Altona and officiated as rabbi at Mitau, where he died in 1742. Daniel Hayyim Cleif (1729-94), rabbi at Hasenpot. Euchel, alderman at Hasenpot. Isaac Abraham Euchel (1756-1804), brother of the preceding. He spent considerable time at the house of his brother before going to Germany. David Abrahamson, physician; born 1740; practised medicine at Hasenpot. Bar ben ha Kadosh Rabbi Benjamin, a native of Lithuania where his father was killed during the uprising of the Haidamaks. He lived in Mitau about 1730, where his father traded as a jeweler. He was held in high esteem by the dukes and knights of Courland and made many gifts to the Jewish community of Mitau. Zebi Hirsch Harif, Rabbi at Mitau in the first half of the 18th century. Dr. Elrich, born in Prussia, practised medicine at Wilkomir, Lithuania, as government and city physician; settled in 1770 in Mitau, where he married (1784) the daughter of Kalman Borkum. He died there in 1809. Aaron Horwitz, rabbi at Hasenpot and of "all the province of Courland" later at Erlin, where he died in 1779. He was a friend of Moses Mendelssohn (Fuenn, "Knesset Ysrael" p. 83; Landshuth, "Toledot Anshe Shem" p. 85, Berlin, 1884). Eliezer Elias Lowenthal, physician; born at Tuckum 1763; graduated at Konigsberg 1791; practised for some time at Bausk; and later removed to Odessa. Aaron Solomon Tobias, physician, practised at Hasenpot, where he died 1782. Carl ANTON, convert to Christianity and disciple of Jonathan Eybeshutz; born in Mitau. Issachar Falensohn BEHR; practised medicine at Hasenpot about 1775.

Of the 19th century there may be mentioned the following men of prominence: Isaac Ahrony, teacher of German and Hebrew; born Mitau 1798; died at Kherson 1842. From 1823 to 1830 he lived at Polotzk, then again in Mitau until 1840, when he emigrated with his family to one of the Jewish agricultural colonies in the government of Kherson. He soon removed to Kherson, where he instructed the children of a Jewish merchant. He published a pamphlet "Die Thoral Lehrt Gottes und Menschen liebe und Unterthanentreue", Dorpat 1838. Abraham BERNARD, physician, born 1762, practised at Mitau 1810-11. Marcus (Mordcai) Aaron GUNZBURG (1795-1846); went to Polangen as teacher in 1817, and later removed to Mitau where he supported himself by teaching and by translating and copying legal documents. Ezikiel Jekuthiel, rabbi at Mitau; died there 1823. He wrote notes on the Kalakot Gedolot, which remained in manuscript, and Benjacob saw in the possession of Jekuthiel’s son Elijah, who also officiated as rabbi there ("Ozar ha-Sefarim" p. 164). Wolf, father of Israel Lipkin (Salanter); was rabbi at Goldingen, and died there at the beginning of the 19th century. Ruben Birkhahn; died at Friedrichstadt 1822; was a relative of R Samuel ben Elkanah. His son Besalel was born at Friedrichstadt 1778; died there 1849. Lazar Isaac Seume, physician, born at Hasenpot 1782; studied at the Universities of Berlin and Wurzburg, graduated at Dorpat 1805, and practised at Libau, where he later joined the Lutheran Church. Councillor Wulff; born in Prussia, settled in Courland 1780, and established a Jewish school at Mitau 1824, which had an existence of two years only. Reuben Joseph WUNDERBAR, teacher and author, 1812-1867. L Rappenheim, Jewish alderman at Mitau; was sent by the government in 1854 to inspect the Jewish colonies of South Russia ("Z.d.J" 1855 No 31). Lob Kalman Lowensohn, teacher; born at Goldingen 1809; died at Jacobstadt 1866. He was engaged at the government Jewish public school and also as teacher of Greek and Latin at the progymnasium of the nobility. He was an eminent scholar, and corresponded with Pauker and Madler on problems in higher mathematics and astronomy, and with Hayyim Sack and other Hebrew scholars on Talmudic and rabbinical topics. Moritz Rosenthal; born Bausk 1818; died Friedrichstadt July 29, 1896. He was a descendant of Mordecai Jaffe. Simon Sarchi, rabbi at Jacobstadt from 1857 to 1860, when he went to Jerusalem, where he died. J BRUTZKUS, editor, Leib Cahn, rabbi in Friedrichstadt 1864, and now (1902) rabbi at Moscow. Lipman Friedmann, rabbi at Friedrichstadt; his activity extended over the second quarter of the 19th century. Joshua b Aaron Heller, author of "Dibre Yeshua" and other works; was rabbi at Polangen in the second half of the 19th century; died at Telshi 1880. Solomon PULCHER, governmental rabbi at Mitau (1861-96); born Neustadt, near Prussian frontier, 1892; died Nov 29, 1899. Senior Zalman, rabbi of Goldingen. Louis ARENS, an opera singer. Lazar BERHMANN and his son Vasilii. Eliezer ben Alexander Kleinbert, called Eliezer Bausker, son-in-law of Israel Lipshutz (Antikoler). He was rabbi at Bausk and Wilna and died in the United States 1891. He helped David Tevele of Minsk to publish his work "Dibre Dawid" and his haskamot are to be found in several works. David Issacovich Bernstein, Russian lawyer; born about 1840 at Jacobstadt; died Jan 1901 at St. Petersburg. He received his education at the District School of his birthplace, and at the gymnasium of Dunaburg, and graduated from the University of St. Petersburg in 1866. L Kantor, formerly editor of "Russki Yevrei", was Rabbi at Libau. Isidorus Brennson, physician at Mitau; born there September 15, 1854. He is the author of a biographical dictionary, entitled "Die Aerzte Kurlands von 1825-1900" Mitau 1902; from this work it is apparent that of the 582 physicians of Courland in a period of 75 years, 101 (17.3%) were Jews. Of this number 16 embraced Christianity. Of the 172 physicians practising in Courland before the war, 33 (19.2%) were Jews. See also entries for BAUSK and MITAU.


Bibliography citations:

Wunderbar, Gesch. der Juden in den Provinzen Liv und Kurland, Mitau, 1853

Buchholtz, Gesch. Der Juden in Riga, Riga 1899

Rizhski, Vyestnik, 1875 pp 135, 142, 151-153: 1886 p ______

Piumpianski, in Yevreiskvya Zapiski, 1881 pp 1-6; Orshanski Russkoe Zakonodatelstro o Yevreyakh pp 3__ - 385, St Petersburg, 1877; Yevreiskaa Biblioteka, iv

Brutzkus, in Voskhod, 1896 vii-viii

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