Agus, Irving Abraham

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AGUS, IRVING ABRAHAM (1910–1984), U.S. educator and scholar; brother of Jacob *Agus. Agus was born in Swislocz, Poland, and studied at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (1926–27), and at Dropsie College (1937). He served as educational director in Memphis, Tenn. (1939–45), dean of the Harry Fischel Research School in Talmud (Jerusalem, 1947–49), and principal of the Akiba Academy in Philadelphia (1949–51). From 1951 he was professor of Jewish history at Yeshiva University. Using responsa literature as a primary historical source, Agus wrote extensively on Jewish life in the Middle Ages. Among his works are Rabbi Meir of Rothenburg (2 vols., 1947), describing Jewish life in 13th-century Germany, and Teshuvot Ba'alei ha-Tosafot, an edition of previously unpublished responsa by the Tosafists (1954). His later writings concentrated on Jewish communal life in pre-Crusade Europe, showing that the Franco-German Jews, though a small group, were able to preserve talmudic traditions by their great devotion to study and observance of Judaism. In Urban Civilization in Pre-Crusade Europe (2 vols., 1965) Agus credits these Ashkenazi Jewish communities, which excelled in commercial ventures, with providing the prototype of town life and organization in Catholic Europe.


A.A. Neuman and S. Zeitlin (eds.), Seventy-Fifth Anniversary Volume of the Jewish Quarterly Review (1967), 69–79.

[Simcha Berkowitz]