Barit, Jacob

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BARIT, JACOB (1797–1883), Russian talmudist and communal leader. Born in Simno, Suvalki province, he left in 1822 for Vilna, where he kept a distillery. Attracted by the ideas of the *Haskalah, he studied foreign languages, mathematics, and astronomy. In 1850 he became principal of the yeshivah founded by R. Ḥayyim Naḥman Parnas, a position he held for 25 years. By the end of 1840 he was the acknowledged leader of the Vilna community. When Sir Moses *Montefiore visited Vilna in 1846 Barit advised him on his petition to Nicholas i. He was a member of the delegation sent to St. Petersburg in 1852 in connection with the oppressive new conscription law. On several rabbinical committees summoned by the Ministry of the Interior, Barit was eloquent in advocating Jewish rights. In 1871 when the governor general of Vilna formed a committee to investigate the accusations made against the Jews by the apostate Jacob *Brafmann, Barit successfully convinced the committee of their falsehood.


M.I. Barit, Toledot Ya'akov (1883); S.P. Rabbinovitz, Kneset Israel, 2 (1887), 157–62; H.N. Maggid-Steinschneider, Ir Vilna (1900), 62–67; Dinur, in: He-Avar, 15 (1968), 254–8.