Barth, Jacob

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BARTH, JACOB (1851–1914), Semitic linguist. Barth was born in Flehingen, Baden. Among his teachers in Talmud was his future father-in-law, Azriel *Hildesheimer. He studied Semitic philology at the universities of Berlin, Leipzig (under H.L. Fleischer), and Strasbourg (under Th. Noeldeke). From 1874 until his death he taught Hebrew, biblical exegesis, and Jewish philosophy at the Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary founded by Hildesheimer at Berlin. In 1876 he was appointed lecturer in Semitic philology at the University of Berlin, and in 1880 associate professor. Being a Jew, he was not appointed full professor, but he received the title of Geheimer Regierungsrat. Barth was one of the most important Semitic linguists of his time, and at least two of his works are still standard reference books: Die Nominalbildung in den semitischen Sprachen (1894), and Die Pronominalbildung in den semitischen Sprachen (1918). Despite Barth's tendency to adopt odd etymologies and to excessive schematization, these works, as well as others, show his genius in discerning linguistic analogies. Barth was also one of the outstanding Arabic scholars of his time. He edited grammatical, poetical, and historical texts as well as the commentary of Maimonides to Mishnah Makkot (1880). His contributions to the study of Hebrew include both linguistics and lexicography (especially his Etymologische Studien zum semitischen, inbesonders zum hebraeischen und aramaeischen Lexikon (1902). Being strictly Orthodox, he avoided higher criticism, but accepted the separate authorship of Isaiah 40ff., which, in his view, was supported by the Talmud. Similarly, he usually refrained from emendation of the Bible text, although he had a natural tendency to text corrections (as exhibited in his Arabic studies). His commentary on almost all the books of the Bible, which originated in his lectures at the Hildesheimer Seminary, has not been published.

[Joshua Blau]

His son, aharon (1890–1957), was an Israeli banker and Zionist leader. Born in Berlin, as a young man he became an active leader in the Mizrachi movement in Germany, representing it at most of the Zionist Congresses after 1920. From 1921 to 1938 he served as attorney for the Zionist Congress court, and from 1946 as its chairman. He settled in Palestine in 1933 and was appointed director-general of the Anglo-Palestine Bank (later Bank Leumi le-Israel) in 1947, retaining this post until his death. Of his articles and brochures on various Zionist and religious topics, the most important is Dorenu mul She'elot ha-Neẓaḥ published in 1954 and republished in 1955 (Eng. tr. The Modern Jew Faces Eternal Problems, Jerusalem 1956). In it, he summarized his views on traditional and modern aspects of Judaism. He is noted for his modern religious interpretation of Orthodoxy, stressing the contemporary relevance of Orthodox Jewish practice. He wrote the brochure Letter to an English Friend (1948), in which he propounds the religious basis for the Jewish claim to Palestine, and The Mitzvoth: Their Aim and Purpose (1949).

eliezer (lazar) (1880–1949), Aharon's elder brother, was a leader and central figure in the religious Zionist movement in Germany. Born in Berlin, he became a leader of the Zionist Organization of Germany, participated in most Zionist Congresses after 1903, and served as a member of the Zionist General Council. During 1929–31 he represented Mizrachi on the Zionist Executive in London. He published numerous articles on Zionist topics.

[Benjamin Jaffe]


Rabbiner-Seminar zu Berlin, Bericht ueber die ersten 25 Jahre (1898), 9, 57; Eppenstein, in: Jahresbericht des Rabbiner Seminars zu Berlin fuer 19145 (1915), 91–99; C.H. Becker, Der Islam (1916), 200–2; J. Fueck, Die arabischen Studien in Europa (1955), 242–3; ej, 3 (1929), 1100–01; J. Blau, in: Ḥokhmat Yisrael be-Ma'arav Eiropah, ed. by S. Federbush (1959), 47–52; eẒd, 1 (1958), 227–33; S. Daniel, in: Gevilin be-Maḥashavah Datit Le'ummit (July 1957), 58–72.