Berliner, Abraham

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BERLINER, ABRAHAM

BERLINER, ABRAHAM (1833–1915), scholar and author. Berliner's vast knowledge of rabbinic literature and of ancient and modern languages was mostly self-taught (cf. his autobiographical Aus meiner Knabenzeit, jjgl, 16 (1913), 165ff.). After succeeding his father as teacher in his native Obersitzko, he became preacher and teacher in Arnswalde (both in the province of Posen, then Germany). From 1858 to 1865 he lectured at the bet ha-midrash of the Berlin Talmudic Society out of which developed the Rabbinical Seminary, founded by Azriel *Hildesheimer in 1873. Here Berliner lectured in Jewish history and literature and was also librarian. In subsequent years he paid frequent visits to the important libraries of Germany, England, Holland, France, and, above all, Italy, in search of their Jewish treasures. He prepared the first critical edition of Rashi's commentary on the Pentateuch, giving Rashi's sources and explanatory notes (1866); this book was accepted by Leipzig university as a Ph.D. thesis. In the completely revised second edition (1905) he added a vocabulary of foreign words used in the commentary. Berliner pursued his Rashi studies in a number of important monographs and also turned his attention to other medieval commentators (Peletat Soferim, 1872, 19662). He also provided a modern edition of Targum Onkelos (1884). Berliner's historical studies were chiefly devoted to Italian Jewry, as shown by his three-volume Geschichte der Juden in Rom (1893). On the history of German Jewry, he wrote Aus dem Leben der deutschen Juden im Mittelalter (1861, second revised and enlarged edition 1900, 19373; Hebrew translation, 1900). Complementary to this work was a monograph Persoenliche Beziehungen zwischen Juden und Christen im Mittelalter (1882). Berliner also wrote biographies of Israel *Isserlein and of Isaiah *Berlin and a defense of *Maimonides against the accusation of apostasy (Moses ben Maimon, sein Leben… 2 (1914), 103ff.). Berliner published many bibliographical studies and works on liturgy and Talmud. He discovered in Rome parts of commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud by *Hananel b. Ḥushi'el and *Gershom b. Judah and was instrumental in the inclusion of both commentaries in the Vilna (Romm) Talmud edition. In 1874 Berliner began to publish a Magazin fuer juedische Geschichte und Literatur which two years later became the Magazin fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums (with a Hebrew supplement, Oẓar Tov), which he edited with David *Hoffmann until 1893. In 1885 he revived the *Mekiẓe Nirdamim society. On his 70th birthday he was awarded the title of professor by the Prussian government. On that occasion too appeared a Festschrift in his honor, edited by A. Freimann and M. Hildesheimer (Birkat Avraham, 1903) with a bibliography of his writings. A three-volume collection of Berliner's writings was planned but only the first appeared in 1913. A two-volume collection was published in Hebrew (1945–49). Berliner was a staunch supporter of Orthodoxy and an opponent of Reform. He supported Hildesheimer in the establishment of the Adass Jisroel secessionist congregation and acted as the chairman of its council for many years. Yet in his Randbemerkungen he suggested certain changes in prayer texts and customs, which were not to the liking of some of his Orthodox friends.

bibliography:

Eppenstein, in: Jeschurun (new series), 2 (1915), 457ff. add. bibliography: Biographisches Handbuch der Rabbiner, 1:1 (2004), 186–87 (bibl.).

[Alexander Carlebach]

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