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Bernstein, Aryeh Leib

BERNSTEIN, ARYEH LEIB

BERNSTEIN, ARYEH LEIB (1708–1788), chief rabbi of Galicia, and merchant; born in Brody. While a young man he served for a brief period as rabbi of Zbarazh, subsequently returning to Brody where he entered commerce. The 1740s was a period of prosperity for Brody; the Jews there began to establish commercial links abroad. Bernstein succeeded in concentrating a large part of the trade in his hands. When in 1776 the election of a chief rabbi (Oberlandesrabbiner) of Galicia was about to take place, the rabbi-designate Ezekiel *Landau remained in Prague, and Bernstein was appointed. At his new place of residence in Lemberg, Bernstein took over control of the religious functionaries and the administration of taxes in the communities under his jurisdiction. His authoritarian ways and interference in the administration of the communities aroused opposition which was exacerbated by his financial dealings, which he continued while serving as chief rabbi. His opponents complained bitterly against him, and in 1785 an investigation was begun. However, through his influence, the charges were dropped and his accusers were punished. Despite this, his authority was undermined. The increasing dissatisfaction among the mass of Jews, coupled with the inclination of the authorities to abolish the centralistic chief rabbinate, led to its abrogation on Nov. 1, 1786. Bernstein, who was permitted to retain the title only, did not succeed in his intention to continue to manage religious affairs. He subsequently devoted himself mainly to commerce and left a large fortune to his heirs.

[Moshe Landau]

His father, issachar ber (d. 1764) was also a distinguished scholar, rabbi, and communal leader. Issachar Ber's first position was as a rabbi of the Kehillat Ḥayyatin ("Congregation of the Tailors") in Brody. In 1750, he was elected rosh ha-medinah ("head of the province") of Brody, and also was appointed "a trustee of the Council of Four Lands and parnas of Rydzyna Province." Despite the intense opposition of some communities, he remained a trustee until 1763.

[Itzhak Alfassi]

bibliography:

N.M. Gelber, Aus zwei Jahrunderten (1924), 14–37; idem, in: jqr, 14 (1923/24), 303–27; S. Buber, Anshei Shem (1895), xixff.

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