Berr (de Turique), Michel
BERR (de Turique), MICHEL
BERR (de Turique), MICHEL (1781–1843), French lawyer. Born in Nancy, he was the son of *Berr Isaac Berr and became the son-in-law of Isaiah *Beer-Bing. Like his father, Berr was an advocate of Mendelssohnian Enlightenment. He sided with its radical exponents, however, and tended to disregard the national and religious aspects of Judaism while concentrating on the struggle for civic equality for the Jews in their different countries. In this spirit he defended persecuted Jews in a pamphlet entitled Appel à la justice des nations et des rois (1801). Berr was the first Jewish lawyer to practice in France. In 1806 he and his father were deputies at the *Assembly of Jewish Notables, and in 1807 Berr was appointed secretary of the Napoleonic *Sanhedrin. He then held an official appointment in the Kingdom of Westphalia and subsequently in the Préfecture of La Meurthe, but his later career was disappointing and he dissipated his talents.
Many important non-Jewish personalities regarded Berr as the ideal type of modern Jew. Berr translated a number of works from Hebrew including panegyrics to Napoleon. His most voluminous work was Abrégé de la Bible et choix de morceaux de piété et de morale à l'usage des Israélites de France (1819). At first Berr's attitude toward Judaism tended to be radical and rationalist. He held that once Judaism had detached itself from "talmudic quibbling" it would appear as the universal truth, while Christianity, also freed from its superstitions, would simply merge with Judaism. Later Berr insisted on the retention of what, in his opinion, were essential Jewish practices, which he explained in his Nouveau précis élémentaire d'instruction réligieuse et morale à l'usage de la jeunesse française israélite (1839), thus adhering in his eclectic way to Jewish religious reform.
Terquem (Tsarphaty), in: AI, 4 (1843), 721–7; ai, 5 (1844), 109–16, 168–80; Barcinski, in: Euphorion, 15 (1908); Dictionnairede biographie française, 6 (1954), 141; Szajowski, in: jjs, 14 (1963), 53–66.