Euchel, Isaac Abraham

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EUCHEL, ISAAC ABRAHAM (1756–1804), Hebrew author, Bible commentator, and one of the leaders of the *Haskalah in Germany. Born in Copenhagen, Euchel, having received a traditional education, moved in 1773 to Koenigsberg, where he earned his living as a tutor in the home of the wealthy *Friedlaender family. In 1781 he attended Kant's lectures at the University of Koenigsberg. He was recommended for a lectureship in Hebrew at the university but was rejected because he was Jewish. In 1787, Euchel moved to Berlin, where he managed the printing press of the Juedische Freischule (Ḥinnukh Ne'arim School). Later he worked as a bookkeeper for a commercial firm.

Euchel's literary and communal activity began in 1782 (in Koenigsberg) with the publication of his pamphlet Sefat Emet, in which he called for the establishment of a school in Koenigsberg, based on the principles of the Enlightenment. In 1782 he was one of the founders of Ḥevrat Doreshei Leshon Ever (The Society of Advocates of the Hebrew Language), which started to publish Ha-Me'assef, and, with Menahem Mendel Breslau, published Naḥal ha-Besor, the prospectus of Ha-Me'assef. He served as one of the editors of Ha-Me'assef as long as he was in Koenigsberg (till 1790), and published several articles in that periodical, including the first monograph on Moses Mendelssohn, entitled Toledot Rabbenu he-Ḥakham Moshe ben Menaḥem (published in book form in Berlin, 1789). He also prepared a free translation of the prayer book into German (1786) and wrote a commentary on Proverbs, with a German translation in Hebrew characters (Berlin, 1790). In addition, he is credited with the authorship of Iggerot Meshullam Ben Uriyyah ha-Eshtemo'i which started to appear in Ha-Me'assef in the autumn of 1789, and which seemed in some respects to imitate Montesquieu's Persian Letters. In 1797 he published in Breslau a pamphlet (German in Hebrew characters) entitled Ist nach dem juedischen Gesetze das Uebernachten der Todten wirklieh verboten? To combat the influence of the Orthodox, Euchel wrote (about 1792) a satirical comedy in colloquial Yiddish, called Reb Henekh, Oder Vos Tut Men Damit. No copies are extant of this edition, which apparently was published after Euchel's death. A new edition in Gothic characters (Reb Henoch; oder Was thut men damit) appeared in Berlin in 1846; and in 1933, Z. Rejzen republished it in his Arkhiv far der Geshikhte fun Yidishen Teater un Drama, from the manuscript preserved in the Rosenthaliana library in Amsterdam. The play, sharply satirical, especially in the portrayal of the Orthodox, reflects the relations between Jews and non-Jews in Prussia during the period of the struggle for emancipation.


Klausner, Sifrut, 1 (19522), 131–43; M. Erik, Di Komedies fun der Berliner Oyfklerung (1933), 42–61; J.L. Landau, Short Lectures on Modern Hebrew Literature (19382), index; N. Slouschz, Renascence of Hebrew Literature (1909), 41.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]