Hurwitz, Phinehas Elijah

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HURWITZ, PHINEHAS ELIJAH (1765–1821), Hebrew writer and early advocate of Haskalah. Born in Lvov, Hurwitz wandered through Poland, Hungary, Germany, and England. He gained extensive secular knowledge without even knowing a single European language (it seems that a friend acted as translator), and wrote Sefer ha-Berit (1797), the first part of which was an anthology of the sciences, while the second half dealt with metaphysical questions. Sefer ha-Berit went into many editions since it was a source of basic scientific information for Jews who knew no European languages. The author condemned the fact that Jews engaged only in study and commerce which could not provide them with the proper livelihood and which exposed them to antisemitism and urged that they turn to manual labor.


S.A. Horodezky, Yahadut ha-Sekhel ve-Yahadut ha-Regesh, 2 (1947), 387–405; R. Mahler, Divrei Yemei Yisrael, Dorot Aḥaronim, 4 (1956), 45–52; Zinberg, Sifrut, 3 (1958), 317–24; 5 (1959), 137.