Katsh (Katz), Abraham Isaac

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KATSH (Katz), ABRAHAM ISAAC (1908–1998), U.S. educator, author, and archivist. Katsh was born in Indura (Amdur), Poland, and immigrated to the United States in 1925. He received a B.S. from New York University in mathematics in 1931 and a J.D. from the law school in 1936. In 1933, he persuaded nyu to allow him to offer a course in modern Hebrew, the first such course at a U.S. university. There, he founded the Jewish Culture Foundation, the Department of Hebrew Language and Education, and the Institute of Hebrew Studies. A chair in his name was established at nyu's Hebrew studies department in 1957. Katsh received a Ph.D. from *Dropsie College in 1942 and, in 1967, was elected president of Dropsie College (later University).

Katsh was a wide-ranging scholar. As a student, he translated Einstein's theory of relativity into Hebrew. In 1954 he published Judaism in Islam, an analysis of biblical and talmudic backgrounds of the Koran and its commentaries. During a visit to the Soviet Union and Hungary in 1956, Katsh discovered what he called a "bibliophile's paradise," many thousands of Hebrew manuscripts that were being stored in various libraries. He arranged for the microfilming of several thousand manuscripts that had been hidden from Western view since the Russian Revolution of 1917. One of the collections contained medieval manuscripts on all aspects of Judaica, including biblical commentaries, law, poetry, and liturgy. Another collection consisted of a quarter of a million pages and scraps of paper from the Cairo Genizah. Among them were 427 fragments of Talmud manuscripts – dating from the 7th through the 11th centuries – that corrected some inaccurate interpretations of talmudic material. During trips in the late 1950s and 1960s, during the height of the Cold War, he persuaded the Soviet authorities to microfilm additional manuscripts in libraries in Moscow and Leningrad, on the basis of which he published Catalogue of Hebrew Manuscripts Preserved… (On Microfilm) in the U.S.S.R. (2 vols., 1957–58); The Antonin Genizah in Leningrad (1963); Ginze Mishnah (1971), a study of 149 Genizah fragments dating from the 9th to the 12th centuries; Ginze Talmud Bavli, a companion volume of 178 fragments from the Antonin Collection (1975, 1979). He also published a collection of 50 Hebrew poems of the Spanish period. For his works on the Genizah, Katsh was awarded the Rabbi Kaniel Prize of the Municipality of Haifa in June 1979.

In 1963, Katsh learned of a diary written by a Hebrew school principal, Chaim Aron *Kaplan in the Warsaw ghetto that had been smuggled out of the ghetto and had been hidden for more than two decades. Katsh translated the diary, obtained missing volumes, and published it as Scroll of Agony: The Warsaw Diary of Chaim A. Kaplan (1965).

Katsh published a number of essays on Hebrew and Jewish studies in U.S. universities. In 1957 he founded the National Association of Professors of Hebrew in American Universities. In addition to the books listed above, Katsh edited an anthology, Bar Mitzvah, Illustrated (1955), and Biblical Heritage of American Democracy was published in 1979. He retired from his posts at Dropsie and nyu in 1976.


T. Naamani et al. (eds.), Dōrōn; Hebraic Studies (Essays in Honor of Abraham I. Katsh; 1965); Y. Ben-Josef (ed.), Sefer Avraham Yiẓḥak Katsh (1969); J. Komlosh, in: Bitzaron, 60 (1969), 158–64.

[Ethan Katsch (2nd ed.)]