Kohut

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KOHUT

KOHUT , Hungarian-American family. alexander kohut (1842–1894) was a rabbi and scholar. He was born in Felegyhaza (Kiskunfelegyhaza, Hungary). He earned his doctorate in Oriental languages at the University of Leipzig in 1865, and was ordained at the Breslau Seminary in 1867. After graduation he served as rabbi in Stuhlweissenburg (Szekesfehervar, Hungary). While there he was county superintendent of schools, the first Jew to hold this position. At Budapest in 1868, the Congress of Jewish Notables elected Kohut secretary. In 1872 he became chief rabbi of Fuenfkirchen (Pecs, Hungary), where he remained for eight years. He was appointed to the Hungarian parliament by the prime minister as representative of the Jews, but shortly thereafter (1885) he left for the United States to serve as rabbi of Congregation Ahabath Chesed in New York.

Kohut's reputation as rabbi and scholar had preceded him and he was warmly welcomed. He became involved in the struggle between the traditionalists and Reform. Out of this controversy came his Ethics of the Fathers (1885, 19202), which established the traditionalists' position. Kohut played a major role in the establishment of the Jewish Theological Seminary and taught Midrash and talmudic methodology there. He was one of the first scholars to write about the Yemenite Midrashim, in his Notes on…Commentary to the Pentateuch…by Aboo Manzûr al-Dhamâri… (1892).

His greatest work was the Arukh ha-Shalem (8 vols., 1878–92), a lexicon of talmudic terms which Solomon *Schechter called "the greatest and finest specimen of Hebrew learning ever produced by a Jew on this continent." In form it is a new scholarly edition of the Arukh of *Nathan b. Jehiel of Rome, but in fact it is a path-finding contribution to talmudic philology in which Kohut offers etymologies and additional sources which exhibit his wide knowledge of Oriental and classical languages. In his introduction he investigated the sources of the Arukh, the biographies of its author's teachers, and the quotations therefrom mentioned in the works of early and late commentators. With every entry in the Arukh ha-Shalem, there is a German translation of the title, as well as an etymological explanation of the words. This was followed by proofs and a discussion on the different versions found in the manuscripts. Kohut shows a special preference for Persian and he enlarges on the etymological presentations from that language. A volume of supplementary comments, Tosefet Arukh ha-Shalem (1937), was prepared by Samuel Krauss, Bernhard Geiger, Louis Ginzberg, Immanuel Loew, and Benjamin Murmelstein. In the Tosefet Arukh ha-Shalem, some of the exaggerated presentations of the Arukh ha-Shalem were corrected by B. Geiger (for example, in the entry anbag, which Kohut derives from the Persian, Geiger notes that this is etymologically inadmissible). The derivations from the Greek were also corrected in many cases by the editors of the Tosefet…. In arranging the entries, Kohut did not show a consistency in the spelling of words, and this is at times a source of difficulty in finding required entries. His etymological work in another field consisted of a critical discussion on the translation of the Torah into Persian by Jacob b. Joseph Tavus (Leipzig, 1871).

Alexander's second wife, rebecca (1864–1951), was an educator, vocational expert, and community leader. Born in Kaschau (Kosice, Slovakia), she was the daughter of Rabbi Albert *Bettelheim. Rebecca was taken by her family to the United States in 1867. In 1887 she married Alexander, who had recently lost his first wife and had eight children to care for. When Alexander died seven years later, she undertook to support the family by giving a series of lectures on Jewish topics, held at the home of Mrs. Jacob H. *Schiff. In 1899 she founded the short-lived Kohut School for Girls; later she became a director of the Columbia Grammar School. She was president of the New York Council of Jewish Women from 1897 to 1901, and in 1914 headed the Young Women's Hebrew Association's employment bureau. Recognized for special competence in the problems of the unemployed, she was appointed to the Federal Employment Clearing House in 1917, and in 1931 to the New York State Employment Service Advisory Commission. She served in 1932 on the State Joint Legislative Commission on Unemployment. In 1942 she became president of the World Congress of Jewish Women; she also played a leading role in the American Women's Association, the Vocational Service for Juniors, and the Bureau of Jewish Social Research. Her books include the autobiographical My Portion (1925) and More Yesterdays (1950), and George Alexander Kohut: His Memoir (1936).

george alexander (1874–1933), one of Alexander's sons, was also an educator. He was born at Szekesfehervar and went to New York with his father in 1885. When his father died he returned to Europe for three years to study at the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums and at the university in Berlin. He was ordained in the United States in 1897 by Bernard *Felsenthal and served as rabbi for three years in Dallas, Texas. Desiring a broader role as an educator, Kohut left for New York City, where he was a teacher and for a time assistant librarian at the Jewish Theological Seminary. From 1902 to 1912 he served as school principal at Temple Emanu-El. He founded the Kohut School for Boys and was its head in 1909–18; he also headed Camp Kohut (1907–26), the Children's University School and the Dalton High School (1924–26), and the Columbia Grammar School (1920–33).

Kohut sought to encourage Jewish scholarship in a number of ways. Through the Alexander Kohut Memorial Foundation, which he set up in 1915, he helped sponsor the publication of important works. In 1919 he presented the 8,000-volume Alexander Kohut Memorial Collection to Yale University library. His own 4,000-volume library was bequeathed to the American Jewish Historical Society, the Kohut Memorial Collection at Yale, and the Jewish Institute of Religion, where he was a trustee. He compiled the Italian index to his father's Arukh ha-Shalem, edited Semitic Studies in Memory of Alexander Kohut (1897), and published Morituri: A Reminiscence of My Father (1907). His many scholarly and popular essays reflect his interest in the prose and poetry of Hebrew, Hungarian, English, French, German, and Spanish, and in the bibliography and history of Jewish life and literature and Hebrew learning in the Americas.

Alexander's brother adolf (1848–1917) was a journalist, author, and biographer. He was born in Mindszent (Hungary). He studied briefly at the Jewish Theological Seminary in Breslau and wrote critically of his experiences in his Memoiren eines juedischen Seminaristen (1870). Kohut was the editor of several important German papers. In 1884, when he was the editor of Berliner Zeitung, he was expelled from Prussia for writing articles attacking Chancellor Bismarck; five years later Kohut was pardoned. He was a prolific writer, producing several hundred articles, monographs, and books on subjects ranging from studies of Heine, Herder, Feuerbach, Van Humboldt, and Frederick the Great to music and theater reviews, to the history of the Jews in Germany, including Moses Mendelssohn und seine Familie (1886), Geschichte des deutschen Juden (1899), and Beruehmte israelitische Maenner und Frauen (2 vols., 1901). He married the prima donna of the Dresden opera, Elizabeth Manstein. In 1892 he was knighted by Emperor Francis Joseph for contributions to literature.

bibliography:

on alexander: J. Fischer, Dr. Alexander Kohut; ein Lebensbild (1927); G.A. Kohut, Concerning Alexander Kohut:A Tentative Bibliography (1927); idem, in: Semitic Studies in Memory of Alexander Kohut (1897), 17–35 (introd.); I. Elbogen, in: ajyb, 44 (1942), 73–80; Tributes to the Memory of Rev. Dr. Alexander Kohut (1894); M. Davis, Emergence of Conservative Judaism (1963), index. on george alexander: J. Bloch, in: ajhsp, 34 (1937), 303–7; E.D. Coleman, in: Jewish Studies in Memory of George Alexander Kohut 18741933, ed. by S.W. Baron and A. Marx (1935), introd.; A. Marx, in: ajyb, 36 (1934), 55–64.

[Jack Reimer and

Menahem Zevi Kaddari]