Kornfeld, Aaron ben Mordecai Baer

views updated


KORNFELD, AARON BEN MORDECAI BAER (1795–1881), last rosh yeshivah of Bohemia. Kornfeld's father, Mordecai Baer, turned an old distillery in *Golcuv Jenikov into a modern factory, and his uncle Salman supplied potash to glass factories and founded a tannery. The wealth they thus gained was used for the upkeep of a yeshivah, headed first by Mordecai Baer and, on his death, by Aaron, who was then only 18 years old. Becoming renowned throughout the Jewish world as Aaron Jennikau, Kornfeld was strictly Orthodox in his teaching, yet he conceded the necessity for secular studies. Up to 80 students attended his yeshivah, among them Ignaz *Kuranda and Simon *Szanto. On his return from his intervention in the *Damascus Affair, Moses *Montefiore stopped at Golcuv Jenikov to make Kornfeld's acquaintance. Kornfeld published in 1847 a dialogue between an Orthodox father and a Liberal son in the Shomer Ẓiyyon ha-Ne'eman, and in 1865 Ẓiyyunim le-Divrei ha-Kabbalah, a collection of judgments alluded to through *gematria. These he compiled from memory while preparing to undergo an eye operation. With Aaron's death, his yeshivah, the last in Bohemia, was closed. Kornfeld's brother-in-law, meir altar ha-levi (1812–after 1865), was an early protagonist of *Haskalah in Bohemia and contributed to *Bikkurei ha-Ittim. Among his works was a translation of the Psalms into Greek. In 1850 Kornfeld and Altar were members of a committee formulating a curriculum for a rabbinical seminary to be established in Prague. Members of the same family include sigmund kornfeld, the Vienna psychiatrist and philosopher, a friend of Theodor *Herzl, Joseph *Popper-Lynkeus, and Zsigmond *Kornfeld, the Budapest banker. The German expressionist writer Paul *Kornfeld was Aaron's great-grandson.


M.B. May, Isaac Mayer Wise … a Biography (1916), 28–29; J. Maximovič in: H. Gold (ed.), Juden und Judengemeinden Boehmens (1934), 165–6; R. Kestenberg-Gladstein, Neuere Geschichte der Juden in den boehmischen Laendern, 1 (1969), 322–4; I.H. Weiss, Zikhronotai (1895), 76–77; M.H. Friedlaender, Leben und Wirken der hervorragendsten rabbinischen Autoritaeten Prags (1892), 51–59; A. Stein, Geschichte der Juden in Boehmen (1904), 139–43.

[Meir Lamed]