Kupernik, Abraham

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KUPERNIK, ABRAHAM (1821–1892), Russian communal worker and writer. After studying at the yeshivah of Volozhin, he was attracted by the Haskalah movement and studied languages and sciences. From 1851 he was employed as a clerk in J.Y. Guenzburg's brandy-distilling monopolies and was appointed director of the Kiev province monopoly in 1858. Opening a private bank in Kiev, he became one of the wealthiest men in the city and a leader of the Jewish community. He also participated in the general public affairs of the city and was decorated by the Russian government. One of the founders of the *Society for the Promotion of Culture among the Jews of Russia (1863), he also joined the Ḥovevei Ẓion and was one of the contributors to *Ha-Meliẓ. In his short work, Le-Korot Benei Yisrael be-Kiev ("History of the Jews in Kiev," 1891), he reprinted extracts from the register of the ḥevra kaddisha of Kiev.

His son lev (1845–1905), one of the most prominent advocates in Russia, converted in order to marry a Christian woman. Renowned throughout southern Russia as the defender of the ordinary man from the arbitrariness of the law, he contributed to the liberal Russian press, especially the Zaria of Kiev, publishing sharp contributions which included attacks on the antisemitic press. Lev Kupernik attained fame among the Jews for his defense of the accused in the blood libel trial of Kutais (1879) and of the members of the Jewish *self-defense in *Gomel (1904).


Aḥi'asaf, 1 (1893), 292–3; Ha-Asif, 6 (1893), 160–1; A. Ginsberg, Meshumodim in Tsarishn Rusland (1946), 264–78.

[Yehuda Slutsky]