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LEONOVICH (Leonowicz ), name of Karaite family from Halich. The first bearer of this family name was the community leader Abraham ben Levi (d. 1851). In 1802 he was appointed as hazzan of Halich; he protected the interests of his community before the Austrian authorities. In 1836 through his endeavors a new synagogue was built in Halich (the previous one had been burned down six years before). He was on friendly terms with some intellectuals of the *Haskalah, movement which spread at that time in Galicia. Among his friends, with whom he corresponded and discussed religious questions, were Nahman *Krochmal, Samuel David *Luzzatto of Padua, Isaac ben Samuel Regio, Abraham *Geiger, and many others. He relaxed some severe Karaite laws that concerned the burying of the dead. He composed a number of liturgical poems in Hebrew, some of which were included in the Karaite siddur, and some in the Karaite language. In addition to Karaite sources he studied Talmud and medieval Rabbanite literature.

His son Joseph (1794–1867) was appointed as a ḥazzan after his father's demise. He was also an intercessor for his community and a member of the municipal council of Halich. Joseph and a number of dignitaries of the community traveled to Vienna on a special mission to the Emperor Franz Joseph to ask him for the exemption of Karaites from military service. His argument was that according to the Karaites' literal interpretation of Scripture, any bloodshed is strictly prohibited, even during war. The delegation's request was answered positively. Joseph wrote the grammatical treatise Imrei Shefer (St. Petersburg Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy A 258) and a number of liturgical poems in Hebrew, some of them included in the Karaite siddur. He was interested in Rabbanite literature. As he grew up in the atmosphere of the Haskalah in his father's house, he was on friendly terms with some important Haskalah figures, such as A. Geiger, M.-M. Rozenthal, Joseph Moses Levi of Hungary, and others. His correspondence from 1860 to 1864 with the latter was published in Kokhvei Yizḥak (1845–83), 28–33.

zarah ben samuel (d. 1895) was a son-in-law of Joseph ben Abraham. From 1871 he served as second ḥazzan of the Halich community and in 1894–95 became its first ḥazzan. He was an expert in Karaite literature and in addition studied philosophical and other Rabbanite works. During some periods of his life he observed precepts that oblige only Rabbanites.

There were some additional, less known personalities with the name Leonovich. This family name was common also in Luzk.


R. Fahn, Sefer ha-Kara'im (1929), 47–52; 88–90; 116–120; 55–56; 120.

[Golda Akhiezer (2nd ed.)]