Loewe, Louis

views updated


LOEWE, LOUIS (Ha-Levi, Eliezer ; 1809–1888), Orientalist. Loewe was born in Zuelz, Germany, and studied at the yeshivot of Lissa and Pressburg; later he specialized in Oriental languages at the universities of Vienna and Berlin. In 1833 he moved to London. At the suggestion of the scholarly Duke of Sussex (son of King George iii) and of several leading French and English Orientalists, Loewe decided in 1837 to undertake an expedition to Egypt, in preparation for which he had mastered Egyptology and the Nubian and Ethiopic languages. On this journey he deciphered various inscriptions on the banks of the Nile, at Thebes, Alexandria, Cairo, and elsewhere.

From Egypt he proceeded to Palestine, but had the misfortune to arrive there during the revolt of the Druze; when he was in Safed they robbed him and destroyed 13 of his notebooks, already prepared for publication. He stayed in Shechem for a short time, studying Samaritan customs and literature. In Damascus he acquired a valuable collection of rare ancient coins. In Constantinople he studied the customs of the Karaite community and acquired many rare books and manuscripts of this sect. His impressions of his visit to Palestine were published in a series of letters in the German-Jewish weekly Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums for the year 1839 (in an abridged Hebrew translation by M.A. Guenzburg in his Devir, vol. 1, 1844).

From 1839, he accompanied Montefiore on all his journeys as his interpreter and secretary in Oriental languages, including Hebrew, and was Montefiore's devoted assistant in all his public activities. At the time of the Damascus Affair (1840) he accompanied Montefiore, Adolphe Crémieux, and Salomon Munk who went to Egypt and Turkey in an effort to intervene on behalf of the Jews. His command of Arabic enabled him to suggest a change in the wording of Muhammad Ali's firman, which resulted in the substitution of the term "honorable acquittal" for "pardon" (with its implication of guilt). Loewe accompanied Montefiore on visits to Russia in 1846 and 1872 and also on five trips to Palestine.

On his return to London in 1839 the Duke of Sussex offered him the post of director of the Oriental section of his extensive library, a position which he held for about 15 years. From 1856 to 1858 he was principal of *Jews' College in London. At Brighton in 1861 he established a school for Jewish boys, many of whom came from abroad. From 1869 to 1888 he was principal of Ohel Moshe vi-Yhudit, a theological seminary founded in 1869 by Moses Montefiore at Ramsgate. Loewe edited the Diaries of Sir Moses and Lady Montefiore (2 vols., 1890). His other works include The Origin of the Egyptian Language (1837); an English translation of and lengthy introduction to Efes Damim by I.B. Levinsohn (No Blood, 1841); an English translation of Ha-Kuzari ha-Sheni o Matteh Dan by David Nieto (1842); and A Dictionary of the Circassian Language (1854).


J.H. Loewe, A Descriptive Catalogue of a Portion of the Library of the Late Dr. Louis Loew (1895), introduction; J. Kurrein, in: jjgl, 27 (1926), 148–61; I. Trywaks and E. Steinmann, Sefer Me'ah Shanah (1938), 97–121; A. Yaari, Iggerot Ereẓ Yisrael (1943), 379–408; Enẓiklopedyah shel ha-Ẓiyyonut ha-Datit, 3 (1965), 95–98. add. bibliography: odnb online.

[Gedalyah Elkoshi]