Rabinovich, Osip Aronovich

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RABINOVICH, OSIP ARONOVICH (1817–1869), Russian author and publicist, founder and editor of *Razsvet, the first Jewish journal in Russian. Born in Kobelyaki, Ukraine, the son of a well-to-do businessman, he studied both Jewish and secular subjects under private tutors. He settled in Odessa in 1845 and developed a successful practice as an adviser and pleader at the commercial court, and later, as a notary. Rabinovich's literary career also began in Odessa. In 1847 he translated Jacob *Eichenbaum's Hebrew poem on chess, Ha-Kerav, into Russian and contributed articles and feuilleton-type fiction to local publications. Later his works were published by leading Russian journals. Although published after the abolition of certain laws regarding recruitment of Jews into the Russian army, his story, "Shtrafnoy" (in Russkiy Vestnik, 1859), was considered a bitter reflection of the abuse perpetuated on Jews under the rule of *Nicholas i. It was a tale of the anguish suffered by a fine, public-spirited, middle-aged Jew recruited for a lifetime into the Russian army in partial payment for communal indebtedness. In 1860–61 Rabinovich published Razsvet. He was the mainstay of the journal, writing articles and stories for it and setting its tone by his weekly editorials. Maintaining a high standard, Rabinovich concentrated in the journal on the relationship of Jewish life to outside forces, i.e., to Russian society, and in particular to the Russian authorities. He relegated to others the concern for the inner aspects of Jewish life. He pleaded for the recognition of Jews as Russian citizens and for their integration step by step into Russian society as useful, contributing human beings. If inner reforms were needed to prepare Jews for their role in society, it was no less important to rid them of the outward vestiges of medieval segregation and discrimination they were suffering in Russia. Rabinovich felt that a first step must be the removal of such vestiges from the law and from state and public institutions. As Rabinovich saw it, the major obstacle toward citizenship for Jews was the *Pale of Settlement. He contended that not only Jews but the country as a whole suffered from this system which closed off most of the state from Jewish settlement. He believed that the humanist and reformist tendencies during the early years of the reign of *Alexanderii, which culminated in the abolition of serfdom (1861), should also lead to reforms for Russian Jews, enabling them to emulate the progress of Western Europe. Rabinovich insisted that the coercive administrative measures sometimes urged by westernizers would not help to better the conditions of the Jewish masses and should not be applied. He believed that a progressive modernization among the Jews would be evoked primarily by improving social and legal conditions. Full equality was due to Jews as human beings, irrespective of the degree to which they might be considered modern, i.e., westernized. Under oppressive Russian censorship, Rabinovich decided to discontinue the publication of Razsvet. He died in Merano, Italy. His complete works were published in three volumes in 1880–88.


Yu. I. Gessen, Gallereya yevreyskikh deyateley, 1 (1898), 5–72; N.A. Buchbinder, Literaturnye etyudy (1927); Perlmann, in: jsos, 24 (1962), 162–82; Waxman, Literature, index.

[Mark Perlman]