BIRKENTHAL (Brezhover), DOV BER


BIRKENTHAL (Brezhover), DOV BER
BIRKENTHAL (Brezhover), DOV BER (Ber of Bolechow; 1723–1805), Hebrew writer and memoirist. Born in Bolechow, Birkenthal adopted a German name in accordance with the decree of Joseph II in 1772, when the city passed from Polish to Austrian rule. He received a traditional Jewish education, but his father, who was a wine dealer and had contact with Polish and Hungarian nobles and priests, agreed to engage a non-Jewish tutor – an unusual step for the time – who taught him Polish, Latin, German, and French. Birkenthal took over his father's business and became the leader of the Bolechow community. In the debate with the followers of jacob frank , which was held in the main church of Lemberg in 1759, Birkenthal served as interpreter and adviser to R. Ḥayyim b. Simḥah ha-Kohen Rapoport, the chief rabbi of Lemberg. His main literary work, Imrei Binah, is a study of false-Messiah movements in Jewish history, and the debate with the Frankists occupies a central position in it. The work was discovered in 1910, long after his death, and published by A.J. Brawer in Ha-Shilo'aḥ (vols. 33 and 38). A manuscript of his memoirs was discovered in Jews' College, London, in 1912 and was published – with introduction – in 1922 in Berlin by M. Wischnitzer. It was published in Yiddish (Ber Bolekhovers Zikhroynes) and in English translation (The Memoirs of Ber of Bolechow) in the same year. These two works contain valuable information for the study of Jewish history in Galicia in the 18th century, not only for the Frankist movement but also for the history of the Council of the Lands, the Jewish census in Poland (1764), and for Jewish economic history of that period. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Zinberg, Sifrut, 5 (1959), 109–11; Wischnitzer, in: JQR, 12 (1921/22), 1–24; Balaban, in: Festschrift… S. Poznański (1927), 25ff. (Abraham J. Brawer)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.


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