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Avraham Trebitsch of Mikulov

(ca. 1759–1837), scholar and chronicler. Born in Třebíč (Ger., Trebitsch), Moravia, Avraham Trebitsch was the son of Re’uven Ḥayat and his wife, Fradl. He studied at yeshivas in Mikulov (ca. 1771) and Prague (ca. 1775). Later that decade, he was based in Mikulov, where he held the post of secretary to the Moravian Land Rabbinate and became a close associate of Mordekhai Banet and Neḥemyah Trebitsch. Trebitsch gained “familiant” status (i.e., the right to reside [and marry]) in Mikulov, started a family, and in 1799 purchased part of a house. He was, however, dependent on charitable donations from the Jewish community, and his daughters lived in poverty following his death.

Trebitsch’s literary work consists of several unpublished volumes that survive in private collections. His other writings include the minor work Ruaḥ ḥayim and the two-part historical chronicle Korot ha-‘itim. Ruaḥ ḥayim was written with Avraham Tsevi Hirsh Menaker and was published in both Yiddish and Hebrew in 1785. In it, the authors describe the appearance of a dybbuk in Mikulov two years earlier, and relate how the evil spirit was exorcised from the victim’s body. The first part of Korot ha-‘itim (1801) appeared simultaneously in Hebrew and Yiddish (Yid., Tsaytgeshikte). In this work, Trebitsch extended She’erit Yisra’el, a chronicle originally written in 1743 by the Dutch Jew Menaḥem Mann Amelander; Trebitsch covered events from 1740 to 1801. Unlike Amelander, however, he concentrated, in addition to events in the Jewish community, mainly on incidents outside the community. He described the wars of the Habsburg monarchy in the second half of the eighteenth century, the reforms of Joseph II, the outbreak of the French Revolution, as well as other matters of general interest, such as the deaths of prominent members of ruling families and natural disasters.

Although Trebitsch promised to write a second part of Korot ha-‘itim, its actual existence remained virtually unknown until the late twentieth century. This was why the Galician maskil Jacob Bodek wrote his own follow-up to the chronicle. Entitled Korot nosafot, it focused on the years 1802–1850 and was published in Lemberg, with Trebitsch’s original text, in 1851. Trebitsch had, in fact, written a new section, but censors blocked its publication in 1817. It is preserved in a private collection in Jerusalem in a single Hebrew autograph manuscript. Treating the period from 1801 to 1833, Trebitsch detailed military and political events in Europe (including the wars with revolutionary and Napoleonic France and the reactionary politics of the Holy Alliance). His main source was the German-language press, particularly official Austrian newspapers.

Compared to other works of the Haskalah, Korot ha-‘itim at first glance appears to be more closely linked to medieval Jewish historiography. In fact, it differs in that it focuses mostly on political and military events in the non-Jewish world. In this sense, Trebitsch’s work is rather similar to the folk historiography that appeared in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries in the Christian environment of Bohemia and Moravia. This is mainly why the chronicle, alongside the works of the Haskalah and Wissenschaft des Judentums, is an important record of the complex development of the Jewish relationship to history at the threshold of the modern era.

Suggested Reading

Iveta Cermanová, “The Second Part of the Chronicle ‘Qorot ha-Ittim’ by Abraham Trebitsch of Mikulov. A Contribution to the Research of 19th-century Jewish Historiography,” Judaica Bohemiae 40 (2004): 22–60; Jiřina Šedinová, “The Hebrew Historiography in Moravia in the 18th Century: Abraham Trebitsch, circa 1760–1840,” Judaica Bohemiae 10 (1974): 51–61; Iveta Vondrášková (Cermanová), “The Events of Times by Abraham Trebitsch of Mikulov (Nikolsburg): The Chronicle and Its Relationship to the Development of Modern Historiography,” Judaica Bohemiae 37 (2001): 92–144.



Translated from Czech by Stephen Hattersley