Letter from Juliusz Barasch to his brother Eisig, 1839. From Juliusz (Iuliu) Barasch in Berlin to his brother Eisig Barasch in Stanisławów, Austrian Empire (now Ivano-Frankiv'sk, Ukr.), 30 June 1839. Barasch praises his brother's letter: they are soul-mates. Reading it was like looking into an untarnished mirror of his own soul. He writes about his continuing study of medicine, "his chosen profession," which he is combining with a degree in philosophy. He has abandoned his rabbinical studies. He compares Leipzig—where he was one of only a handful of Jewish students in the university—and Berlin, where there are "a few thousand Jewish families and a quarter of the students are Jewish or of Jewish ancestry." In Berlin, all sorts of Jews can be encountered, from the very Orthodox ("stricter than any Jew in Galicia" when it comes to observance of the Sabbath) to those who "take many liberties" when it comes to Jewish practice. Barasch has made a pilgrimage to Moses Mendelssohn's grave, and has affixed transcription of the tombstone to the front page of the letter. He found it a surprisingly modest grave for such a prominent man. He has brought letters of recommendation from Leipzig with him, which have secured him a friendly reception by some of the local families and he has also met and gotten to know some prominent scholars, including Abraham Geiger and Leopold Zunz. Barash has run into and become very friendly with their cousin, Herr Brillant, a successful businessman in Petersburg and Odessa who gave up everything to study medicine in Berlin. Judeo-German. RG 107, Letters Collection. (YIVO)

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Barasch, Iuliu

(1815–1863), physician, philosopher, writer, and popularizer of science. Born in Brody, Galicia, Iuliu (Julius; Yehudah) Barasch received a traditional education and prepared for a rabbinical career. However, he came under the influence of the Hebrew writers Hirsh Mendel Pineles and Yitsḥak Erter and turned his attention to secular reading. He studied philosophy beginning in 1836 at the University of Leipzig. In 1839 he transferred to the University of Berlin and earned a degree in medicine in 1841.

As a student, Barasch was friendly with Moritz Steinschneider, with whom he prepared an edition of Sa‘adyah Gaon’s Emunot ve-de‘ot (Book of Doctrines and Beliefs; 1840). Barasch also contributed to the journals Tsiyon (in Hebrew) and Sulamith (in German). In 1841, he moved to Bucharest to work as a physician. He was appointed professor of natural sciences at the local college in 1851 and at the school of surgery in 1855, becoming the first Jew to lecture at a Romanian university. In 1850–1852 he published the first Romanian text that popularized the sciences, Minunile naturei (The Wonders of Nature), in three volumes. Between 1856 and 1869 he edited the magazine Isis sau natura (Isis or Nature). In 1858, he founded the first hospital for children in Romania.

Barasch was also involved in promoting the Haskalah. He was one of the first maskilim from Romania. In 1839–1840 he wrote a set of polemic articles on Hasidim in Poland for the Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, and in 1843–1845, in the same newspaper, he published a series of articles on Jewish life in Galicia, Bucovina, Moldavia, and Walachia. He presented the situation of the Jews of Moldavia and Walachia in an article published in German in the Kalendar und Jahrbuch für das Jahr 5615 (1854–1855), and translated into French in Archives Israélites, and into English in the Jewish Chronicle. Barasch proposed to improve the situation of East European Jews through education.

In 1851, Barasch became the principal of the first Haskalah-inspired school in Bucharest; instruction was given in German. In Vienna in 1856, he published the first volume—the only one issued—of his text titled Otsar ḥokhmah (The Thesaurus of Sciences), the earliest modern philosophical and encyclopedic work in Hebrew; its purpose was to disseminate modern philosophical and scientific knowledge among East European Jews. In 1858, Barasch was one of the founders of the Israelitul Român (The Romanian Israelite), the first Jewish bilingual newspaper to be published in Romanian and French, and in 1862, he was one of the founders of Societatea de Cultură Israelită (The Society for Israelite Culture), an organization promoting the ideology of the Haskalah; he became its president and held this position for the rest of his life.

As a supporter of Jews’ social integration and a militant for emancipation, Barasch was a staunch opponent of assimilation. In a polemic pamphlet that he wrote in German, Offenes Sendschreiben an Herrn Israel Pick (Open Letter to Mr. Israel Pick; 1854), he condemned Jews who abandoned Judaism and those who converted to Christianity. The letter targeted a Jewish convert to Christianity, a former Reform rabbi and teacher of religion in the Jewish school of Bucharest, who had moved to Prussia. Wishing to draw back Jews who no longer attended synagogue, Barasch supported a moderate religious reform that was limited to ceremonial aspects. He also took a philosophical approach to Judaism and presented his beliefs in his article “Gedanken über des Religionsphilosophie des Judenthums” (Thoughts on the Philosophy of Religion of Judaism) published in Der Orient review in 1841. The pseudonyms he employed in the German language press (1839–1845) included Julius Marcussohn B., Julius Friedsohn, and Rafael Sincerus.

Suggested Reading

Paul Cernovodeanu, “Contribuția medicului Iehuda (Iuliu) Barasch la dezvoltarea ştiinței şi culturii româneşti,” in Jaloane pentru o viitoare istorie: Reuniunea ştiințifică din 2–4 noiembrie 1997, ed. Dumitru Hîncu, pp. 127–139 (Bucharest, 1999); Lucian-Zeev Herşcovici, “Yehudah ben Mordekhay (Julius) Barasch, 1815–1863: Like a Philosopher of Judaism,” in The Jews in the Romanian History: Papers from the International Symposium, Bucharest, 1996, ed. Ion Stanciu, pp. 61–69 (Bucharest, 1999); Moses Schwarzfeld, Dr. Iuliu Barasch, Iunie 1815–30 April 1863 (Bucharest, 1919); A. B. Yoffe, Be-Sadot zarim: Sofrim yehudim be-Romanyah, 1880–1940 (Tel Aviv, 1996), pp. 47–61, abstract and table of contents also in English.



Translated from Romanian by Anca Mircea