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Klemperer, Gutmann

(1815–1882), rabbi, historian, and essayist. Gutmann (Gumpel) Klemperer was born into a family that had been in Prague for several generations. His father was a leader of the Zigeuner Synagogue, and his mother stemmed from the family of Yom Tov Lipmann Heller. Klemperer studied at yeshivas in Prague and Bratislava (Pressburg), at the Piarist gymnasium in Prague, and finally at the faculty of philosophy at Charles University. His first wife was the daughter of his teacher Rabbi Elias Bunzelfedern (1799–1843). In 1843, Klemperer became a preacher in Tábor, and then served as the local rabbi from 1845 until his death. Begining in 1868, he also held the title of district rabbi.

Klemperer devoted much of his energy to studying the history of Jews in Prague and Bohemia, and he wrote a history of the Prague rabbinate from the death of Yehudah Leib ben Betsal’el (Maharal) through the period ending in 1879. Originally in German, the book was translated into English by Guido Kisch (Historia Judaica; 1950–1951) and later into Czech (1988). He served as editor of the Jüdischer Geschichtskalender (Jewish History Calendar), which appeared in Pascheles’ illustrierte jüdischer Volkskalender (Pascheles’ Illustrated Jewish Popular Calendar;1855–1859). Klemperer was also the author of German homiletical and patriotic speeches, including “Rede beim Dankfeste wegen Aufhebung der Judensteuer in Böhmen” (Speech on the Occasion of the Repeal of the Jewish Tax in Bohemia; 1847) and “Rede zur Feier der silbernen Hochzeit Sr. Maj. Ferdinand des Gütigen” (Speech on the Occasion of the Silver Wedding Anniversary of His Majesty Ferdinand I; 1856). He was author or editor of rabbinical biographies (Maharal, Shelomoh ben Yeḥi’el Luria, Ya‘akov ben Me’ir Tam [Rabenu Tam], and Yonatan Eybeschütz) and of personalities from the Talmudic period (Yehoshu‘a ben Ḥananyah, Shim‘on ben Lakish, Rav, Yoḥanan Zakai).

Klemperer translated Tsemaḥ David, the chronicle of David Gans (1541–1613) into German, under the title Chronikartige Weltgeschichte (1890; only 3 vols. were published). He also tried his hand at two autobiographical sketches: “Aus meiner frühesten Jugend” (From My Early Youth; 1870) and “Remininszenzen aus meiner frühen Jugendzeit, 1815–1825” (Reminiscences of My Youth, 1815–1825), both of which were found among his literary papers and subsequently published. Finally, Klemperer published a series of popular articles about Jewish health care and mysticism in Pascheles’ illustrierter jüdischer Volkskalender.

Suggested Reading

Leo Klemperer, “Der Lebenslauf eines böhmischen Landrabbiner in Tabor,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der Juden in der Tschechoslowakei 3 (1932/33): 203–209.