Avraham Tsevi Perlmutter (second from right) and other members of the Warsaw rabbinate during a demonstration in honor of the 125th anniversary of the Polish Constitution of 1791, Warsaw, 1916. Photograph by Marjan Fuks. From a postcard printed by B. Wierzbicki, Warsaw. (YIVO)

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Perlmutter, Avraham Tsevi

(1844/46–1930), rabbi, Polish Sejm deputy. A child prodigy, Avraham Tsevi Perlmutter was ordained as a rabbi at age 14 and was a disciple of some of the leading rabbis of his era, including Ḥayim Halberstam of Sandz (Nowy Sącz), Shim‘on Sofer of Kraków, and Dov Berush Meisels of Warsaw. At first Perlmutter served as rabbi in a series of small communities, including Osięciny, Pabianice, and Raciąż. While officiating in Raciąż, he learned Russian at the urging of the provincial governor, but only after receiving the approval of his father and of the rebbe of Gostynin, to whom he was close even though Perlmutter was not a Hasid.

The study of Russian, which angered the mostly Hasidic laity of the community, served Perlmutter well in later years on a number of occasions, especially when he had to deal with Russian officials on urgent Jewish matters. In 1886 he was offered the post of rabbi of the major community of Radom, succeeding Shemu’el Mohilewer. While serving in the smaller towns, Perlmutter had mainly devoted himself to setting up educational institutions for the young. In Radom (and later in Warsaw), though, he was involved in a wider range of public affairs. He helped set up kosher kitchens, arranged hospitality in local homes for the large number of Jewish soldiers stationed near Radom, and mustered support for the local Talmud Torah. He delivered an eloquent address at a celebration honoring the ascension of Nicholas II to the throne, which was published in the regional newspaper and earned Perlmutter a commendation from the tsar.

Jewish representatives to the Sejm (parliament), Poland, ca. 1920: (1) Rabbi Moszek Eli Halpern, (2) Noah Pryłucki, (3) Avraham Tsevi Perlmutter, (4) Dr. Berek Wajncier, (5) Yitsḥak Grünbaum, (6) Osjasz Thon, (7) Uri (Jerzy) Rosenblatt, (8) Ignacy Schiper. (YIVO)

In 1902, Perlmutter was chosen to head the rabbinical court of Warsaw. He continued his public activities, devoting much time and effort to dealing with authorities, particularly during World War I. During the German occupation, he was named to the Polish Provisional State Council. With the renewal of Polish independence, in 1919 Perlmutter was elected to the constituent Sejm from the Lublin district as a representative of Agudas Yisroel. The elderly rabbi who delivered patriotic addresses in fluent Polish was a living link to the era of Polish–Jewish amity in the 1860s, symbolized by his teacher Meisels.

Both Perlmutter’s conciliatory tone and a number of his votes in the chamber aroused public criticism. His defenders pointed to Perlmutter’s long record of defending Jews in distress, which outweighed any legislative faux pas. Perlmutter is the author of Damesek Eli‘ezer (responsa) and the accompanying treatise Erets Tsevi (aggadic novellae; 1905).

Suggested Reading

Gershon C. Bacon, The Politics of Tradition: Agudat Yisrael in Poland, 1916–1939 (Jerusalem, 1996), pp. 78–79, 231, 236, 241, 245–247, 250–252; Moyshe Perlmuter, Ha-Rov R. Avrom Tsvi Perlmuter: Zayn lebn un shafn (Antwerp, 1933); Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vol. 3, p. 133 (New York, 1953); Abraham S. Stein, ed., Radom (Tel Aviv, 1961), pp. 48–49.