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Poznański, Shemu’el Avraham

(1864–1921), rabbi, scholar, and bibliographer. Born in Lubraniets (Pol., Lubraniec), Shemu’el Avraham Poznański received a general and Jewish education from private tutors. In 1880, he moved to Warsaw and completed his studies in a realgymnasium (modern high school). In 1890, Poznański began to study at a number of institutions, including Berlin University, the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums (a rabbinical seminary and center for the scientific study of Judaism), and the Veitel Heine Institute. Greatly influenced by the bibliographer Moritz Steinschneider (1816–1907), Poznański submitted his doctoral dissertation in philosophy and Semitic philology to the University of Heidelberg in 1894, and two years later was ordained as a rabbi in Berlin.

In 1897, Poznański returned to Warsaw and was appointed assistant preacher at the modern synagogue on Tłomackie Street, where he worked with the preacher Yitsḥak Tsilkov. Unlike Tsilkov and the synagogue directors, Poznański supported the Zionist movement and participated in the First Zionist Congress in 1897. In 1908, he became the synagogue’s main preacher (a position he held until his death) while concurrently managing the synagogue’s scholarly library and teaching religious studies in schools.

During World War I, Poznański administered humanitarian programs for Jews in Warsaw. He was elected to be a Zionist delegate to the Warsaw City Council in 1916 and as a representative for Jews in the provisional National Council a year later. In 1918, with the aid of Polish authorities, he established the State Seminary for Teachers of the Mosaic Religion, and served as its principal. He also helped to found the Zionist school network Tarbut, and worked on designing its curriculum. He advised members of Mizraḥi on the principles for establishing Orthodox Zionist schools and founding a rabbinical seminary.

In 1921, the Warsaw community appointed Poznański to be a neighborhood rabbi and a member of the rabbinate in Warsaw, a position that elevated him to a post of rabbinical leadership of the entire Jewish community of the city. Although this honor pleased those who were associated with his synagogue, it provoked harsh disagreements from the Orthodox, who opposed the involvement of “assimilated” Jews in appointing rabbis. This did not prevent the confirmation of the appointment by the authorities—but the extremely ill Poznański died a few weeks later.

Poznański’s abundant publications included 784 works on topics that included the Gaonic period, the Karaites, biblical exegesis, and medieval Hebrew grammar. His writings about Yitsḥak ibn Gikatilla, Yehudah ben Shemu’el ibn Bal‘am, Menaḥem ben Ḥelbo, and Eli‘ezer of Beaugency are noteworthy. His influential work on the Karaites dealt with the Karaite opponents of Sa‘adyah Gaon, Karaite literature of the tenth through twelfth centuries, prominent Karaite personalities and writers, and Karaite printing and publishing.

Suggested Reading

Gershon C. Bacon, “The Poznanski Affair of 1921: Kehillah Politics and the Internal Political Realignment of Polish Jewry,” Studies in Contemporary Jewry 4 (1988): 135–143; Majer Bałaban, “Dr. Samuel Poznański, 1864–1921: Szkic biograficzny,” in Księga Pamiątkowa ku czci Dra. Samuela Poznańskiego, pp. ix–xxviii (Warsaw, 1927); Alexander Guterman, Me-Hitbolelut la-le’umiyut (Jerusalem, 1993); Edouard Poznański and Alexandre Marx, “Bibliografia,” in Księga Pamiątkowa ku czci Dra. Samuela Poznańskiego, pp. xxix–xlvii (Warsaw, 1927).



Translated from Hebrew by Carrie Friedman-Cohen