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Fahn, Re’uven

(1878–1939), Hebrew scholar and writer. Born in eastern Galicia, Re’uven Fahn received a maskilic as well as a traditional education, which motivated him to embark on a lifelong quest to combine nationalism with a religious spirit. He married at 19 and moved to the town of Halicz, in the Stanislau district, where he lived until World War I. There his acquaintance with the Karaite community prompted him to research and compile facts, stories, and details about their folklore.

Fahn earned a commercial living and was active in various Jewish nationalist and Zionist organizations. His store was a meeting place for maskilim, and he was acquainted with the Lwów writers Yosef Ḥayim Brenner, Shelomoh Shiller, Mosheh Kleinman, and Gershom Bader. He was a regular contributor to the Galician newspapers Ha-Magid he-ḥadash and Ha-Mitspeh, and to Ha-‘Olam. As one of the founders of Mizraḥi in Galicia, he was sent to represent this organization at the Tenth Zionist Congress, held in Berlin in 1911. In 1908 he published his first collection of stories, Me-Ḥaye ha-Kara’im (From the Life of the Karaites), and in 1912 compiled a second volume, Be-Zerem ha-zeman (In the Currents of Time), describing the vanished world of Galician Jewry.

During World War I, Fahn escaped to Vienna with his family, serving in the Austrian army until 1918. His book Tekufat ha-haskalah be-Vinah (The Haskalah Period in Vienna; 1919) was the product of his research during the war years. He continued working on stories and sketches, supplementing them with details of the horrors of war (Ba-Martef [In the Cellar; 1918]; Megilat damim [A Scroll of Blood; 1919]).

After his discharge from the army in 1918, Fahn settled in Stanislau (by then, Ukr. Stanyslaviv; mod. Ivano-Frankivs’k) and served for the next year as secretary to the Jewish National Council of the Republic of West Ukraine. This experience gave him the background to produce the sole study about this organization, Geshikhte fun der Yudishe Natsional-Autonomie inem period fun der Mayrev-Ukrainisher Republik (The History of the Jewish National Autonomy in the Period of the West Ukraine Republic; 1933). In 1925 he planned to move to Palestine, and headed a delegation to acquire land for the Jews of Stanyslaviv. The mission failed and he returned to his town, holding various public positions until the outbreak of World War II. Re’uven Fahn disappeared in Russia at the beginning of the war.

The works of Re’uven Fahn, one of a circle of writers active in Galicia, are essential for gaining an understanding of the problems and unique way of life of that Jewish community. The restrained recognition accorded him indicates the conflicting attitudes toward culture that divided his generation’s Russian and Galician Jews. Fahn’s chief contributions were his studies of unique Karaite customs. At the heart of these stories are the tensions between Karaites and Rabbinite Jews.

Two volumes of Fahn’s writings were produced, beginning in his fiftieth year (1928). An additional selection of his works was published in 1969, with an introduction and appendixes by Nurit Govrin.

Suggested Reading

Nurit Govrin, “Re’uven Fahn u-mif‘alo ha-sifruti,” in Mivḥar ketavim, by Reuven Fahn, ed. Nurit Govrin, pp. 7–38 (Tel Aviv, 1969).

YIVO Archival Resources

RG 40, Karaites, Collection, .



Translated from Hebrew by David Fachler