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PERL, JOSEPH:

Austrian Mæcenas and man of letters; born at Tarnopol, Galicia, 1774; died there Oct. 1, 1839. The son of a wealthy family, and growing to manhood at the time of the regenerative movement of the German Me'assefim, he devoted himself from his youth to the emancipation and education of the Jews, gaining the approval of the Czar of Russia and the Emperor of Austria, who honored him with various decorations, while the latter permitted Perl's son Michael to open a pharmacy—the first one conducted by a Jew in Austria. Perl interceded in behalf of his coreligionists, who were persecuted and humiliated by the Christians and plunged in Ḥasidic mysticism. Convinced that only intellectual enlightenment could change these deplorable conditions, he was tirelessly active in religious and social reforms. He became the friend of Krochmal and Rapoport; and it was due to his influence that the latter was appointed "Kreisrabbiner" of Tarnopol. Perl was the first to found a modern Jewish school in Poland; and in 1815 he built near it at his own expense a Reform synagogue with a choir. He tried to counteract the influence of Ḥasidism by collecting around him a circle of talented men of letters.

Perl published under the pseudonym "Obadiah ben Pethahiah" a satire against Ḥasidism, entitled "Megalleh Ṭemirin" (Vienna, 1819; often reprinted), which was for a long time ascribed to Rapoport. It was a clever parody in the language of the Zohar, the tenor of which deceived for a long time even the Ḥasidim themselves. He published also two other pamphlets in the same vein, entitled respectively "Dibre Ẓaddiḳim" and "Boḥen Ẓaddiḳ" (Prague, 1838), and wrote the chapter on the Ḥasidim in Jost's "Geschichte des Judenthums und Seiner Sekten," iii. 185 et seq., Leipsic, 1859. Afterhis death the school founded by him was transformed into the Deutsch-Israelitische Hauptschule.

Bibliography:
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1839, pp. 606-607;
  • Kerem Ḥemed, iv. 163-169, Prague, 1841;
  • Busch, Jahrbuch, 1847;
  • Jost, Neuere Geschichte, ii. 77-80, Berlin, 1847;
  • Graeber, in Oẓar ha-Sifrut, vol. i.;
  • Slouschz, La Renaissance de la Littérature Hébraïque, pp. 38-39.
S. N. Sl.
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