RABBINOWITZ, SAUL PHINEHAS ():
Russian Neo-Hebrew publicist and historian; born in Taurogen, government of Kovno, April 8, 1845. At the age of five he was taken to Wilna, where his father, Samuel Mordecai Rashkes, became rabbi of the old suburb of Shnipishock. Saul received his Hebrew and Talmudic education from his father and his maternal grandfather, Simon Zarḥi, rabbi of Taurogen. At the age of fourteen he entered the yeshibah of R. Jacob Barit; at eighteen he was ordained rabbi. A Protestant minister of Poniemuni, near Kovno, taught him the rudiments of German, to which Rabbinowitz added a knowledge of several other languages. In 1871 he began to contribute to "Ha-Maggid"; in 1874 he settled in Warsaw, where he still (1905) resides. From 1877 to 1882 he was one of the chief collaborators of "Ha-Ẓefirah" (to which he contributed a biography of Crémieux), and he was afterward employed in a literary and secretarial capacity by the Chovevei Zion. From 1886 to 1887 he edited volumes 1 to 3 of the year-book "Keneset Yisrael" (Warsaw), and he edited also the succeeding two volumes of that annual published by Isidor Hurwitz. In 1888 he began the work on which his reputation rests: the translation of Grätz's "Geschichte der Juden" into Hebrew.
The first volume of the Hebrew translation (Warsaw, 1890), which bears the title "Dibre ha-Yamim li-Bene Yisrael," has a short Hebrew preface by Grätz himself, who was much pleased with this translation of his life-work. The volume contains nearly the entire first volume of the "Volksthümliche Geschichte der Juden," with amplifications from the larger work, but does not cover the whole period to the destruction of the Second Temple, as does the original work. The translator explains that the events leading up to the final downfall of Judea are of too great importance to be treated briefly at the end of a volume. The third volume (ib. 1893) contains volume five of the original, and concludes with a collection of important notes by A. Harkavy. The next four volumes (4-7) contain volumes six to nine of the original; but in volume eight, after following the original (vol. 10), the translator divides the eleventh or last chapter into two and inserts an original chapter, by himself, on the history of the Jews in Poland, Lithuania, White Russia, and Red Russia from the middle of the seventeenth to the latter half of the eighteenth century. At the end of this volume, which is the last, Rabbinowitz gives his reason for not translating the closing volume of Grätz. It is, briefly, that Grätz has denied space and attention to the history of the Jews in Russia and Poland in later times, and failed to appreciate the influence on Judaism exercised by the lives and teachings of such men as Israel Baal-Shem or Elijah ben Solomon of Wilna. The translator promises to cover that period himself, from the standpoint of the Russian Jews, and to include the results of the latest researches into their history.
The translation is valuable for its many amplifications and for the short discourses which refer to the comments of competent authorities upon the original work; for the rearrangements which bring the history of Russia and Poland into greater prominence; and for the explanations of terms, events, periods, and personalities in general history which Grätz assumed to be well known to the German-reading public, but which were generally unfamiliar to readers of Hebrew. On the other hand, appropriate changes are made in recognition of the closer familiarity of the Hebrew reader with Biblical and Talmudical subjects.
In 1895 Rabbinowitz published (at Warsaw) his "Moẓa'e Golah," a history of the exiled Spanish Jews and of their literature, considered to be one of the most accurate works on that subject. He has written also an exhaustive biography of Zunz ("R. Yom-Ṭob Lipman Zunz," Warsaw, 1896), a monograph on Zacharias Frankel (ib. 1898), and several minor works.
- Sefer Zikkaron, pp. 103-104, Warsaw, 1890;
- Zeitlin, Bibl. Post-Mendels. pp. 282-283;
- Lippe, Bibliographisches Lexicon, ii. 223-225, v. 298-300;
- Ha-Ẓefirah, 1880, Nos. 8-17.