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STERN, BASILIUS:

Russian educator; born at Tarnopol, Galicia, in 1798; died at Odessa March 15, 1853. He received a thorough Talmudic education, and later entered the school of Joseph Perl, where, at the age of twenty, he became instructor, holding that position for ten years. During this time he studied assiduously, and acquired a fair knowledge of modern languages. On the death of Ephraim Sittenfeld (1828) Stern was appointed his successor as director of the Jewish school in Odessa. He conducted the institution very successfully and exerted a great and lasting influence on the education of the Jews in South Russia. Under his management the school prospered greatly, and Stern succeeded in winning over the adherents of the old Orthodox party, who were at first bitterly opposed to the Russianizing tendencies of the institution. In 1837 Stern received permission from the governor-general of the New-Russian provinces to open a school for boys and girls in Kishinef, Bessarabia.

Stern was highly esteemed by the government, which often solicited his advice in Jewish matters. Thus, during the reign of Nicholas I., when the government was considering means for the intellectual and religious uplifting of the Russian Jews, Stern was invited to present his suggestions. Among the measures proposed was the reorganization of the rabbinate. In the archives of the governor-general of New Russia there is a document dealing with the establishment in Odessa of a committee for the purpose of devising a plan to regulate the religious administration connected with the offices of the government rabbis. Such a committee was formed in Odessa in 1840, Basilius Stern, Ḥayyim Efrusi, and Moses Lichtenstadt being the delegates appointed. Stern suggested also that a Jewish seminary be founded in Russia for the education of rabbis. In reporting this project to Count M. S. Vorontsov, the military governor of Odessa, Major-General Akhlestyshev praised the work of Stern and suggested that hereditary honorary citizenship be conferred upon him; this honor was later granted him by Czar Nicholas I. To the work of this committee may be attributed the founding of rabbinical schools in Wilna and Jitomir nine years later. In 1843 Stern was called to St. Petersburg by the minister of education in order to attend the sessions of the committee on educational affairs. In his letter to Uvarov, minister of education, Governor-General Vorontsov of New Russia speaks highly of Stern's experience, knowledge, and education; and in his report of March 31, 1843, Akhlestyshev again refers to the services of Stern, stating that he had granted the latter 600 rubles instead of the 300 asked for, in order to cover the expenses of his journey to St. Petersburg. On April 11, 1843,Stern left for the Russian capital. As a member of the committee on Jewish affairs he undoubtedly contributed much toward the framing of the proposed legislation.

Stern was a master of ancient languages, especially of Hebrew, and he devoted himself to the study of history also, especially the early history of the Slavonic peoples.

Bibliography:
  • Werbel, Sifte Renanot, p. 86, Odessa, 1864;
  • Allg. Zeit. des Jud. 1853, p. 571;
  • Lerner, Yevrei v Novorossiskom Kraye, p. 34, Odessa, 1901.
H. R. J. G. L.
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