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AUERBACH, MEIR B. ISAAC:

Talmudist and chief rabbi of the Ashkenazim in Jerusalem; born Feb. 10, 1815, at Dobria near Kalish, Russian Poland; died May 8, 1878, at Jerusalem. He was rabbi at Kalish when, in 1860, actuated by his love for the Holy Land, he removed to Jerusalem, where he organized the congregation and yeshibah Ohel Jacob, and subsequently became chief rabbi of the Ashkenazim. He also organized an independent board of Sheḥiṭah for the Ashkenazim. This action was opposed by the "ḥakam bashi," David Ḥazan, and his Sephardic congregation, who controlled the Sheḥiṭah. They were upheld by the Mussulmans, who favored the Jewish mode of killing animals, which corresponded with their religious belief and custom, and who would not eat meat slaughtered by Christians or by Ashkenazic Jews, the latter not being recognized by them as sons of Abraham. This greatly hampered the undertaking of the Ashkenazim, as none but Christians would buy the surplus of the Sheḥiṭah, and, being excluded from the Mussulmans' trade, the Ashkenazim found the Sheḥiṭah quite expensive. Auerbach appealed to the ḥakam bashi to intercede on behalf of the Ashkenazim, and requested him to obtain from the Turkish government the recognition of the Ashkenazic Jews as sons of Abraham. The ḥakam bashi hesitated, and Auerbach threatened him with excommunication for refusing to perform his plain duty and to do justice to the Ashkenazim. At last in 1864 the ḥakam bashi was not only obliged to remove his objection, but actually compelled to establish the fact before the Ottoman authorities that as regards their religion there was no difference between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim.

Auerbach and Rabbi Samuel Salant in 1866 organized the Central Committee known as the "Wa'ad ha-Kelali" in Jerusalem, as an agency for the distribution of funds from the charity-boxes all over the world for the Ashkenazic poor in Palestine, the income from which from the United States alone amounts to about $20,000 per annum. In 1875, on the occasion of the visit of Sir Moses Montefiore to the Holy Land, Auerbach protested in an open letter addressed to Montefiore (in Hebrew and English, London, 1875) against the charges of unfair manipulation of the gifts sent to the poor in Palestine.

Auerbach is the author of "Imre Binah" (Words of Understanding), novellæ on Oraḥ Ḥayyim and Yoreh De'ah, and responsa on Ḥoshen Mishpaṭ, Jerusalem, 1871-76; of annotations to his father's "Dibre Ḥayyim," and to Loeb Guenzburg's "Ture Eben." He left many manuscripts on Talmudical subjects, which are still unpublished. Auerbach was known as a great pilpulist.

A "bet ha-midrash" has been founded in Jerusalem to perpetuate Auerbach's memory.

Bibliography:
  • J. Schwartz, Tebuot ha-Areẓ, ed. Luncz, pp. 500, 501;
  • A. Amshewitz, Moshe we-Yerushalayim, pp. 81-96, Warsaw, 1879;
  • M. N. Auerbach, Zekut Abot, Jerusalem, 1895, Introduction;
  • Allgemeine Zeitung des Judenthums, 1878, p. 363.
L. G. J. D. E.
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