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EICHENBAUM, JACOB:

Russian educator, poet, and mathematician; one of the pioneers of modern education among the Russian Jews; born in Krasnopolie, Galicia, Oct. 12, 1796; died at Kiev Dec. 27, 1861. He showed extraordinary ability in Hebrew and mathematical studies, in which latter he was assisted by his father, Moses Gelber.

In 1815 Eichenbaum settled in Zamoscz, Russian Poland, in which city there was a circle of progressive Jewish youths who were followers of the "Berlin culture." Here he gave himself up to his favorite work, occupying himself with the rational interpretation of the Bible, and with the study of Hebrew, German, philosophy, and mathematics, especially the last-named. In 1819 he translated for his own use Euclid's "Elements" from German into Hebrew. Jacob, who had assumed the family name of "Eichenbaum," soon entered on a period of wandering and of hard struggle for his daily bread. He became a private tutor, and lived in different towns of southern Russia, teaching Hebrew subjects and mathematics in the houses of wealthy people. In 1835 at Odessa, which was then the educational center of the south-Russian Jews, he opened a private school for Jewish children on the lines of the German-Jewish schools. In 1836 he published at Leipsic, under the title "Ḳol Zimrah," a series of Hebrew poems. This little book was one of the first productions of Neo-Hebrew poetry which received its inspiration from Mendelssohn's school.

The verse-making talent of Eichenbaum is strikinglyevidenced in his "Ha-Ḳerab," London, 1840, in which are described the moves in the game of chess. Joseph (Ossip) Rabbinovicz translated this poem into Russian verse (Odessa, 1847; 2d ed., ib. 1874).

In the course of a few years the pedagogic and literary labors of Eichenbaum attracted the attention of the Russian government, which in 1844 appointed him overseer of the Russo-Jewish school in Kishinev, and six years later chief inspector of the new rabbinical school opened by the Russian government in Jitomir (1850). He retained this position until his death.

In the later years of his life he published a textbook of arithmetic in Hebrew, "Ḥokmat ha-Shi'urim," Warsaw, 1857, and an allegorical poem, "Ha-Ḳosem," in "Ha-Meliẓ," 1861 (also in book form, Odessa, 1862).

Bibliography:
  • Tarnegol, J. Eichenbaum, in Razsvyet, 1861, Nos. 51-52;
  • Fuenn, Safah le-Ne'emanim, § 101, Wilna, 1881;
  • idem, Keneset Yisrael, s.v.;
  • Ha-Miẓpah, iv. 15-18, St. Petersburg, 1886;
  • Be'er Yiẓaḳ
  • (correspondence of I. B. Levinson), pp. 61, 93, Warsaw, 1899.
H. R. S. M. D.
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