1 The Life of David Kaufmann 1
David Kaufmann was born at Kojetein, 2 a little town in Moravia, on 7 June 1852. His father, Leopold Kaufmann, was occupied in agriculture, managing a farm as a leaseholder. He had to make strenuous efforts to support his family and to provide a good education for his two sons. 3 Family tradition has it that the father was a somewhat harsh, cold and unfriendly person, while the tender, sensitive and affectionate mother nourished the young boy's thirst for knowledge, which manifested itself rather early. Extremely tender and tight bonds existed between Kaufmann and his mother throughout all his life. 4 The bright boy attended the local Jewish elementary school between 1856 and 1860 and then the Piarist grammar school at Kremsier 5 as private pupil between 1860 and 1867. In addition to his regular subjects, he also did well at Jewish studies, which he pursued privately. At Easter 1867 the family had to decide on the boy's future and the choice fell on the study of theology, in conformity with the mother's wishes, although the father would have preferred agriculture to be the vocation of his elder son. So the boy entered the secondary school of the Jewish Theological Seminary at Breslau 6 in nearby Prussian Silesia and studied in that town for not less than ten years altogether. Meanwhile he spent a semester (1869) in the Lutheran secondary school at Teschen in Austrian Silesia, obtaining an Austrian Abitur there. 7 As an Austrian subject he was thus exempted from military service and had the right to do a one-year voluntary service instead. He obtained an Abitur at Breslau too, but that was not recognised in Austria in those days. It was in fact Kaufmann who, after his return to Breslau, drafted a petition in the name of all the Austrian students at Breslau and sent it to the Imperial-Royal War Ministry in Vienna requesting the recognition of the Abitur obtained at the Breslau Seminary and its validity for the exemption from military service replacing it with a one-year voluntary service. The request was granted. 8
Subsequently he moved into the “upper course” of the Seminary, consisting of subjects on Jewish theology only. At the same time he also enrolled at Breslau University, attending lectures in the fields of the natural sciences, philosophy (Dilthey) and oriental studies. Meanwhile he attended lectures in Arabic studies at Leipzig University during the summer semester of 1874, subsequently obtaining a doctorate there. His thesis dealt with the system of religious philosophy of Saadia al-Fayyumi (10th c.). 9 The formal conclusion of his studies at Breslau took place on 28 January 1877. By 1876, however, he had already applied for the post of the Rabbi of the Berlin community, although a practical occupation of this kind did not really suit his inclinations and skills. The “test sermons” he delivered during the great festivals in Berlin were an overwhelming success, although some expressions and certain remarks made in private conversations convinced the reform-minded members of the representative bodies of the community that Kaufmann was too conservative, leaning towards orthodoxy – it is well known that the Berlin community was the centre of ultra-reformism at this time. As a result of this, albeit most politely, his application was turned down.
Kaufmann also caused indignation by not praying in proper footwear on the Day of Atonement, disregarding the elements of good forms (gegen alle gute Sitte). It is not clear whether in contemporary German the word Filzsocken, which occurs in our source as Kaufmann's footwear, designated “socks” in the modern meaning of the word or rather some sort of felt slippers. 10 The leadership of the Berlin community, which consisted of assimilants making a great show of their adoption of German manners and customs, did not like Kaufmann's interpretation of Verse 7 of Psalm 85: “You will give us life again when we as a people rejoice together with you.” (Du wirst uns wieder beleben, wenn wir uns als Volk mit Dir freuen.) (This German rendering of the verse, which differs somewhat from most modern translations, is completely acceptable on the basis of the Hebrew original.) Kaufmann was not ready to make any concessions in the field of religion either, so for instance he was not willing to abolish the sounding of the shofar nor to conclude marriages in the sefira days of mourning. Kaufmann dedicated his Berlin sermons to Leopold Zunz (David Kaufmann: Sieben Festpredigten. Berlin 1877). Zunz wrote the following dedicatory lines on a photograph of himself that he sent to Kaufmann: Weltlicher und geistlicher Tyrannei dienen drei Hülfsheere: Schurkerei, Schwachköpfe, Esel; drei Bundesgenossen: Armuth, Reichthum, Unwissenheit; drei Fertigkeiten: Sophistik, Charlatanerie, Aberglauben. 11
It was exactly at this period, however, that a Rabbinical seminary was being organized in Budapest – after extremely long preparatory negotiations, this new institution was at last formally opened on 4 October 1877. It was organized on the model of the Breslau Seminary but differed from its German counterparts in so far as it was founded upon the initiative of the King and the state, and was under state control right from the beginning. 12
In a broader context, the foundation of a seminary was one of the central issues in the controversy and battle between conservative and reform Judaism – called orthodoxy and neologism respectively in Hungary – that reached unparalleled acuteness in Hungary especially in the 1860s culminating in the congress of 1868-1869: the foundation of a state-controlled seminary, where traditional Jewish learning would be amalgamated with the achievements of modern scholarship, was one of the aims of the partisans of reform Judaism, while in turn it was vehemently opposed by the orthodoxy, who saw in it a device of assimilation, consequently a big threat to the survival of traditional Judaism. 13
The organizers succeeded in inviting young David Kaufmann to Budapest, who had by then acquired a good reputation both in religious and scholarly circles owing to his publications and sermons. (Shortly before he received an offer of a professorship at the seminary at Cincinnati but turned it down because of the great distance.) 14 He accepted the invitation and was appointed Professor of Jewish history, philosophy of religion and homiletics at the newly-founded institution. The director of the Seminary was the eminent Talmudist and Rabbinical authority Moses Bloch, while the third professor to be appointed was Wilhelm Bacher. 15 One of Kaufmann’s references was the grand old man of Judaic studies in those days, Leopold Zunz. In his work he had the opportunity to indulge in the passion of his youth, Greek, too: in the “lower course” of the Seminary, corresponding to secondary school, he taught Greek language and literature, as well as German.
In the school-year 1881-1882, for instance, he gave the following courses: 1. In the higher section of the theological course in the Seminary: Jewish History (The Talmudic school of Lucena. Isaac Alfasi, Josef ibn Migash and their pupils. The pupils of Isaac ibn Ghayyat. Instructions for a critical perusal of responsa and poems from this period. Two hours per week), Historical Exercices (one hour per week), Philosophy of Religion (Saadia’s Emunot we-Deot. A comparison of both Hebrew translations with the original. Two hours per week), History of the Religious Philosophy of the Jews (Geschichte der jüdischen Religionsphilosophie) (up to Saadia al-Fayyumi. Selected chapters of the Talmud, a critical analysis of Sefer Yezira, of the Alfabetmidrash of R. Aqiba and of Shiur Qoma. One hour per week), Homiletics (The theory of Jewish sermon, homiletical exercices. One hour per week). 2. In the lower course of the Gymnasium (the Gymnasium had a lower and a higher course; Kaufmann did not teach in the latter): Second Year: Greek (Conclusion of morphology on the basis of the school-grammar of Curtius and Schenkl’s Exercices. Three hours per week), German (together with the Third Year) (Goethe’s Iphigenie, the public delivery of a lecture on a freely chosen subject every week, German exercices. Two hours per week); Fourth Year: German (Selected chapters of Lessing’s Hamburgische Dramaturgie, Exercices in the public delivery of works on freely chosen subjects, German essays. Two hours per week); Fifth Year: German (History of German literature after Kluge’s Introduction, German essays and exercices. Two hours per week). His weekly load seems to have been no less than sixteen hours! 16 Without going into further details we may add that he changed the subjects of his German and Greek classes from year to year – it may be noted that in the following school-year 1882–1883 in his course “Jewish History” he spoke on the disciples of Isaac ibn Ghayyat and Isaac ibn Albalia, the poets of Yehuda Halevi’s circle and gave an introduction into medieval Hebrew metrics and poetry. In the course “Philosophy of Religion” he spoke on Maimuni’s teaching on the causes of ceremonial laws, More Nebuchim iii, 25sqq., with special regard to the two Hebrew translations. In his course “History of the Religious Philosophy of the Jews” he lectured on the beginnings of the scholarly activities of the Jews under the influence of the Arabs, the first commentaries to Sefer Yezira and the achievements of the Karaites in the philosophy of religion before Saadia. 17 In the following school-year 1883–1884 in the course “Jewish History” he spoke on Abraham ibn Ezra’s life and activities, the history of the Karaites in Spain, the Jews in Christian Spain and gave instructions in the perusal of historical sources and in the historical treatment of medieval Jewish poetry. In his course “Philosophy of Religion” he spoke on Yehuda Halevi’s Kuzari with special regard to the Arabic original and the commentaries by Yaqob Ibn Hayyim Farissol and Yehuda Moscato. His course “History of the Religious Philosophy of the Jews” treated the following subjects: the influence of the Muctazila upon the Karaites and Rabbanites, Yosef al-Basir’s works, selected chapters of the original of his Muhtawi, the beginnings of scholarly activities among the Jews of the West, Sabbatai Donnolo, reading his Hakmoni, the beginnings of the scholarly activities of Saadia al-Fayyumi. 18 In the following school-year of 1884–1885 the course “Jewish History” dealt with the persecutions of the Almohads in Africa and Spain, the Jews in Egypt, the biographies of Maimon b. Yosef and Musa Maimuni, a reading of the sources, especially of selected portions of Maimuni’s letters. In his course “History of the Religious Philosophy of the Jews” he treated the following subjects: the system of religious philosophy and ethics of Saadia al-Fayyumi, his Yezirah-commentary, analysis of the contents of his Emunot we-Deot, the history of religious philosophy of the Jews up to Gaon Haya. 19 In the school-year 1885–1886 he treated the following subjects in the course of his lectures on “Jewish History:” The Jews in Egypt, the biographies of Abraham Maimuni and Yosef ibn Aqnin, the polemic about More, the reading of selected chapters of the writings of Abraham Maimuni. In his course “Philosophy of Religion” he read with his students responsa of Gaon Haya relevant to the philosophy of religion, and gave a critical analysis of Abraham ibn Daud’s Emuna Rama on the basis of manuscripts. In his course “History of Religious Philosophy of the Jews” he lectured on the religious philosophy of Gaon Haya and the tendencies of religious philosophy among Spanish Jews up to Menachem b. Saruk. 20 — It may be noted that Wilhelm Bacher had a similar load and taught such subjects as Goethe’s ballads, Hermann und Dorothea by Goethe or Die Jungfrau von Orleans by Schiller, in addition to Introduction to the Holy Scripture, Exegesis, Jewish History, Midrash and Hebrew.
At his appointment the Minister of Religion and Public Education, Ágoston Trefort, made it a condition that in the course of four years Kaufmann acquire a good knowledge of Hungarian, which he could use as the language of instruction and for delivering lectures. 21 Kaufmann achieved this more quickly than anyone would have expected and following his settlement in Hungary he published his most important works in Hungarian too. The minister lauded him publicly for his competence in Hungarian. In addition, he was also the librarian of the Seminary for a period of twenty-two years. 22
Although Kaufmann found Budapest somewhat strange at first, soon he got used to living there. In due course his private life became settled too, meaning that it was no longer only his profession and work that attached him to his new fatherland: on 10 April 1881 he married Irma Gomperz, the exquisitely educated and delicate scion of a considerably affluent family. 23 He had found the ideal wife, who could encourage him in his scholarly activities on the basis of the human and personal harmony existing between them. David Kaufmann enjoyed the company of his new relatives: he found himself surrounded by remarkable, highly-educated, gentle, pleasant people and there can be no doubt that the affluence and material independence assured by his new milieu also contributed considerably to his general sense of well-being. 24 Kaufmann is known to have used the wealth at his disposal also to support the activities of several Jewish scholars both in Hungary and abroad, especially in Eastern Europe, mainly in Poland and Russia. It was precisely these scholars who coined for him the abbreviated name RaDaK in accordance with an age-old Jewish custom. 25 The young couple lived in Andrássy street, which was just becoming the principal, most elegant and grandiose street of the incredibly quickly developing capital of a prosperous country: the large Neo-Renaissance block of luxury flats at No. 20 stood – and still stands – as an equal match next to the lavish palace of the Opera House, which is justly regarded as one of the major sights of a beautiful capital. 26 David Kaufmann was contented with his life and situation both in the professional and personal fields, and thus he would turn down invitations to go abroad, although with the rising of his star he received ever growing numbers of tempting offers (to Mannheim, Berlin, Breslau, Munich and Vienna, among others). 27 Days and years passed by in hard work; the teacher and scholar was surrounded by an aura of appreciation, veneration and devoted love, and he also lived in perfect harmony with his wife. His happiness was not unclouded though – after a while the symptoms of diabetes manifested themselves, and his unflagging zeal, his fanatic drive for work were no doubt due, partly at least, to the awareness, that fate had allotted him a short life. This disease, from which he suffered for approximately ten years, undermined his health, and little by little the robust body began to show signs of decay. This explains the sudden changes of mood so characteristic of his last ten years, the abrupt onsets of sadness, when for no apparent reason tears would suddenly fill his eyes.
As was his custom, he arrived at Karlsbad 28 in the company of his mother on 27 June 1899 in order to undergo medical treatment and to take a general rest after the strains and fatigues of the school-year – his wife was staying at nearby Marienbad at the same time because the thermal waters there were more suitable to her complaints. 29
Judging from Kaufmann’s letters to Abraham Berliner, Kaufmann’s wife seems to have been of fragile health, to have visited spas alone regularly in order to cure her complaints. She also visited Kaufmann’s family in Kojetein regularly while her husband was working in Budapest. During these enforced separations Kaufmann was always anxious about her health and well-being. 30
On 29 June Kaufmann slipped in the bath breaking his clavicle, and this generally harmless though unpleasant accident – no doubt at least in part due to his diabetes – in his case led to complications, haemorrhagia and pneumonia, so that he died on 6 July – he was barely forty-seven years old. After the funeral service on 9 July his body was transferred to Budapest. He was buried on 11 July in the Jewish section of Kerepesi cemetery (Salgótarjáni street). The funeral began at three o'clock and lasted until around seven because eleven addresses were given, among them by Samuel Kohn (Budapest), Ferdinand Rosenthal (Breslau), Wilhelm Bacher (Budapest), Marcus Brann (Breslau), David Heinrich Müller (Vienna), Mór Klein (Nagybecskerek) 31 , Sándor [=Alexander] Büchler (Keszthely), [Baurat] Stiasny 32 (Vienna) and Ignaz Goldziher (Budapest). 33 Kaufmann's tomb is in the row of the Rabbinical Seminary. 34 On 16 October, at the beginning of the semester, a memorial service was held in the Rabbinical Seminary, at which Ludwig Blau commemorated the deceased. 35 All too soon his wife followed her beloved husband into the grave; she died on 19 June 1905. 36
1 This sketch is based mainly on the
biography by Ferdinand Rosenthal, Kaufmann's
brother-in-law, on that by Samuel
Krauss, one of Kaufmann’s
most outstanding disciples, and on that by Adolph
Frankl-Grün, Rabbi at
Kremsier. They all knew the deceased well. Valuable pieces of
information have been contributed by Dr. Béla
Bakonyi, the oldest member
of the Kaufmann family in
Budapest at present. His mother was Margit
König (1888-1981), the daughter of
Kaufmann's sister, Mrs. Lajos
König, née Róza
Kaufmann. Dr. [Ferdinand]
Rosenthal: David Kaufmann. Biographie. In: Gedenkbuch
zur Erinnerung an David Kaufmann. Herausgegeben von Dr.
und Dr. F[erdinand]
1900. I–LVI. Dr. Samuel
David Kaufmann. Eine Biographie. Berlin 1901
(1902). Dr. Ad[olph] Frankl-Grün:
Professor Dr. David Kaufmann, eine biographische Skizze. In:
Id.: Geschichte der
Juden in Kremsier mit Rücksicht auf die Nachbargemeinden.
Breslau–Frankfurt 1896-1901. III. 148-165. See now also Dr.
Bakonyi's highly personal
commemoration of a close relative: Dr. Béla
emlékbeszéd Kaufmann Dávidról [= Irregular commemorative
address on David Kaufmann]. In: Múlt és Jövő 1999/4,
56-60. Cf. also Dr. Ármin Kecskeméti: Kaufmann Dávid. In: Magyar-Zsidó Szemle 44
2 Present-day Kojetín in the Czech Republic.
3 The Kaufmanns had two sons – David and Ignaz – as well as three daughters – Ernestine, Amalie and Róza (Rose). Ignaz followed the occupation of their father. Ernestine married Heinrich Oppenheim, his brother's friend, the son of David Oppenheim, Rabbi at Nagybecskerek (present-day Zrenjanin in Vojvodina/Serbia). Her granddaughter, Gertrud Buchler, is living now with her family and descendants in the United States (Cliffside Park, New Jersey/Palm Beach, Florida). Amalie married Ferdinand Rosenthal of Breslau, while Róza (Rose) married Lajos (Ludwig) König of Budapest. The grandson of the latter, dr. Béla Bakonyi, lives with his family and descendants in Budapest now.
4 She died in 1906 at the age of 84. See the note [Anon.:] Kaufmann Dávid édes anyja [= David Kaufmann's mother]. In: Magyar-Zsidó Szemle 23 (1906) 380.
5 Present-day Kroměříž in the Czech Republic.
6 Present-day Wrocław in Poland.
7 Present-day Český Těšín in the Czech Republic.
8 Krauss 1901 (1902) 9-10.
9 It was published as a chapter of the Attributenlehre. See below.
10 Krauss 1901 (1902) 131. Cf. Socke: e. Fussbekleidung von weichem Stoffe mit flachen Sohlen, als Pantoffeln od. als Überschuhe getragen (z. B. Filzsocken, wollene Socken etc.); kurze Strümpfe, die nur bis an od. über die Knöchel reichen. Joh. Christ. August Heyse: Handwörterbuch der deutschen Sprache. Magdeburg 1833-1849. II. 940-941.
11 Frankl-Grün 1896-1901. III. 156-157.
12 Groszmann Zsigmond: A magyar zsidók a XIX. század közepén (1849-1870). [=Hungarian Jews in the middle of the 19th century (1849-1870)]. Budapest 1917. 72-82, 123. Krauss 1901 (1902). 14.
13 See e.g. Walter Pietsch: Reform és ortodoxia. A magyar zsidóság belépése a modern világba. [= Reform and orthodoxy. The entry of Hungarian Jewry into the modern world.] [Magyar Zsidó Történelem.]. [=Hungarian Jewish History]. Budapest 1999. 12, 65. Cf. also Béla Bernstein: A negyvennyolcas magyar szabadságharc és a zsidók. [= The Hungarian War of Independence of 1848 and the Jews]. [3rd edition]. Budapest 1998. 175-178.
14 Krauss 1901 (1902). 14.
15 Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger: One hundred years of the Seminary in retrospect. In: The Rabbinical Seminary of Budapest 1877–1977. A centennial volume. Edited by Moshe Carmilly-Weinberger. New York 1986. 12. Cf. also Aron Moskovits: Jewish education in Hungary (1848–1948). Philadelphia–New York 1964. 87-92. Kinga Frojimovics – Géza Komoróczy – Viktória Pusztai – Andrea Strbik: Jewish Budapest. Monuments, rites, history. Budapest 1999. 201-212.
16 A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet Értesítője az 1881–1882-iki tanévről. Budapest 1882. 2-8. Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule in Budapest für das Schuljahr 1881–1882. Budapest 1882. 3-8.
17 A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet Értesítője az 1882–1883-iki tanévről. Budapest 1883. 4. Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule in Budapest für das Schuljahr 1882–1883. Budapest 1883. 4-5.
18 A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet Értesítője az 1883–1884-iki tanévről. Budapest 1884. 5. Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule in Budapest für das Schuljahr 1883–1884. Budapest 1884. 5-6.
19 A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet Értesítője az 1884–1885-iki tanévről. Budapest 1885. 4. Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule in Budapest für das Schuljahr 1884–1885. Budapest 1884. 4.
20 A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet Értesítője az 1885–1886-iki tanévről. Budapest 1886. 5.
21 Krauss 1901 (1902). 54 (Anhang A.). At the beginning of his career, on the occasion of the inauguration of the synagogue of the Seminary he held a sermon in German on 6 October 1877. József Bánóczi: Az Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet első évtizedének története. In: A Budapesti Országos Rabbiképző-Intézet X. értesítője az 1886–87-iki tanévről. Budapest 1888. 21-29.
22 Izidor Goldberger: Dr. Kaufmann Dávid élete és munkái. [=The life and works of Dr. David Kaufmann]. In: Dr. Kaufmann Dávid emlékezete. [=The memory of Dr. David Kaufmann]. Budapest 1900. 19. He was elected to this post annually at the first staff meeting of the Seminary at the beginning of the school-year in every September.
23 Her father was Sigismund (Zsigmond) Gomperz (1817-1893), her mother Rosa (Róza) Gomperz (1830-1917). Sigismund Gomperz had in fact married his own niece, the daughter of his younger brother, Philipp (Fülöp). That is why the rather strange name form ocuurs in our sources: Gomperz Roza, szül. Gomperz [=Rosa Gomperz, née Gomperz] / Rosa Gomperz, geb. Gomperz.
24 According to Goldziher Irma Gomperz was known to inherit half a million. Since Goldziher wrote his unkind words in 1890, the amount is to be understood in florins, which were used in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy up to 1892, when the new currency, crown, was introduced with the exchange ratio of 1:2, i.e., one florin equalled two crowns. Goldziher 1977. 87-88.
25 Krauss 1901 (1902). 19-20.
26 In 1882 Kaufmann lived at 47 Király street. Budapesti czim- és lakjegyzék [=Directory of addresses and homes in Budapest]. Second year. Budapest 1882. 464. This historicist – mainly Neo-Gothic – building was the famous Pekáry House, no doubt one of the most beautiful spots in the capital in those days. (It is still standing.) See Budapest lexikon. 2nd ed. Budapest 1993. I. 679. Frojimovics – Komoróczy – Pusztai – Strbik 1999. 162-163. In the 1894 edition of the metropolitan list of addresses and homes (8th year) Kaufmann's address is already listed as 20 Andrássy street. This block of luxury flats, known as the Kramer House, was built in 1880 according to the designs of Vilmos Freund. Oral communication by József Sisa. In 1882 the address of “Sigismund/Zsigmond Gomperz, merchant,” was 23 Deák Ferenc street, while in 1894 it was 20 Andrássy street.
27 Goldberger 1900. Krauss 1901 (1902). 14.
28 Present-day Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic.
29 Present-day Mariánské Lázně in the Czech Republic.
30 F[erdinand] Rosenthal: Briefe Prof. Kaufmann’s an Berliner. In: Festschrift zum siebzigsten Geburtstage A[braham] Berliner’s. Hrsg. v. A. Freimann – M. Hildesheimer. Frankfurt am Main 1903. 301-330.
31 Present-day Zrenjanin in Vojvodina/Serbia.
32 In all probability Wilhelm Stiassny (Pozsony/Pressburg/Bratislava 1842 – Bad Ischl 1910), extremely productive, outstanding architect in Vienna, active member of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde. Co-founder and president of the Wiener Bauhütte for a long period. See Neue Österreichische Biographie on the Internet.
33 [Anon.]: A zsidóság gyásza Kaufmann Dávid halála felett. [=The mourning of Jewry for David Kaufmann]. In: Magyar-Zsidó Szemle 16 (1899) 302-304. See also Ignác Ziegler: Kaufmann Dávid. Ibid. 297-299. Henrik Bloch: Dr. Kaufmann Dávid élete és működése. [=The life and activities of Dr. David Kaufmann]. Ibid. 299-302.
34 Vid. Frojimovics – Komoróczy – Pusztai – Strbik 1999. 441.
35 Lajos Blau: Emlékbeszéd Kaufmann Dávid felett. [=Commemorative address for David Kaufmann]. In: Magyar-Zsidó Szemle 16 (1899) 305-310.
36 Her simple yet noble tomb stands near to Kaufmann’s. Sadly the upper part, consisting of a stone vase, disappeared at some time in the course of the past seventeen years. (It was still there when the author of these lines saw it in 1985.)