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Kramsztyk, Izaak

(1814?–1889), teacher, author, and rabbi. Izaak Kramsztyk was a leading figure in the period of Jewish–Polish rapprochement in the 1860s and in the movement for religious reform. The son of a merchant and prominent member of the Jewish community of the Warsaw suburb of Praga, Kramsztyk hailed from a family with deep rabbinic roots. After receiving a traditional education, he decided, against his parents’ wishes, to attend the rabbinical seminary that had been founded in Warsaw in 1826. He stayed on at this school as a Talmud instructor from 1837 until its close in 1863. In keeping with the spirit of reform and acculturation, he conducted his lessons in Polish and, in 1852, became the first rabbi to preach in that language in a Jewish house of worship in Warsaw—the so-called “Polish” synagogue on Nalewki Street.

In the period before the uprising in January 1863, Kramsztyk was a prominent sympathizer within the Polish independence movement. He was arrested in 1861, with Dov Berush Meisels, chief rabbi of the Warsaw community, and Markus Jastrow, rabbi of the first reform synagogue, for having supported the closure of Warsaw synagogues out of solidarity with Catholic churches vandalized by Russian troops. Kramsztyk was subsequently exiled for half a year to Bobruisk in Lithuania. After his return, he served under Aleksander Wielopolski, head of civil administration in Poland, writing reports on Jewish educational reform. Due to Kramsztyk’s continuing support of the Polish independence movement, he was exiled once again—this time for an extended period (1863–1867) in Siberia—after the crushing of the January uprising. Because of his political views, he was forbidden to work as a rabbi or teacher upon his return to Warsaw.

Kramsztyk also established a reputation as a writer and translator. In 1856, he published Kazania (Sermons), his first volume of sermons in Polish. His other works included O Talmudzie (1872), a translation of Emanuel Oscar Menaḥem Deutsch’s work on the Talmud; the moral-theological text ‘Amude ha-dat ve-yesode ha-musar (Pillars of Faith and Foundations of Morality; 1872), and a translation into Polish of the biblical book of Psalms (Przypowieści Salomona; 1872). After a long illness, Kramsztyk died in Warsaw in 1889. A further collection of his sermons, Kazania Izaaka Kramsztyka, appeared posthumously in 1892. Many of his children, who belonged to the acculturated Jewish bourgeoisie of Warsaw, attained high positions, both within the Jewish community and in the city as a whole.

Suggested Reading

Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vols. 2–3 (New York, 1948–1953); Z dziejów Gminy starozakonnych w Warszawie (1907; rpt., Warsaw, 1983), pp. 80–83.



Translated from German by Deborah Cohen