Immanuel Löw

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Immanuel Löw (January 20, 1854 in Szeged – July 19, 1944 in Budapest ) was a Hungarian rabbi, scholar and politician.

Early life[edit]

Löw was born in Szeged, Hungary, 20 January 1854, the son of Hungarian rabbi Leopold Löw. He was educated in his native town and in Berlin, where he studied at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, graduating as rabbi and receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Leipzig in 1878.

Rabbi in Szeged[edit]

In 1878 he succeeded his father as rabbi of Szeged, Hungary. From 1889 to 1900, he published the collected writings of his father, in five volumes. The fine Szeged Synagogue built in 1903 was designed according to Löw's plans. In the 'White Terror' of 1920-21 he was imprisoned for 13 months for alleged statements against Admiral Miklós Horthy. While in prison, he worked on his four volume work Die Flora der Juden (“The Flora of the Jews”), on terminology of plants in Jewish sources. He was a famous preacher and from 1900 to 1939, four volumes of his sermons were published. His scholarly renown rests on his rabbinic lexicography and studies of artifacts. In 1883 he published a prayer book for Hungarian women and translated the Song of Songs and some psalms into Hungarian.

Scholarly Work[edit]

Löw’s fame as a scholar is based primarily on his pioneering work in the field of Talmud and rabbinic lexicography and in the study of plant names. This special interest is apparent in his doctoral thesis Aramäische Pflanzennamen (Aramaic Plant Names) (1879) as well as in Meleagros aus Gadara und die Flora Aramaea (1883). Löw systematically explored the basics of plant terminology in different periods of the Hebrew and Aramaic languages, dominated the latest scientific methods in this field, made himself familiar with literary sources of plant names, and made careful use of manuscript material. With the help of Semitic languages, especially Syriac, he clarified many etymologies. He had great influence on future scholars, particularly Yehuda Feliks, who considered him one of the greatest scholars of Jewish botany.

Both in the field of wildlife as well as minerals, he published more articles in scholarly publications. He wrote Mineralien der Juden (“Minerals of the Jews”), but his manuscript was lost during the Holocaust in 1944. A part of his literary legacy went on to the National Library of Israel in Jerusalem, and another part in the rabbinical seminary of Budapest.

Political life[edit]

From 1927 Immanuel Löw represented the Neolog (non-Orthodox) communities of Hungary in the upper chamber of the Diet of Hungary. He was also a member of the Jewish Agency from 1926-1929. In 1944, during the Nazi occupation of Hungary, when he was 90, the Germans sent him to a brick factory and he was selected for deportation. He was accepted onto the Kastner train, which was set to allow the Hungarian Jewish elite to escape the Nazis, but he died when he arrived in Budapest, before he could board the train.

Selected bibliography[edit]

  • Aramaeische pflanzennamen, von Immanuel Loew. Mit unterstuetzung der K. Akademie der wissenschaften in Wien. Pp. 490. Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1881
  • Der biblische 'ezob, von Immanuel Löw. Pp. 30. Wien: In Kommission bei A. Hölder, 1909
  • Die flora der Juden. 4 v. in 5. Wien: Leipzig, R. Löwit, 1924–34
  • Gesammelte Schriften / Leopold Low; hrsg. von Immanuel Loew. Nachdr. d. Ausg. Szegedin 1889-1900. 5 v. Hildesheim; New York : Olms, 1979.
  • Rashuyot: mikhtamim ve-khatavot / me-et Libesh Lef u-veno `Imanu'el. Yerushalayim : [h. mo. l.], 698 [1937 or 1938] (in Hebrew)