Abraham Jacob Paperna

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Abraham Jacob Paperna (Hebrew: אברהם יעקב פפרנה‎‎; born at Kapyl, Minsk Governorate, now in Minsk Voblast, Belarus, 1840; died 1919) was a Russian Jewish educator and author.

He received a fair education, including the study of the Bible with Moses Mendelssohn's translation, Hebrew grammar, Talmud, and secular literature. In 1863 he entered the rabbinical school of Zhitomir, where he studied until 1865; he was then transferred to the rabbinical school of Wilna, from which he graduated in 1867.

In 1868 he was appointed teacher at the government Jewish school at Zakroczym, government of Warsaw; and in 1870 he became principal of the government Jewish school of Plotzk, government of Suwałki. He was also instructor in the Jewish religion at the gymnasium in the latter town.

Paperna was intimately connected with the Russian Haskalah movement in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, and contributed various books and articles to Russian as well as to Hebrew literature. His first Hebrew poem, "Emet we-Emunah", appeared in "Ha-Karmel" in 1863; Paperna was a steady contributor to that periodical as well as to "Ha-Meliẓ." Critical articles by him, entitled "Ḳanḳan Ḥadash Male Yashan" (in "Ha-Karmel", 1867, and printed separately, Wilna, 1868), attracted wide attention in the circles of the Maskilim. In these articles Paperna, influenced probably by the Russian critic Dmitry Pisarev, adopted modern realistic methods of criticism. He exposed the worthlessness of the pseudo-classicism in Hebrew literature, and the absurdity of the "guess-philology", in the commentaries on the Bible and the Talmud. He also ridiculed the presumption of some of the young Maskilim, who from a desire for fame attempted to write books in Hebrew on botany, astronomy, and the other exact sciences, with which they were entirely unfamiliar.

A curious essay on the drama entitled "Ha-Drama bi-Khelal we-ha-'Ivrit bi-Feraṭ" appeared as a supplement to "Ha-Meliẓ", 1868. It called forth harsh criticism from Abraham Dob Bär Lebensohn in his pamphlet "Tokaḥti la-Beḳarim", written under the pseudonym "S. Friedman" (Paperna had attacked Lebensohn's "Emet we-Emunah"), and from Joshua Steinberg ("'En Mishpaṭ"). In 1869 Paperna published an article on the Russification of the Jews, entitled "K Yevreiskomu Voprosu v Vislyanskom Kraye" (in "Den", No. 13).

He now devoted himself to educational matters, and published:

  • "Mesillat ha-Limmud" (Warsaw, 1871), a Hebrew grammar in Russian
  • "Kratkaya Grammatika Russkavo Yazyka" (ib. 1874)
  • "More Sefat Russiya" (ib. 1876; 3d ed., 1884), Ollendorff's method for the study of the Russian language by Hebrews
  • "Samoychitel Russkavo Yazyka: Meruẓ Iggerot" (ib. 1874; 3d ed., 1884), a Hebrew-Russian letter-writer.

Among his articles on education may be mentioned "O Khederakh Voobshche", etc. (Plotzk, 1884), on the chadorim. Memoirs ("Zikhronot") by Paperna on the rabbinical school of Zhitomir and its professors appeared in Sokolov's "Sefer ha-Shanah", 1900, p. 60.

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 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainSinger, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "article name needed". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.