In 1828, he entered the University of Prague, where he applied himself to philosophy, while devoting his spare time to rabbinical studies. In July, 1833, he was appointed rabbi of Hohenems, Vorarlberg, where he remained for eleven years. Besides organizing various charitable societies, he greatly improved the educational facilities for the young, and introduced many reforms into the public service. In May, 1844, he accepted the rabbinate of Lemberg. Here in a comparatively short time he opened a well-equipped "Normalschule" of which he was the superintendent, dedicated a new reform temple, abolished many old abuses, and did not rest until the degrading tax on kosher meat and Sabbath candles, imposed upon the Jewish community by the government, was removed.
In 1902 the Lviv/Lemberg Jewish community commissioned a portrait of Abraham Kohn. The posthumous portrait was painted by a Lviv-based Jewish painter Wilhelm Wachtel (1875-1952). Presently this portrait is in the collection of the Voznytsky Lviv National Gallery in Lviv, Ukraine.
While the less traditional element rallied about him, the traditionalists of the community bitterly protested changes to their religion. On September 6, 1848, Abraham Ber Pilpel, said to be hired by a fanatical clique, entered Kohn's kitchen and poisoned the family's dinner with arsenic. While the other members of his family recovered, Kohn and his youngest daughter (cf. "Reformed Judaism and its Pioneers" by E. Schreiber, where he writes that the only victim of the murder was Rabbi Kohn himself and the rest of the family recovered), died the following day. After Kohn died Pilpel stood trial for his murder and was convicted. However, on appeal this was overturned. After the verdict was overturned, it was again reviewed by the highest court and the appellate court's judgment was upheld.
Sources and references
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Singer, Isidore; et al., eds. (1901–1906). "Kohn, Abraham". Jewish Encyclopedia. New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company.
- Michael Stanislawski, A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History (Princeton University Press, 2007)
- the Seforim blog, Tuesday, April 17, 2007 Review of Stanislawski's book
- Jonatan Meir, 'Review of Michael Stanislawski, A Murder in Lemberg: Politics, Religion, and Violence in Modern Jewish History, Jerusalem 2010', GAL-ED 24 (2015), pp. 173–176
- Abraham Kohn, Allgemeine Zeitung des Judentums
20 October 1856, p. 580. Date given according to Hebrew calendar, 27 Sivan.
- "Anastasiia O. Simferovska. A Jewish Painter between Reform, Judaism, and Zionism: Wachtel’s Portrait of Abraham Kohn | Judaica Ukrainica". judaicaukrainica.ukma.edu.ua. Retrieved 2017-03-04.