ARN IZAKS (AARON ISAAC, ARON ISAKS) (1730-1817)
Born (in 1729 according to Y. Tsinberg) in the small town of Treuenbrietzen, not far from Berlin. He became an orphan at age fourteen after the death of his father, Yitskhok-Ayzik, a poor shopkeeper who was the sole protected Jew in the region and had residential rights. At an early age he began working as a peddler among the poor farmers. Not earning enough to make a living from this, he became a seal engraver. After marrying in 1751, he moved to Bützow (a town in Mecklenburg district), and there he was one of the heads of the Jewish community. In 1767 he (together with R. Yosef Perochim[?]) was elected to serve as a trustee to attend a convention of community leaders in Brivits [?]. During the Seven Years’ War [1754-1763], he again took up business and was never again successful at it. In 1774 he settled in Stockholm where he received permission to reside as a court jeweler. At the time of the Swedish-Russian War [1788-1790], he worked as an army contractor and was an intimate in the royal court of Gustav III. He was a pioneer of Jewish settlement in Sweden. He participated in the Stockholm community meetings in 1780 and 1793.
At age seventy-one (1801), following the deaths of his wife and children, he began to write his autobiography which he completed in 1804. According to his Hebrew introduction, he wrote it “for the next generation, for the children of my people, so that my memories should not be forgotten, so that it should be known that I, Aaron, son of Yitskhok-Ayzik, may his memory be for a blessing, was naturalized in the country of Sweden…” He wrote the story of his life in the Judeo-German then in use among Prussian Jews. In a simple style, interspersed with numerous Hebrew-Yiddish words, he painted a picture of a learned Jew of that age, and just as with the memoirs of Glikl of Hameln and Ber Bolekhover, his life story is a contribution to the study of Jewish history from that era. His autobiography was published less than a century later by the Jewish Literary Society (Israelitiska litteratur-sällskapet) in Sweden, and under the supervision of Joseph Seligman, the Judeo-German manuscript was transcribed (incidentally, full of errors) into the Roman alphabet. Seligman added his own introduction as well. There are now two editions in contemporary Yiddish: (1) Arn izaks zikhroynes (Arn Izaks’s memoirs), published by Zalmen Reyzen (Warsaw, 1922); and (2) Arn izaks, avtobyografye (Arn Isaks, autobiography), revised with a forward by Nokhum Shtif (Berlin: Klal farlag, 1922), 118 pp. Izaks also wrote poetry. Some of them have a certain cultural historical value. His poetry, dedicated to “my beloved R. Mordechai Rofe” (Dr. Marcus Mozes), was published by Professor Olaus Gerhard von Tychsen in German letters as Gelehrte Beyträge zu den mecklenburg-schwerinschen Nachrichten (February 1766).
Sources: N. Shtif, “Foreyde tsu arn izaks avtobyografye” (Foreword to Aaron Isaac’s autobiography) (Berlin, 1922); Abraham Brody, ed., Aaron Isaacs Minnen. En judisk kulturbild från gustaviansk tid (Aaron Isaacs’s memoirs: A Jewish Cultural image from the Gustavian period) (Stockholm, 1932); Dr. Y. Tsinberg, Di geshikhte fun der literatur bay yidn (The history of Jewish literature), vol. 7, pp. 203-6; Dr. Y. Shatski, in Yivo-bleter (Vilna, 1932), vol. 3, pp. 268-70, and vol. 9, pp. 284-87; Zalmen Reyzen, in Algemayne entsiklopedye, vol. 2.