YISROEL-ISER COHEN (1858-1924)
He was born in Navaredok (Novogrudok), Byelorussia. He studied in religious primary school and yeshivas. In the early 1880s, he moved abroad, living for a time in Berlin, later until 1886 in Vienna, and from there moving on to Leipzig. Over the years 1886-1910, he was a teacher in Franz Delitzsch’s Institutum Judaicum. He was widely knowledgeable of Jewish philosophical literature and old Semitic languages, and he would later become a lecturer in rabbinical studies and Hebrew at Leipzig University, which in 1920 gave him the title of professor. He contributed to Professor Gustav Dalmann’s work, Grammatik des jüdisch-palästinischen Aramäisch (Grammar of Jewish Palestinian Aramaic) and Aramäisch-neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch zu Targum, Talmud und Midrasch (Aramaic-modern Hebrew dictionary of Targum, Talmud, and midrash). He assisted Professor Moritz Lazarus in his work Die Ethik des Judenthums (The ethics of Judaism), Professor Rudolf Kittel in his translation of the Tanakh and his book Sifre, as well as F. Weber’s Jüdische Theologie (Jewish theology) and Paul Fiebig’s book Juden und Nichtjuden (Jews and non-Jews). He wrote notes to the books of Joshua, Jeremiah, and Psalms—“newly explained in Yiddish”—with introductions to each psalm, in which he imparts the main ideas of the section, first edition (Vienna: Holzhausen, 1886); and of Sefer yehoshua veshofetim vemegilat rut (Book of Joshua and Judges and the Scroll of Ruth) (Vienna: Holzhausen, 1898), translated into a popular Polish-Russian Yiddish style and very close to the traditional explanation. For example: “Voyl iz dem menschen, vos iz nit gigangin in der eytse fun reshoim” (Praiseworthy is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked), from the first section of Psalms; and from the first section of the book of Joshua: “Un es iz givezin nokh dem toyt fun moyshe, gots knekht, hot got gizogt tsu shiye bin-nun der meshores fun moyshe, tsu zogin: moyshe mayn knekht iz gishtorbin un nun shtey oyf gey iber dem dozigin yardn” (And it happened after the death of Moses, God’s servant, that God said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ attendant, saying: ‘Moses my servant has died. Now, arise, cross this Jordan.” He died in Leipzig.
Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 2; G. Dalmann, foreword to Aramäisch-neuhebräisches Handwörterbuch (Frankfurt, 1922), pp. 4, 8; Rabbi Shmuel Pliskin, in Der amerikaner (New York) (September 8, 1961); Dr. Y. H. Hertz, in Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 9, p. 750.
Khayim Leyb Fuks