KALAI, JOSEPH B. JACOB (13th century), liturgical poet. Probably a native of Southern Europe (perhaps Greece or Sicily), the poet, whose surname קלעי is of Arabic origin, signs his name in addition as ḥazzan, payyat ("poet"), and כרפאן or בן כרפאן. For the latter, neither Zunz, who renders it κορυφαῖος ("precentor"), nor S. Krauss, who prefers "of Corfu," provides a satisfactory explanation. His compositions were adopted chiefly in the Maḥzor Romania (Greek rite). Single poems were in use in Rome, Tripoli, Kaffa, and among the Karaites. Zunz (see bibl.) lists 23 poems by Kalai. His compositions include yoẓerot, ḥatanu, taḥanun, and tokhaḥot; two dialogues, one between Haman and Ahasuerus and the other between the Sabbath and the New Moon, deserve special mention.
A Berliner, Aus meiner Bibliothek (1898), supplement, xxiiif.; Davidson, Oẓar, 4 (1933), 406f., S.V. Yosef Kalai; A.M. Habermann (ed.), Ateret Renanim (1967), 50f., no. 28; S. Krauss, Studien zur byzantinisch-juedischen Geschichte (1914), 83, 102, 139; Landshuth, Ammudei, 90; I.D. Markon, in: Festschrift… A. Harkavy (1908), 459 (Heb. pt.); M. Steinschneider, in: JQR, 11 (1898/99), 129 no. 292, 605 no. 663; Zunz, Lit Poesie, 339–41 and additions, 20f.