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Kazaz, Elijah ben Elijah

KAZAZ, ELIJAH BEN ELIJAH (1832–1912), important Karaite public figure and pedagogue, a member of the Haskalah. Born in Armyansk, Crimea, he studied there in a bet midrash, moved to Evpatoria, and became the disciple of Abraham ben Yosef *Lutski (Aben Yashar). He started writing poems in Hebrew at an early age. He lived for a while in Kherson, where he studied secular subjects with a priest and was on friendly terms with Yekuti'el Berman, a member of the Haskalah, who introduced him to the world of modern Jewish literature. He studied at St. Petersburg University, at the faculty of Oriental Studies. After graduating, he founded in 1859 a Karaite school in Odessa. In the 1860s he taught general history and Latin in Simferopol. In 1886 he became director of the Tatar pedagogical college in Simferopol. In 1895, when the officials, after his endeavors, opened the Alexander III School for Karaite teachers and ḥazzanim, Kazaz became its director, holding the position until 1908.

He published numerous poems in Hebrew periodicals. The collections of poems appearing in book form, Shirim Aḥadim (1857) and Yeled Sha'ashu'im (1910, Ashdod 2002), are among the few Karaite contributions to secular Hebrew literature. Later, influenced by the teachings advocated by Abraham *Firkovich, he tried to sever all connection between the *Karaites and the mainstream of Jewry. He asserted that the Karaites were not Semites, but a Tatar or *Khazar tribe which had become converted to the Jewish faith. His works include a Hebrew textbook in Tatar, Le-Regel ha-Yeladim (1868–69), intended for the Karaite youth speaking the Tatar language; Torat ha-Adam (1889), an adaptation of Eléments de morale by P. Janet (1870); Kivshono shel Olam (1889), after La religion naturelle by J. Simon (1856); Emet me-Ereẓ (1908), a shortened version of F. Vigouroux's La Bible et les découvertes modernes en Palestine … (1879); Cicero, Ẓiyyur Biografi (a biographical sketch; 1908). He also translated the Karaite prayer book entitled Ketoret Tamid into Russian (1905). The Russian authorities regarded him as the official Karaite representative.


B. Elyashevich, Materialy k serii narody i kultury XIV, kn. 2 (1993), 79–82; S. Poznański, in: ZHB, 13 (1909), 117–8, 146, 148; 14 (1910), 114; Reshumot, 1 (1925), 476–83; R. Fahn, Sefer ha-Kara'im (1929), 138ff., MGWJ, 74 (1930), 141–4.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.