How could a Jew kill a Jew for religious and political reasons? Many people asked this question after an Orthodox Jew assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Itshak Rabin in 1995. But historian Michael Stanislawski couldn't forget it, and he decided to find out everything he could about an obscure and much earlier event that was uncannily similar to Rabin's murder: the 1848 killing--by an Orthodox Jew--of the Reform rabbi of Lemberg (now L'viv, Ukraine). Eventually, Stanislawski concluded that this was the first murder of a Jewish leader by a Jew since antiquity, a prelude to twentieth-century assassinations of Jews by Jews, and a turning point in Jewish history. Based on records unavailable for decades, A Murder in Lemberg is the first book about this fascinating case.
On September 6, 1848, Abraham Ber Pilpel entered the kitchen of Rabbi Abraham Kohn and his family and poured arsenic in the soup that was being prepared for their dinner. Within hours, the rabbi and his infant daughter were dead. Was Kohn's murder part of a conservative Jewish backlash to Jewish reform and liberalization in a year of European revolution? Or was he killed simply because he threatened taxes that enriched Lemberg's Orthodox leaders?
Vividly recreating the dramatic story of the murder, the trial that followed, and the political and religious fallout of both, Stanislawski tries to answer these questions and others. In the process, he reveals the surprising diversity of Jewish life in mid-nineteenth-century eastern Europe. Far from being uniformly Orthodox, as is often assumed, there was a struggle between Orthodox and Reform Jews that was so intense that it might have led to murder.
"Stanislawski tells his story with a sharp eye for detail and plot, with the historical context and analysis that students of Jewish history will appreciate."--Publishers Weekly
"Beyond the sheer literary pleasure of his captivating narrative and the inherent novelty of a Galitsianer Jewish murder mystery, the author adds important insights into the complex, now vanished, world that was Jewish Galicia. . . . Michael Stanislawski has written not only an important historical morality tale about the dangers of religious extremism, but also a cautionary tale about the unforeseeable perils unleashed when governments try to force modernity, or, for that matter democracy, on a deeply traditional religious society."--Allan Nadler, Forward
"Stanislawski . . . could not have written this slim, fascinating book without having immersed himself in the municipal archives of Lviv, previously known as Lemberg."--Sheldon Kirshner, Canadian Jewish News
"A well-paces and dramatic re-examination of the Kohn murder, Murder in Lemberg is, more importantly, a rich and vivid picture of the diverse mid-19th century Jewish life in Eastern Europe, when change was unsettling traditional communities."--Jewish Book World
"In a charming and fascinating book that he has just published--A Murder in Lemberg--Stanislawski says he truly believes that this is not only a fascinating story in and of itself, but also one with abiding importance to all those interested in the modern history and the culture of the Jews, with all of its grandeur and successes, as well as its abundance of tragedy and violence...including internal violence, ultimately stretching from the assassination of Rabbi Abraham Kohn in 1848 to that of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995."--Tom Segev, Haaretz
Table of Contents:
PART ONE: THE MURDER AND ITS BACKGROUND
Chapter One: Galicia and Its Jews, 1772-1848 9
Chapter Two: Lemberg and Its Jews, 1772-1848 18
Chapter Three: A Reform Rabbi in Eastern Europe 34
Chapter Four: Rabbi Abraham Kohn in Lemberg, 1843-1848 52
Chapter Five: Revolution and Murder 65
PART TWO: THE INVESTIGATION, SENTENCE, AND APPEAL
Chapter Six: Abraham Ber Pilpel, Murderer? 81
Chapter Seven: The Indicted Co-Conspirators 97
Chapter Eight: Magdalena Kohn v. the Austrian Empire 107
Illustration Section Follows Page 88