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Moses Gaster's Biography (Books)

Jewish scholar MOSES GASTER (1856-1939) was born in Romania but emigrated to England, where he lectured at Oxford University. His wrote numerous books of theology, folklore, history, and literature, including History of Rumanian Popular Literature (1883) and five-volume Sephardic prayer book (1901-6).

Born in Bucharest, after having taken a degree in his native city (1874), he proceeded to the Jewish Seminary in Breslau, where he received the degree of Ph.D. in 1878 and the Hattarat Hora'ah in 1881. His history of Romanian popular literature was published in Bucharest in 1883.

Gaster's major work, in which he invested ten years of his life, is a Romanian chrestomathy and glossary covering the period from the dawn of Romanian literature down to 1830. He was lecturer on the Romanian language and literature at the University of Bucharest (1881-85), inspector-general of schools, and a member of the council for examining teachers in Romania. He also lectured on the Romanian apocrypha, the whole of which he had discovered in manuscript.

Gaster wrote various text-books for the Jewish community of Romania, made a Romanian translation of the Siddur, and compiled a short Scripture history.

Having been expelled from Romania by the Ion Bratianu government in 1885 for allegedly "being a member of an irredentist society", he went to England, where he was appointed lecturer in Slavonic literature at the University of Oxford, his lectures being published afterward as Greco-Slavonic Literature, London, 1886.

He had not been in England many years before the Romanian government canceled the decree of expulsion, presented him with the Romanian Ordinul National "Pentru Merit" of the first class (1891), and invited him to return - but he declined the invitation. In 1895, at the request of the Romanian government, he wrote a report on the British system of education, which was printed as a "green book" and accepted as a basis of education in Romania.

In 1887 Gaster was appointed hakham of the Spanish and Portuguese congregation in London, in which capacity he presided over the bicentenary of Bevis Marks Synagogue. He was also principal of Judith Montefiore College, Ramsgate, from 1891 to 1896, and wrote valuable essays accompanying the yearly reports of that institution. He is a member of the councils of the Folklore, Biblical, Archeological, and Royal Asiatic societies, and has written many papers in the interest of these bodies.

Gaster was among the most active leaders of the Zionist movement in England, and even while in Romania he assisted in establishing the first Jewish colony in Palestine. He was vice-president of the first Basel Congress, and was a prominent figure in each succeeding congress.

* Jewish Folk-Lore in the Middle Ages (London, 1887);
* The Sword of Moses from an ancient manuscript book of magic, with introduction, translation, and index (ib. 1896);
* The Chronicles of Jerahmeel (ib. 1899) copy at Google Books;
* History of the Ancient Synagogue of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews, a memorial volume in celebration of the two-hundredth anniversary of its inauguration (ib. 1901).

Contributions to periodical literature:


* "Beitrage zur Vergleichenden Sagen und Marchenkunde", in Monatsschrift, xxix. 35 et seq.;
* "Ein Targum der Amidah," in ib. xxxix. 79 et seq.;
* "The Apocalypse of Abraham, from the Roman Text", in the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, ix. 195;
* "The Unknown Hebrew Versions of the Tobit Legend," in ib. 1897, p. 27;
* "The Oldest Version of Midrash Meghillah", in Kohut Memorial Volume;
* "Hebrew Text of One of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs", in the Proceedings of the Society of Biblical Arch?ology, xvi. 33 et seq.;
* "Contributions to the History of A?i?ar and Nadam", in the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1900, p. 301.

* Young Israel, 1898;
* Jewish Chronicle and Jewish World, 1887;
* Jewish Year Book, 1900-01, pp. 270-271.