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KN-KZ Archives | Shengold Jewish Encyclopedia
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KNESSET.

Parliament of Israel. See Israel, Government of.

KOESTLER, ARTHUR (1905-1983).

Writer. He was born in Hungary, lived briefly in Palestine, and settled in England. He wrote mainly about the political events of his time. His political novel Darkness at Noon was a major expose of communism. Thieves in the Night was about kibbutz life.

KOF.

Nineteenth letter of the Hebrew alphabet; numerically, 100.

KOHELET.

See Ecclesiastes.

KOHEN.

Literally, priest. Aaron, the elder brother of Moses, was the first high priest and ancestor of all the priests and high priests who performed the sacrificial rites and conducted services in the Sanctuary. According to the Bible, the meeting tent, or Tabernacle, was built by the Israelites in the wilderness after their exodus from Egypt. It was the first sanctuary in which a kohen, or priest, served the Lord (Exod. 25:8). There, Aaron brought the offerings of the people in the desert. When he performed the services in the Tabernacle, Aaron wore priestly robes called the hoshen and ephod. On the shoulder-pieces of the ephod were two stones on which the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were engraved. On his chest, Aaron wore a breastplate made of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet yarn set with precious stones (Exod. 28).

When the Children of Israel settled in the Land of Canaan, the priests, like the rest of the tribe of Levi, received no portion of land, because they were completely dedicated to the service of the Lord. Instead, biblical laws assigned to them a part of levitical taxes paid by the people and some of the voluntary offerings from the crops and produce. Certain portions from the sacrifices and first fruit offerings were also set aside for the priests.

The Tabernacle rested in Shiloh, almost in the center of the land. Eli, the priest, officiated there for 40 years and served as Judge of Israel. In the time of King David, the role of the priest assumed new importance in the life of the people. Worship became centralized in Jerusalem, the new capital of the nation. When King Solomon built the Temple, gleaming with gold and bronze, high on Mt. Moriah, Zadok served as high priest and his son Azariah after him. For a thousand years, this position passed from father to son in the family of Zadok. As the centuries passed, triumph and disaster followed in turn, changing the life of the nation. The First Temple was destroyed, then rebuilt by the people returned from exile. The priests were the teachers and leaders of the people at that time, and their power was great. As foreign empires came and went, they interfered with people’s lives and worship in the Temple. Corrupt Greek and Roman governors ignored the required religious qualifications for priests and allowed men to buy their way into the position with gold. Then the Second Temple was destroyed, and the people were scattered in the lands of the dispersion, where prayer took the place of sacrifices. The kohanim went into exile with their people, retaining their identity by the surname Kohen. The spelling of the name has varied at different times and in different countries: Cohen, Coen, Cahn, Cahen, Cohan, Cahan, Kagan, Kahn; or Cowen, Kohn, Kann, and Katz (from the initials of kohen tzedek, priest of justice). All these variations identify members of a family whose ancestors acted as priests in the Sanctuary. Descendants of the original kohanim still rise up in Orthodox synagogues during the holiday services, cover their faces with prayer shawls, and bless the people with the triple benediction of the ancient priests of Israel.

KOHLER, KAUFMAN (1843-1926).

Rabbi, educator, and leader of Reform Judaism. A descendant of a family of rabbis, Kohler was born in Fuerth, Bavaria. He studied in Frankfurt-am-Main under the Orthodox philosopher Samson Raphael Hirsch. Later, he came under the influence of the famous Reform leader Abraham Geiger, who urged him to go to America. He arrived in the U.S. in 1869 and held Reform pulpits in Detroit, Chicago, and New York. Kohler convened the conference of 1885, which drew up the “Pittsburgh Platform,” a statement of Reform views which retained its influence until the late 1930’s. He introduced Sunday services into his temples. Kohler was President of Hebrew Union College and of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. He also served as editor of the Jewish Publication Society‘s 1917 translation of the Bible.

KOHUT, ALEXANDER (1842-1894).

Rabbi and scholar. Ordained in Hungary, Kohut arrived in New York in 1885 and became one of the founding fathers of Conservative Judaism in the U.S. He is best known for his exhaustive Talmudic dictionary and his work in behalf of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America with Sabbato Morais.

KOHUT, REBECCA BETTELHEIM (1864-1951).

Educator and communal worker. Brought to America from Hungary as a child, Rebecca Bettelheim studied literature and history before her marriage to Alexander Kohut in 1887. After his death in 1894, she embarked on a long career as lecturer, author, educator, and communal worker. She founded the Kohut School for Girls, and served as president of the first World Congress of Jewish Women and of the National Council of Jewish Women. Her writings include My Portion, an autobiography.

KOL NIDRE.

See Yom Kippur.

KOLLEK, THEODOR (TEDDY) (1911-2007).

Israeli public figure. Born in Vienna, he came to Palestine in 1934. In the 1950’s he played a major role in building Israel’s tourist industry and founding the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. He was mayor of Jerusalem from 1965 to 1993, becoming well known as a developer of the city and a seeker of peace between its Jewish and Arab residents.

KOOK, ABRAHAM ISAAC HACOHEN (1865-1935).

Religious thinker and famous Chief Rabbi of Palestine. Born in a small town in Latvia, he studied at famous yeshivot, or Talmudic academies, and became known as a brilliant Talmudic scholar when young. He served as rabbi in several important Jewish communities. He also gained renown for his knowledge of Jewish mysticism, or Kabbalah, Hasidism, and religious philosophy. He was among the few religious leaders of his time who saw in the return to Zion the fulfillment of a basic doctrine of Judaism.

In 1904, he became Rabbi of Jaffa, thus realizing his wish to settle in the Holy Land. In 1922, he was chosen Chief Rabbi of the Ashkenazic Jews in Palestine. In Jerusalem, he founded his Yeshivah Merkaz-Harav. He wrote and published distinguished Talmudic works and philosophic-poetical essays. He identified with the pioneers and exerted great influence on younger generations. His devotion and tolerance endeared him to all the builders of Palestine, the freethinking as well as the Orthodox. Every pioneer was close to his heart. When criticized for his tolerance of the irreligious Halutzim, he gave this characteristic reply: “When the Holy Temple existed, it was forbidden for a stranger or even an ordinary priest to enter in the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest was permitted to enter it, and that but once a year during the Day of Atonement

KORCZAK, JANUSZ (1878-1942).

Polish writer and educator. He developed a theory of education based on treating children with respect, and was well known for his children books. He ran a home for children in the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi occupation, and chose to go to his death when his charges were sent to a Nazi concentration camp.

KOSHER.

See Dietary Laws.

KOSTELANETZ, ANDRE.

See Music.

KOUFAX, SANDY.

See Hasidism.

See Sports.

KOUSSEVITZKY, SERGE.

See Music.

KOVNER, ABBA (1918-1987).

Hebrew poet. Born in Crimea, he led a group of young Jews who escaped from Vilna during the Nazi occupation, and became known as a partisan commander. After the war he settled in Palestine and became a leading Israeli poet.

KOVNO.

See Lithuania.

KREBS, SIR HANS ADOLF (1900-1981).

Whitley Professor of Biochemistry at Oxford University from 1954 until his death. He was born in Hildesheim, Germany, and was educated in that country. He had to give up his post as lecturer in medicine at the University of Freiburg, Bavaria, and emigrate to England with the advent of the Nazis. He shared the 1953 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of the citric acid cycle which describes the chemical stages of oxidation of foodstuffs in living organisms.

KROCHMAL, NACHMAN (1785-1840).

Hebrew philosopher and scholar. Born in Galicia, he shared his profound wisdom with students attracted by his philosophy of Jewish history. After his death his teachings were published in his Guide for the Perplexed of the Age. Like Maimonides, Krochmal sought to reconcile Jewish religious thought with modern ideas. He believed that the Jewish people had survived because they were endowed with an “absolute Spirit” that was universal and immortal. Krochmal stimulated the Jewish people to think of themselves, once again, as a nation.

KURDISTAN.

The “Land of the Kurds” is not a separate country, but is divided among Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Kurdistan stretches along the south shore of the Caspian Sea. The land is mountainous, with few roads. The Kurds are Moslems ruled by semi-independent tribal chiefs. Many Christian Armenians and Assyrians lived there at one time, but their numbers were greatly reduced by Kurdish massacres. According to an old legend, Kurdish Jews came to Kurdistan from Palestine in the time of Ezra, several centuries before the common era. They still speak Aramaic a dialect closely related to the language of the Gemara (See Talmud). Once they were nomads like the local Moslems, but later they settled down like the Kurdish Christians. Kurdistan has always remained uninfluenced by Western civilization. Jewish occupations included farming and fruit growing, shopkeeping, peddling, and handicrafts. Thousands of Kurdish Jews have gone to Israel, where their tall, stalwart figures, beards, and turbans became a familiar sight.

KVUTZAH.

See Kibbutz.

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