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PERETZ, ABRAHAM:

Russian financier; friend and contemporary of Nathan Notkin and Nevakhovich. He was a son of the rabbi of Levertov, Galicia, and son-in-law of Joshua Zeitlin of Shklov. In the reign of Paul I., Peretz, in partnership with the Khersonese merchant Stiglitz, contracted with the government for the purchase of Crimean salt. This contract was discussed in the Senate and received the imperial sanction. About this time Peretz probably became acquainted with Derzhavin, and later, on the advice of Potemkin, he removed to St. Petersburg. Being a Jew, he could not legally remain in the metropolis; nevertheless he stayed there most of the time, only returning home for the holy days. As his commercial operations became more extensive, many prominent people enjoyed his hospitality. He became intimate with Speranski, and undoubtedly gave him much information. Among the friends of Peretz was the statesman Kankrin, who later became minister of finance. Speranski spent many hours in Peretz's house, and was on this account made the object of bitter attacks, even being accused of accepting bribes from Peretz.

When, in 1802, a commission was appointed by the emperor to investigate the Jewish question, Peretz, Notkin, and Nevakhovich took an active interest in its work. The commission, consisting of Kochubei, Zubov, Chartoryski, Severin-Pototzki, and Derzhavin, gave information to the governors of the governments in which Jews resided, and advised them to acquaint the Jewish communities with the purpose of the commission. In 1803 delegates from the Jewish communities were invited to visit St. Petersburg in order that the commission might become better acquainted with the conditions of Jewish life in Russia. At this time Peretz was in a position to render valuable service to his coreligionists. His immense commercial undertakings and the high standing of his acquaintances enabled him to exert a decided influence for good on contemporary legislation; and through his friend Speranski he was enabled to further the Jewish cause.

On the death of his wife, Peretz was baptized and married a German who became the mother of his younger children. His son Hirsch, by his first wife, was a boy of great promise; but, becoming involved in the Dekabrist outbreak in 1825, was sent to Siberia, and later was transferred to Odessa, where he died in banishment. Peretz's daughter by his first wife married Senator Baron Grebnitz. Another son of his held (1856-58) the position of inspector of the Technological Institute. With the fall of Speranski, Abraham Peretz's good fortune forsook him, and he became a poor man.

Bibliography:
  • Voskhod, 1881, ii. 30;
  • Hessen, Sto Lyet Nazad, St. Petersburg, 1900.
H. R. J. G. L.
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