Thursday, September 08, 2011

Vintage Yeshiva Universitiana

Here's a page from a really useful book called Ohalei Shem published in 1912. It's basically a Who's Who of rabbis the world over, with their biographies and addresses (where applicable; in many locales, evidently, writing the name and town and province was sufficient. For example, if you wanted to write the Chofetz Chaim, you could turn to pp. 552 - 53 and see that it would be correct to address it to І. M. Каганѣ Радунѣ (Вилеи. губ.). It has a haskamah from R. Chaim Soloveitchik (and R. David Karliner and R. Chaim Ozer) in case anyone follows such things.

I don't know if anything quite like this existed before, but it surely was a useful book, and therefore many people would own it and many eyes would peruse its pages. So it's interesting to look at the advertisements. You can do that yourself (it's mostly rabbinic journals) but the one I'll mention is Romm's ad for the Chumash Torah Temimah. As an aside, there doesn't seem to be any real rhyme or reason for the length of the biographies, so I will permit myself to speculate that they are based on some combination of how interesting the life of the particular rabbi was and how acquainted the author was with him. Some examples of longer-than-usual entries are the one for Rav Kook ("Kouk"), R. Isser Zalman Melzer and R. Baruch Epstein.

There are entries for many notables and future notables. For example, there is one for the young rabbi who would be the Satmar Rav one day. The listings are basically all Orthodox, which is not surprising, although not all of the Eastern European variety. I did note that Dr. Lowy of the Bresslau Rabbinical Seminary seems to have slipped through, but I looked in vain for Solomon Schechter (but others, like Rabbi Z. P. Chajes are listed). Rabbi Moshe Dawid Kasuto of Florenz is listed too.

Here's the page for two rabbeim in RIETS (which I doubt was it called then). Note that they can be reached at the "Talmud-Seminar," which I guess was the author's imaginative name for the Yeshiva which would be Yeshiva University. Note also that the author can't make up his mind between "New Iork" and "Jork."

I'm afraid I've reached the end of the post, and I haven't mentioned the author/ compiler's name! It was Rabbi Shmuel Noach Gottlieb of Pinsk. Although I most certainly did not count, it seems to me that there are about 2000 separate entries (the index has 15 pages of 3 columns each, without 45 names per column).


  1. Supposedly, he sent postcards and the Rabbonim responded. That's why The Belzer Rebbe has only one line and Rabbis in America have biographies that are paragraphs long.
    Rabbi Herzog pere of Paris gives his son a plug.
    Winnipeg is in Manitomba,Africa.
    Satmar Rebbe was the last Rabbi standing.
    Its a treasure trove

  2. On page 320 he says that a certain rabbi has a
    תעודה של שמונה מדרגות מביה"ס.
    What does this mean?

  3. From the YU website: "In 1896, RIETS, the first high-level yeshiva gedolah in the United States, was established in memory of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor of Kovno, Lithuania, one of the outstanding rabbinic scholars of the 19th century, who had passed away that year." Not sure why you would doubt that the name RIETS would have been in use in 1912, unless you mean the acronym pronounced "Reetz" as opposed to the full name Yeshivas R. Yitzchok Elchonon.

  4. Make that "Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary."

  5. It was chartered under New York State law as the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary in 1897, a year after it was founded. (It was founded as "The Yeshiva" and was called that for years afterward, so long as it was the only yeshiva in the US, and even into the 1930's, when it was still the only higher-level yeshiva in the country. It was renamed "Yeshivas Rabbenu Yitzchak Elchanan" when he passed away a few months after it was founded.) I don't know when the acronym came into use.

  6. This facinating gold mine of information is extremely handy when it comes to European Rabbi's but, understandably, falls short in the area of Rabbi's from America and Sephardic lands. In one instance he even misread the name on the stamp of 'Chacham Merkado' Alfandari of Tzfat (p.507) better known as the 'Saba Kadisha' or R. Shlomo Eliezer Alfandari. In Ohalei Shem he is refered to as Chaim Merkado.

  7. 'Merkado' (or 'Merkada' for a female) was a title common amongst Ladino speaking Sephardim, indicating that the person had underwent the 'purchase' procedure as an infant as a segulah to prevent from the then common instance of child fatalities (r"l). This procedure is mentioned in Sefer Chasidim and was practiced in Sephardic lands.

  8. Dan, I did mean "Reetz."

    My grandfather saw the Saba Kadisha when he was about 10. His father went to consult with him, and he took him along. He said that they said in the street in those days that he was 120 years old. They were probably saying it for years.

  9. FRED:

    "I don't know if anything quite like this existed before"

    not with addresses, see for example ben zion eisenstadt's series of biographies (although his included rabbonim and maskilim)


    "but, understandably, falls short in the area of Rabbi's from America"

    eisenstadt compensated for that a decade earlier

  10. Fotheringay-Phipps2:57 PM, September 09, 2011

    This is the work from which RN Kaminetsky brought his proof that the Brisker Rov was considered greater than his older brother R' Moshe. See page 29 (73 of the PDF doc)

  11. re Iork vs Jork:
    Once a hot stamper gave me a lesson of how he picks the letters out of their bins and puts them together to make a die. Sometimes, a letter can be in the wrong bin. Especially as I and J (at least in English) are next to each other, one J could have been in the bin for I's.

  12. ...It was Rabbi Shmuel Noach Gottlieb of Pinsk...

    Pinsk was my late grandmother's home town -- you don't hear much about it, but here it is, and I see that the publisher / printer shared her family name. Curiouser and curiouser.

  13. currently available in stores as it has been reprinted.

  14. Page 73/592.
    Chaim Solowejzik - 3 sons -
    Reb Yisroel/Moshe/Yitzchok Zev

    What happened to R' Yisroel?

  15. Son-in-law, Zvi Dov Glicksman of Varshe?

  16. R' Yisroel died, eventually. :)

    His son was R' Moshe Soloveitchik of Switzerland.

    IIRC, R Glicksman was killed in the War.


    Different - Yisroel Soloveichik - nephew of R' Chaim



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