Re: researching the rabbi in your family's past #general

Jonina Duker <jonina.duker@...>

There are many sources depending on who the rabbi was and whether he
wrote anything. In terms of "who" the place to start is the Hebrew
reference work Otzer Harabanim (20,000 rabbis >from 970 to 1970, lots of
indexes, etc.) There are also reference books for Chasidic rabbis
(haven't used, my background Misnagid) and Galician rabbis (again,
haven't used, my background is Litvak). If by chance your ancestor
connects to Katzenellenbogens and such, do not forget the Neil Rosenstein
English book, The Unbroken Chain. In terms of whether the rabbi
published anything I have used Bet Eked Sepharim with great success. (in
Hebrew, reference work with rabbis' books published between 1474 to
1950.) Finding publications is particularly good because often there is
genealogical information in the beginning about the author. Remember the
Jewish emphasis on books and how that connects to names on occasion:
sometimes an influential work becams the name under which we know the
rabbi (for example Chofetz Chayim was the name of the rabbi's most noted
work and not his actual name); also, sometimes that book name actually
became the surname of descendants (for example one of my teachers, last
name Shore, is a descendant of B'chor Shor). Don't forget Encyclopaedia
Judaica and make sure you use the index in case the rabbi for whom you
search doesn't have an entry under his own name but is elsewhere
discussed in other entries (so an alphabetical-type dictionary-look-up
would miss the valuable information ... index is essential for EJ).
There may well be lists of rabbis maintained historically within the holy
land but this is a conjecture; I have not had occasion to research a
rabbi in Israel yet.
Jonina Duker

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