Resources for the Beginner
The biggest problem is for those
us who are inexperienced in the use of rabbinic texts:
- Hakdomos/Hakdamot or Introductions:
scholars observed a tradition of making personal
introductions to their rabbinic works.
or Approbations: Forewords to published sacred
writings were solicited.
- Shielos V'Tshuvos or Responsa:
respected rabbis were in the form of questions and
- Yechus brief or Pedigree document
What I am about to suggest is for those who cannot
read or translate Hebrew.
For the real beginner, I would suggest the following:
- A good starter book is From Generation to
How to Trace Your Jewish Genealogy and Family History,
by Arthur Kurzweil. The author, by the way, was doing
rabbinic research. He had
found out that he
descended from the Stropkover Rebbe. His initial efforts give a
flavor of how
one should approach rabbinic research. (See online: "How
I Discovered My Rabbinic Ancestry" by
- Peruse the Encyclopaedia Judaica (available in many
libraries). Many noted rabbis are listed there.
- Find the Yizkor book for the town or city where the
lived or served. Many Yizkor books have a section about the history
of the town. Others have specific chapters about famous rabbis.
(See the JewishGen
Yizkor Book Project for online Yizkor book
- For very prominent rabbis, three publishers have taken the lead
English language biographies. Many are available in libraries.
publishers are: Feldheim, ArtScroll and CIS. Even if the rabbi
in question does not have a specific biography published about
interacted. If a noted rabbi lived in the same area or timeframe as
a famous rabbi, it is likely that something about the rabbi will appear
in the famous rabbi's biography.
- If the rabbi in question published a book (Sefer), many of
these works have been translated into English and published by the same publishers
as mentioned above. In quite a number of these cases, biographical material has been included
- A noted historian, Rabbi Berel Wein, has written several
books in English on Jewish history that concentrate on rabbinical influences
ages. These books, published by Shaar Press, are available in
and are literally a treasure trove of information regarding noted
Beyond this one must consult rabbinic texts, but at
least it is a starting point.
Echoes of Glory (350 BCE - 750 CE)
Herald of Destiny (750CE - 1650CE)
Triumph of Survival (1650CE - 1995CE)
Rabbi Mordechai Schlanger
New York, New York, USA
4Check the Bibliography for more