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Book Review: Meorei Galicia (Encyclopedia of Galician Sages)

Jerusalem, Israel, 1978-1997. Author: Rabbi Meir Wunder.

Reviewed by Chaim Freedman

Five volumes of extensively detailed genealogies of Galician rabbinical families are arranged alphabetically by surname. Most family sections include a genealogical chart. For prominent rabbis of each family biographical material is included, in particular rabbinical compositions, responsa correspondence and photographs. There is updated information of generations contemporaneous to the writing of the book. Many sources are quoted for each family and there is an extensive bibliography. This impressive and scholarly work is the most extensive and reliable source of rabbinical genealogy written in the twentieth century.

Rabbi Meir Wunder was born in Haifa to a family which originated in Jaroslaw, Galicia. His rabbinic education was obtained at Poneveiz Yeshiva in Bnei Brak where he received rabbinical ordination from prominent rabbis. He also qualified as a rabbinical lawyer. After he attained general and pedagogical education and qualified for a B.A., Rabbi Wunder taught at various schools. He holds qualification from the School of Librarianship of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and for many years managed the library at Poneveiz Yeshiva and other institutions. The principal part of his career was spent as a senior librarian at the National Library at the Hebrew University. It was there that he had the essential access to the sources for his rabbinical genealogical research.

The following is a translated adaptation of the author’s introduction to the first volume of the work.

The inhabitants of the towns and Jewish villages of Galicia were loyal to the leadership of famous rabbis and Chassidic Rebbes, who perpetuated Jewish tradition from generation to generation. There was hardly a place which did not have a rabbi or scholar. In the cities famous Gaonim officiated whose reputations were recognized throughout world Jewry. There was a relatively high proportion of rabbis amongst Galician Jewry compared to other Jewish centers. The Chassidic movement took hold strongly in Galicia and hundreds of Chassidic Rebbes held their courts in the towns of Galicia where they were supported by hundreds of thousands of loyal adherents. Even in the business and manufacturing world many scholars found time from their daily occupations to study and to write compositions of Jewish learning. Many of the authors of the treasury of Jewish literature left little or no information about themselves, save their names as authors of the books.

The spiritual shepherds of Galicia were not systematically recorded in the annals of Jewish history. The scholars of other communities such as Germany and Hungary had biographies written about them. Therefore there arose the need to fill the void by creating a tool which would be a guide and point of reference for all those who enquire about Galician rabbis and their familial relationships. It was not with a light heart that Rabbi Wunder took upon himself the awesome task of immortalizing Galician rabbinic scholarship.

In the criteria which Rabbi Wunder set for himself in putting together his book, it was decided that not only well known rabbis who held important positions in the rabbinate or who authored famous books would be included, but every rabbi whose name was recorded somewhere among the sources, would be included in the book, even if his name alone was all that was known of him. Therefore Meorei Galicia includes rabbis, Dayanim (judges), teachers, Maggidim (preachers), and Head of Yeshivas, who officiated in any town or village in Galicia (with the exception of Reform rabbis), Admorim (Chassidic leaders) of well known dynasties or of self merited leadership, scholars who authored any book of scholarship in one or other of the disciplines of Jewish learning, publishers and editors of books. These were the categories defined for inclusion in the work and even if someone was famous but did not fall within these categories, he was not included.

As well as those whose entire career was spent in Galicia, those who were born in Galicia and then functioned elsewhere or who were born elsewhere and functioned in Galicia were included . The geographic understanding of the term Galicia was that territory which existed under the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the First World War. This area is shown in a map on the inside cover of the first volume.

The sources used by Rabbi Wunder were principally those books written by the subjects of the entries in Meorei Galicia. These were considered to be the primary source of authenticity of information included. A secondary source was considered to be those books or articles written about Galician scholars or references to them in the Responsa (correspondence between rabbis in the form of questions and answers to Halakhic matters), various tables, introductions to books, Prenumeranten lists, and books about the Jewish communities in Galicia. In addition a wide survey was required of the Jewish press and journals in many languages, as well painstaking searches through archives and libraries including unpublished manuscripts. Countless conversations and correspondence with people throughout the world were needed to realize the author’s self appointed mission over many years.

Certain technical issues regarding the conventions of spelling and language usage are outlined in the author’s introduction. The current Hebrew spelling of names of people and places is used as the primary access to information. Alternative spelling in Yiddish or other languages is included secondarily. The entries are by surname, within which the order is that of personal names. Also included are those scholars who either lived prior to the adoption of surnames or whose surnames were not noted in the sources.

Of particular genealogical value are the details included with the earliest entry for each family of its ancestry which often results in the inclusion of genealogical data going back hundreds of years. In many cases Rabbi Wunder strove to include genealogical charts to facilitate understanding of the relationships. Where they are known, details are given of dates and places of birth and death, positions held in the rabbinate of communities, movements from place to place, influence and allegiance to political or religious movements, published books and articles, unpublished manuscripts where they were preserved, biographical details of various stages and events in the life of the scholar, details of the familial connections of the wife of the scholar, a list of their children and subsequent generations, often down to the period contemporaneous with the writing of the Meorei Galicia. For many of the entries detailed lists of all the responsa in which the particular scholar appears, as well as his inclusion in Prenumeranten lists are included. Each entry is accompanied by a list of sources.

In addition to the individual entries, each volume includes various indices by surname, personal name, place name and bibliography.(F1) Whilst the text is in Hebrew an English list of surnames is included although its order is according to the Hebrew alphabet. A highlight of the book is the many photographs and facsimiles of documents and handwritten letters which are dispersed throughout the volumes.

A companion book to Meorei Galicia is Rabbi Wunder’s book Elef Margaliot (Jerusalem 1993, 776 pages) which, although centered on the Margolis family, includes priceless material on all the major rabbinical families of Europe going back to the time of Rashi and before. Many detailed genealogical tables are supplied and the book is a source of biographical material for the many rabbinical characters included in it.

Since his recent retirement, Rabbi Meir Wunder continues to engage in Jerusalem in his scholastic pursuits which include the compilation of many additions to the material presented in the five volumes of Meorei Galicia.

The following is an example of part of one family which appears in the first volume.(F2) Adherence to the form of the Hebrew is maintained, even at the expense of English construction.


The glory of the family was the Gaon Rabbi Arye Leib Auerbach. Born about the year 5470 [1710], to his father Rabbi Mordekhai Mardush from Kremnitz, ABD Yazlowitz and Bamberg, son of Reb David ABD Rawa whose sister was the mother of Rabbi David Oppenheim, son of Reb Avigdor, husband of the sister of the Ta”z, daughter of Reb Shmuel of Ludmir, son-in-law of Reb Yitskhak son of Reb Betzalel ABD Ludmir. The wife of Reb A.L. was Leah Dreizel, daughter of Nekhameh-Neitshe who was the daughter of Rabbi Arye Leib from Amsterdam, son-in-law of the Khakham Tsvi, and wife of Reb Moshe of Zolkiew Pu”m Lwow, father of Reb Mordekhai Zev father of Rabbi Yaakov Ornstein. Sheintsi the sister of Reb A.L. was the mother of Rabbi Meir Margolis, who was a student of his uncle and afterwards also his son-in-law.

Close to the year 5500 [1740] he was accepted as rabbi of Buczacz, but he was aggravated by men of no values and did not remain there. Until the Holocaust in that city they used to point out the chain of disabilities which struck those families who conspired against him, until eventually no remnant of them survived. Ten years he presided as rabbi of Stanislaw, and was called by its name. Died 10th (and some say 6th) Kheshvan 5510 [1750]. Despite his young age he was considered as one of the Geonim of his generation, and the Nodah Biyehudah refused to release a deserted wife if he did not participate with him (141, Even Haezer, 29). The Besht used to always stay with him, and said that he had the soul of Abaye. He left a manuscript of a book Beit Tzadikim on the Shas. Some of his innovations were printed by his relatives in the book Meir Netivim, item 5, and in the book Zikaron Yehudah by his grandson Reb Yehudah Broda, His student the author of Meshiv Kehalakhah refers to him as: “my uncle and teacher” in item 5, 192, and the answer of Reb A.L. to him is there, item 6.

He had a son Rabbi David Tsvi and daughters: Reizel the wife of Rabbi Meshullam Zalmen Ashkenazy ABD Pomeran, and when he died at the age of 25 she married Rabbi Tsvi Hersh Margolis ABD Lublin (and some say Rabbi Betzalel Margolis ABD Ostroah, and there is a third opinion); the wife of Rabbi Naftali Herz Broda ABD Mikolinitz; the wife of Rabbi Khaim ABD Slopkowitz son of Reb Uri of Zolkiew; and there are those who say also the wife of Rabbi Nakhman of Horodenka.

Kitvei Hageonim 53, 95; Eshkol, A, 849, 851; Melitsei Esh, B Kheshvan, page 122-123; Sefer Buczacz, 51; Sefer Busk, 83; Sha”y Agnon, Ir Umelo’oh, 304-309.

Reb Avraham Auerbach

Student of Reb.D.B. Weidenfeld. In the year 5701 [1941] he received a responsa from his rabbi to Lwow in Dovev Meisharim, part B, 9.

Reb Dov Tsvi son of Arye Leib Auerbach

From Monastricz (5503-5568 [1743-1808])

Born in Stanislaw in the year 5503 [1743] to his father Rabbi Arye Leib, and legends surround his birth. The Besht promised his father a male child, on condition that he would be the Sandek, and he would chose his name. When the father replied that he had wandered through all the sanctuaries and saw that he had no son, the Besht replied that he would give one of his two sons who he was supposed to give birth to. Reb A.L. and his wife engaged in repentance and mortification and their only son was born. The Besht was the Sandek and it was he who gave the name Dov Tsvi, one after his grandfather, and one like the name of his son.

At the age of seven he was orphaned from his father, and for two and a half years the father used to come to him night by night to teach him Torah. He revealed the matter after the great Pilpul which he delivered at his engagement banquet in Brody, with the daughter of Reb Aharon Katz, grandson of the Semikhes Khakhamim. From that time his father ceased to come to him, and he traveled to learn with the Maggid of Zloczow. In a second match he was the son-in-law of Reb Leibush Auerbach of Wiszniowitz. He served in the rabbinates of many communities in Galicia and in Russia: Pomoran, Monostriszcz (in 5551 [1791]) he received a responsa there from Rabbi Meshullam Igra, 14, 23, Kamenitz (already in 5551 [1791] he gave approbations to Rambam, Berdiczew printing), Soroka and others. Before his death he was received as rabbi of Mohilow, and on the 19th Kislev 5568 [1808] he gave an approbation on Midrash Rabot (Mohilow 5570 [1810]) as ABD of Mohilow and MTs”P (??) of Kremnitz and the region. Died in Mohilow 19th Iyar 5568 [1808].

He left a large composition on the entire Bible and on Avot. Some grains of his innovations to Avot were published in the introductions to the books of his grandson Reb Yisrael Matityahu. His Mekhutan gave him a responsa in Beit Efraim, Even Haezer part 3, 127. His sons:

Rabbi Menakhem Mendeli who filled his place as ABD Kremnitz. He was the father of Reb Khaim M”M in Kreminitz, father of Reb David Tsvi ABD Dubno, author of Malbushei Teharah, father of Reb M.M. the ABD and Reb Z.V. the Dvm”tz in Dubno; Reb Nakhman Zev in Monostriszcz; Reb Leibush. His sons-in-law: Rabbi Arye Leibush Meizels, ABD Preishla; Rabbi Natan Sternhartz from Breslau; Rabbi Aharon Shimon ABD Yampoli; Rabbi Khaim Tsvi Mo”tz in Kreminitz; Reb Gedaliah Yonah who died in Jerusalem. Many of his descendants served as rabbis.

Melitsei Esh A, omissions from Sivan, page 164-165.

Reb David Tsvi son of Reb Yisrael Matityahu Auerbach
From Sokolow-Stry (5630- 5698 [1870-1938])

Born in the year 5670 [1870] in Cziszinow to his father Rabbi Yisrael Matityahu. Married the daughter of Rabbi Mordekhai Gross ABD Abartin. In the year 5655 [1895] he was appointed Dvm”tz in Abartin, and in 5666 [1906] ABD Sokolow near Stry, until his death, Tuesday 3rd Tevet 5698 [1937]. He was Gabbai Eretz Yisrael. He wrote innovations and editory notes of MaharTs”A which were printed in his father’s books Nezer Yisrael and Mikraei Kodesh. In 5665 [1904] he delivered a eulogy on his rabbi David Moshe of Czortkow, and it was printed in Kolomea in Kuntrus Evel Moshe. In 5666 [1906] he received a responsa in the responsa of Maharsham, part 4, 130. In Tishrei 5668 [1908] he was a signatory against the conditions in marriage(??). His letter from 5672 [1912] was printed in Teshuvah Kehalakhah, 148. He had in manuscript Ateret Tsvi on Torah and homilies, and Tiferet Tsvi on prohibition and license a-b. His son Reb Nakhman Zev married in Kislev 5672 [1912] the daughter of Reb Sholem Liberman of Oszpicen.

Makhzikei Hadat, 28th Kheshvan 5667 [1907], 7; Ohalei Shem 262-263.

Reb Yehudah Leib Auerbach. See according to Averbuch, Reb Yehudah Leib
Reb Yisrael Matityahu son of Reb Nakhman Zev Auerbach
From Busk and Gwazditz (5599-5661 [1839-1901])

Born in Monostriszcz in the year 5599 [1839] to his father Reb Nakhman Zev, and already in his childhood he exchanged from there responsa with the Shu”m who ordained him in the year 5629 [1869]. He married Sheindel Roha the young daughter of Rabbi Moshe Tsvi Horowitz of Czieszinow - and his wife Ester - brother of Rabbi Yitskhak Shimshon ABD Chernowitz and Zolkwa, and he moved to live with his father-in-law. Here he began to write his many books, and was called to officiate in the rabbinates of many communities. Firstly he served in temporary positions until 5645 [1885] as Dvm”tz and afterwards as ABD Ustsia, and also as Dvm”tz in Czieszinow. His most difficult years were 5645-5651 [1885-1891] when he served as rabbi of Busk. The community was divided in two around his appointment, and he suffered from serious persecution there. This was caused by the fact, apparently, that he was a Khassid of Rabbi David Moshe of Czortkow, to whom he used to take his children on his travels. In Busk died his only daughter Yuta Khaya on the 7th of Sivan, 5646 [1886]. In the last ten years of his life he served as rabbi of Gwazdin. On the first night of Sukkot 5661 [1900] when saying Kiddush he skipped the words “time of our rejoicing” and in the morning died during the blessing of the Four Species. His sons: Reb Nakhman Zev and Reb David Tsvi.

He wrote many books on Halakhah which merited many editions already during his lifetime, and in them it was his way to explain the commentators on the Shulkhan Arukh, and to add to them collections of laws. The order of their appearance was: Alfei Yisrael on Shulkhan Arukh, Khosen Mishpat, which he explained on the Sema and Shakh, like a Makhatzit Hashekel on Orakh Khaim. Already in 5622 [1862] he received approbations from the Shu”m and from the Maharshak, Rabbi Y.Sh.Horowitz-Meizels, his father-in-law’s brother, and his cousin Rabbi Y.Kh.L. Meizels from Premishla. His father-in-law urged him morally and materially to print, and the book was published firstly under the name Mahadorah Khaninah there in 5633 [1873], and under the name Talitah with additions in 5640 [1880], and in 5646 [1886]; his book Shomer Yisrael on 365 matters of danger arranged alphabetically, in most editions its was renamed Shmirat Hanefesh. The Shu”m attached an approbation and notes. It was printed three times in Lwow in the year 5632 [1872], and also in 5634 [1874] and in 5648 [1888], Lublin 5668 [1908] (under the name: Shmirat Hanefesh Vehaguf), Munkacz 5671 [1911] (with the addition of Shmira Mealye by Rabbi Shabtai Lipshitz), in Radiow in 5684 [1924], Kuszica 5684 [1924] (Shomer Yisrael), Orsziwa 5688 [1928] (Lipshitz edition), Wronow 5699 [1939], Brooklyn 5700 [1940] (at the end of Meiri Mishlei), Jerusalem 5758 [1958] (an expanded edition by Rabbi Tsvi Moskowitz); in this new form of alphabetical order he wrote Nezer Yisrael with collections Rimah on the laws of Shabbat and Eruvin, which was a shortened version of the laws from the Taz and the M”A., and collections of laws from the books of responsa and the rabbinical authorities. It was printed in Lemberg 5638 [1878] and 5650 [1890], Bilgoraj 5668 [1908] and photocopied in New York 5715 [1955], and in Jerusalem in 5736 [1976] by “Ohr Hasefer” from the 5650 [1890] edition with Tav Yehoshua (Briskin). His son Reb David Tsvi wrote collections from Maharatsa. In the same format was written the second part on the laws of festivals and their intermediate days Mikraei Kodesh. It was printed in Lemberg 5638 [1878] and 5650 [1890], Bilgoray 5669 [1909], New York 5715, usually at the end of the first part; Imrei Binah on Shulkhan Arukh Yorei Deah Lemberg 5640 [1880]. The book was forged by Reb Mordekhai Natan Hakohen Schwarz who printed it entirely in Hust 5641 [1881] in his name. Only the title page was his, as was his pious introduction which states this was his third book (!), and a warning at the end not to print it without the permission of the author ! (Chaim Liberman, Kiryat Sefer 27, 382; 31, 397). Under the name Mahadurah Tanina it was printed with additions in Premisla in 5645 [1885] with a pamphlet Khidushei Hashas at the end. Further editions were printed in Lemberg in 5658 [1898] and 5672 [1912], Munkacz 5688 [1928] (only until the first part), Jerusalem 5721 [1961] (within Shulkhan Arukh Yorei Deah), Bnei Brak 5728 [1968], New York 5730 [1970]; because of his condition in Busk he wrote an abbreviated Khidushei Geonim on the laws of treifot according to the order of the sections of the Shulkhan Arukh Yorei Deah, yud to samekh, Lemberg 5647 [1887]; Mikve Yisrael with collections from Rim”a on the laws of Nidah and Arayot, and at its end editory notes on the Rambam, Lwow 5647 [1887]; Hagaot Rim”a on the Rambam at the end of Nezer Yisrael, Lemberg 5650 [1890], with a special title page; Klalei Hora’ah on prohibition and license, with collections of Rim”a and the approbation of Mahar”i Shmelkes, Lemberg 5656 [1896]; Birkat Yisrael on the blessings, the commandments according to the alphabet, Kolomea 5657 [1897] with collections of Rim”a, and approbation from Reb D”M and his son Rabbi Yisrael from Czortkow and from the Mahar”i Shmelkes. Aside from these he left many manuscripts: homilies on the festivals and eulogies, and a book Nezer Yisrael on Khosen Mishpat according to the alphabet.

Responsa to him: Beit Yitskhal, Yu”d part one, 69, Eh”E part one, 32, 84, ................

{eight lines of these}

Melitsei Esh, B, Tishrei, page 56-57.

Reb Menasheh Auerbach

Dayan in Nadworna. Responsa to him in Orian Talitai, 144.

Reb Meshulam Zusya Yitskhak son of Reb Yekhiel Mikhel Auerbach.
From Tlumacz (5579-5542 [1819-1882])

Born in the year 5579 [1819] to his father Reb Yekhiel Mikhel son of Reb Tsvi Menakhem son of the son of Rabbi Zusya of Anipoli, and to his mother Bila daughter of Reb Yitskhak Halberstadt (died 5598 [1838]) son of Reb Tsvi Hersh Halberstadt, son of Reb Meir (all three of them rabbis of Konstantin) son of Rabbi Yaakov Emden. The father lived in Doniavtsi, Podolia Province, and when someone was raped he was libeled, and arrested with Rabbi Yisrael of Rizhin. As they were about to exile him to Siberia he fled to Hungary, and was accepted as ABD of Kurima. He died in the year 5616 [1856] at the age of seventy one. All those years his son remained in Russia and lived in Hornisteipol, after he married Shterna Rakhel the daughter of Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Twersky, the Admor of Tcherkas, son of Rabbi Mordekhai of Czernobyl. She was a grand-daughter of the Schneurson family, and died in the year 5605 [1845]. He married a second wife and in a third match he married the daughter of Rabbi Khaim of Kossow, and moved to live in Galicia. He served as ABD of Tlumacz until his death in 5642 [1882] and until this day there exists there his Kloiz. His son Rabbi Mordekhai Dov Twersky ABD of Hornisteipol was a son-in-law of Rabbi Khaim of Zanz. When his father died he delivered a eulogy and Rabbi David of Tulna.

R.A”Y.Bromberg, Migedolei Hakhassidut, Part 9, 86-88; The Unbroken Chain 308-309.

Reb Nakhman Zev son of Reb Dov Tsvi Auerbach
From Monostriszcz (5550- 5615 [1790-1855])

Son of Rabbi David Tsvi son of Reb Arye Leib from Stanislaw, and student of Rabbi Yitskhak of Radiwil. He lived in Monostriszcz and died 28th Adar 5615 [1855]. His wife Shifra Feiga died 6th Kislev 5643 [1882]. They had seven sons: Rabbi Meir Khaim of Monostriszcz, son-in-law of Reb Yosef Moshe from Mezboz son of the Ohev Yisrael, died 9th Kislev 5662 [1901]; Rabbi Shlomo Aharon, Rabbi and M”M of Boyan, died 19th Tamuz 5653 [1893], wrote the books Tiferet Shlomo on Genesis, Chernowitz about 5651 [1891], and Taharat Hanefesh, in which he added matters of danger and some reservations about his brother’s book Shmirat Hanefesh. Printed in Chernowitz 5634 [1874], and its existence was unknown to the subsequent publishers; Rabbi Yisrael Matityahu; Rabbi Yehoshua Heshel who was a son-in-law of Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Heller ABD Buznov, and his innovations are absorbed in his brother’s book Alfei Yisrael; Reb Sholem of Kishinev; Reb David Tsvi of Dinowitz; Reb Yitskhak of Tlust; Henia wife of Reb Nakhman Tsvi (Zeida) Rozen from Yaglenice.

Melitsei Esh, G, Kislev, 22, Adar, 72.

Reb Nakhman Zev son of Reb Yisrael Matityahu Auerbach
From Gwozdicz ( 5625-5700 [1865-1940])

Born in Tziszinow in 5625 [1865] to his father Rabbi Yisrael Matityahu, and from the year 5661 [1901] he occupied his place as ABD of Gwozdicz. In 5681 [1921] he received a responsa in Khavatselet Hasharon, part 2, Khosen Mishpat, 13, 19.

Ohalei Shem, 225.

Reb Reuven Auerbach

ABD Strelisk and afterwards Dayan in Lwow with Rabbi Ts.H. Rozanis. In the years 5545-5550 [1788-1790] his approbation appears in a number of books.

Ohalei Shem 202

Reb Shmuel Auerbach
From Strelisk (5546- *5626 [1786-1865])

Born before the year 5548 [1788] in Strelisk and was called after it. He was apparently the son of Rabbi Reuven, and filled his place after him as Dvm”ts in Lwow. He delivered sermons on Shabbat and raised up students. Died 14th Tishrei 5626 [1865] and the Shu”m attended his funeral.

Responsa to him: Maamar Mordekhai, 21 in 5611 [1851]; Shoel Umeshiv fourth, part one, 44, part three, 6, fifth part, 42 in 5657 [1857]. His student Yitskhak Halevy Gastfruend, Hamaggid, 9, 315.


1. Editor's note: See Rav-SIG's listings of 1,362 surnames and 324 cities and towns in Indexes to Meorei Galicia: Encyclopedia of Galician Sages. (return)

2. Editor's note: See Rav-SIG's Glossary and Famous Rabbis listings for explanation of terms, abbreviations, and acronyms used in Meorei Galicia. (return)

Chaim Freedman is a genealogist and the author of several books, including Eliyahu's Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and his Family, and Beit Rabbanan. He is a native of Melbourne, Australia, and resides in Petah Tikva, Israel.