Infofiles Index

Evaluating the Reliability of Rabbinic Information Sources ¹

Rabbinical genealogical research should take into account critical research that has been conducted by scholars, both close to the time of writing of some of the early classical sources and often printed as appendices to those works, as well as modern critical analyses.

Of particular note is the work of Rabbi Shlomo Englard of Bnei Brak, Israel. A descendant of prominent rabbinical families, Rabbi Englard has devoted his scholarly research to the task of verifying traditional lines of descent of the famous rabbinical families. To this purpose he has reanalyzed the sources quoted by the authors of rabbinical genealogies as the bases for the lines of descent presented by them. Englard has checked these claims by independent research of additional sources. Painstaking comparison and analysis of rare texts, rabbinical compositions, recorded tombstone inscriptions has led Englard to conclude that the some of classical “authorities” erred in confusing the identities of rabbis of the same name, used invalid dates of birth and death which are incompatible with calculated time spheres, and presented material which is in conflict with facts presented in other verifiable sources.

Englard has published the results of his research in a number of articles in the journal Tsfunot. Several genealogists have related to Englard’s work in articles published in Avotaynu.(F2)

Englard’s initial analysis studied the methodology and reliability of the classical genealogical scholars and their works, Yisrael Moshe Biderman, Yosef Cohen-Zedek, Avraham Ettinger, Khaim Dov Gross, Tsvi Horowitz, Yosef Levinstein, Tsvi Yekhezkel Michelsohn, Aharon Walden, Mordekhai Weitz.

Some of the families studied by Englard include Rabbi Arye Leib of Krakow, Babad, Rabbi Yitskhak Halevy Horowitz of Hamburg, Rabbi Elimelekh of Lyzhensk, Luria (and related families such as Shapira, Katzenellenbogen, Margolis), Rabbi Yehoshua “Meginei Shlomo”, Rabbi Arye Leib “Hagavoah”, Rabbi Moshe Isserles “Remo”, Rabbi Yehudah Leib the “Maharal” of Prague, Rabbi Heshil of Krakow, Rapaport, Cohen-Zedek, Rabbi Tsvi Hersh Ashkenazy “Khakham Tsvi

A full examination of Englard’s valuable studies is beyond the scope of this article, and although Englard’s articles are in Hebrew, it is essential that they be taken into account in any serious research of rabbinical families.

Chaim Freedman
Petah Tikva, Israel


1. Excerpted from: Freedman, Chaim. Beit Rabbanan: Sources of Rabbinic Genealogy. Petah Tikva, Israel: self-published, 2001. Used with permission. (return)

2. Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Volume XI, Number 4, Winter 1995. Wunder, M. "The Reliability of Genealogical Research in Modern Rabbinical Literature." (Note: click the link to view the entire article online)

Avotaynu: The International Review of Jewish Genealogy, Volume XII, Number 1, Spring 1996. Rosenstein, N. "Englard’s Articles on Questions in Rabbinic Genealogy."

Yeyed Ne’eman (Newspaper, Bnei Brak, Israel), Parshat Matot 5768 [1998]. "Lemishpekhotam le beit avotam," an article about Rabbi Shlomo Englard’s critical genealogical research. (return)