Infofiles Index

Hebrew and Yiddish Newspaper Lists ¹

A valuable genealogical source, particularly for Eastern European families is to be found in the three major Hebrew newspapers which were distributed in the Russian empire from the mid-nineteenth century. Whilst there were other newspapers and journals which appeared from time to time, those which are of most use in genealogical research were Hamelitz (1860-1904), Hamaggid (1856-1903), and Hatsefirah (1862-1931). The information available in these sources captures a vivid cross section of Jewish life and is a treasury of material for the genealogist.

In Jerusalem in the “Old Yishuv” (F2) appeared a number of newspapers which provide rabbinical information such as Halevanon for which Yad Ben Tsvi prepared an index. For the period of the new settlement of Israel useful newspapers are Hator, Hahed, Hayesod, Hatsofeh, Shearim, Hamodiah and Yeted Neeman. Important Galician newspapers were Makhzikei Hadaat (1879-1912) and Hamitzpeh (1894-1921). (F3)

Research in these newspapers is a painstaking task as material is generally unclassified. Some bound collections may include periodic indices by town or major personalities. Otherwise one has to peruse every page in the hope of finding material relative to one’s research. Several newspapers ran regular articles which carried reports from particular communities. Obituaries of scholars and rabbis may provide genealogical information.

Extensive lists of charitable donations were a feature. Usually these were grouped by town, although they were rarely alphabetical. In many cases the rabbis were listed at the beginning of the lists. From time to time special articles included rabbinic biographies and genealogies of prominent families.

Donor Lists

It was the custom for societies that collected charitable donations for a variety of causes to publish lists of the donors and sometimes of the recipients. Since such lists usually indicated the residence of the donor, they are a useful genealogical tool.

A fascinating source of this type is the published records of donations to the old Yishuv community in Jerusalem, covering the period 1884-1924.

This Eretz Yisrael source was researched extensively by the late Rabbi Shmuel Gorr, noted Jerusalem genealogist. It included the records of the grants ("Khalukah") distributed to the Jews of Eretz Yisrael by a committee known as the "Vaad Haklali" whose function it was to allocate to the needy donations received from overseas. Whilst many Jews living in Jerusalem were able to support themselves by engaging in crafts, the size of the community and the restrictions placed on it by the Turkish authorities made economic conditions harsh.

The community was divided into groups known as Kollelim according to their place of origin. These were accordingly supported by their compatriots overseas. Rabbi Gorr found and surveyed the reports of the Vaad haklali which were printed as "Shemesh Tsedakah."

These lists are a valuable source for both Eretz Yisrael families and Diaspora communities. The yearly report is recorded in two sections:

Income: lists of donations, grouped by city. These provide personal information of individuals living in many European and American communities.

Expenditure: lists recipients in Eretz Yisrael, usually by town of origin overseas.

These two aspects of the lists provide certain cross-sections of communities in a similar fashion to prenumeranten lists and can be used to trace individuals living at the time.

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. “Old Yishuv” refers to the Jewish community that settled in Eretz Yisrael prior to the modern Zionist immigration. (return)

3. Wunder, Meir - recommended sources. (return)