Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Identifying members of a Hasidic dynasty

A patron found references to various contemporary Hasidic rabbis (Admorim) in a Yiddish newspaper of the 1920’s. The rabbis’ names were not given, only the name of the town they or their dynasty was associated with. The particular dynasties that were referenced were not from the more well known ones. How could the patron identify the individuals referred to in the newspaper article and learn more about them?

Mosad ha-Rav Kook has a project to create an encyclopedia of Hasidut. One of the parts of this project is entitled Entsiklopedyah la-Hasidut : Ishim [Yerushalayim, Mosad ha-Rav Kuk, 1986-2004]. The JTS Library call number for this work is REF BM198.A1 E582 1986. This three volume work by Yitshak Alfasi is a biographical encyclopedia of Hasidic personalities. However, it is arranged alphabetically by first name and does not have an index of towns or dynasties.

Yitshak Alfasi produced another encyclopedia of Hasidic personalities. It is entitled ha-Hasidut mi-Dor la-Dor [Yerushalayim : Mekhon Daat Yosef, 1995-1998]. (Credit to Rabbi Betsalel Majersdorf, Technical Services Librarian at JTS, for bringing this work to my attention.) The JTS Library call number for this work is REF OVR BM198.A2 A435 1995. This two volume work is arranged according to dynasty. It is divided into sections according to which generation a given dynasty began in. The first volume covers from the first generation of Hasidut (the Baal Shem Tov) through the fifth. The second covers the sixth through the eighth generations (the present day). A list of dynasties covered in the first volume is found on p.381-383 of volume 1. A list of dynasties covered in the second volume is found on p.[531-532] of volume 2. It is important to note that many dynasties have sub-dynasties and rabbis who were known by the names of towns other than that which their dynasty bore. In order to locate these individuals one may consult the index of place names found at the back of volume 2 (p.70-98). Also provided are an index arranged alphabetically by first-name, and an index of works authored by the personalities and mentioned in the encyclopedia.

Alfasi’s second work greatly assisted the patron in his research.

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