Many people have an ancestor who was a rabbi, or who they believe was a rabbi. Because Judaism is decentralized, with many yeshivot, rabbinical schools, denominations and leaders, there is no one repository for the personal papers of rabbis or biographical information about them. Further, a learned ancestor may have been called “rabbi” or may be remembered as such, even if he did not lead a congregation or possess a degree from a rabbinical school. The sources below contain biographical information; for congregational records, see our Synagogue Records research guide at libguides.cjh.org/genealogyguides/us_synagogues.
The Center for Jewish History holds the personal papers, writings, and biographies of many individual rabbis. In addition, it holds many directories, biographical dictionaries, and other reference works on rabbis from particular dynasties and from regions all over the world. A selection of the Center’s major rabbinical resources is listed below. Additional materials (for example, on specific rabbis) can be identified by searching the Center’s online catalog at search.cjh.org.
Other particular issues for researchers of rabbinic heritage to keep in mind:
Note: These and other rabbinic genealogical research challenges are discussed in the JewishGen information file - jewishgen.org/Rabbinic/infofiles/difficulties.htm.