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Ettinger Family

Prominent rabbinic family. The Ettinger family originated in the city of Öttingen, Bavaria. One branch was related by marriage to a number of other prominent families, including the Orensteins, Natansons, and Rapoports. Several members of the family distinguished themselves as rabbinic leaders in Poland and Galicia during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Mordekhai Ze’ev Ettinger (1804–1863) and his brother-in-law Yosef Sha’ul Natanson (1808–1875) were counted among the greatest Talmudic scholars in Lemberg (Lwów) at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Both were familiar with the pioneering scholarly research of the Galician maskilim, and both responded to it in its early stages. As early as the 1820s, the two were acquiring, editing, and publishing ancient Hebrew manuscripts, as well as writing glosses and supplying references to rabbinic texts. At first they collaborated on a number of works of halakhah and Talmudic novellae. Their most important text was Mefarshe ha-yam (1827), an elucidation of the book Yam ha-Talmud (on Bava’ kama’) which they published from a manuscript written by their uncle, Mosheh Yehoshu‘a Heshel Orenstein. In the wake of a personal dispute, the two parted ways in the 1850s, at which time Ettinger published a volume of his own responsa, Ma’amar Mordekhai (1852). In 1857, Ettinger failed to secure the rabbinate of Lwów, the position given instead to Natanson.

From that point on, Ettinger, who was independently wealthy, rejected several offers of a rabbinic post from the community of Kraków and from communities in the Pale of Settlement. His son Yitsḥak Aharon Ettinger (1827–1891) was chosen in 1866 to serve as rabbi in Przemyśl, and in 1888 he went to serve as rabbi in Lwów, a position that he retained until his death. His halakhic discussions were published posthumously in his responsa Mahari ha-Levi (1893). Yitsḥak Aharon and his father were involved in supporting the kolel system in the Land of Israel, under which East European settlers were allocated funds from their community or country of origin. Mordekhai Ze’ev was one of the heads of the Austrian (Estreich) kolel, and his son Yitsḥak Aharon bore the title “Nasi of Erets Yisra’el,” that is, the chief treasurer responsible for the raising of funds in Galicia to help support those who had left Galicia and Bucovina to settle in the Land of Israel.

Another member of the family, Avraham Ettinger (1874–1924) of Dukla, became an expert in genealogical research on the rabbinic families of Eastern Europe. He published a number of genealogical treatises, including Mishpaḥat bet ha-Levi (1900) on the history of his own family and the Landau family, and Yekara’ di-Shakhve (1902) on the Horowitz, Babad, Rokeaḥ, and other families. He also published a series of popular books, including a collection of hagiographic stories about rabbis of Poland and Galicia; Siḥat ḥulin shel talmide ḥakhamim he-ḥadash (1909; rev. ed., 1912); Da‘at zekenim (1911); and Imre tsadikim (1925).

Suggested Reading

Salomon Buber, Anshe shem (1895; rpt., [Jerusalem, 1967/68]); Ḥayyim Nathan Dembitzer, Kelilat yofi, vol. 1 (1888; rpt., Jerusalem, 1988/89); Abraham Ettinger, “Mishpaḥat Bet ha-Levi,” in Ma‘alot ha-Yuḥasin, by Ephraim Zalman Margolioth, pp. 69–83 (Lemberg, 1900); Me’ir Vunder (Wunder), “Etinga’,” in Me’ore Galitsyah: Entsiklopedyah le-ḥakhme Galitsyah, vol. 1, cols. 120–132 (Jerusalem, 1978).



Translated from Hebrew by David Strauss