Grodzinsky, Zvi Hirsch

views updated


GRODZINSKY, ZVI HIRSCH (1857/8–1947), Lithuanian-born U.S. rabbi and scholar. Grodzinsky, who served as chief rabbi of Omaha, Neb. (1891–1947), was a prolific rabbinic scholar and a leading organizer and framer of Orthodox Jewry and its rabbinate in America. Many of his works have become standard texts.

Born in Taurage, Lithuania, Grodzinsky received his early education in Ivye. In 1888, he came to Vilna to study in a kollel and probably received part of his education at the yeshivah of *Volozhin. By then, he had received semikhah, either from the rabbi of Taurage, Gershon Mendel Ziv, or Rabbi Isaac Elhanan *Spektor.

Grodzinsky gained an international reputation through his scholarly contributions. His published works include Mikveh Yisrael, a digest of the laws of mikva'ot; Likutei Ẓvi (1916), a reference work on the whole of Orah Ḥayyim; Mileide-Berakhot (1923, 1945) a commentary on the first 34 pages of Tractate Berakhot; and Mikraei Kodesh (1936, 1937, 1941), a three-volume examination of the laws of reading, writing, and qualifying Torah scrolls. He also authored articles in such leading rabbinic journals as Ha-Meassef, Ha-Pardes, and Ha-Mesilah.

Grodzinsky's published works comprise only a fraction of his written works. The bulk of his output remains in manuscripts, many in publishable form, housed at Oẓar ha-Poskim in Israel. They include Tiferet Ẓvi, 64 responsa; alphabetically arranged comments on Talmudic topics; a multi-volume commentary on Shulhan Arukh, Yoreh De'ah; discussions of the laws of stam yenam and niddah; indexed comments on the responsa of R. *Asher Ben Jehiel (the Rosh); an alphabetical summary of the major Talmudic expressions and phrases; indexed sermons on the Babylonian Talmud and calendrical occasions; manuscripts of Grodzinsky's published works with corrections and addenda; loose responsa; and correspondence with American rabbinic leaders.

Arriving in Omaha in 1891, Grodzinsky sought to fulfill two roles: the communal responsibilities of the developing American rabbi and the halakhic duties of the East European av beit din. A founder of the *Agudat ha-Rabbonim, the first Orthodox rabbinical organization in North America, Grodzinsky personally encountered the pressure confronting European, Yiddish-speaking Orthodox rabbis in America. In 1916, before he had reached 60, the rise of Modern Orthodoxy and the Conservative movement compelled the two largest congregations he led in Omaha to seek an English-speaking rabbi.

Uncompromised by his Americanized congregants, Grodzinsky continued to serve as the halakhic decisor of his community and to write prolifically until his death. Yet, he also cautioned European Orthodoxy and its extensions in America to see the rabbi as an activist leader and halakhic authority rather than simply as a great scholar.


J. Rosenbaum and M. Wakschlag, "Maintaining Tradition: A Survey of the Life and Writings of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Grodzinsky," in: American Jewish History, 82 (1994); J. Rosenbaum, "Rabbinic Repartee: Rabbi Tsvi Hirsch Grodzinsky of Omaha and the Lights of the Land of Israel," in: Eretz Israel, Israel and the Jewish Diaspora: Mutual Relations Through the Ages (1991); M. Wakschlag, "Mi-Toldotav," in: M. Hirschler (ed.), Halakhah u-Refu'ah (1988).

[Jonathan Rosenbaum (2nd ed.)]