Schmelkes, Gedaliah ben Mordecai

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SCHMELKES, GEDALIAH BEN MORDECAI (1857–1928), Polish talmudist. Schmelkes studied under his uncle Isaac *Schmelkes, rabbi of Lemberg. Although he was ordained rabbi in his youth and considered an outstanding talmudist, he at first refused to accept rabbinic office and engaged in business. When his business failed, however, he was appointed in 1893 rabbi of Przemysl, but the appointment was not officially recognized by the government. In 1898 he was appointed rabbi of Kolomyya, but his experiences there were difficult. In 1904 he returned to Przemysl and this time was recognized as chief rabbi. He was one of the few rabbis in Poland who officially joined the Zionist movement, and he played an active role in Zionist congresses. Schmelkes distinguished himself by his activities in the difficult period through which Galician Jewry passed during World War i. When he was expelled from Przemysl during the war, he refused to leave until the last Jews had departed. For a time he stayed in Vienna, returning to Przemysl in 1917. One of his sons, Moses, died in Siberia. Schmelkes had great influence both in ḥasidic circles and among the maskilim.

Most of his works in manuscript were lost, and only a small section of his novellae and sermons entitled Imrei Regesh (Piotrkow, 1931) was published. Supplements to them – Masoret ha-Shas (Talmud cross-references) – arranged by him were preserved; some of them were published by J.L. Maimon (see bibliography).


A. Cahana, Divrei Zikkaron (1933); J.L. Maimon, Middei Ḥodesh be-Ḥodsho, 4 (1958), 137–8; Sefer Przemysl.

[Itzhak Alfassi.]