Haim Nathan Dembitzer

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Haim Nathan Dembitzer (June 29, 1820, Krakow[1] – November 20, 1892, Krakow) was a Polish Galician rabbi and historian.


His father, Jekuthiel Solomon, a scholarly merchant who claimed he was a descendant of R. Moses Isserles, died in 1833,[2] aged forty-four. On Jun 11, 1841 he married Doba Deutscher.[3] While diligently occupied with his Talmudical studies, he came across the "Tzemach Dawid," a chronological work by David Gans, which aroused his interest in Jewish biography and history. He received his ordination as rabbi from Solomon Kluger, Zvi Hirsch Chajes, and Dob Berush Meisels, the last named of whom was rabbi of Cracow until 1854. Dembitzer sided nevertheless with Meisel's rival, Saul Landau, in the quarrel about the rabbinate of Cracow. In 1856 Dembitzer became a dayyan in his native city, and was, like his older brother Jacob, advanced to the position of rosh Beth din, which he held till his death. In 1874 he visited Germany and made the acquaintance of Leopold Zunz and other Jewish scholars, with whom he corresponded on historical subjects.


Dembitzer's earlier works were all on halakic subjects, on which he was a recognized authority. His "Maginne Eretz Yisrael" (responsa, Lemberg, 1852); "Dibre Hen," which appeared as a supplement to Solomon Kluger's "Abodat ha-Kodesh" (Zolkiev, 1863); and "Liwyat Hen" (Cracow, 1882) belong to that class. But the last-named, a critical commentary on the work "RABYH" of Eliezer ben Joel HaLevi, which Dembitzer published from a manuscript, contains much valuable material for the history of the Tosafists, which is interspersed among the pilpulistic arguments of the main subject. His chief historical work, "Kelilat Yofi," of which the first part, containing biographies of the rabbis of Lemberg and of other Polish communities, appeared in 1888, and the second part, also biographical and historical, in 1893 (Cracow), is an important contribution to the science of Judaism. He is also the author of "Michtave Bikoret," a valuable correspondence with the historian Heinrich Graetz about the Council of Four Lands ("Otzar ha-Sifrut," iv. 193-243; also published separately, Cracow, 1892), and of a biography of the Tosafist Joseph Porat, which appeared posthumously in "Ha-Hoker," ii. 48-59. The "Mappelet Ir ha-Tzedek" (1878), a severe and vindictive criticism of J. M. Zunz's "Ir ha-Tzedek" on the rabbis of Cracow, was likewise written by him, although the name of Joel Dembitzer, his younger brother, appears on the title-page as the nominal author.

Jewish Encyclopedia bibliography[edit]

  • Wettstein, Toledot Maharhan, (German title, Biographie des H. N. Dembitzer), Cracow, 1893;
  • Brann, in Monatsschrift, xxxix. 142-143;
  • Sefer Zikkaron, p. 2, Warsaw, 1890;
  • Ahiasaf for 5654, p. 296.


  1. ^ The State Archive of Krakow: "Jewish Civil Registry of Krakow", Town: Krakow, Year: 1820, Akt (record) #: 145, Record Type: birth, Surname: Dembitzer, Given Name: Chaim Nattan, Father: Salomon, Mother: Nechel, Mother's Father: Moyzes.
  2. ^ The State Archive of Krakow: "Jewish Civil Registry of Krakow", Town: Krakow, Year: 1833, Akt (record) #: 109, Record Type: death, Surname: Dembitzer, Given Name: Salomon, Age: 44
  3. ^ The State Archive of Krakow: "Jewish Civil Registry of Krakow", Town: Krakow, Year: 1841, Akt (record) #: 41, Record Type: marriage, Date: Jun 11, Groom's Name: Chaim Nathan Dembitzer, Groom's Age: 20, Groom's Father: Salomon, Groom's Mother: Mecheli Mozes, Bride's Name: Doba Deutscher, Bride's Age: 16, Bride's Father: Mojzesz Eliasz, Bride's Mother: Gitli Rebeki


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