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Rabbi Akiva Eger
Akiba ben Moses Guens
Born(1761-11-08)November 8, 1761 (11 Cheshvan 5522 Anno Mundi)
DiedOctober 12, 1837(1837-10-12) (aged 75) (13 Tishrei 5598 Anno Mundi)
Posen, Kingdom of Prussia
(modern-day Poznań, Poland)
DenominationHaredi Orthodox Judaism
ResidenceMarkisch Friedland, Posen

Rabbi Akiva Eger (also spelled as Akiva Eiger), or Akiva Güns, Yiddish: עקיבא אייגער‎, (1761 – 1837) was an outstanding Talmudic scholar, influential halakhic decisor and foremost leader of European Jewry during the early 19th century. He was also a mohel.

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  • ✪ Jews of Posen Province in the 19th Century


>> From the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. >> Mary-Jane Deeb: Well good afternoon and welcome to the African and Middle East Division of the Library of Congress. I'm Mary-Jane Deeb chief of the Division and I'm delighted to see you all here. To again this presentation which we are co-sponsoring with the European Division and Regina is not here at the moment but she'll be coming. And the presentation is on the Jews of Posen, by Mister Edward David Luft. As most of you already know our division is made up of three sections. The African, the Near East and the Hebraic sections. We're responsible for materials from 78 different countries in the Near East Central Asia, The Caucuses as well as from the entire continent of Africa and North and Sub-Sahara and also for the Hebraic collections we're responsible from collections coming from all over the world. We always very active in acquiring, developing collections, briefing visitors coming from all the countries of the region. And organizing programs, symposium, workshops, exhibits and so forth. We also invite scholars and experts who have done research and work in our areas of responsibility. And we invite them to share with us their insights and their findings. So that all of us attending and participating in the programs leave and reach with new information and a better understanding of the countries and societies with publications we collect. Today's lecture is a case in point. Mister Luft has been working on this book for a number of years. Here at the Library of Congress and has used resources in this division as well as in many other divisions including the European division, including the geography and map division. And we have the chief of the geography and map division here, Ralph Ehrenberg. The general collections, HSS and many other parts of the library as well. And Mister Luft will tell you more about this in a moment. But now our very own Sharon Horowitz, the senior reference librarian in the Hebraic section. Will introduce Mister Luft and the program. So thank you. >> Sharon Horowitz: Thank you, thank you Mary-Jane. Good afternoon, on behalf of the Hebraic section and the European division, welcome to the African and Middle Eastern reading room. I especially want to thank the European division for co-sponsoring today's lecture with us. As you heard my name is Sharon Horowitz and I'm reference librarian in the Hebraic section. The Hebraic section marks its beginning in the 1912. With the receipt of 10,000 Hebrew books and pamphlets who's purchase was made possible by gift from New York philanthropist Jacob Schiff from those humble beginnings our collections have grown to around 250,000 items in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, Judeo-Persian and other Hebraic script languages and our holdings also include an important collection of Amharic books. Two of our missions in this division are to publicize our collections and to bring people into the library. One way we do that is by holding lectures such as this. Today's speaker, Edward David Luft, is an individual who has lectured and published widely on the topic of Posen Province. Furthermore because of his scholarly diligence he is a well known researcher in the Library of Congress having done research in many of the library's divisions. Today's presentation is focused on Mister Luft's book, the Jews of Posen Province in the Nineteenth Century, a project that has kept him busy for 28 years. Mister Luft graduated with an AB and JD degree from Syracuse University. He spent two years in Botswana in the Peace Corps and worked for the New Yorker Magazine before coming to DC and working as an attorney for the US government from which he is retired. I want to express my appreciation to Mister Cliff Fulwood [assumed spelling] from Binding and Miss Deborah Healy from cataloging for their beyond the call of duty assistance in getting Mister Luft's book cataloged and bound in expedited manner. But before I turn the podium over, I have one item of business. This event is being videotaped for subsequent broadcasting. There will be a formal question and answer period after the lecture. At which the audience is encouraged to ask questions and offer comments. Please be advised, that your voice and image may be recorded and later broadcast as part of this event. By participating in the Q and A period, you are consenting to the library's possible reproduction and transmission of your remarks. And now, please join me in welcoming our speaker, Mister Edward David Luft. [ Applause ] >> Edward Luft: First let me say thank you to Mary-Jane and to Sharon for their kind invitation to speak. I am quite grateful, I'm also grateful to see a relatively large turnout as some people who's faces I recognize and others who are welcome as well. Before I get started what I would like to do is tell you a story that would've been contemporary with the 19th century. You probably are aware, or at least many of you will be aware that the Jews probably could not have survived without humor in the circumstances in which they found themselves. So this would be a typical story, the old man on his deathbed opens his eyes and sees his son and asks what is that wonderful smell coming from the kitchen? And the son says, mom is making apple strudel. Oh says the dying man, if only I could have some of your mother's apple strudel I could die a happy man. I'll get it for you poppa, I'll get it for you poppa and he rushes to the kitchen. A little while later he comes back very dejected and says, momma says the strudel is only for after the funeral. [ Laughter ] Well it's good to know that some people still find that sort of thing funny. That would have been typical and I have other stories of a similar nature that you might find interesting. But let me get started. I do not write out what I speak about, I prefer to do it extempore basically and so we'll see how long it lasts. If it sounds kind of mixed up maybe if I forget something I'll go back and tell you later. Let me start here, the picture that you see on the screen, is of the administrative district of Posen. And you see it on the top in German and on the bottom in Polish in abbreviation. And this is the intermediate level of government between the province of Posen and the city of Posen. So we have three levels of government. Each called Posen. Very confusing. Each had a very clearly defined role, but you had to thread your way through and get to the right office to get the right thing done. Very very bureaucratic, very pressuring. Let me tell you a little about how I came to write the book. I was looking back in 1983, 1984 for a book that I knew had existed at one time. A compilation of what turned out to be 5,134 names of Jews who were naturalized, in the grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835. Based upon a law promulgated by the king in 1833. And on my very last, on the next to the last day, of my time in Berlin I asked in what was then West Berlin, at the state archives. Where can I see a copy of that book? And they said oh we have it. I said could you please make me a copy? Yes, come back tomorrow. And while I'm standing there, they were making it and I quick rushed directly to the airplane. When I got home, I decided I saw a need for publication of that book and all though this is not the first edition, this is the revised edition. Here it is. And the library I believe has three copies actually, plus they have the, excuse me the 1987 edition of the book. And we estimate, or at least I estimate that about 47.8% of those naturalized are represented. That means, not that every name is there, but rather essentially every family. Or 47.8% of all of the families, the Jewish families in Posen would be represented. So notice it's less than half. Not everyone was naturalized as a Jewish citizen. It was not the same thing as full citizenship, it was second or third class citizenship. But it did give some rights, more were given in 1847 and the rest basically didn't occur until after the fall of the kingdom. In other words until the Weimar republic was proclaimed. That is not so different from other places in Britain they used different criteria, but for example full professors got six votes. Compared to, ordinary citizens who got only one. And this would've been until I think 1921 or something like that, in Britain. Has nothing directly to do but it gives you a comparison. I'm not entirely sure how much the audience knows about the history, so forgive me. You can ask questions at the end, if I have lost you. I wanted to show you next, yes. This is Alexander Subkind Bernstein. Isn't it a marvelous portrait, it's owned by a lady who works at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York City and her brother. And supposedly there were originally 13 portraits. Probably one for the wife and 11 children. So far as we know this is the only one that has survived it was brought something like in 1934 to the United States. Alexander Subkind Bernstein was the, I guess we would say, sorry, the vice president of the Jewish Corporation in Schroda. And so he was a man of some standing but he was also obviously a wealthy merchant. And it would have been quite common to have portraits painted like that at that time. To give you some general idea, the book contains three maps, this one is of Meseritz which is in the northeast of Posen. This is the county or I'm not sure if Christ is exactly county but it's something similar. This is a rather rare map from 1848, this is the libraries, reproduction of the libraries copy. The book in which it's found is not rare but the map itself is. And because there are many editions of the book, but without the map. The libraries copy is with the map and I hope that they will make a point of securing it for that reason. And this is a kind of busy difficult to read map, but this is Posen Province in 1905, it's a quite common map that can easily be found online. And you could enlarge it etcetera. If you notice, to the right, is the Russian Empire and to the west of course would be Berlin and Brandenburg and so on. I wanted to include those in the book, oh and by the way this is the book right here. In four bindings but it's one book. And it has 14 different chapters plus some additional information. The first chapter is Landsmanshaftn, those are, for those who don't know what that is, those are organizations which looked after the interests of the Jews locally. They were voluntary associations and so some of them for example would make loans, usually it was a question of burial and burial insurance. But it could have been almost anything that the community felt in need to have. And it might encompass visitations of the sick and so that would be called [foreign word] and other kinds of associations. There is a book published by YIVO in New York which details at least their holdings in New York and may include some other places. I compiled the information from the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Leo Baeck Institute and various manuscripts listed in holding of various entities. I think I should tell you that I used resources in the United States, mostly New York and Washington DC, but elsewhere. Also Denmark, France, of course Germany and Poland and oh and Brazil. I cannot say of course that I caught everything but I tried to catch quite a bit. And you can see it's nearly 2,000 pages, that's why it took me more than 28 years. What I can say is that it's an exhaustive list of Lansmanshaftn to the best of my ability. The second chapter deals with Mormon records, website resources and especially the Amstsblatt of the royal government of Posen. That's an interesting publication in many ways. Because in the earlier years, there was no newspaper of general circulation in the Province. And as a result you see ads in the [foreign language], the general notices which were attached to the Amstsblatt, amsts is a location and blatt is a newspaper. So it's a local newspaper. The, I was surprised when I first started to look. The Amstsblatt are for, were published in almost all German speaking locations. Okay. Thanks. The Amstsblatt were published in various locations. Usually for every Province, thank you, for every Province in Posen. I'm sorry in Prussia, but also the Austrians, the Swiss, many others had similar publications and the Library of Congress has many of these. Also most of them are now online and can be searched even from your own home. However you do need some knowledge of German. The, what really surprised me was that in [foreign language] of the attachment to the Amstsblatt itself, in the early years one frequently found out in Hebrew. Because there was no other place of general availability of this kind of information. That did not continue once there were newspapers of general circulation in the Province. Next, there were, I discussed German archival holdings. That's a difficult problem in a way, because on the 29th of January 1945, the retreating German army set fire to the then Pol's and archives. Burning everything that was in it except for 80 chests of documents which were taken away and we don't know what happened to those. Perhaps they're in some salt mine or something like that. We don't know. You would think that they probably would have been found by now, if they were going to be found. It's a great loss. But in 1919 a German Jewish archivist inventoried the entire collection and published it and I have reproduced in my book the listing of what was destroyed. So at least we know what doesn't exist anymore or if it does exist, has not been found. A great shame but the, not everything was in that archives and so other things that did survive are now in the current archives in Poznan. And are available for legitimate researchers. It's amazing what they did manage to collect and I had lunch once with one archival curator and told me, he told me just the previous week he came across valuable documents hidden from the Nazi's in a barn. And only discovered long after the death of whoever hid those items. So things are sometimes still being discovered. It's getting rarer and rarer but it is happening and the Pol's have made a determination that they will pretty much put older, older archival documents online eventually, but it's such a large collection that it will take many many years before they finish. Next I looked at Polish archives and it's of a similar nature and mostly available in the state archives in Poznan. But, you can't be sure of that because of the various upsets, not only in World War Two but also in World War One where there was a lot of fighting in Poznan Province, today the Wielkopolska. Things got displaced and sometimes they have been shifted to the supposedly correct archive and sometimes not. So, you basically have to look very carefully to see where something is that you want to, to find. It's serendipitous and you just have to keep looking. Next I dealt with Israeli archival sources. Most of the archival resources are in one place in Jerusalem. The central archives for the history of the Jewish people. But again not everything. Some things are in strange places, you find archival documents that are not Landsmanshaftn related in the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York or in the Leo Baeck Institute or in YIVO which is in the same building and I have tried to pull it all together or as much as I can, to help people understand what they can look for and where. Basically trying to make it easier on researchers who want to write books or dissertations, thesis, whatever. I also have a listing about onomastics. And again I tried to be as thorough as possible, I'm sure I missed things but it's a fairly complete list. And then I went on to city directories. With respect to towns that were formerly in Posen. Oh, by the way on the onomastics, the names, the Prussians had some very specific rules as to adopting names and what names could be adopted, etcetera. The big difference was unless it was prohibited by the rules, Jews in Prussia could adopt any name they wanted, that is not necessarily true in some of the other German states. But it was in Prussia. I did try to make an exhaustive list of known city directories so that you can see who is listed. Usually the head of household only. Not often anyone else but remember that widows and spinsters would have been considered heads of households. Generally that's how you find out about women in city directories. Otherwise generally not, I'm sure there are some exceptions, but generally not. Please excuse me I have a cold. I asked a friend of mine, Professor Krzysztof Makowski who is head of Judaic studies at Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan what he knew about money, weights and measures from the period. And he said that he didn't know anything and you know the person most likely to know. So as a result I wrote a chapter on money, weights and measures and you can look there to see what would have been the then current, currency or units of measurement of various kinds. And so far as I know it's the only place where that information has been generally collected although you could probably do the same thing I did and put it together yourself. Next I worked on all of the Jewish high school graduates in Posen. Most people don't know that the state library in Berlin in its second cellar has the largest collection of yearbooks from high schools in the world. I know they have Scotland for example and I don't know specifically but I have every reason to believe that they would have one of the greatest collections of high school yearbooks even from the United States. I spent many many days in that second cellar and when I got finished because many of those books hadn't been used in ages, my hands we absolutely black. I photo copied as much as I could, everything that they had because it lists for boys. Their names, birth dates, place of birth, fathers profession whether alive or dead and fathers location, interestingly though not the name of the father. And the last entry would be the current situation of the boy when he had left the school and if there's an asterisk next to his name, that's one thing about the Prussians they were consistent in, everybody in Prussia had to do the same thing at the same time. And these yearbooks were compiled until 1915 when the war situation became impossible and so there were none produced in 1916, 17 or 18. In 1919 or 1920 the Pol's began again to do that sort of collection. But of course with a very different population in the schools. And some but very few Jews. I stopped with the German ones in 1915. The thing that's interesting about the lucky girls who managed to go to high school is the fathers name is provided, unlike for the boys. So it's a great help if you're doing genealogical research. Keep in mind that girls going to high school are a very privileged group at that time. So the chances of finding somebody unless they were relatively rich was small if they were girls and even the boys. A lot of the boys didn't go or if they did go they may well not have graduated high school. But I think that I got every single school and in some cases when the state library in Berlin did not have the information I went elsewhere and selected it. And although I didn't do the Christians, I turned over the original records or the photocopies of the original records to the Leo Baeck Institute where they can be found in the Edward Luft collection and you can check on the Christians as well as the Jews. Then comes the main part of my book which is about 9,000 annotated entries on, from articles, books, whatever about the Jews of Posen during the period. I included the Library of Congress call number if I found it at the Library of Congress. And by the way obviously if it's annotated I looked at every single item in the book, that's why it took me so long. If I didn't find it here, but I found it at the New York Public, I put in the New York Public Library call number. If I didn't find it there, I looked in the Leo Baeck Institute or in YIVO. As I've said both in the same, excuse me, same location. And put in their call number. If not, in any of those places, then wherever I did find it and that call number. If it was in the United States, if it was in a foreign country I indicated not only the name of the holding institution but also the country. Some of the items are Portuguese, some in Russian. It's amazing how many different cultures dealt with scholarly articles on the Jews of Posen. I was quite surprised, Maya Bowebine [assumed spelling] for example wrote some articles in Russian. By the way he also spoke English. And then two chapters on maps. The first chapter being maps, that is map series, gazetteers, aerial photographs and books containing maps of Posen. The second chapter is listings of the maps themselves and the call numbers because in a large number of cases, I listed maps in the British Library. They have been collecting for far longer than the Library of Congress and they have a large number of maps that the Library of Congress does not have. But that doesn't mean that it's worth going there necessarily because the Library of Congress collections and the New York Public Library are so good that unless you really need something of a specific date, you probably can make do with what the Library of Congress has. And if not almost certainly between the Library of Congress and the New York Public. So unless you want that specific map you probably don't need to go to London. Although I have. The last chapter, the last full chapter is, a chapter on synagogues and cemeteries. Because a lot of people have written about those in what is today Wielkopolska. And so for those interested one can go there. I'll just add something that's not in the book. And that is that so many Jews from Posen migrated to Berlin that when I went through the largest Jewish cemetery in Berlin, Weibensee. I was astounded by how few grave stones were listing people who were not from Posen. Just amazing, just amazing what percentage there were in Berlin, so many in fact that until the Nazi's shut the publication down, there was a publication that was dedicated exclusively to Jews from Posen living in Berlin. And the Library of Congress does have a microfilm with most of those issues. And I have tried to list them also there. I want to say something about something else, my friend Angelica Elmoncruga and her husband [inaudible] knowing that I was working on Posen, did not dwell very strongly on Posen. When they produced this CD, this is the Library of Congress copy. Nearly 32,000 annotated titles on the Jews of Germany from early modern times until the end of World War Two. An incredible amount of work, published by Harrassowitz, one of the leading publishers in Germany. And I would recommend that if you don't find somebody in my book, you might want to look here to see. I had a question earlier about Link and Blan [assumed spelling] two different family names. While we didn't find anything in the list of 5,134 people naturalized in Posen, this is probably worth a look under those circumstances to see what there might be. And this would be available through Hebraic section here. Let me just show you one more picture in the book, this is Akiva Eger the last [inaudible] of Posen walking in a street, this is actually as [foreign language] but supposedly it's Posen, it's not, in fact it's probably Eisenstadt which is where Akiva Eger was born in what is today Austria, but at that time was Hungary in Burgenland. And I don't know which one is which but the other two are his two rabbinical assistants. I did include a partial list of Posen city death records for Jews, the problem is that in many cases there's no last names, so you have to have some general idea of the person. I did put in as much as I could and when I found somebody listed in my book. The naturalized Jews I did note it in, in the relevant chapter in that book. So, that's essentially, oh by the way the source of those names from the Posen city death registry was from a film that the Mormons had and they had no idea what it was about. None at all, so I told them. So you do find something strange. I don't know what else to tell you. The book ends with a little bit about me and a link to where you can find out some of my work. Perhaps you would like to copy that down. Here is what the page looks like. And there are currently nine entries there may be some additional entries in the future, but that is in my view some of the most important things to do this kind of research and again. I don't know how to get back there. Sorry can you help me get back to the previous page? Good. For those interested, right. For those interested this is a bibliography of my publications, it is approximately 200 entries, a little bit more. So now if anyone has any questions I'll try to respond. Anyone? >> I want to thank you very much David it was a wonderful presentation and very focused on the type of work that we do which is collect sources and bring them together in work as you have done. And I'm just curious, why did you set up doing this? What is the motivation and kept you going for 28 years? >> Edward Luft: Well the real motivation was the first book. Having discovered it after looking so long and not finding it, it was nowhere in the United States as it turns out. Later I discovered that there were actually two [inaudible] copies. But the more complete copy was at Adam Mickiewicz Library in Poznan and I tried to take as much information from that as I could I believe that it is a complete copy whereas the one that I found in Berlin was not quite complete. And then it seemed obvious and it ended up that the tail was wagging the dog because you can see how much smaller that book is, than the 2,000 pages of this one. It was like topsy, it just growed you know. And so, once I got started, typical person that I am, I just couldn't stop. Til finally I said okay, that's it, I drew a line underneath and said I'm not doing anymore. Yes Ma'am? >> Did you trace your family to Poznan? >> Edward Luft: Oh yes. Interestingly none of them lived in the city. I'm sorry? >> Main motivation for researching? And what happened to the Jews when the Nazi's came? >> Edward Luft: They were rounded up and sent to death camps generally. But there weren't very many anymore. Most of them who were going to leave left by 1923. The overwhelming majority went to Berlin, some went to the Ruhr Valley especially Essen and some migrated to the United States, not very many. Okay. I think Darren first. >> What percentage of the information came from the Library of Congress? >> Edward Luft: I never actually calculated it but I would say the overwhelming majority. Okay we had some other people, this gentleman. >> So the title is, The Naturalization? >> Edward Luft: No, The Jews of, which book? The big one? >> I saw one over here on the side. To deal with the naturalization. >> Edward Luft: This one. This one? Well, can everybody see it or shall I just say it's the Naturalized Jews of the Grand Duchy of Posen in 1834 and 1835, catchy title right. >> Why would they hide the book? >> Edward Luft: Well, before that time they weren't considered citizens. Naturalization made them citizens and gave them certain rights. But they had to meet certain criteria in order to be naturalized. Basically they had to be what the Spaniards would have called, Hidalgos, sons of somebody. In this case mostly because they had money. There were restrictions on living in Posen, on marrying etcetera unless they were citizens. And the government took a chance, they had no way of knowing if the Jews would accept the idea of this sort of second class citizenship. And they were very very relieved when Akiva Eger showed up to be naturalized under his German name, Akiva Eger. And he is in the book therefore. Professor. [ Inaudible Question ] I think we're going to have to just let me answer that one because otherwise we could be here several years. >> Can you repeat the questions? >> Edward Luft: Yes. Professor Dovey wants to know about the social impact of three partitions of Poland on the Jews. The Pol's and Jews were sort of in the middle if you will. Between German Jews and the what I'll callmthe Russian Jews. And so they were not always observant, not always knowledgeable but they didn't want to admit that. Most German Jews were very proud of the fact that they did not speak Yiddish. Most Pol's and Jews did speak Yiddish but especially in later times might of have been reluctant to admit it. And there was always this tension between reform and orthodox. They were both congregations in the city of Posen, but the orthodox was larger. Nevertheless there were a large number of professionals. Many of those professionals, but not all, were reformed Jews. They were orthodox Jews who were professionals even if we take out the rabbi's who of course would be more heavily represented among orthodoxy. Any other, yes sir. [ Inaudible Question ] >> Edward Luft: That is a matter of some debate which I discussed in this book. I'm doing this out of my head, but if I remember I estimated that it's about 55,000. >> Oh it's not that large then. >> Edward Luft: No and yet it is a huge percentage of the Jews of Germany. Keep in mind that at its greatest extent, German Jews were only 600,000 in 60 million. But if you read the book, [foreign language] or in English Germany without Jews. You can see an examination of the impact that the Jews had on German society, I would recommend that book and by the way it's written by a Christian, not by a Jew. Basically it's very difficult, if you not only look at which Jews from Germany obtained Nobel Laureates, but also look at those whose [foreign language], the faculty adviser of those who won Nobel Prizes among Germans, it rises to an astounding 99%. By the way, you have to carve out those who won Nobel Laureates in literature. Which makes some sense because after all we're talking about German culture there. But in the sciences and in the social sciences which the Germans don't always distinguish between those two, there's one word in German. It's 99%. Now remember this is not just Jews, this is those who are either Jews or whose faculty adviser was a Jew. That's a little bit off my topic but I thought it's worth mentioning. Yes sir? >> Mister Luft the related question on population. Express as a percentage for the migration. [ Inaudible Question ] >> Edward Luft: I don't know and we know that as early as 1800 there was an out migration of Jews. Out of Posen. So you'd have to know which year and then look at the census, there are census records that the Germans kept to tell exactly that and you could also look at the minority census of 1939, compiled by the Nazi's to see how many Jews were left at that time. In that portion of Posen which was still part of Germany. Because not all of it was, the Rump area was put together as Posen [inaudible] and made into an administrative area basically a Province. >> I realize that you're the expert and I'm the generalist I was hoping for some general kind of figure. >> Edward Luft: Never more than ten, never more than ten percent. But you'd have to know the specific year, etcetera but all of that is knowable, you could look it up. Anything else? >> I wanted to ask another question. But why were the boys fathers names not mentioned on the records of the schools? You said the girls were but not the boys. >> Edward Luft: Well the girls were going to get married and not have a profession. The boys presumably would have a profession and that was the German bureaucracy's way of dealing with it, I don't really know, I can only speculate. And after all the surname will be the same. And they're not really interested in the father. Although interestingly they're very interested in the fathers profession. They're interested in the boy who graduated. Some of whom by the way if they have that asterisk by their name are even excused from taking the final oral examination. Because their grades are so high etcetera. And therefore I presume that it would be quite well documented who they where and where they came from etcetera. We know of course the town from which they came and the fathers town which is usually but not always the same. And some of those people usually non-Jews but not only, would come from Russia or other places to be educated. Commonly those high schools taught a second language as French and English. And later, there were Jewish religion teachers just like Catholic and Protestant religion teachers. And in some of the larger schools there was two tracks German or Polish. So it, those were pretty liberal places for the times. But the rules about what went into the yearbook was set in Berlin. Not locally. So, they didn't have any choice about what they reported. >>Sharon Horowitz: Thank you. Thank you very much. [ Applause ] If Mister Luft has energy and anyone wants to talk to him about the more personal or extensive questions I think he'll stay and talk with you later but I just want to thank you all for coming and thank Mister Luft. >> Edward Luft: Thank you, for having me. [ Applause ] >> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress. Visit us at



Eger was born in Eisenstadt - the most important town of the Seven Jewish Communities of Burgenland, Hungary, (now Austria). He was a child prodigy and was educated first at the Mattersdorf yeshiva and later by his uncle, Rabbi Wolf Eger, (1756–1795) (b. 5516, d. 6 Tishrei 5556), at the Breslau (Wrocław) yeshiva, who later became rabbi of Biała Prudnicka and Leipnik. Out of respect for his uncle he changed his surname to Eger. He therefore shared the full name Akiva Eger with his maternal grandfather, the first Rabbi Akiva Eger (1722–1758) (b. 5482, d. 15 Elul 5518), the author of Mishnas De'Rebbi Akiva who was rabbi of Zülz, Silesia from 1749 and Pressburg from 1756.

He was the rabbi of Märkisch Friedland, West Prussia, from 1791 until 1815; then for the last twenty two years of his life, he was the rabbi of the city of Posen (Poznań). He was a rigorous casuist of the old school, and his chief works were legal notes and responsa on the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch. He believed that religious education was enough, and thus opposed the party which favored secular schools. He was a determined foe of the Reform movement, which had begun to make itself felt in his time.[1]


Among his children were his two sons, Abraham (1781–1853) and Solomon (1785–1852), a rabbi in Kalisz, Poland and chief rabbi of Posen from 1837 to 1852. His daughter Sorel (Sarah) Eiger Sofer (1790–1832) (b. 5550, d. 18 Adar II 5592), was the second wife of the Chasam Sofer (1762–1839) rabbi of Pressburg.

An urban legend of sorts has circulated that his son, R. Shlomo, sat shiva for his own son Leibel Eiger when he became a student of the Hasidic Rabbi, Menachem Mendel of Kotzk. Leibel Eiger later left to study under Rabbi Mordechai Yosef Leiner, the author of Mei Shiloach and founder of the Izhbitza-Radzyn dynasty, and became a rebbe (along with Yaakov Leiner) after the death of Rabbi Leiner.


His commentaries on the Talmud have also been published as Chidushei (novellae of) Rabbi Akiva Eger on Shas



  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Eger, Aqiba". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 12.
  • Jacob H. Sinason. Gaon of Posen: A Portrait of Rabbi Akiva Guens-Eger. Feldheim, 1990. ISBN 0-87306-548-4.

External links

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