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Guide to the Papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher (1796-1874) 1840s-1874

Processed by Sandra Berliant in 1982 with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Additional processing carried out with the assistance of a grant from the Gruss Lipper Family Foundation.

YIVO Institute for Jewish Research
15 West 16th Street
New York, NY 10011
Email: archives@yivo.cjh.org
URL: http://www.yivo.org

© 2007 YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. All rights reserved.

Electronic finding aid was converted to EAD 2002 by Dianne Ritchey Oummia and Yakov Sklyar in March 2007. EAD finding aid customized in ARCHON in 2012.  Description is in English.

Collection Overview

Title: Guide to the Papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher (1796-1874) 1840s-1874

ID: RG 27 FA

Extent: 8.75 Linear Feet


Partial attempts to arrange the collection were begun by Isaiah Trunk and Steven Lowenstein. The collection was finally arranged and described in 1982 by Sandra Berliant with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This collection is arranged into three series:


Eliyahu Guttmacher was a rabbi, Talmudic scholar, mystic, communal leader, and early Zionist. During his lifetime he was known as the Tsadik of Grätz and thousands of Jews flocked to him for blessings and advice. Guttmacher was also known for his support of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, an early Zionist, and for his extensive collection of funds for institutions in Palestine. The bulk of the collection consists of several thousand (written requests to a rabbi asking for a blessing or advice). The were received from Jews residing in Poland and other, mostly European countries. They reflect the social history of European Jews in the mid-19th century and relate to financial, medical, and family problems. In addition, the collection contains the following: general correspondence, including inquiries relating to religious matters, family correspondence, legal documents such as court and government papers, bills, certifications by unidentfied authors, discussions on Jewish law by unknown authors, an amulet, business documents, and receipts for contributions to charitable institutions in Palestine.

Scope and Contents of the Materials

The papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher span the latter years of his life at Grätz, mainly the 1850s to his death in 1874. They consist predominantly of kvitlekh and letters resembling kvitlekh but also include correspondence, family papers and financial documents (kvitlekh are notes written to a rabbi requesting blessings, amulets or advice).

The Papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher have been divided into three series. Series I includes kvitlekh and letters resembling kvitlekh. Series II consists of general and family correspondence, telegrams and miscellaneous documents. Series III includes receipts for contributions to Palestine and postal receipts.

The papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher are a valuable source for the following areas of research: the life of Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher; the history of the early Zionist movement; the social and economic history of the Jews of Poland during the mid-nineteenth century and genealogical studies. The collection at YIVO generally parallels the types of documents found in the Guttmacher papers at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem except that the YIVO collection does not include Guttmacher's manuscripts. A brief description of the papers at the Hebrew University is in the RG folder of this collection.

Historical Note

Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher, Talmudic scholar, mystic, forerunner of Zionism and an early advocate of Jewish settlement in Palestine, was born in Borek in the district of Posen (Poznan, Western Poland) in 1796. At the age of nineteen he entered the yeshiva of Rabbi Akiva Eger of Posen (Polish Poznan), where he became a disciple of that famous scholar. There he began to study Kabbalah in addition to traditional Talmudic literature.

In 1822 Guttmacher was appointed the rabbi of Pleschen (Polish Pleszew). In 1841, he became the rabbi of Grätz (Polish Grodzisk Wielkopolski) in the Poznan province of Western Poland where he remained until his death in 1874.

Guttmacher's study of Kabbalah led him to delve into mysticism and Hassidism. Although not a Hassid, he adopted an austere way of life and acquired a reputation as a holy man. People began coming to him for blessings, cures, amulets and advice despite his efforts to discourage them. During his later years at Grätz he received thousands of visitors and letters, mostly from Poland and Russia but also from Prussia, France, England and America. Guttmacher was the only rabbi in Western Poland to be revered and sought after by masses of Jews as were the Hassidic rabbis of Eastern Poland. Toward the end of his life he became known as the Tsadik of Grätz.

Guttmacher's study of Kabbalah also led him to develop mystical Zionist theories and to support the activities of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, forerunner of the Hibbat Zion movement, whose work Drishat Tsiyon outlined the first practical plan for Jewish settlement in Palestine. Guttmacher believed that the Jewish people would be redeemed only after they returned to the land of Israel, worked the land and observed the commandments relating to the land. Instead of waiting passively for the Messiah, Jews should purchase land in Palestine, establish agricultural settlements and send poor Jews from Europe to be farmers. In the interim, Guttmacher urged increased financial support for Talmudic scholars in Palestine and issued a public appeal for funds in 1860 together with Rabbi Jacob Ettlinger of Altona.

To implement his ideas, Guttmacher joined Rabbi Kalischer in various appeals to European Jewry to raise money for Jewish settlement in Palestine. Together with Kalischer he attended the conference in Thorn (Torun, Western Poland) in 1860 which laid the groundwork for a society to promote such settlement. Later, he became an active member of the Society for the Settlement of the Land of Israel which was founded at Frankfort [Frankfurt am Main] by Dr. Haim Turia. When the society foundered, he and Kalischer reestablished it and served as its directors. Like Kalischer, he was in contact with Adolph Cremieux of the Alliance Israelite Universelle of France and with Sir Moses Montefiore in an effort to secure financing for settlement projects. He collected funds for Mikveli Israel, the agricultural school established near Jaffa in 1870 and for Petah Tikva, the first settlement outside Jerusalem established in 1878.

Guttmacher also organized a Kabbalist study group in Jerusalem, "Shenot Eliyahu," and, with the help of Rabbi Yaakov Mordechai Hershenson, he founded two societies for the support of Talmudic scholars in Jerusalem, "Sukkat Shalom", and "Meor Yaakov." He solicited yearly contributions to these funds from visitors, students and disciples and also forwarded to Jerusalem monies collected for these and other institutions by emissaries (agents) who traveled to the Jewish communities of Europe.

Although less of an activist than Kalischer, Guttmacher lent his considerable rabbinic stature to the support of the early Zionist movement. He wrote "haskamot" (a preface and statement of approval) for Kalischer's Drishat Tsiyon and for the writings of another Zionist, Rabbi Nathan Friedland. He also wrote letters of recommendation for rabbis who undertook to raise money, corresponded on matters of Jewish law with activists in Palestine, issued a pamphlet on the renewal of sacrifice in the Holy Land and helped lessen the opposition of the Ashkenazic rabbis of Jerusalem (led by Rabbi Meir Auerbach, formerly of Kalisz), to Zionist projects.

Guttmacher's influence extended beyond his immediate community because of his reputation as a rabbinic scholar. He was recognized unofficially as the rabbinic authority for many small communities in Poznan and throughout Germany. In addition, many of his students who became religious functionaries in Europe and America turned to him for advice in dealing with communal problems. He published commentaries on Mishna and Talmud and composed numerous novellae and responsa, most of which are still in manuscript form at the Hebrew University and the Mossad Harav Kook in Jerusalem.

Guttmacher's published works include Zafenath Paneah (Brody, 1875), Shenot Eliyahu (1879), Sukkat Shalom (1883) and commentaries in the Vilna edition of the Talmud published by Romm. Letters and essays by Guttmacher may also be found in the published works of Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer, Rabbi Nathan Friedland and R.A. Slutzki.

Two works that have appeared about Rabbi Guttmacher are: Aliyat Eliyahu a memorial volume published by the Kabbalists of Jerusalem and Hadrat Eliyahu, a book of wonder tales by Rabbi Yudel Rosenberg (which was translated into Yiddish as Der Graiditzer Piotrkow-Warsaw).

Guttmacher's rabbinate coincided with the rise of the Reform movement in Germany, although opposed to the movement and to the Reform rabbinate; Guttmacher nevertheless permitted his students to study German and to enroll in secular universities so that they would be able to make a living.

Administrative Information

Access Restrictions:

Open to researchers with the permission of the Chief Archivist and by special appointment.

For more information, contact: Chief Archivist, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, 15 West 16th Street, New York, NY 10011.  email: archives@yivo.cjh.org

Related Materials: Part of the collection that remained hidden in Vilna throughout the Nazi occupation was brought to YIVO after the war by Abraham Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski. These materials, consisting of letters to Guttmacher, are now in the Sutzkever-Kaczerginski collection of YIVO, {RG 223, folders # 13, 14, 15).

Preferred Citation: Published citations should read as follows:Identification of item, date (if known); YIVO Archives; Papers of Eliyahu Guttmacher; RG 27; box or folder number.

Box and Folder Listing

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I:, undated, 1860s-1870s,
Series 2: Series II: General and Family Correspondence, 1860s-1870s,
Series 3: Series III: Financial Documents, undated

Series I:
undated, 1860s-1870s

The kvitlekh in Series I are short notes written to Guttmacher requesting advice, blessings, amulets, cures or other assistance. Generally the kvitlekh include the name of the person making the request, the names of his wife and children (and perhaps other members of his family) for whom blessings and requested, the nature of the problem for which assistance is required, the type of blessings described and, usually, the name of the town from which the person came.

The average person generally did not write his own kvitel. It is apparent from the clarity of the handwritings and the elegant Hebrew in which most of the kvitlekh are phrased that they were written by scholars rather than ordinary people. The recurrent and recognizable handwritings on many kvitlekh suggest that they were probably written by students of Rabbi Guttmacher who recorded the requests of his visitors or by scribes from the people's hometowns.

Letters that resemble kvitlekh are similar in content to kvitlekh but generally longer and more detailed. Because of the similarity in content, these letters have been included with the kvitlekh in the collection.

The kvitlekh and letters are mostly in Hebrew, with a few in Yiddish. Those that are in Yiddish are less legible and grammatical then the kvitlekh in Hebrew, and may have been written by the people who sent them. Although some of the letters are dated from the late 1860s and early 1870s most of the letters and nearly all of the kvitlekh are undated.

The kvitlekh have been arranged geographically according to the names of the towns appearing on each kvitel or letter. They are arranged according to the Hebrew or Yiddish spelling of the town in the Hebrew alphabet.

To determine the Polish names of the towns, each town was researched in the Słownik Geograficzny; Krolestwa Polskiego, Warsaw, 1882, (Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom) using the sound of the pronunciation of the name on the kvitel. In many cases it was possible to identify the Polish town name. However, where the Hebrew characters were not completely legible, the Polish name could not be ascertained.

Folders with dated kvitlekh have been marked "D." Folders with multiple kvitlekh (several kvitlekh on one page) are marked "M." The "multiple kvitlekh" often include requests from persons from different towns and were probably written by Guttmacher's assistants.

The Guttmacher kvitlekh are a particularly rich source for an understanding of the social history of the Jews of Poland during the mid-19th century. They provide information on economic conditions, geographical settlement, religious life, physical health and family problems of Jews in Poland and to some extent in Russia, Prussia, and Western Europe. Many kvitlekh describe medical problems including infertility and mental illness as well as other physical ailments, and a number of kvitlekh mention doctors who were consulted or bath treatments that were attempted. A few kvitlekh refer to previous cures suggested by Rabbi Guttmacher. However, the collection does not include Guttmacher's recommendations.

Many kvitlekh are from Jews in small towns faced with debts, angry creditors and increased competition from non-Jews. They describe their financial and legal problems and ask advice. A number of melamdim (teachers) unhappy with their work seek help in becoming ritual slaughterers or other religious functionaries. Many Jews fear the draft and request a prayer that their draft lottery number will not be called.

To a lesser extent the kvitlekh discuss marital and family problems and problems with shidduchim (choosing a marriage partner). Also, a number of kvitlekh refer to laxity of religious observance in certain towns and the appearance of Reform rabbis.

The kvitlekh bear witness to the geographic mobility of Polish Jewry before the period of mass migration. Jews move from town to town within Poland and from Poland to Prussia, England and America.

The kvitlekh are especially significant in that they are the only extinct historical source for Jewish life in many towns throughout Poland. The kvitlekh are also useful for genealogical studies because they include the name of entire families; however, as the kvitlekh only rarely mention surnames they are useful only to those who can trace the Hebrew names of their relatives back several generations.

Box 1
Box 2
Box 3
Box 4
Box 5-6
Box 7
Box 8
Box 9
Box 10
Box 11
Box 12
Box 13
Box 14
Box 15
Box 16
Box 17
No location of kvitlekh, unidentified or damaged kvitlekh, and other documents
Series II: General and Family Correspondence

Series II consists of correspondence related to Guttmacher's family, his activities on behalf of Palestine and his role as a communal leader. Nearly all the correspondence is addressed to Guttmacher. However, the family correspondence comprises letters to and from family members, which do not necessarily mention Guttmacher himself. The correspondence is from Western Europe, Eastern Europe and America.

The letters to Guttmacher include requests from colleagues and former students for opinions in matters of Jewish law, for advice on how to deal with communal problems and for advice on personal matters. The letters mention issues such as marriage, divorce conversion, army service, friction between religious functionaries, laxity in religious observance and other problems facing religious leaders in Jewish communities of Poland and Germany. Some letters ask for money; one is a condolence letter to Guttmacher on the loss of his wife.

A number of letters from emissaries such as Nahum Streisand (also known as Nahum Avak Poreah) and Yaakov Hertzfeld, report on the emissaries' success in collecting funds in various communities for the study societies established by Guttmacher in Jerusalem. There are also several letters from individuals in Palestine.

The letters and other documents in this series are in Hebrew, Yiddish, German and French. Most of the letters have been arranged by date with the correspondent identified wherever possible. A selective list of correspondents appears in the container list. Family correspondence is arranged separately by correspondent. Family correspondence includes letters and papers of Jacob Guttmacher, Solomon Guttmacher, Louis Levy, Sophie Guttmacher Levy and Raphael M. Levy. A few letters are signed by Eliyahu Guttmacher. These letters have been placed in a separate folder.

Series II also includes legal documents belonging to Guttmacher and his family, miscellaneous and unidentified correspondence, unidentified discourses on Talmud and Jewish law and unsigned certifications and amulets.

Sub-Series 1: General Correspondence
before 1860-1874
Folder 2.1: Undated letters
Morits Cohn, Meyer S. Abrahamson, Avraham David Cohen Ara, S. Blumberg, Yaakov Segal, Meyer Rosenthal, Nahum Streisand (Avak Poreah, collector of funds for Sukkath Shalom and Meor Yaakov), David Cohen (collector of funds), Mordechai Alitzki, Yaakov Hertzberg, Aleksander Ziskind, Avraham Zilberfeld, Moshe Ledermann, Eliyahu Koppel, Menachem Mendel Landau, Jacob Fuchs, Dorothea Schmidtsdorff, Auguste Heilmann, Jakub Majer Brun, Burstein, Toybe, Rochel Blum, J.L. Asch, Wolf Greyak, Wolff Elias Hirsch, T. Heiman, Abram Walter, Meir Weinstein, Zunderland, D. Littmann, Samuel Milner, Dr. M. Levin, Adolph Meyer, Josef Messing, (3) Dr. Pinchas Neustadt, Zev Yirmiya(hu ?) Posner, D. Littmann, Yitzchak Koenigsberg, (2) Braina Rosenthal, Rachel Roth, Risch, Jakob Wallman, Meyer Hamberger (?)
Folder 2.1 A: Not clearly dated and lacking clear family names
Folder 2.2: L. Lewandowski
before 1860
Folder 2.3: Laizer son of R. Dov Hacohen, Shmuel Zanvl (?) Brieger, Israel Grezel, Ziskind Hirsch, Neustadt, Dr. Pinchas Neustadt, Yakov Shmuel Krakauer
Folder 2.4: M. Wertheim, Aron Pulvermacher, Anschel son of Y. Segal, E.G. Prathe, Israel, Witkowski, Rafel Abraham, Sheine Rosenthal
Folder 2.5: Aaron Hapelberg, Yuda Tzvi Cohen, Philip Baer, Meir Gutmacher, Dr. Pinchas Neustadt, (2) Bilewsky, Hillel, Yakov Mreszinski (?), Moshe Rosenthal, Aaron Hafelburg (?)
Folder 2.6: M. Brok (quoting R. Akiva Eger), Laizer son of R. Dov Hacohen, Zvi Hirsh Gutmacher, Borchordz, Hayim, (2) Judah Zvi Hirsch Kohen, Moshe Landsberg, M. Frankel, Gabriel Zvi Krosow, Moshe Rosenthal, Leibush Sternberg
Folder 2.7: Yehuda Glans, Yitzchak Hirsch Heilprin, Robert Heumann, Shefya Friedland, S. Hamburger, H. Richter, Abraham Jacob Katz, A. Meyer, Shloyme Flessner, Hirsch Ruben, Samson Nathan Kaplan, Zev Rosoff
Folder 2.8: Zev Wolf Hertzfeld, H. Pallak, Aaron Hapelberg, I.H. Marcus, Yehonatan Zilberstein, S. Marcus, Yesroel Coeh, Moshe Gellert, Eliezer son of R. Dov Hacohen, H. Jaresewski, S. Bleichrader, Yoel Chaim Wilner, Aaron (?) Ziskind Josefsohn, Josef Messing, Schturman, Shmuel Haim Wilner
Folder 2.9: Zev Wolf Hertzfeld, Moshe Gellert, J.M. Rosenfeld, N.J. Leszynski, Shlomo Eisenberg, Hirsch (Hermann) Baer, Gerdam, Dr. Pinchas Neustadt (?), L. Friedland, Moses Rerisch, Schalmont, Moshe Yehuda (?)
Folder 2.10: Michael Moshe Biram, Shlomo Leibrecht, Gerson Heimann, Akiba Gluck, I.I. Orgler, H.J. Berlin, Dr. Wreschner, Josef Messing, (2) Dr. Pinchas Neustadt
Folder 2.11: S. Blumberg, Zev Wolf, Avraham Heller, Nahum Avak Poreah (Streisand), Aleksander Ziskind, S. (Ziskind) Brok, Yochanan Menachem Maravitch, R. Moslu Brod, Gustav Ephraim, Loser, Klein, Zvi Hirsch Lewandowski, Josef Messing, Simon Positz, Josef Rabinowicz, Dr. Pinchas Neustadt (?)
Folder 2.12: Kirschner, Saloniou F. Guttman, Avraham Dov Hacohen, Bilevski, H. Behrend, Eliezer son of R. Dov Hacohen, S. Bleichroder, Zelig Granevitz, Adeline, Joseph Isaac, S. Lehegott, Marcus Jastrow, Gustav Ephraim, Nahum Streisand, B.L. Monasch, letter from Nathan Friedland to Simkhe Firsht, Hirsh Kalisher, Haskel Bornstein, Yehuda Goldberg, Mordechai Barash Katz, Yekhezkl Bri, Mordkhe Wdaszinski, Solomon Lewin, Josef Messing, Yehuda Kachen, (2) Reysna Herzer (?), Zev Wolf (?)
Folder 2.13: Sol M. Zucker, Herman Davidson, T. Heiman, Felix Moser, E. Jankower, Fanny Loebl, Ludwig Schwartz, Moritz Cohn, Gustav Ephraim, Adeline Lippmann, Pauline Machol, Moritz Hartwig Mamroth, Nathan Friedland, Joseph Gersmann, Yechezkel Hertzfeld, (2) Abraham Sachs, H. Zalzbock, (2) Josef Josefsohn, Simon Lewin, Dr. Pinchas Neustadt, Asher Segal, Yehoshua Kachlinski (?), F. Schwarzbach, S.S. Schragenheim, Moshe Greifeshagen
Folder 2.14: Shefya Friedland, Julius Neustadt, S. Bermann, Yosef Heisler, Sol M. Zucker, Laizer son of R. Dov Hacohen, Ziskind Segal, T. Kleid, M. Weils, Gustav Ephraim, Gerson Heimann, Pauline Machol, Moshe Brak, Berend, Gustav Hirschberg, Abraham Sachs, Uri Wizhnishin, (3) F. Sanger (?), Jacob Cohn, Lewenstein, Moshe, Yechiel Peiser, Zalman Moshe Zucker, Isidore Kohn, Israel Spitzer, Moses Ungar, Meir Gutmacher, Yekl Heilbrunn (?), Shlomo Hertzfeld (?), Nahum Streisand
Folder 2.15: Aharon Moseh Halevi, Yochanan Menachem Maravitz, Shmuel Haim Wilner, M. Schneller, Benjamin Meshullemi, Zvi Hirsch Klausner, Moshe Arie, Bamberger, (2) Biates (?), Johann Hoff, Josef Josefsohn, Reisne Kohen, Yekutiel Ehrlich, L. Cohn (?)
Folder 2.15 A: Simkhe Firsht
Folder 2.16: Heschel Greenfeld, Laizer son of R. Dov Hacohen, Hirsch Rohrick, George Schneller, A. Ziskind (?), Yekutiel Ehrlich
Folder 2.17: Aleksander Ziskind, T. Kleid, Yisrael Brisch, Abraham Gunderman, Khaim Yekhiel, Rabbi Yehoshua, Ephraim Wolkowicz, Ewa Zoberman, Zialowski, Jozef Meizels, Miriam Kohn, Shloyme Kleiner, Meir Rosenthal, Eliezer Shapira (?), Schturman
Folder 2.17 A: Letters without exact family names
Folder 2.18: Names of correspondents and contents of letters by date, compiled by Dr. Isaiah Trunk
Folder 2.19: Telegrams
Folder 2.20: Telegrams
Folder 2.21: Letters and certificate from Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher
Folder 2.22: Court and government papers for Rabbi Eliyahu Guttmacher
Folder 2.23: Bills for Rabbi Elias Guttmacher
Folder 2.24: Certifications, authors, unidentified
Folder 2.25: Discussions of Jewish law, commentaries on Talmudic texts, authors unidentified
Folder 2.26: Damaged and unidentified correspondence
Folder 2.27: Newspaper article with photograph of Rabbi Guttmacher
Sub-Series 2: Family Correspondence and Papers
Folder 2.28: Guttmacher family correspondence - General
Folder 2.29: Letters and papers of Jacob Guttmacher of Bromberg (now Bydgoszcz, Poland)
Folder 2.30: Bills and receipts for Jacob Guttmacher
Folder 2.31: Letters to Solomon Guttmacher of Paris
Folder 2.32: Papers of Louis Levy
Folder 2.33: Bills and miscellaneous documents for Louis Levy of Posen (now Poznan, Poland)
Folder 2.34: Court papers of Jacob Guttmacher and Louis Levy
Folder 2.35: Letters to Sophie Guttmacher Levy
Folder 2.36: Letters and papers of Raphael M. Levy of Posen (now Poznan, Poland)
Subseries 3: Miscellaneous Correspondence
Folder 2.37: Miscellaneous bills, receipts, and business documents
Folder 2.38: Amulets
Folder 2.39: Miscellaneous correspondence and documents
Folder 2.40: Miscellaneous correspondence and documents
Folder 2.41: Proclamation of Rabbi Akiva Eger
Folder 2.42: Documents not related to Rabbi Guttmacher
Includes letters to Mattityahu Strashun, manuscript by Jacob Reifman, Jewish Court decision, pamphlet
Folder 2.43: Unidentified documents and fragments
Series III: Financial Documents
Series III consists primarily of financial documents. These include receipts for contributions to institutions in Palestine, postal receipts for mail that was forwarded, often to Palestine and miscellaneous bills and financial documents. The receipts for contributions are particularly valuable because they indicate the amount of money donated, the identities of the donors, the institutions or societies for which the donations were given and the names of the persons who collected the money. The receipts offer information on the network of emissaries in Europe and on the variety of institutions in Palestine that received support at the time.
Folder 3.1: Postal receipts
Folder 3.2: Postal receipts
Folder 3.3: Receipt Book
Folder 3.4: Receipts for contributions to Palestine
Folder 3.5: Receipts for contributions to Palestine

Browse by Series:

Series 1: Series I:, undated, 1860s-1870s,
Series 2: Series II: General and Family Correspondence, 1860s-1870s,
Series 3: Series III: Financial Documents, undated
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