Friday, April 13, 2007

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner (1913-2007), the final surviving musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary

Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner (1913-2007):
The Final Surviving Musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary
by Menachem Butler

HaRav Yosef Tzvi Dunner, who recently passed away in London at the age of 94, was the scion of a prominent European rabbinical family and father and grandfather of noted British Orthodox rabbis, Rabbi Abba Dunner and Rabbi Pini Dunner, respectively. In a recent email correspondence with Professor Marc B. Shapiro, author of the landmark biographical study of Rabbi Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg[1] and several articles related to the leaders of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary,[2] he informed me that Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dunner was the final surviving musmakh of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary (Orthodox).

In the April 12, 2007 edition of Hamodia: The Newspaper of Torah Jewry, there is a very nice obituary for Rabbi Dunner, (see PDF); however, it is interesting to note how they neglected to make mention of Rabbi Dunner's studies at Berlin Rabbinical Seminary as they write:
At 19 he wanted to study in the yeshivos of Lithuania, but his father felt that due to the shortage of Rabbanim in Germany, it would be better for him to remain in the country and study in the beis medrash of Harav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, author of Seridei Eish. For four years, the young Rav Yosef Tzvi studied in this beis medrash, where he was awarded semichah at a young age after astounding those testing him with his penetrating understanding of all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch. He was granted the title yoreh yoreh, yadin yadin.

Professor Shapiro further noted that
This appears to be the first time that the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary has been referred to as the Beis Medrash of R. Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg (with all that this implies). Next time they don't want to mention that someone received semichah at RIETS, they can say he studied in the Beis Medrash of (supply the name).
For additional biographical information on Rabbi Dunner zt"l, see here and here.

[1] Marc B. Shapiro, Between the Yeshiva World and Modern Orthodoxy: The Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg, 1884-1966 (London: Littman Library, 1999); For a brief discussion of the founding of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin in 1873, see ibid., page 76. See also Michael Meyer, "The Establishment of Rabbinical Schools in Germany - A comparative Analysis" [Hebrew], in Immanuel Etkes, ed., Yeshivot and Battei Midrash (The Zalman Shazar Center for Jewish History and The Ben-Zion Dinur Center for Research in Jewish History, The Hebrew University, Jerusalem 2006), pp. 199-207.
[2] For an assortment of Shapiro's article/reviews on leaders of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin, see "Letters of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 32 (Tammuz, 5752 [1992]): 6-20; Review of "David Ellenson, Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer and the Creation of a Modern Jewish Orthodoxy," Tradition 26 (Spring, 1992): 104-107; "The Autobiography of Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer [Hebrew]," Alei Sefer 17 (1993): 149-150; "Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann, Rabbi Moses Feinstein, and Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 34 (Tevet, 5754 [1994]): 9-20; "Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann on Torah and Wissenschaft," Torah u-Madda Journal 6 (1995-1996): 129-137; "Scholars and Friends: Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and Professor Samuel Atlas," Torah u-Madda Journal 7 (1997): 105-121; "Responsa and Letters of Rabbi David Zevi Hoffmann [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 37 (Tammuz, 5757 [1997]): 1-14; "On Targum and Tradition: J. J. Weinberg, Paul Kahle and Exodus 4:22," Henoch 19 (1997): 215-232; "Rabbi David Tsevi Hoffmann on Orthodox Involvement with the Hebrew University," Tradition 33 (Spring, 1999): 88-93; "Understanding the Life and Works of Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg," Algemeiner Journal (June 6, 2000); "Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer's Program of Torah u-Madda," Torah u-Madda Journal 9 (2000): 76-86; "R. Jehiel Jacob Weinberg on the Limits of Halakhic Development," Edah Journal 2:2 (2002; online at; "Thirteen Additional Letters by Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg [Hebrew]," Ha-Ma'ayan 45 (Tevet, 5765 [2005]): 1-17.

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