Eli Ginzberg was born on April 30, 1911, in New York, United States. He is the son of Louis Ginzberg and Adele Katzenstein. Eli grew up just a few blocks from Columbia University. His father, a professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, was one of the foremost Talmudic scholars of the 20th century. Their home was a gathering place for renowned scholars, and that atmosphere helped inspire his own ambitions.