Big surprise: Joseph Rabinowitz had a brother

Morris Spector and I spoke on the phone again today after he had sent me another important document — six pages of information about the SPEKTOR/RABINOWITZ/ELCHANAN family faxed from Shmuel Elchanan to Morris Spector in 1996. It is in Hebrew, mostly typed but some hand written, so it gets added to the stack of papers that need Hebrew translation — the top of the stack since Shmuel's family knowledge is more complete and reliable than anyone's.

Morris is excited because news of our Rabinowitz family has revived a research project that he thought he had taken as far as he could a decade ago. What he didn't understand at the time was the importance of some of the Spektor descendants using the Rabinowitz name. Even savvy David Einseidler doesn't know what to make of it when he writes "Again that name!" after noting Zvi Hirsch and Joseph are both named Rabinowitz instead of Spektor. (I have not yet introduced the Einseidler research, but this is one of the few places the LA genealogy researcher misses the mark. I'll have more on this in the near future.

We don't really have an explanation for why some Spektor children and grandchildren became Rabinoviches. Walter says that Shmuel told him it was an accident of the census — that a census taker wrote Rabinovich when told that the children playing outside were sons of the rabbi. By the way Zvi Hirsch and Joseph are close to the same age, even though they are a generation apart, so they might likely be the sons playing outside. I am going to check and see what census was being taken in Grodno guberniya in the late 1850s.

Anyway, in our conversation you could almost hear the wheels turning in Morris' head as he tried to place several pieces of dimly remembered Rabinowitz information that he has encountered over recent years. One is that he thinks he was contacted by another Rabinowitz other than us with questions about a connection to Rabbi Spektor. Since he didn't know of Joseph's family at the time, he didn't give the claim credence, but now it is likely that the other Rabinowitz would be family of ours. If this is a descendant of one of Walter Ruby's siblings, then we'll have found a new American second cousin. If it is an Israeli Rabinowitz, then we'll have another third or fourth cousin to visit on an upcoming trip.

That assumes that Morris is right and he did receive such a message, and also that he is able to find it. He said he would look for it.

The other Rabinowitz thing bothering Morris was something about Tel Aviv cemetery records. I didn't pay too much attention to that when he mentioned it, but a short while later, he followed up with an email containing a most startling revelation. He found a 1929 burial record for Eliyahu Isser Rabinovich, who was born in Kovno in 1859. His father was Rav Chaim Aryeh.

In the comments field of the record is written: "From the family of Rabbi Elchanan Spector of Kovno and Rabbi Yosef of Slutzk. Merchant. Came to Israel in 1923." Here is the link to the relevant page in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.

So here we have the first indication that Joseph Rabinowitz had a younger brother. There is only one Rav Chaim Aryeh married to the daughter of the Rabbi of Slutsk, so now it could be that there would have been three Rabinowitz boys playing in the yard.

Now it may well be that Eliyahu's existence is covered in Shmuel Elchanan's Hebrew document. I hope so. He has already told us about another sibling Bluma Rabinowitz who was a school teacher in Kovno. That he did not also tell Walter about Eliyahu may suggest that he does not know about him.

Eliyahu's burial record doesn't mention anything about a wife or children. Hopefully with more searching we will be able to learn more about his life and even turn up living descendants, another possible batch of Israeli third cousins.

Much to digest here, but one thing I am thinking is that of all the Spektors and Rabinowitzes who left Kovno before the Holocaust, almost all went to Israel. Only Joseph Rabinowitz that we know of came to America. We would like to learn how and why it was decided by Joseph and his grandfather Isaac Elchanan that he and wife Lena should set sail in 1875 for a new life in New York.