New information on Chaim Rabinowitz family

A recent contact from a younger member of the Orthodox Jewish community of Lakewood NJ has resulted in important new information about the family of Chaim Rabinowitz, the first child of Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor whom we used to count as our ancestor. Since I became a minor authority on the biography of Rabbi Spektor on the basis of my writings on this blog, I have received many messages from people claiming a family relationship with him. Most of these have turned out to be spurious, as was our own original supposition based on family lore.

This message immediately got my attention because many of the facts were in agreement with my research. The informant had correct names and ages for the three Rabinowitz children I knew about—Joseph, Eliezer and Bluma—and also knew of two additional sons. We had the same name for Chaim's wife, Faiga or Feige, but different names for the wife's father. I have known this man from various sources including Wikipedia as Joseph Böhmer, the rabbi of Slutsk. My correspondent wrote that Feiga's father was the famous Reb Yoselle, Yosef Peimer, the rabbi of Slutsk.

Searching for Yosef Peimer confirmed that he had been the much loved rabbi of Slutsk from 1829 to 1874. Slowly it dawned on me that Yosef Peimer and Joseph Böhmer were one and the same person. My correspondent shared a manuscript written by a relative on the life and times of Reb Yoselle, in which we learn he was originally from Zamut in western Lithuania, grew up in Slutsk in the Minsk region, studied at the great Volozhin yeshiva, and returned in his 30s to become rabbi in his home city.

Rabbi Peimer was about 20 years older than Rabbi Spektor. By the 1850s, Reb Yoselle was at the height of his fame and power while Rav Yitzhok was an up-and-coming rabbinical star, recently appointed to the chair in Novogrodok, about 100 miles from Slutsk, after a series of successful tenures in smaller regional towns. It is in this period that Spektor's son Chaim, also learned in Torah study, was ready to be married. It seems that the marriage between the offspring of two of the most renowned Litvak rabbis of the time would have been a most auspicious event.

Reb Yoselle passed away in 1874 and some time after that his son, Meir, became the rabbi of Slutsk. Meir's son, also named Joseph Peimer, emigrated to America in the 1900s and came to be the rabbi of Temple Beth El in Brooklyn. In 1925, Peimer wrote what he knew of the family of his father's sister Feiga in a letter to another relative. The image above is from an unsent draft of the letter that Peimer kept. On page 10, he writes about the Rabinowitz family. Here is my correspondent's rough rendering:

Feiga had four sons, and these are their names. The oldest is Meir and he is now is Paris and he sells expensive stones and watches. The second son is Eliezer Isser Rabinowitz, who was a doctor in Yekatirnaslav. He became very rich and is now in Tel Aviv. The third son is Rav Yosef Rabinowitz, and he lived with the Rav Hagaon R' Yitzchok Elchonon, and learned a lot from the Torah Scholars. He is now in Moscow. The fourth is Yaakov and he learned under the Torah giants. And one daughter Bluma who never married.

So those are the new details on the children of Chaim Rabinowitz. The source seems credible and some of the information checks out with what we already knew. I am ready to accept this as confirmation of two additional male children, Meir and Yaakov, who we didn't have before, plus new life details on Eliezer's profession and Yosef's location in 1925. Thank you to my correspondent for providing this valuable information.