Wohlgemuths and Spektors

Ugh! Down with the flu and/or severe jetlag, so am taking it easy today. Let me use this opportunity to clarify some of what Tanya and I learned, starting with the Wolgemuth-Spektor connection. In fact, Eli Wohlgemuth of Montreal did NOT claim that the two families were related. Rather, he said that his great-great grandfather, Rabbi Yishai Wohlgamuth (the name, by the way, means 'good natured' in German) (1809-1898), the chief rabbi of Memel from 1836-1881, was a good friend of our great-great-great grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor, the rabbi or Gaon of Kovno (Kaunus). We already know that Spektor turned for help to Jews in Memel (just across the German (East Prussian) border from Russian-controlled Lithuania in getting the message about the danger to Russian Jewry when pogroms started in 1881 to influential Jews in Western Europe. It seems likely Rabbi Wohlgemuth played some role in that as well.

In any case, the desire to say hello to someone whose great-great-great grandfather was a friend of his great-great grandfather was the reason Eli Wohlgemuth informed our guide in Vilnius, Regina Koplevich, that he wanted to meet me; it was only after I expressed surprise at the common name of Wolgemuth that we made an effort to try to see how Julius and Betty Wolgemuth of Koenigsburg might have been related to Rabbi Wohlgemuth of Memel. We didnt establish the connection in the short time we had together, but as he seems to be the world's expert on the family and is anxious to work with us, we should be able to figure it out. Eli says that Wohlgemuth is a relatively common name in Germany with non-Jewish Wohlgemuths as well as Jewish ones, but the fact that they came from so close to each other means our Wolhgemuths were probably related to his. He pointed out that the East Prussian Wohlgemuths had moved to that area from from the area of Minsk, Belarus around the period 1805-1815; if that is true of our Wohlgemuths as well, they not only lived close to the Ostjuden geographically, but they gthemselves were descended from Ostjuden. Eli said the East Prussian Jewish community was split between those who essentially stayed Ostjuden (i.e. deeply devout and Old World) like the members of Yishai's congregation and those who assimilated into Germans to the maximum degree possible and observed a Reform-like form of Judaism with such innovations that were anathema to the Ostjuden as organs in the synagogue. It is clear our Wohlgemuths, at least by Julius' generation, belonged to the second group. He was interested to know the name of Julius father, who, according to Helga, owned the largest clothing store in Konigsburg, but I dont believe we have that yet.

We ended up not going to Memel or Konigsburg--we were simply too exhausted on our last day and went instead to a jewel-like place called Trakkai near Vilnius with a castle in the middle of a lake. So, Dan, the Memel-Konigsburg trip is there for you to undertake. What is clear is that the Wohlgemuths lived on one side of the divding line between Central European Jewry and Eastern European Jewry and the Spektors on the other side, but they were only about 200 miles apart and there was a good bit of going back and forth. But both families had roots in Belarus, slightly to the east, as, it turns out, did the Tubavitzs of Rostov as well. I'll stop now and file soon on the rest of new knowledge we attained in Lithuania, Belarus and Rostov.

Walter