Ringel-Kaufler roots in Austrian Galicia

Feigel Kaufler from Krakow

As a single Jewish man, Schija would have needed help to keep house and cook for him. He found what he was looking for in an efficient and personable young woman from Kraków. 

Feigel Kaufler was about twenty-five years old when she arrived in Berlin from Kraków, not a blooming rose but still with prospects to find a suitable husband, she hoped. She was the second daughter of of Abraham-Mojzesz and Esther Chaya. In years past, a Jewish girl in the shtetl waited at home for a proper match to be arranged. But this was a new era. Now  a single girl with limited means could take herself to the big city with plans first to secure employment and then to land a husband. 

Feigel fulfilled both objectives with one man, Schija Ringel, for whom she became a live-in housekeeper. Things got a little messy when she found herself pregnant with Schija’s child without the benefit of marriage. But Schija owned up to his paternity in the 1885 birth record, and he made Feigel an honest woman in 1888, as a record amendment attests.

The garment trade in Rzeszow

By the time of Schija’s birth, Jews in Rzeszow region enjoyed full citizenship rights in the dual Austro-Hungarian Empire. They could own land, enter the professions, and even vote.  

Austrian citizenship law considered Judaism to be a religion but not a nationality, as Germans, Poles, Ukrainians and others were considered to be. Jews that absorbed in the culture were identified first by some other nationality and only secondly by their Jewish faith. Thus, a Galician Jew at the turn of the century was typically referred to as a "German [or Pole] of Mosaic persuasion"—a designation that subordinated their true Jewish national identity.

Emancipated Austrian Jews could freely engage in commerce with Christian businesses. In Rzeszów, these interactions took place in the markets, bustling with activity as farmers and craftsmen brought their products to the city’s regional fairs. Rzeszów gold- and silversmiths were renowned across the region. In textiles, Jews sold every imaginable kind of garment—furs, leather, shoes, hats, coats and, of course, wonderful fabrics for custom tailoring. 

Our Ringel family was probably involved in the garment trade in Rzeszów. Moses Ringel could have been a tailor or other craftsman but more likely was involved in the trading aspect of the business—retail, wholesale, supplies or something similar. This is entirely speculative but is inferred from the subsequent history of Moses’s son and grandson, as we will see. 

Jewish migration from Galicia

If this Ringel family was typical, we are getting a picture of movement of young Jewish people migrating from their family towns in Galicia to cosmopolitan centers in Germany. This is happening at the same time that a far greater migration of Galician Jews is underway to the United States and other countries, so the inter-European migratory patterns happening at the same time are sometimes overlooked. 
 
Rzeszów was a midsize Galician city midway between Kraków and Lemberg, as the present-day city of Lviv was known by its German name. As many as 6,000 Jews lived in Rzeszów in the years of Schija’s youth, about two-fifths of the city’s population. The Jews of Reishe, as it was called in Yiddish, lived in the old quarter and followed a mostly traditional shtetl life focused around religion, family and commerce. 

Previously a part of Poland, Galicia was attached to the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1871. The region still ran like a feudal state, with the true power exercised by a handful of Polish landowners. Jews made their living under the economy and laws set by these overlords. Over the previous centuries, through recurring cycles of repression and liberalization, Jews gradually obtained more and more rights.

The Ringel side of the family

Unlike the Wohlgemuth girls, Hermann was a native Berliner, having been born in the city’s Spandauer district in 1885. At the time of Hermann’s birth, his parents Schija Ringel and Feigel Kaufler were not yet married. They officially wed two years later and had two other children after that. 

Schija was very likely also in the garment trade. He had come to make his living in Berlin during the socially mobile 1880s, having been born into a Galician shtetl family from the city of Rzeszów. He hired Feigel Kaufler, a young woman from Kraków, as his housekeeper. Evidently, they fell in love.

Thanks to the fantastic records kept by JewishGen/JRI-Poland and also to the Geni.com Jewish Families of Krakow project, I am able to trace both the Ringel and Kaufler lines back several more generations.

With the Kaufler family, we see that Fiegla Kaufler (1854-1921) was the daughter of Abraham-Moyzesz  Kaufler (b. 1829) and Chaja Esther Gruenberg (b. 1826). We can trace Abraham’s line to his father Schulim (b. 1798), his grandfather Isaak (b. 1771) and all the way to his great-grandfather Nachman Kaufler (b. 1755), who seems to have been the original Kaufler in Kraków. 

For the record, Nachman is nine generations back on my direct family lineage. He started a family that multiplied in Kraków for five generations before Feigel picked up and left to make her future in Berlin.

We know less about the Ringel genealogy in Rzeszów, going just one generation back before Schija Ringel. Schija was born in 1856 to Moses Ringel and Rose Lea née Reichman, the first of five or six other children, two of whom also show up in later German records. A brother Jakob Schia Ringel went to Hamburg and raised a family there, and a sister Basze Sure Ringel came to Berlin and married Josef Herzig in 1894.

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