On the ground

Walter emails from Rostov

Dan and Jo,

We are in Rostov having a great time with warm and wonderful people. It is also close to 100 degrees and havent had a chance to swim in the Don which is clean only intermittently. I am also very tired, so only a brief note for now. There arer, sadly, fewer mentions of Tulbowitzes than I had hoped. The problem appears to be that Rostov did this super-wonderful census in 1896 that would have had all sorts of terrific information on them, but as you know, Rose, Abe and Sophie left for US in 890 or 1891 and the rest of the clan left within a few years, so there werte none of them left in '96. Couldnt Shlomo-Aharon and company have held on for a year or two to get into the census? They ought to have anticipated some great-son would show up 110 years later seeking info on them. Maybe they did, but Rose said, "Get your asses in gear and come to Albany." The family may have also been metioned in earlier records that have, lamentably, disappeared. So we have had bad luck in this regard.

The syangogue archivist, Yevgeni Gimududinov found two precious bits of info on the Tulbowitzs We bought the documents from the municipal archives, so will be able to put them up on Ruby Family History at some point. One from 1876 records the birth of a son to Shlomo-Aharon and Sophia (not Sophie as she is recorded on her grave) by the name of Gavriel. Not Eduard, who probably was born in 1878 as the U.S. census said. Gavriel's brithday is Sept 28, 1876 and it is also recorded that Gavriel was circumcized on Oct 3, 1876. The documents gives the rank of "Meshanin" or "townsman" to Shlomo-Aharon. That was a rank that included professionals, artisans, and small business people that was a lower ranking than "merchant". Interestingly, we saw a newspaper later today from 1874 where all the meshanins in Rostov are listed and there is no Tulbowitz there, so maybe the family was rising from poverty and just attained that status in 1875 or 1876. Dan, you mentioned that the U.S. census record about the family said there wete five children (Rose, Edward and who else?) Was the name Gavriel or Gabriel among them? Anyway, meet another family member.

The second listing was from Aug 13, 1879 and records the death of a son named Isai or Yitzhak, aged 3 years and 5 months. So Sophie must have gotten pregnant again almost immediately after giving birth to Yitzhak. Strange--but thats what we have. So meet another family member who was only with us for a short time.

We have a LOT of information on the Jews of Rostov at that time, of the synagogue and cemetery (now gone) and much, much else. But it looks like we'll be leaving here having added only marginally to the concrete knowledge of Tulbowitz's-on-Don. Still, it was very much worth the trip, just being here absorbing the milleu and seeing a city that was down at the heels when I was last here in 1999, now bursting with prosperity--a mini-Moscow. The transformation is incredible. We had dinner at a Cossack restaurant (really!!!) in a recrerational area on the Don last night and the place was full of flashy people flashing cash. Russia is indeed bursting with pride and money.
Anyway, I drank way too much and danced like crazy and then had to get up early for a day of geneological research. Am headed now for a much needed nap.



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.


a few photos from Lithuania (Part 1)

As you all know by now, I got mugged and had my camera grabbed in Kaunas while visiting sites connected with the life of Rabbi Spektor. While the culprit was caught and the camera returned, the memory chip was lost so all precious photos from Ukraine, Rostov, Moscow and Belarus were lost as well. Fortunately, my wonderful guides in Kaunas and Vilnius, Asia Gutterman and Regina Kopilevich lend me cameras so I was able to bring home some meaningful photos from those places. Here are a few of them.

picture 1--the ohel (masoleum)dedicated to Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor and his sopn Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Rabinowitz at the new Jewish cemetery in Kaunas.

picture 2 inscrption on the ohel rwsing in part--Blessed to the great Gaon and his son--Isaac Elchanan Spektor and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Rabinowitz

picture 3--messages to the Kaunas Gaon, Rabbi Spektor placed there by visitors, many asking for his blessing or help in various endeavors

picture 4--panorama of Old Kaunas

photos from Kaunas (part 2)

images of Kaunas, grim and lovely--life is complicated, eh?

picture 1--grave pried open by robbers looking for gold in the old (and practically abandoned)Green Hills Jewish cemetery in Kaunas. Shmuel Elchanan found and repaired here the graves of Rabbi Spektor's wife Sarah Raizel and his youngest son Binyamin Rabinowitz. It is almost certain that the grave of Chaim Rabinowitz, the rabbi's oldest son our great-great grandfather and his daughter Rachel are here in this neglected and much vandalized cemetery as well, but we were unable to find them. The masoleum of Rabbi Spektor and Tzvi Hirsch Rabbinowitz was originally here but destroyed in the early 1980's when the Soviet authorities decided to level the cemetery for new development (that never happened but many graves were destroyed). Their bodies were dug up and moved to the new Jewish cemetery.

picture 2
The ruined house in the center of Kaunas where Rabbi Spektor once lived. His youngest son, Binyamin Rabinowitz lived here until 1906, when he was murdered by the husband of the family's washerwoman. Shmuel Elchanan lived here with his family as a youth until they were arrested by the Nazis in 1941 and taken to concentration camps.

picute 3--an upscale street scene in downtown Kaunas only a few blocks from Rabbi Spektor's ruined house.

picture 4 Walter Ruby, Asia Gutterman and Tatyana Rapaport

picture 5-- another vista over Kaunas


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