Spektor family in Israel

Playing catchup with the Spektor files

Thanks to Morris Spector and also to Jeff Spector of Colorado Springs, I now have my hands on the famous first chapter of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor — Life and Letters by Rabbi Dr. Ephraim Shimoff published in 1959 by Yeshiva University.

Also in hand are a dozen pages of hand-written research results prepared in 1990 by David Einsiedler of Los Angeles, who was engaged by Morris Spector to research the family of Isaac Elchanan Spektor. There are also various Hebrew source documents that Einsiedler provides, which will further document the Israeli descendants of R. Spektor's brother Jacov David Spektor.

These documents are rich with new information — or I should say information that is new to me and my attempts to synthesize all available sources to document the immediate family members and descendants of R. Spektor. On first read, I see several brand new pieces of information and several other things that will help us interpret facts we already know.

To do that will require line-by-line reading of the new materials that is likely to take me a few days to accomplish. The Hebrew translations will take longer (any volunteers?).

Until I report back on my analysis of the new papers, here is a glimpse at a section of page 24 from Shimoff in which he mentions our great grandfather Joseph Rabinowitz.

New info on Chaim Rabinowitz's wife and daughter

Email from Walter on Sept. 20:

I had a nice discussion this morning with our relative in Rehovot, Shmuel Elchanan. He noted that his father submitted testimony to Yad Vashem in 1955 as to the existence of a daughter of Chaim Rabinowitz (our great-great grandfather), the son of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor. Her name was Bluma Rabinovich the daughter of Chaim and Feiga Rabinovch and she lived from 1871-1944 in Kovno (Kaunas), having been killed by the Nazis either in the Kovno Ghetto or in a death camp. Shmuel, who himself lived in the Kovno Ghetto, remembers her very well, as a school teacher who never married. He remembers that she was a very kind woman. So Bluma was either the sister or half-sister of Joseph Rabinowitz, our great-grandfather who emigrated to New York. I need to check to see if we have a record as to whether Feiga was Joseph's mother as well.

Shmuel mentioned a book entitled Ethical Wills: A Modern Jewish Treasury, published in New York in 1983 by Shocken Books that includes the will of Rabbi Spektor, in which he asks that his rabbical post be given to his second son Tzvi Hirsch Rabinowitz, as well as a letter that Shmuel's own mother wrote in the Kovno Ghetto in June 1944, which was somehow miraculously acquired by his family in Palestine.

Shmuel told me that when he and his family arrived in Haifa aboard a ship in November 1945 as olim (new immigrants) they were greeted at the pier by Aharon Spektor, either the son or grandson of the brother of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor, who immigrated to Palestine during the mid-19th century. That brother whose name I have in my notes at home, became a pharmacist in Jerusalem. Aharon Spektor was known as the mukhtar (an Arabic term that might be translated as unofficial mayor) of Carmel, the Jewish community atop Mt. Carmel, which is now part of Haifa. As such he was sanctioned by the British authorities to carry a revolver, which he had with him when he mmet Shmuel and his family at the dock.

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.

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