Spektor family in Israel

What we learn from Einsiedler, Part 3

In part 1, I summarized the Einsiedler papers. In part 2, I covered Einsiedler's discoveries about the descendants of Moshe Joseph Spektor. Here, I will do the same for the descendants of Jacob David Spektor.

The most surprising thing we learn about Jacob David is that he marries a woman 31 years his junior (to be continued).

What we learn from Einsiedler, Part 2

But back to Einsiedler. What is new and different that we learn from the papers? Most of the new information relates to two brothers of Isaac Elchanan. We know from Shimoff that Isaac had two older and one younger brothers. Of second brother Abraham Aaron, Shimoff writes that he was accomplished in the rabbinate, but he died young before having children. Shimoff tells us Spektor was deeply affected by his brother's death.

According to Einsiedler's reading of the literature, the eldest Spektor brother, Moshe Joseph, then married Abraham's widow, in observation of the law of chalitza, in which an unmarried brother of a deceased married brother is obligated to marry the widow (unless he is released from the obligation in a ceremony involving the taking off of the brother's shoe).

In this case, Moshe kept his shoe and married the unnamed widow and they later had a daughter Shifra. From here, things get a bit surprising as Shifra marries a man named Aryeh Spector. This could be an example of a husband assuming the wife's name, if she had an honored name they wanted to carry on, or it could be coincidences of two unrelated Spektors finding each other, or it could be some kind of intermarriage.

In any case, Shifra and Aryeh have at least two children, Chaim Shmuel and Meir (born in 1884). Meir goes to Palestine in 1910, marries Esther and has three children, Jacob, Emanuel and Rachel. Rachel later marries David Belkin.

His older brother, Chaim Shmuel, also appears to marry another Spektor, Frieda daughter of Shlomo. The same possibilities apply here as above, though in this case Einseidler indicates that Chaim and Frieda are indeed cousins.

These possible Spektor-Specktor marriages would be one way for the family to expand to support claims of other Spektors to a relationship with the rabbi. We'll have to look more closely at the origins of Aryeh Spektor and Frieda Spektor to determine what other Spektors can claim a relation by marriage to the family of Isaac Elchanan's older brother.

Whatever turns out there, we know from the Pioneers book that Chaim and Frieda have another son Aryeh in 1909 in Halle, Germany, his grandfather having evidently previously passed away. Aryeh also goes to Palestine in 1933, and has two children Chaim Samuel (named for his predeceased father) and Simcha.

If all that is right, then we have five descendants of Moshe Joseph Spektor living in Palestine in the pre-war years. If we are next able to track Jacob, Emanuel, Rachel, Chaim Samuel and Simcha Spektor, we will be closer to identifying living descendants from that line.

Okay, on to part 3 for the information on brother Jacob David Spektor.

What we learn from Einsiedler, Part 1

While Morris keeps feeding me more information, I am trying to catch up with his earlier fax transmittal of the David Einsiedler papers. These include not just the three installments of the researcher's handwritten reports but also copies from nine source documents that are cited in the research.

I've now had a chance to process the information and will do my best to sift out what is new to us. Einsiedler draws on mostly published information. The most well known are the Shimoff biography and Lifshitz's Toldot Yitshak. But there are four or five different biographical encyclopedias that have listings for members of the Spektor/Rabinowitz family. Several are comprehensive works of important rabbis in history. There is one for Lithuanian rabbis only, and another for the rabbis of Novogrodok. David Tidhar's encyclopedia of pioneers of Israel is especially helpful, with three substantial biographies of Spektor descendants in Israel.

There is one problem. They are all in Hebrew. I have been able to identify which document is which using Einsiedler's list as an index. With a number of the documents, I have been able to see where words like Spektor and Rabinowitz appear. I was actually pretty pleased with myself that I was able to call on my inferior Hebrew skills to sort through the papers.

As far as I know Morris does not have translations for the documents. If not, we should think about economical strategies to get that done. There are probably about 40 pages that we would want to have translated. I just found a Bay Area Hebrew translator listed on Craigslist. She charges $39 a page. I hope we can do better than that.

There is one source that is of greatest interest to me — the page from the Novogrodok book with entries for Isaac Elchanan Spektor and his successor Baruch Mordecai Lifshitz. (I don't know the relation, if any, between that Rabbi Lifshitz and Spektor's later secretary and biographer Jacob Halevi Lifshitz.) Anyway, the Spektor entry on that page also mentions Zvi Hirsch Rabinowitz. Zvi was born the year Spektor took up the rabbinical post in Novogrodok.

Perhaps we can find a way to get this one page translated as a way to get the ball rolling on the whole set.

In addition to the Einsiedler collection, there is another important Hebrew document in our collection, Shmuel Elchanan's compilation of his family information that he sent to Morris Spektor in 1996. While I am unable to decipher most of it, it appears that it is the source of all of the detail information for the descendants of Benyamin Spektor that is in Morris' Spektor descendant chart. Surely I will want to get a full translation, but for now I will assume that the key information in it has been reflected in that chart.

Actually, as a further reality check, I have an annotated version of the Morris descendant chart that was marked up by Shmuel Elchanan. This mainly corrects spellings in the English translation of names and places that Morris must have rendered from the original Hebrew.

Since there is a lot to write about the Einseidler papers, I will continue in the next post.

Big surprise: Joseph Rabinowitz had a brother

Morris Spector and I spoke on the phone again today after he had sent me another important document — six pages of information about the SPEKTOR/RABINOWITZ/ELCHANAN family faxed from Shmuel Elchanan to Morris Spector in 1996. It is in Hebrew, mostly typed but some hand written, so it gets added to the stack of papers that need Hebrew translation — the top of the stack since Shmuel's family knowledge is more complete and reliable than anyone's.

Morris is excited because news of our Rabinowitz family has revived a research project that he thought he had taken as far as he could a decade ago. What he didn't understand at the time was the importance of some of the Spektor descendants using the Rabinowitz name. Even savvy David Einseidler doesn't know what to make of it when he writes "Again that name!" after noting Zvi Hirsch and Joseph are both named Rabinowitz instead of Spektor. (I have not yet introduced the Einseidler research, but this is one of the few places the LA genealogy researcher misses the mark. I'll have more on this in the near future.

We don't really have an explanation for why some Spektor children and grandchildren became Rabinoviches. Walter says that Shmuel told him it was an accident of the census — that a census taker wrote Rabinovich when told that the children playing outside were sons of the rabbi. By the way Zvi Hirsch and Joseph are close to the same age, even though they are a generation apart, so they might likely be the sons playing outside. I am going to check and see what census was being taken in Grodno guberniya in the late 1850s.

Anyway, in our conversation you could almost hear the wheels turning in Morris' head as he tried to place several pieces of dimly remembered Rabinowitz information that he has encountered over recent years. One is that he thinks he was contacted by another Rabinowitz other than us with questions about a connection to Rabbi Spektor. Since he didn't know of Joseph's family at the time, he didn't give the claim credence, but now it is likely that the other Rabinowitz would be family of ours. If this is a descendant of one of Walter Ruby's siblings, then we'll have found a new American second cousin. If it is an Israeli Rabinowitz, then we'll have another third or fourth cousin to visit on an upcoming trip.

That assumes that Morris is right and he did receive such a message, and also that he is able to find it. He said he would look for it.

The other Rabinowitz thing bothering Morris was something about Tel Aviv cemetery records. I didn't pay too much attention to that when he mentioned it, but a short while later, he followed up with an email containing a most startling revelation. He found a 1929 burial record for Eliyahu Isser Rabinovich, who was born in Kovno in 1859. His father was Rav Chaim Aryeh.

In the comments field of the record is written: "From the family of Rabbi Elchanan Spector of Kovno and Rabbi Yosef of Slutzk. Merchant. Came to Israel in 1923." Here is the link to the relevant page in the JewishGen Online Worldwide Burial Registry.

So here we have the first indication that Joseph Rabinowitz had a younger brother. There is only one Rav Chaim Aryeh married to the daughter of the Rabbi of Slutsk, so now it could be that there would have been three Rabinowitz boys playing in the yard.

Now it may well be that Eliyahu's existence is covered in Shmuel Elchanan's Hebrew document. I hope so. He has already told us about another sibling Bluma Rabinowitz who was a school teacher in Kovno. That he did not also tell Walter about Eliyahu may suggest that he does not know about him.

Eliyahu's burial record doesn't mention anything about a wife or children. Hopefully with more searching we will be able to learn more about his life and even turn up living descendants, another possible batch of Israeli third cousins.

Much to digest here, but one thing I am thinking is that of all the Spektors and Rabinowitzes who left Kovno before the Holocaust, almost all went to Israel. Only Joseph Rabinowitz that we know of came to America. We would like to learn how and why it was decided by Joseph and his grandfather Isaac Elchanan that he and wife Lena should set sail in 1875 for a new life in New York.


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