Monday, October 13, 2014

The DNA of Adam

On Thursday (Friday for those of you still living in Exile), we conclude the yearly Torah cycle and begin again with the Creation. On Shabbat we will read about the Creation in greater detail, ending with the list of Adam's "begats" through the ten generations until Noah.

It seems appropriate, therefore, to write this week about my indeterminate cousin Adam and his DNA.

Adam and I have been in touch for probably a dozen years, beginning with the discovery that we both have Kugel ancestry from Pleshchenitsy, now in Belarus. (With all the holiday food this week, it's a good time to write about kugel as well.)

My mother's father Rachmiel Gordon is the son of Chana Kugel, the daughter of Gershon and Zelda. The only Pleshchenitsy documents we have are revision lists. All we know of the family is that Chana seems to have had three brothers, Aharon, Yaakov and probably Zalman. Yaakov was married. So given that Adam is not descended from this specific family, the closest he can be to me is a fourth cousin.

Skipping ahead for a moment, when Y DNA testing (male line) became available, Adam tested a number of Kugel descendants from Pleshchenitsy and reported that there are several distinct Kugel families from Pleshchenitsy - if they are related to one another it is not on the male line.

Adam also tells me that he has Gordon connections, but I do not know exactly what those are. Any connection we would have there would be more distant than fourth cousins.

We have another angle with Adam, as one of his ancestors is a Kapilevich from Borisov. A probable relative on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side went to a person called "A. Kaplowitz" upon arrival in New York in 1911, so that is another  possible connection between us and Adam.

When I did my first autosomal DNA test, Adam came up as a suggested third cousin. Closer than I would have expected, but certainly reasonable if we are connected in several directions .Now that I am up to about 3400 Family Finder matches, Adam is my seventieth closest by relationship and thirty-seventh closest by total centiMorgans. We have 131.62 cM in common. My sisters have much less - 107.32 and 81.94 cM respectively.

Adam, from Belarus and Poland, and I from Galicia, Belarus and Slovakia, met three years ago at the inaugural meeting of the Sub-Carpathian SIG at the IAJGS Conference in Washington DC.


But I was busy on my father's side, while Adam is clearly on my mother's side. More than likely on both of my mother's sides - so this was not a connection I was pursuing.

The closest living relatives in my mother's generation are her third cousins so if we want to test on my mother's side, we would be looking for my first and second cousins, not anyone in her generation. (Actually, my mother's father has four living second cousins and one of those did an autosomal test with 23 & Me, but we don't have access to those results and matches.)

I only have three living first cousins on my mother's side and we have no idea where one of them is. One of the other two - Kay, the daughter of my mother's sister - did a Family Finder test and we saw the results three months ago. Adam and I have matches of 6 cM or higher in eight segments and Kay matches us in four of them.

Those four segments appear on the three chromosomes 6, 12 and 13.

However, Kay does not match Adam on 13, so he must be on my father's side there.

And the matches with Amy and Sarajoy are a bit of a mix, so there is some "mother's side / father's side" going on here. Endogamy! (Kay's father's side has no Jewish DNA, so at least we are spared complications there.)

But at least we have chromosomes 6 and 12 to work with and the question is, is Adam on my mother's mother's (Rosenbloom) side or on my mother's father's (Gordon & Kugel) side. For this we have second cousins.

My grandfather top right.
Aunt Mary bottom left.
The easy side is my grandfather's side since we begin with the assumption of a Kugel relationship. On that side, we have tests results from Judy and Ruth, first cousins to each other and second cousins to me via my grandfather's sister Aunt Mary, who is their grandmother.

Judy's results came first and I was surprised to see that FTDNA does not consider her a match with Adam at all and when I run them together against me or Kay, we see no overlap. Of course, once you get to third and fourth cousins, there is no guarantee that there will be significant DNA matches. Third cousins overlap on average 0.78% and fourth cousins only about 0.20%. (I am using the percentages provided by 23 & Me.)

Ruth is a bit better - she has 89.11 cM that match Adam. The only match that seems to fit us is on chromosome 6. There she matches Adam, Sarajoy and me, but not Kay and Amy. Oops. That seems to indicate that perhaps Adam matches me and Sarajoy on chromosome 6 on Ruth's FATHER's side, which we already know seems to match my father's side somehow.

So it appears that if Adam is connected to me on my Kugel/Gordon side, there must be some DNA that my grandfather received and passed on, but which his sister Aunt Mary did not - at least not to Ruth and Judy. My grandfather had another sister and a brother, but I am not in contact with any of their descendants.

More likely is that the connection with Adam is on my mother's mother's Rosenbloom side.

On that side, my grandmother had one brother in the US with children. We have no contact with the two who remained in Russia and two others died soon after arriving in the US, with no children. That one brother had two sons with children - one with six who have thusfar declined to test and one with three, one of whom has tested.

Beth's results came in about a week ago. Unfortunately I have not been able to get her into a project, so I cannot check her directly against Adam.

Beth has nice matches with Kay (394.98 cM), with my sisters (347.28 & 325.36 cM), with me (245.29 cM), but nothing with any of us and Adam together.

So it may be that the whole idea of Adam's being on my mother's side is totally wrong!

Which leaves my father's side.

We saw some hints of such connections on chromosomes 6, 12 and 13, where Kay seems to be on my mother's chromosome and Adam on my father's. So let's see what else we have on Adam and my father's side.

Adam and I have eight matching segments. All of those are matched by Amy or Sarajoy or both.

My father's first cousin Herb matches Adam on five segments, but none which match me.

There is this on chromosome 1. These are my matches with (in order from top) Adam, second cousins Rhoda and Terry, Aunt Betty and third cousin Pinchas on my g-gm's Kwoczka side. There is no room on the chart, but Amy and Uncle Bob match the segment on the far right.
This looks nice, but the problem is, none of the others match Adam except me, even though almost all the matching segments are identical. So the whole group matches me on my father's side, except Adam who, by process of elimination, matches on my mother's side. But we know there are no matches with Ruth, Judy and Beth.

Sheeeesh!

This whole post is rather anticlimactic. I really thought we would be able to figure out at least part of my connection to Adam. When I got my first results two-plus years ago, I was excited to see Adam on my match list as a suggested third cousin. There were nearly fifty people in that category and Adam was the only one I knew and the only one where I had even an inkling about the nature of our matches.

So what do I have now? Endogamy. Lots and lots of endogamy. Just when I think I am beginning to understand what I am doing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Pikholz Women of the Early 1800s

The matter of ancestral women is a bugaboo of genealogists from most cultures, but as usual, it's more complicated with European Jews.  I would like to look at this within the context of the Pikholz Project, with perhaps an idea regarding all those DNA matches from non-Pikholz testers.

Given names
Let's start with one of the more obvious points and that is that we often do not even know the given names of some female ancestors, even though their husband's names are known.

Until recently, inscriptions on Jewish tombstones included the father's name but rarely the mother's name. So that source, so useful for fathers, is of no use for mothers. That may be a matter of traditional modesty, but it is more likely that since the father was more of a public figure, his name would have been how the deceased was known to the public - being also how he was called to the Torah.

So far as I know (and I have very limited experience) the same is true of kettubot, Jewish marriage contracts.

In my area of interest, east Galicia, early birth records named the parents and sometimes the maternal grandfather. Only in 1877 when Austrian law began to require the mother's parents names, did we learn the grandmother's given name.

When the mother's given name is unrecorded and there are no alternate sources, we have two problems - uncertainty and error. Uncertainty is self-explanatory - what you don't know, you don't know. I simply do not know the name of the mother of my mother's maternal grandmother. I can only speculate that perhaps my grandmother or one of her sisters bore her name.

The matter of error is more serious and here I plead guilty to a bit of systematic sloppiness. We have a marriage record for for Berl and Dwojre Pikholz in 1887, that was probably close to thirty years after their actual Jewish marriage. Berl's parents are Isak Josef and Rojse Pikholz and Dwojre's are Motie (=Mordecai) and Taube Pikholz. We know the couple Mordecai and Taube and have death records for both.

But this is the only record we have for Isak Josef and Rojse aside from Isak Josef's 1862 death record. Although I do not have documentation, I am quite sure that my great-great-grandmother Rivka Feige and her brother Selig are the children of this Isak Josef. But I have no indication that their mother was Rojse. Rivka Feige has no children or grandchildren named any form of Rojse, nor do we see any in our limited information about Selig.

Berl, on the other hand, has a daughter Rojse whose children were born from 1881.

Berl was a few years older than Rivka Feige and Selig, so it is quite possible that Rojse had died and their mother was a second wife. However, I have never laid that out before and the casual follower of the Pikholz Project could easily assume that Isak Josef's wife is always Rojse. (This is not an issue in my database, where Rivka Feige and Selig are not even attached to Isak Josef, because we have no documentation.)

There are likely a few similar cases in the Pikholz Project. Not many, mind you, but a few.

There are also several cases of Pikholz men whose names appear on birth records as fathers, but with two or three different mothers. In some of those cases, I think these are the same man, but I cannot record that as such. I can only write "probably the same as..."

Birth surnames
Even more common than women without given names are women without birth surnames.

So what is Rachel's maiden name?
Just recently, I sent my second cousin Ruth a copy of her parents' 1936 Brooklyn marriage certificate. Where it specifically says "Mother's maiden name," Ruth's father had written "Rachel." We had to find the marriage record for his sister to learn the mother's maiden name.

And often, when a form says "Mother's name" the surname given is her married name, which is usually NOT her birth name.

The Pikholz Project currently has with many such women with the surname "XXXXX."

Who is the Pikholz?
We also have couples in the old records where it is not clear whether the Pikholz is the husband or the wife or both. As we know, marriages were not always recorded with the authorities, so the children were given the mother's surname and often the father used it as well.

I think in the appropriate Given Name Analysis pages, I have recorded all these using no surnames for either of the couple and including both the husband and the wife.

The DNA angle
As I have mentioned here before, we have few dozen people whose autosomal DNA tests have shown matches to more than half of the thirty-odd Pikholz descendants who have tested. And there are surely many more. Over twenty have joined the Pickholtz Surname Project at FTDNA to allow me to include them fully in chromosome comparisons - some of which I have discussed here.

I refer to these families as "non-Pikholz" because they have no indication of Pikholz in their families. Some of them have known Galicianer ancestors and some do not. I have taken to explaining that although DNA shows that they and we have common ancestors, they are probably from the pre-surname period, likely the mid-late 1700s, so we cannot define the relationships using the usual tools.

But this period was upwards of two hundred years ago. That's six-seven, even eight generations ago, very much on the periphery of autosomal DNA's usefulness. Surely not all of these dozens of non-Pikholz matching families share common ancestors right about the time surnames were adopted. And it is almost certainly not all to be blamed on endogamy.

There must be something else. I think it's the women.

If the connections between these families and ours go through their women or our women or both, from slightly later, say the early 1800s, surely that would make more sense.

There might even be a way to find hints. The wife of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865) was Sure (=Sara). Her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel. Do any of the non-Pikholz families have a group of given names that might indicate common ancestors?

This would not be proof, but it might be a way to give us some direction. So how about it, non-Pikholz DNA matches?

My list of Pikholz women without surnames

1. Beile. Died in Skalat in 1841 at age sixty. Called "alien" on her death record. That's all we know. The first Beile births in the Skalat area are Henie Beile in the 1840s, Golde Beile on 1865 and several Sara Beile from the mid-1870s.

2. Bassie. Died in Kozowa in 1875 at age sixty. She was married to Moshe Hersch, the son of Nachman. Her children are Ari Leib, Simon, Taube Freude, Josef and Jacob.

3. Chaje Zirl. Married to Isak Elias Zellermayer and had a son Moshe Hersch in 1848. We only know her name from the son's marriage record.

4. Feige. Married to Berl (1789-1877), but she seems to be significantly younger. We have a Feige 1805-75 who may be the same person. Children are Moshe and Sara Bassie, perhaps others. Her husband seems to be the father of Peretz, but she seems too young.

5. Ryfka. Married to Gabriel Riss. That's all we know and this is from a birth to her daughter Brane, who also married a Riss. Brane had children in the period ~1860-1882.

6. Taube. Died in 1872 at age seventy. Married to Mordecai. Children are Chana Chaje, Enie, Dwojre, Chaim Yaakov and Arie Leib.

7. Sara. Married to Nachman (~1795-1865). As I said above, her children are Moshe Hersch, Alte, Arie Leib, Itzik, Basie, Pessie, Ciril Abraham Getzel and probably Gabriel.

8. Sara. Married to Gabriel (~1822-1852) a "man of Skalat" who lived in Husiatyn. Childen are Moshe, Chana and probably Schia. (It is possible that Sara is the Pikholz and Gabriel is not, but I don't think so.) I discussed this family in detail here

9. Eliezer (Leiser). (Yes I know he is not a woman, but bear with me.) Eliezer died in 1878 at age fifty-six and was married to Chana Chaje, the daughter of Mordecai and Taube (above).  We haven't a clue what his surname might have been but since he was a levi, we know he was not a Pikholz. He used the name as his own.

All these above are from Skalat or nearby. I do not see this problem in Rozdol.


One more category
Now that I think about it, as long as I am giving homework to our non-Pikholz DNA matches, let me list the known maiden names of some of the early Pikholz spouses. Perhaps some of those will fit someone.

In the Skalat area: Nagler, Rechel, Pollak (from Jezierna), Zellermajer, Glisner, Waltuch.

And from the Rozdol area: Steg, Rosenzweig, Kawa, Borek, Krut/Kraut. Also Kranter, a man who married an early Pikholz woman, whose parents are not yet identified.


Housekeeping notes
James Tanner wrote an important three-part series a few weeks ago which reinforces what I believe but never really put into words. It's worth a read, especially in our Jewish world where so much of what people call "proof" just isn't there.  Here is the best part.

Wishing everyone a happy Sukkot holiday. I shall not be communicating with people outside Israel from sundown Wednesday, our time, until Sunday morning..


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Another Corner of the Pikholz Families

Until now, we have had Family Finder (autosomal DNA) results from five Pikholz families identified as being from Skalat.
  1. Descendants of my great-great-grandparents Rivka Feige and Isak Fischel, both of whom are Pikholz, born about 1820. Ten tests plus one descendant of Uncle Selig.
  2. Descendants of Nachman Pikholz (~1795-1865). Four tests.
  3. Descendants of Mordecai Pikholz (~1805-1864). Two tests.
  4. Descendants of three of the five children of Peretz Pikholz (~1820-1873). Three tests.
  5. Descendants of Berisch ben Moshe Hersch (Berisch 1837-1918). One test.

There are an additional eight Skalat families with living descendants, but with no one who has agreed to test. Two of those eight are almost certainly descendants of Nachman.

We also have eleven tests from the Rozdol famlies and two with uncertain origins, but I will not be discussing them today.

In the past three days, three people have signed up for Family Finder tests from two families which are known to be closely related and I would like to think that they will contribute significantly to our understanding of the family structure. I have been begging for tests from two additional family members in one of those lines, one of whom is the only candidate in either of those two families for a Y (male-line) test.


When Sure (=Sara) Pickholz Aptowitzer and her husband Benzion applied in Vienna for an immigration visa to the United States on 7 August 1939, she wrote "that I intend to join distant cousin Samuel Marenus" in Elizabeth New Jersey.

I have assumed that the cousinhood is not really "distant," just that Sara did not know how to define the relationship precisely. If Sam Marenus was not reasonably close, Sara could have named her own brother who had gone to the US a year earlier.

Sam Marenus was about the same age as Sara and both he and his older brother and sister were born in the US, so they clearly didn't know each other in person, before Sara went to the US. His mother Dwojre (Dora) was the daughter of Simon Pickholz of Skalat and was one of four of Simon's children who lived in the US. (The others died in childhood, save perhaps one for whom we have nothing but a birth record.)

So I have been keeping these two families - which I call DORA and ORENSTEIN - together. (Esra Orenstein was Sara's father. Her mother Taube was the Pikholz.)

Sam is Shalom, like Sara's
grandfather. Is this significant?
Complicating any inquiry into the relationship between the two families is the fact that Sara's mother Taube had two Pikholz parents. Her father was Szulim (=Shalom, which was Sam's Jewish name) and her mother was Sara (sometimes written Sara Nesia) the daughter of Moshe Hersch and Jente Pikholz. Sara Aptowitzer was probably named for her maternal grandmother Sara (who died at age forty in 1887), but does not have the second name Nesia.

Sara and Benzion Aptowitzer had two sons, one died six years ago. The other son, Charles, ordered a Family Finder test earlier this week. I took advantage of his order to encourage Sam Marenus' daughter and two of her second cousins to test as well. She did and I think I can thank her brother-in-law Mark Strauss for encouraging that. Mark does genealogy research himself and may be related to us independently.

These two new tests may shed some light on the relationship between the two families. They also may show some connections with other Skalat Pikholz families.
























The two new families being tested are the second and third from the right. But if you notice, the one on the far right is headed by a Moshe Hersch who is probably the same general age as Charles' great-great-grandfather of the same name. If we are lucky, we may find evidence that these two Moshe Hersch are the same person. We'd still need some magic path to actual documentation, of course, but it would be significant progress. More testing in both those lines would help. But unfortunately we don't have many candidates.

(There is another Moshe Hersch about the same age, but he is a son of Nachman and there is nothing to indicate that he may be the same as one of these two.)

But we also have a bit of a wild card in Leonora, whose test is now on its way from here in Israel to Houston . Leonora's mother Taube (named after her aunt, Sara's mother) had four Pikholz grandparents and at least five Pikholz great-grandparents. Leonora's father is from Central Asia and should have no Jewish DNA whatsoever, which should make it a bit easier to look at her matches.

Leonora is therefore a second cousin of Charles on their mothers' side and to the extent we can sort out that side, can help both with the connection to Sam Marenus' line and with the Moshe Hersch question.

The parents of Taube's father Eliezer are first cousins on their mother's side. His father (Isak) Josef is the son of Chana Chaje and his mother Gittel is the daughter of Devorah, both of whom are daughters of Mordecai, the ancestor of Dalia and Lloyd. (Mordecai's line and mine are a perfect Y-37 match, indicating a close common, male-line ancestor for Mordecai and my Isak-Fischel.)

Eliezer's mother Gittel is also the daughter of two Pikholz parents. Her mother Devorah is, as I said, the daughter of Mordecai and her father Berl is the son of the "original" (Isak) Josef.

Note that Eliezer's father (Isak) Josef does NOT seem to be a descendant of the original (Isak) Josef, so I am guessing that there is a close relationship between Mordecai and Old (Isak) Josef. They are about twenty-one years apart (1784 vs 1805), which could be anything - father-son, brothers or further, but I tend to think that it is one of those two. I haven't a clue where we might find more evidence on this, but there are other descendants of Berl-Devorah and of Mordecai's daughter Chana Chaje who might yet be persuaded to give us some DNA.

Housekeeping notes
May you be written and sealed in the Book of Life and have an easy and meaningful fast.

And please accept my apologies if I have offended anyone in this blog over the past year.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The Alexanders

Third cousins

The week began last Friday (well, weeks don't begin on Fridays, but you know what I mean) with the unveiling of the tombstone of Ian (Ziskind Aharon) Alexander, a second cousin of my mother-in-law on her mother's side. The burial was in the Eretz HaChaim Cemetery in Bet Shemesh about eight months ago. As the family is divided between Israel and the US, the unveiling was set to coincide with Yair's wedding. ("Divided" is definitely not the right word, as you will see presently.)

Though a Zionist all his life, with half of his family living here, Ian was not sure he was entitled to be buried here. It  was not a legal question, of course, but a question of "what was right." This modesty of his was a subject of eulogies both at the funeral and at the unveiling.


Yair and Aviva were married Wednesday evening. Yair is the son of Janet, the youngest of the Alexander children, and her husband Harvey. He is the first of Janet and Harvey's to be married. Both families immigrated from the US and the wedding had an ummistakable American flavor, though the overly-loud Israeli band seems to be unavoidable. Both families live in the same mid-sized suburban community (its website says 550 families), one that is often inaccurately stereotyped as being full of "rich Americans."

The photo accompanied the invitation
The third family event of the week was the aliyah of Edna, Ian's wife and the family matriarch, from Elizabeth New Jersey. She will be living quite near Janet and Harvey and we all wish her a successful integration into Israeli life.
At the anniversary party

Edna and Ian were married nearly sixty-seven years. They raised four daughters and four sons, one of whom is deceased. Three now live in Israel, three in New Jersey and one in California.

Ian's parents - Israel & Rose
Ian's father's mother and my mother-in-law's mother's mother are sisters. Ian himself had been born in London but his parents moved to the US when he was a baby and his brothers were born in Brooklyn.

Edna is New Jersey through and through.

Ian's grandparents - Avraham Alexandrovitch
and Fannie (Frumit) Lindenberg
Ian's grandmother arranged the marriage between the childless widower who lived in their building in London and her niece in Poland - my mother-in-law's parents - so it came to be that both Janet and my wife are named for Janet's great-grandmother. When you look at it by whom you are named for, third cousins can be not that distant.

The two oldest Alexanders, Meir and Zahava, came to Israel after high school, not long after my wife's parents moved their family here, so there was some contact between the British and American cousins, but it was not a particularly close bond until the next generation began growing up.


The Alexanders were my first contact with third cousins - certainly not my last - and we learned quickly enough that the particular ordinal number doesn't much matter.

The Alexanders and us 
When I took my first genealogy inventory of my wife's family about eighteen years ago, my father-in-law had a fair picture of the family, but not much detail. We made contact with both Meir and Zahava and the rest is history.

Zahava and Reuven's eldest son Esh-Kodesh was getting married soon and we were invited. The wedding of Kodesh and Inbal was our first exposure to the Alexanders. It was an outdoor wedding, so we could hear each other talk. I went from one to another asking questions (the usual genealogy stuff - names, places, dates, who is named for whom) taking barely legible notes and generally making a nuisance of myself. (Who is this guy, anyway!)

Reuven spoke at length under the huppah, with three year old Deror on his shoulders.

The date was 22 Elul 5757. The date on Yair and Aviva's invitation is 22 Elul, though the wedding didn't actually happen until after sundown.

We took an instant liking to Meir and Sharona and while still at the wedding, arranged that they and their four boys would visit with us during Sukkot. We have been back and forth a few Shabbatot since then. There have been more weddings and in between some bar mitzvahs.

Most of their family in the US tries to attend most of the events, so we have gotten to know them as well. (Oddly enough, the first time I met Sam was in the US because he attends the same shul as one of my Kwoczka cousins I was visiting with in New Jersey.)

The solidarity of the Alexanders has always impressed me and their family events were always fun. They usually seat us among the close family. A few others in my wife's family know some of them, but some do not at all.


In recent years, when it was difficult for Ian to travel, Edna would come and someone would stay in New Jersey with him.

Kodesh and Inbal
Talia was born about nineteen months after Esh-Kodesh and Inbal were married.

Eighteen months later, Kodesh was murdered by a local Arab while working as a civilian guard in a government office in Jerusalem. It was one of the first murders of what became known as the Second Intifada, which killed nearly nine hundred Israeli civilians and wounded over 5600 more. In addition to soldiers.

We attended the midnight funeral, here in Jerusalem. As I recall, there were a few hundred people. Inbal's father spoke at length. Kodesh was not yet twenty-six.

When Inbal married Ofer about a year later, Zahava sent us an invitation, then phoned to make sure we knew it was important to her that we come. ("Which side are you from?" "The dead husband's." A guaranteed conversation stopper.)

We have never been at an Alexander function since, where Inbal was missing. Ofer was there too, most of the time. Including at Ian's unveiling Friday.

At the wedding Wednesday, when I had the idea to write this particular blog, I asked Inbal if she minded my mentioning names. Her reply: "It happened, didn't it?"

Yes, it surely did. Talia is now fifteen.

And now
Pretty much everyone attended the unveiling. Edna, all the seven children and most of the spouses, including the one son-in-law I had never met. Most of the grandchildren living here in Israel were there. And their spouses. And great-grandchildren, some near the grave, watching and listening, others off to the side playing, not understanding what it was all about. A first cousin of Ian's on his mother's side and her family. They had just made aliyah recently. And your humble blogger, a second-cousin-once-removed-in-law.

Harvey ran the service and spoke, as he had at the funeral. Meir spoke, as did Zahava. I apologize for not remembering who else. Perhaps someone from the family can cover that in the comments section below.

Ian had been an airman and a flight instructor in WWII and the service was interrupted three times by helicopter overflights, as though planned.

And Edna, the new immigrant, spoke.

We left knowing we would all see each other again Wednesday. With the Alexanders there is always something in the pipeline. When they go their separate ways, they always seem to know when they will be together again.

(Special thanks to Edna and Janet for allowing me to present this post, using names - not having a clue what I would say about them.)

Housekeeping notes
I hope to be able to stick to my regular blogging schedule during the holiday season. I hope to have enough to say and the time to say it.

In the meantime, may everyone be blessed with a good holiday season and a good year, health and parnassa and may you be written and sealed in the Book of Life.



לְשָׁנָה טוֹבָה תִּכָּתֵבוּ וְתֵחָתִמוּ

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Ruth: Our Mothers, Our Fathers, Our Cousins

Ruth
DNA results are in for my cousin Ruth.

I think this is the one!
Our late mothers are first cousins and and both are named for their great-grandmother Basya Gordon. Though Ruth is quite close to me in age, I am not sure we ever met more than twice. Once was when we spent my sixth birthday in New York - an event made memorable because Cousin Bessie gave me a Mr. Potato Head. The other was the bar mitzvah nearly sixty years ago of Ruth's first cousin Mickey in DC.

Ruth's grandmother is the older sister of my grandfather.

I have just begun testing on my mother's side and Ruth is one of three to test, aside from two of my sisters and me. The other two are my first cousin Kay (our mothers are sisters) and Ruth's first cousin Judy. We have one more test being processed - that one is on my grandmother's side and should help divide the matches between my mother's two sides.

Ruth's Family Finder results have given us information of interest in several different directions.

Everyone in the bottom row has done a Family Finder test.

MtDNA
In addition to the Family Finder, which I'll talk about below, Ruth also did an MtDNA test. That would be the line leading up through Gershon Kugel's wife Zelda. We received the results a month ago. Her haplogroup is R0a4.

Ruth has nine exact MtDNA matches and four more that are one step away. Now that we have her Family Finder results, I looked to see if any of those are close matches. (Three of the nine exact matches have not done Family Finder tests.)

Of the ones who have, most do not match Ruth at all and a few are remote matches. One of the "one-step-away" group is a "third cousin - fifth cousin." As it happens, this is someone I know as a researcher and who is a Facebook friend as well. There is nothing obvious between these two women that would account for a good Family Finder match, but we'll exchange information and see if anything turns up. Of course, the closeness in the Family Finder match me be unrelated to the MtDNA match.

Cyndi
When Judy's results came in about six weeks ago, I was surprised to see that her first match after my sister Sarajoy and me, even before my first cousin Kay, was Cyndi Norwitz. Cyndi is a known fifth cousin of mine on my father's maternal side (Zelinka, from Slovakia) and has no known connections to my mother's side. (For instance, she does not match Kay at all.)

Normally, I do not get involved in matches with peoples' other sides, but this was most unusual so I introduced the women and they began a lively conversation, mostly about Judy's mother's family. I think Judy is hooked. Since we knew we would be getting results from Ruth soon, I suggested we wait to see whether Ruth matched Cyndi or not. If they have a good match and passed the chromosome browser test, we could proceed assuming that Cyndi is connected to the grandfather of Judy and Ruth. If not, we would assume the connection to Cyndi goes through Judy's mother.

Cyndi and Ruth are "third cousin - fifth cousin." Not as close as Cyndi to Judy, but not bad either. There are partial answers in the chromosomes.

Judy and Cyndi match Ruth twice
Here on the left, we see that Judy and Cyndi match on chromosomes 14 and 18

Ruth and Cyndi match Judy five times!




But here on the right, there are three additional matches - on chromosomes 7, 8 and 22.

This appears to be a contradiction, but in fact it is not. Remember we have two of each chromosome, one from the father and one from the mother. FTDNA's results do not differentiate between them. What these results are telling us is that on one hand, the matches on chromosomes 14 and 18 are mutual and come therefore from Eliyahu DovBer, the grandfather of Ruth and Judy.

The matches on chromosomes 7, 8 and 22 are on Judy's two sides. The matches with Ruth (orange) are on Judy's father's side and the ones with Cyndi (blue) are probably on Judy's mother's side. In addition, Cyndi matches Judy on chromosomes 3, 6, 11, 13, 15, 16 and 17 for a total of over 50 cM. These may be on Judy's mother's side as well - or they may be from someplace else entirely. Or they may be matches that Ruth could share, but she simply didn't get those particular bits of DNA.

Oh and to complicate it further - Ruth and Cyndi have some matches that they do not share with Judy. Those are about 25 cM on chromosomes 5, 8, 10 and 16. Here too, they could be from someplace else (Ruth's father?) or they could be part of the match with Judy that Judy just didn't receive.

Unpredictability of DNA
Ruth's match with her second cousin Kay is only about 155 cM, which looks more like a third cousin than a second. That probably has to do with the fact that the adjusting algorithm that FTDNA uses does not know that Kay has no Jewish DNA from her father's side.

On the other hand, we might think that Ruth's matches with my sisters and me should be about the same. We would be wrong. Ruth and I share 496 cM, while neither of my sisters shares as much as 350 cM with Ruth. That's a difference of over forty percent. I am also significantly closer than my sisters to Judy, about 28% closer than Amy but over 50% closer than Sarajoy. I seem to be very much a Gordon!

Adam
I must touch on my obsession with finding my connection to Adam Brown.

Adam and I have a strong DNA match. We both have Kugels from Pleshchenitsy, we both have Gordons and we both have connections to Borisov where my maternal grandmother's Rosenblooms come from. When Kay's results came in a few months ago, we saw that she, Adam and I share a segment of chromosome 6 of almost 11 cM, plus two segnments on chromosome 12 of nearly 13 cM.

I was sure that this was largely on the Gordon/Kugel side and was curious to see what was on the Rosenbloom side.

To my surprise, Judy and Adam are not a match. Ruth and Adam are defined as "fourth cousin - remote cousin" and have a couple of segments in common with me. Kay matches me on segments adjacent to those, but I don't think that is significant.

So maybe we have something with Adam on the Gordon/Kugel side, but for now the Rosenbloom side looks much more promising. We'll know more about that when we see the results for our Rosenbloom cousin.

Fathers
I found it odd, to say the least, that my sisters and I have more that twice as much DNA in common with Ruth than we do with her first cousin Judy. That must come from somewhere.

Then I saw that Ruth is estimated to be a "second cousin - fourth cousin" to my father's brother and sister. And although she is a remote cousin to my father's first cousin Herb, she is not a match at all to my three second cousins on my father's side.

This almost has to come from my grandmother's side. Cyndi has no match with both Ruth and A. Betty/U.Bob, so it's not Zelinka side. I would expect my double second cousin Lee to have something matching, but no.

And even so, where is all this coming from on Ruth's end? From her father, I suppose.

Well, it also turns out that Ruth is a match with twenty-two Pikholz tests! Other than the five in my own personal family, there are only three who are not labelled "remote," two of those are from Rozdol and the third is a Pikholz by adoption, but like us, is from Skalat.

Before I start checking chromosomes for that, I want to find out a bit more about Ruth's father's family. I know his parents' names but not so much as his mother's maiden name. Ruth's parents were married in Brooklyn in 1936, so I have ordered the marriage record which should have his mother's birth name and perhaps where they came from. I have asked Ruth what she knows.

Asking is not always the way to go. Some years ago, one of the cousins sent out a genealogy questionnaire to that branch of the family. Both Ruth's older sister and her father himself reported that her parents were married in 1937 and here the database of the Italian genealogists lists the certificate in June 1936.

Oh how I love endogamy!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Ilan Stern, Ilan Pikholz

The eighteenth of Elul, which falls this week, is the thirty-eighth anniversary of the death of Ilan Pikholz, of Netanya. He was nearly forty.

Ilan is the older brother of Dalia, whom I have mentioned from time to time, generally in the context of DNA matches and analysis.

The younger of Ilan's two sons was the first person in our family DNA project, but I have rarely mentioned him because his test was a Y-37 (male line) rather than the autosomal (Family Finder) that everyone else is doing. That Y-37 test has been of critical importance as it is a perfect match both for my own Y test and for the Y-37 of the only male-line descendant of Nachman Pikholz (1795-1865).

But today's story is about Ilan's birth record, as seen through his Mandatory Citizenship file.

The card with the twelve Pikholz files
When the British Mandate mercifully ended with the establishment of the State of Israel, they turned over the files of those who had become citizens during the time of the Mandatory Government. Not all of them, only those from some time in 1933. And only about seventy percent of those.The existing files are held by the Israel National Archives here in Jerusalem. The whole set of files from 1933 are indexed on cards, arranged by surname. The fourteen thousand plus files from before 1933 are not even indexed.

The fourth line on the card shown Ilan, born 1936 in Hadera in file number 43356, with a note that his name was changed from Ilan Stern. What's that all about - and why, if he was born here in Hadera, was there a citizenship file at all?

The title page of the citizenship file is clear that the child is Ilan Stern whose name was changed to Pikholz  during the citizenship process.

But we know that Ilan and Dalia's parents are Zvi and Sarah Pikholz. Sarah's name was Kaner and Zvi's mother was a Leiter, so where does Stern come from?

There is nothing unusual about the birth certificate, shown below. Ilan was born in Hadera, 27 October 1936 to Zvi Pikholz age 30 and Sarah Pikholz age 26. The birth was registered on 14 November.

The Government of Palestine issued birh certificate number 102223, with everything recorded in both Hebrew and English. What could be simpler?


























The file contains a letter dated 17 May 1938 from Salah (Sarah) Pikholz saying:

I hereby request to change the name of the child Ilan Stern to Ilan Pikholz, born 27 October 1936 in Hadera. At that time, I was married to Stern and he was a Polish citizen. At the same time, I request that you grant citizenship of Eretz Israel to the child, under the name Ilan Pikholz.

So this Stern is the father and he was not a citizen, so Ilan needed citizenship of his own? But we have the real-time birth certificate and the parents are identified as Zvi and Sarah Pikholz. Not Sarah Stern.

Another document in the file - dated 17 May 1938, the same day as Sarah's request for a name change - tells us more.
This "minute sheet" cited four additional documents which were presented in support of the request, but which are not themselves in the citizenship file.

1. Certificate of Naturalization for Berisch Stern, dated 12 August 1937. [This was after Ilan was born - IP].

2. Certificate of Naturalization for Hermann [Zvi - IP] Pikholz dated 13 November 1930.

3. A divorce certificate issued in Petah Tiqva on 7 February 1938.

4. A marriage certificate issued in Petah Tiqva on 9 February 1938.

Ilan, in the citizenship file
This was all very odd, to say the least. Sarah was married to Berisch Stern when Ilan was born, but the birth certificate identified her as Pikholz. If Zvi Pikholz was indeed Ilan's father, as indicated by the birth certificate, then why did Ilan need to undergo naturalization - Zvi had been a citizen since 1930!

And what was I to do with this? I couldn't just make a copy and send it off to Dalia without knowing what she knew of all this.

I phoned her husband, whom I have known since we both lived in Arad. He laughed.

The story, he told me, was typical of many from the days of the British Mandate. Jews could only immigrate if they had certificates and the British had severely limited those, despite the terms of the mandate granted them by the League of Nations to facilitate Jewish immigration.

Berisch Stern had a certificate and Hermann (Zvi) Pikholz did not. So the only way Sarah could enter the country was to present herself as the wife of Berisch Stern. It was a sham marriage, of course, and she was actually married to Zvi all along. Ilan's birth certificate reflected exactly that. But the naturalization authorites had to deal with the marriage to Berisch and the implied Stern surname for Ilan.

Everyone was party to the fiction and from mid-1938 it was all above board. And we know all this was a sham - because Ilan's son's Y-DNA is a perfect match for mine.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
This week is also the anniversary of the bar mitzvah of my friend Dov Gadot. Dov was my first long-term Israeli friend. We started working for Dead Sea Bromine Co. on the same day, thirty-seven years ago and we knew each other slightly before hand. Our jobs brought us into frequent contact, even though we were in different parts of the company. I left the job after five years.

We had nothing at all in common, but we were fast friends. The first three years, I lived in Yeroham and he in Arad. Then for the next eleven we both lived in Arad. We no longer worked together but we arranged to do civil patrols together. Arad became history for both of us and we spoke less frequently. But I would always call or send an email the week of his bar mitzvah.

I knew his wife and kids a bit. He and his wife were a couple from fifth or sixth grade.

This year, I wrote to Dov's widow, just to say that I am thinking of them. He would have been seventy-two. He was my friend.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Uncle Selig's DNA

Uncle Selig - again
One of the linchpins in my Pikholz research has always been a note from father that his grandfather had had an uncle, Selig Pickholz. I discussed Uncle Selig at some length here, here, in my Avotaynu article about Geni and at 31:57 in the recording of the panel discussion about online collaboration at our recent conference.

Here is our starting point, based on the records we have and the the fact that the only mentions of any Selig Pickholz in records are the births of Markus and Fischel Zeiler, the marriage of Fischel, the death on Marcus Pickholz and the birth of Izak Josef Pickholz.

There is one Uscher (=Asher, the Hebrew counterpart of the Yiddish Selig) Pikholz born 1885 but he is in a different corner of the family.

I have shown elsewhere that Selig cannot be the brother of Isak Fischel, so must be the brother of Rivka Feige























Uncle Selig's putative brother Berl had many children, and a number of his descendants are called Isak Josef. Like my grandfather's brother and the "original" Isak Josef, these are known as Josef, without the Isak. I am in contact with a very few descendants of Berl.

But Uncle Selig's line pretty much ends here. The two Zeiler sons both married and Markus had a daughter Bertha in 1896, but that's all we know. Then they disapper.

There is one other nagging question I have always had about Uncle Selig. Why did my father know that he existed? Why did he know that his grandfather - who died when my father was eight years old - have this particular relative? What was so significant about Uncle Selig that my father would have picked up this bit of information?  His one older living cousin never heard of Uncle Selig and the grandfather lived for a time in his parents' house.

Perhaps grasping at straws, I considered that the similarity between Uncle Selig's wife name - Kaczka - and my great-grandmother's name - Kwoczka - hinted at a relationship that would have made Uncle Selig doubly connected to my great-grandfather, but that was never really convincing.

"George"
His name is not really George, but I'll call him that because some of his family members have privacy issues that might be considered extreme. George is a Pikholz descendant whose family is described in the chart below. he did a DNA test last year and although he had a few fairly close matches - including with my father's sister and first cousin - I was not able to get a sense of his place in the overall family. He had relatively few matches altogether but that was due in part to the fact that his mother is not Jewish, so does not bring endogamy into play from her side.
Henryk, Meir, David, Anna's husband and at least two others were physicians








A few weeks ago, in the course of an inquiry George was making into the life of his Aunt Anna, he came across a handwritten Polish document dated 8 July 1929, which was labeled "birth certificate equivalent." Attached to it was a typewritten version. He sent it along to me for comment. He felt it must have had something to do with his father's schooling as he would have been eighteen at the time.

Polish records are harder to work with than Galician records, because they are generally formatted as straight text rather than the columns mandated by the Austrian government in Galicia.

But once I saw the typewritten version, it was simple.

This was the Polish version of the original Galician document, complete with the numbers and Polish-language headings at the top of each column.

It was pretty much standard information, nothing I didn't know. Except column 8. The "sandek or witness" was Selig Pickholz. One of the ancients had suddenly appeared in a 1929 document, that was essentially a transcription of David's 1911 birth record.

I mean, this was hardly likely to be some other Selig. We know of no other Selig. In 1911 he would have been in his eighties, not unheard of, but not where I would ever have expected to see him.

Is David's grandfather - George's great-grandfather - Uncle Selig's son Isak Josef, the one born in 1862? Dropping the Isak to become Josef would be no surprise - that's what they all did. His first son Maurycy was born in 1881, when Selig's Isak Josef would have been just past his nineteenth birthday - but his wife was born about 1864, so 1862 would be perfectly reasonable.

Josef has a granddaughter Chana and another Anna - perhaps named for Uncle Selig's wife, their great-grandmother.

So George would be my fourth cousin and Uncle Selig has living descendants. Maybe. And we have his DNA. Maybe.

Is there a way to be sure?

George's DNA - another look
George and I are not a DNA match. And he does not have a large number of Pikholz matches. But Aunt Betty, my father's sister, is estimated to be his "2nd Cousin - 4th Cousin." My father's first cousin Herb is estimated to be his "3rd Cousin - 5th Cousin." But no match at all to me or my cousin Terry.

The truth is, it's been awhile since I took a close look at George's matches and we have had new results in the last few months.

George is estimated to be a "2nd Cousin- 4th Cousin" to my double second cousin Lee, whose grandfather was Uncle Joe. And a "3rd Cousin - 5th Cousin" to my sister Amy and my father's brother Uncle Bob. On the other hand, he is remote to my sister Sarajoy and no match at all to my second cousin Rhoda and my third cousin once removed Ralph.

I guess that's about what we should expect from a fourth cousin.

I truly think this is right. But we do not quite have the documentation. Uncle Selig could have been the sandak for David without having been his great-grandfather. He could have simply been an esteemed, very old relative. But I don't think so. I think we have it right. I'd like to see one more bit of evidence. I cannot imagine where it might come from.

Why my father knew - revisited
This gives a new direction for the question why anyone ever told my father that his grandfather had an uncle Selig.

Uncle Selig was probably in his early eighties when David was born in 1911. My father was born twelve years later.  If he died in his mid-late nineties when my father was young and it was mentioned at home, my father might well have remembered. That kind of event makes an impression even on a child of four or five. Perhaps he even reached a hundred and that generated some talk in earshot of the young child.


I do not know that a death record for Uncle Selig would fill in the blanks, but it seems to be the next document to look for.

I am also interested in some additional DNA support and have asked several people close to George's side to consider testing. One has agreed thusfar, though has not actually done it.

Friday, August 29, 2014

He Should Be Turning Forty In A Month

Friday, 3 Elul 5774                     

Yochanan was born the third of Tishrei, the day after Rosh Hashanah. He should be turning forty a month from today.


I have known Sammy Hilberg for nearly fifty years and his wife Bryna almost that long. We made aliyah as part of the same gar'in (=settlement group) to Kibbutz Alumim, adjacent to the Gaza fence. Yochanan and his older brother Meir were born while we were all still living on the kibbutz.

We left the kibbutz about the same time - they to Kiryat Arba, adjacent to Hevron, and we to the desert town of Yeroham. We stayed in touch during those first years, which included the birth of their first daughter. Then they moved to Netzer Hazani in the unpopulated southwest corner of the Gaza Strip, not far from the ocean . One of the communities that constituted Gush Katif. Sammy, a mechanic by training, learned to grow hothouse tomatoes.

The first time I saw them in Netzer Hazani was when I was stationed there during a stint in the reserves. Their second daughter was born while I was stationed there. Later they had a third son and a third daughter.

Seventeen years ago, on a Thursday night, the third of Elul, Yochanan and eleven of his comrades in the naval commandos were killed on a mission in Lebanon. He was buried Friday in the Neve Dekalim cemetery in southern Gush Katif.. A month later was his twenty-third birthday.

Bryna spoke every year at the graveside memorial. A military service, with a naval contingent led by officers in white. She spoke as a mother telling us - and Yochanan - how she felt that day and in the days and years since, talking about her inability to fulfill her basic maternal role of protecting her son.

I was able to attend most of those memorial services and some of the weddings as one after another married and began building their own families.

Nine years ago, the Hilbergs, like all the residents of Netzer Hazani and the rest of the Gush Katif communities, became refugees, thrown out of their homes by their own government. The homes were destroyed so as not to turn them over to the Arabs. And the youth center that had been built in Yochanan's memory.

The Arabs destroyed the hothouses for reasons that made some kind of sense to them. It wasn't to build something for their own people.

It was supposed to bring peace with Gaza, as the Arabs were expected to take responsibility for their own welfare. We were no longer to be there and they would have no further excuse to attack us.

Sammy and Bryna and some of the others from Netzer Hazani were resettled on Kibbutz Ein Zurim, with a vague semi-refugee status.

And after eight years less one week, the army dug up Yochanan's body - together with the others buried in Neve Dekalim. Nearly fifty altogether. Many, including Yochanan and another soldier, were reburied in Nitzan, a refugee community on the coast between Ashkelon and Ashdod.

The second full-blown funeral was very difficult, perhaps moreso for the older brother Meir who had been abroad at the time of the first. The navy sent its people, as always; the younger ones no longer having any personal memory of Yochanan and his comrades in arms. 

Sammy announced that this second burial place was to be considered temporary.

A week later, we went back to Nitzan for the annual memorial. There are no words, but Bryna found them then anyway.

In the ensuing years, the silence of the memorial service has been punctuated by the grandchildren. Mostly the same people come. And Bryna speaks. Her mother has a walker now, but is alert and seems well.

This year was different. It wasn't so much Bryna the mother, but Bryna the citizen, speaking for all the residents of the area who have endured the last months of shelling and rockets. She recalled that people who worked side by side with them in the hothouses were now shooting at them. She recalled that some of those same Arabs came to console them when Yochanan was killed. And she recalled that they had been expelled from their homes and their lives in what was supposed to be a move for peace.

Yochanan Avraham ben Bryna and Shemaryahu Shemuel should be turning forty in a month. He has been in his temporary grave in Nitzan for nine years, a year longer than in Neve Dekalim.

May his soul be bound in life,
may G-d avenge his blood
and may his family and all of Israel find peace.
The cover of the memorial book, produced by family and friends

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Breakfast at Poale Zedeck

Last year, my son concluded thirteen years as rabbi of a small congregation in suburban Chicago. During a number of those years, he and his family - his wife and six sons - would vacation at the yeshiva in Lakewood New Jersey, driving both ways. It is a long drive and usually they would stop overnight in Pittsburgh at Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken's.

This is the story of one of those stopovers.

The year Avrohom turned thirteen.

Before the big event
I went to Washington DC for the IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, after a few days in Baltimore (another story for another time). The Conference ended Friday and Elliot Greene dropped me at the airport in Philadelphia where I picked up a rental car and drove to Lakewood.to spend Shabbat with the kids. (I told a story mentioning that Lakewood visit here.)

I spent a very pleasant day with the family, my son his wife and five of their six boys. Their second son, Avrohom, was in camp in Cleveland. The plan was that Abrohom would meet up with the family in Pittsburgh, getting a ride from Cleveland with one of the Pittsburgh boys at camp. But that wasn't going to work out, so I became the back-up plan.

Avrohom's thirteenth birthday fell while he was at camp, and they made a bit of a thing about his becoming a bar mitzvah. The bigger,family celebration was to be the Shabbat immediately after returning to Chicago, with a Sunday evening planned at Skokie Yeshiva for more family, classmates etc.

The kids' trip back to Chicago from Lakewood included Wednesday night in Pittsburgh. Wednesday night, meaning Thursday morning. I saw an opportunity and everyone signed off on it.

























 From my great-grandfather down to my grandson. That's six generations.

It was not meant to be something big. The invitation went out to family members in Pittsburgh, including some we barely knew, as well as to a few old classmates of mine.

Pittsburgh Week - the first days
Sunday I returned the rental car in Philadelphia and flew to Pittsburgh where I picked up another. Sunday, Monday and Tuesday I did alot of visiting with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken and Monday I did a round of cemeteries on the north side of Pittsburgh. Probably a dozen of them.

Sig Rosenzweig - Zelig ben Moshe
Tuesday morning my wife arrived from Israel, to join the party.

Wednesday I drove to Cleveland to pick up Avrohom from camp. On my way up I stopped at the Ridge Road Cemetery where I photographed nine family graves. On the way back to Pittsburgh, Avrohom and I went to the Kinsman Road cemetery and visited the grave of my grandmother's brother Sig Rosenzweig who had died in1918 of influenza. He was twenty-seven.

The inscription is very difficult to read and finding the grave took quite a long time. I am guessing that we were the first family members to visit in decades.

Once in Pittsburgh, we made a stop at the Old Poale Zedeck Cemetery in Sheraden, where we visited the graves of my great-grandparents Regina and Moritz Rosenzweig (he of the shul building committee), my grandparents, Uncle Joe and Aunt Helen and some other family members. Avrohom appeared interested.

By the time we got back to the house, my son and family were there.

Thursday
Everyone was up early Thursday. How could we not be.

There had been some serious flooding earlier in the week, with deaths, and there would be more in another month, but this night was wind. And fallen trees. Rain as well.

We were only five houses away from the shul, but even that was something of a project. A number of our local guests did not make it, much as many had missed my own bar mitzvah years before due to an eighteen-inch snowfall the day before.

But we had out-of-town guests, despite the fact that we had only invited locals. Uncle Bob and his wife drove in by trailer from Baltimore ("Why go to a party in Chicago where there is an actual Torah-reading in Pittsburgh?") His daughter Linda - never one to miss a family occasion - came up from West Virginia. Three Kwoczka cousins - two of whom I had met less than two weeks previous - drove up from Baltimore. And a "new" third cousin from the South Hills and a classmate from Fox Chapel came despite the weather.

And sometime along the way, we heard that my great-grandfather, Moritz Rosenzweig, had made an appearance. He was on the building committee, but died in 1928, weeks after the first High Holiday services in the new building, but while they were still holding services in the old building in the Hill District. His wife had a stained glass window installed in his memory, at the top of the front wall of the main sanctuary, to the right of the Aron Kodesh. There was a heavy glass plaque.

During Shabbat services, less that two weeks previous, the plaque fell and shattered. They say it nearly hit the shul's executive director on the head.

It was as though Great-Grandfather was saying that we shouldn't forget him on this occasion.

We had the regular Thursday morning service. Avrohom read the Torah. I was saying kaddish for my mother that year, so there was that.
Afterwards we adjourned to the social hall downstairs, a room that had seen many family celebrations over the years. A buffet breakfast with enough left over that the kids made sandwiches for the drive to Chicago.


I spoke. My son spoke.



On the occasion of my father's bar-mitzvah seventy-five years previous, his grandmother, the wife of Moritz Rosenzweig, had given him a set of five machzorim, with the prayer services for the holidays.. Those came to me after my father died and I had them rebound a couple of months earlier. There - in the same place where my father had celebrated his own bar mitzvah - I turned them over to my grandson.

Afterword
Then everyone went home.

And because I have just spent a full week with Aunt Betty and Uncle Ken while in town for my DNA course. After having spent three days with Uncle Bob and Ro in Maryland.