Sunday, June 24, 2012


When this Pittsburgher first began having New York friends, they would always ask me how I am related to Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland, whose five sons went to Yeshiva University. In fact, over the years, most everyone I have ever met from Cleveland has asked that as well. Sometimes I joke that this is why I do genealogy - when my time comes after a hundred and twenty, I will no doubt be asked that again and I would be well advised to know the answer.

In the course of my genealogy work, I have corresponded by email with two of the sons of Rabbi Pickholtz and even had the occasion to speak with the rabbi himself on the phone, but it never worked out that I actually met any of them.

Soon after we moved to Jerusalem four years ago, we learned that Noah Pickholtz, the middle son of the youngest son of Rabbi Pickholtz, was studying at a yeshiva not far from us. We had him over for lunch and although it was very nice, it turned out to be a one-time thing.

We kind of kept up on his doings - mostly via the grapevine and Facebook - as he went into the army and eventually became engaged to Michal. We invited him to some of our activities, but as I say, it never worked out.

So we were really pleased to receive an invitation to the wedding, which was last Monday evening, not far from Jerusalem. Aside from the simcha itself, I was looking forward to meeting whatever of his family would be coming from the US. I don't think his father and I had ever had contact (though he had been in contact with my son in suburban Chicago on shul business), but I had a bit of contact with some of his father's brother's families.

I had also heard from Noah's older brother on the births of each of his four girls.

A couple of weeks before the wedding we received a Facebook invitation to the kiddush they were making the Shabbat before the wedding. It was at a shul about thirty minutes' walk from here, so we said we would be there. (It was a hot day and the walk was mostly uphill.)

I met his parents. (His father says "You are the one from the website." I suppose that's one way to put it.) And we met the bride's parents - they are from Basel Switzerland. I introduced my self to people as the Pickholtz genealogist, without getting into specific relationships.

The wedding itself was nice. It actually started on time. Since both families live abroad, most of the guests were friends of the couple, so we older folks were distinctly the minority. We met Noah's brothers and his sister-in-law. We sat at a table full of Clevelanders.

There were four people there named "Mrs. Pickholtz." During our trip to the US last summer, there were three occasions where there were three, but it has been some years since I have been with four. There should be a photograph which includes all of them - and the men too.

The family structure
So now you know why I am writing about this particular family at this time. Let me explain the structure.

The late Rabbi Isidore (Israel) Pickholtz was one of four children of Berisch and Golde Pickholz. That's Pickholz for both of them. They said they were cousins and some of the descendants took that to mean first cousins, which as you can see below is incorrect.

Berisch and Golde were both born in Rozdol, east Galicia. The four children were all born in Galicia and they went to the US in the early 1920s. Berisch went first, with some of his brother's family and Golde went with the children in 1924, after the quota system had been instituted - a fact which necessitated some "special payments."

To the right is an outline of eight generations of the family, beginning with Isak and Feige Pikholz (maybe one couple or maybe two with the same names - a discussion for another time) and going down to Noah and his brothers. Nine, if you add in Dov and Tammy's four girls.

It is clear that Berisch and Golde are, at best, second cousins.

We accept as axiomatic that the generation above Isak and Feige is Pinkas and Sara Ryfka Pikholz and that all the Pikholz families from Rozdol are descended from this couple. I think that the name Pikholz came from Sara Ryfka, rather than Pinkas.

Our family website has more detailed information about the family of David and Serka Pikholz (the grandparents of Berisch) and that of Hersch Leib and Sara Pikholz (the grandparents of Golde), for those who are interested.

Are you related to Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland?
None of this addresses the original question about my relationship to "Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland."

My Pikholz family - as I have written here before - comes from Skalat, about a three-four hour drive from Rozdol in today's conditions. The Skalat families go back further than the original Rozdol couple and there are more of them. It is possible that Sara Ryfka, the wife of Pinkas of Rozdol, came from Skalat around 1800, but there doesn't seem to evidence of that. Not even a significant overlap of given names.

So the answer to the question remains as it has always been - not that we know of.

Oh and let's not forget:



  1. I have Kopelman cousins like that. Except we know we're related, though we'll probably never run down the exact relationship.

  2. I started hearing that question the summer of 1970, when I was a camper at Young Israel Camp Stone somewhere in Pennsylvania. Most of the campers were from Cleveland.

    1. Jeff was over here this morning. He says the kids in Cleveland called them "Pickles," "Dill" etc too.

    2. Camp Stone is still going strong. It's located near Sugar Grove, PA, about 25 km S of Lake Chautauqua, NY. The current director and his wife, Yehuda and Adina Rothner, commute each year from the Gush.

  3. Enjoyed the post, Israel. Yours and Varda's comment reminds me that I am not alone in trying to nail down those "floater" relatives - the ones who must/may somehow be related, although we cannot figure out the connection (and cannot put them on our tree).