Sunday, December 2, 2012


Hersch Leib Pikholz, of Rozdol, died on 26 November 1880 - two days before Hanukkah - at age 45. It was a Friday.  The year was like this year, with the first candle Saturday night. He was buried Sunday. The yahrzeit later this week is the reason I am writing about him today..
Hersch Leib is (more or less - it's a complicated story for another time) the head of a family which I call IF1, and a number of his descendants follow the Pikholz Project research.

Hersch is the Yiddish equivalent of Zvi, or occasionally Naftali. Leib is the Yiddish equivalent of Yehudah or Aryeh. So he would have been called Hersch Leib, but his proper, formal name was most likely Zvi Yehudah or Zvi Aryeh.
All the documents we have that relate to him say "Hersch Leib" and the daughter who was born after he died was called Ciwye Libe. Seven of his ten children died in Europe (probably all in Rozdol) and we do not have gravestone images for them. One went to New York and is buried there. Another went to South America and we have a grave for his son Hersch in Johannesburg. (There is one daughter for whom all we have is a birth record, so we know nothing about her.)

Shelomo ben
Israel Zvi Yehudah

Israel Zvi Yehudah
ben Shemuel
Both graves use the name Yehudah rather than Aryeh, for Leib, but they also introduce a third name - Israel - in front of Zvi.

Furthermore, though sons Solomon and Avraham had sons named Hersch Leib, one daughter had a son Israel Leib and another son and daughter each had a son named Israel Hersch.

On the other hand, on the birth records for his daughters' children, his name always appears as Hersch Leib (no Israel). And these were records created after Hersch Leib died.

So despite the fact that the records generated in his lifetime, the death record and the birth records of the daughters' children all say Hersch Leib, there is obvious credence to the name Israel, both on gravestones and among certain descendants.

My guess here is that the name Israel was added during his illness - he died of typhus - and his children were not completely settled on whether to preserve it as part of his name.

Yitzhak ben Avraham Ilan in Holon
But there is another problem. His son Avraham was killed in the Holocaust, but Avraham's son Yitzhak came to Israel before the war and changed his name from Pickholz to Ilan. As is common in that generation, Yitzhak's gravestone commemorates his family who were killed in the Holocaust, including his father "Avraham ben Israel." No Zvi, no Yehudah.

Yitzhak's daughter named her younger son after her great-grandfather Hersch Leib, but did not use his full name. She called him Aryeh. Not Yehudah. She said that's what her father had given her as the second part of Hersch Leib's proper name.

Of course, it would have been simple - and probably correct - to dismiss this Aryeh as an error, since Yitzhak did not know his grandfather Hersch Leib, while Solomon and Shemuel and the others did. But since there is someone walking around with this name, perhaps due to an error, I wanted to clear it up. Unfortunately there seemed to be no additional source of information on the matter.

But in fact, there is. Not direct proof, to be sure, but convincing nonetheless.

Kollel Hibat Ziyon in Mea Shearim,
where the collection records are held
Beginning about a hundred seventy-five years ago, there was an organization in Galicia which collected money to send to Galicianers living in Jerusalem in the most miserable conditions. Most of the records of those collections were lost when the Old City of Jerusalem fell to the Arabs in 1948, but the records for the last fifteen years before 1939 exist and are eminently accessible.

These collection records are pretty simple - just a list of names in Hebrew and amounts donated by each person. No other identifying information or addresses or anything - just the date of the collection. Some of these collections were done annually, some several times a year, depending on the community.

A sample page, from Brzesko
(Brigel). Rozdol pages are
very poor quality.
In the case of Rozdol, I was surprised to see that there were no contributions by anyone named Pikholz, despite the fact that Rozdol was the place that all the Pikholz families from that area had come from. There are no lists of Holocaust victims from Rozdol, but from our own records we know that there were Pikholz families there at the time. Certainly in the late 1920s. Eventually, I realized what had happened. The person in charge of collections for Rozdol, Pinchas Kerner, was himself a Pikholz son-in-law and he knew all the families personally, so instead of writing out the name each time, he simply wrote P"H as a personal shorthand.

As it happened, there were three of these Avraham P"H in Rozdol and he distinguished among them on his collection lists by the fathers' names - Avraham ben David, Avraham ben Pinchas and Avraham ben Hersch Leib. But on at least one occasion, he wrote Avraham ben Zvi Yehudah. Not only did Pinchas Kerner know the family well, but he was receiving the contribution from Avraham himself.

I believe that settles it. I have not told Aryeh's mother that she gave her son the wrong name.


  1. Good figuring, and I think you showed excellent good sense there at the end. Your Mother would be most pleased. The loss of those records is interesting. but the few remaining record were helpful. Were there Rozdol people living in Jerusalem? Were they donating to people they might have known?

    1. There are some records of people who received the distributions, but we don't have anyone recognizable.

  2. You say tomato and I say tomahto. It means the same thing, right? (Aryeh/Yehuda. It's the thought that counts.

    1. That's one way to look at it, of course, but then what's the difference if someone was born in 1840 or 1850? We do genealogy hoping to get everything as right as we can.