Sunday, January 28, 2018

Hillel Academy Reunion, With A New Genealogy Contact

My eighth grade class
Top: Fred, Bonnie, VeraG, Bayla, VeraB, Faygie, Beverly, Miryam, Mrs Belle
Middle: R' Rottenberg, R' Shapiro, Mr. Schoenbrun, R' Poupko, R' Teitelbaum
Bottom: Marc, Jack, your humble blogger, Rich
I attended Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh for grades seven through ten. Those years were significant and they made an important contribution to who I am today.

The week before last, the school sponsored an evening reunion for alumni in Israel. (Their definition of "alumni" is, shall we say, liberal - not limited to graduates of eighth or twelfth grades.) The reunion was in Modiin, about a forty-five minute drive, and I actually attended, together with my cousin Bobbi and her sister Tamar.

There were probably sixty people or so there, including some spouses of alumni. I counted six who are older than I and a few others who are old enough that I knew them back then. I think I am the only person from my eighth grade class here in Israel, though I know of one who left after sixth grade. Quite a few alumni from my age cohort were no-shows. I wore my bright yellow "DNA My Kind of Acid" shirt, which attracted a bit of attention.

We arrived just as the microphone circulated for introductions. Dov Bloom mc'd, new immigrant Rachelee Brog Sacks (Hillel's first female graduate) spoke, as did Barnea Selavan.

I also met Gary Coleman, who was seated at the next table. I have known his name for years but I don't think we ever met. I knew that he was in kindergarten with my sister Amy, but he didn't remember that. He mentioned that he is a cousin of Yaacov Temes, who is related to my cousins Rhoda, Roz and Marty, grandchildren of my grandfather's sister Aunt Becky and her husband Harry Katz. It turns out that Gary's mother is an Elinoff and I know her mother Chaje/Clara Katz to be Uncle Harry's sister.

So why does this matter? I mean it's the family of my grandfather's sister's husband. Not part of my gene pool. And I don't have any particular interest is other similarly tangential families. What's special here?

Well, there are two things. First of all, Uncle Harry, Gary's grandmother Chaje and Yaacov's grandmother Feige Malka are three of the ten children of Mordecai Katz and Beile (maybe Beile Nesia) Zwiebel. Beile's sister Jutte (maybe Jutte Leah) Zwiebel was married to Pinchas Kwoczka the brother of my great-grandmother. Their great-grandsons Pinchas and Aaron are my third cousins. They are third cousins of Rhoda, Roz and Marty the same way I am. But Rhoda, Roz and Marty are also third cousins of Pinchas and Aaron via Beila and Jutte Zwiebel's parents Shimon Leib Zwiebel and Ester Chava Lewinter.
Gary and Yaacov are the only living people in this chart who have not done DNA tests.

I have referred to this double relationship in my Lazarus presentation.

All these families - Kwoczka, Zwiebel, Lewinter, Katz and Pikholz - were from the Tarnopol area of east Galicia and undoubtedly have additional relationships further back, that we don't know about.

But it gets better. As I wrote nearly seven months ago, Rhoda, Roz and Pinchas share a segment of chromosome 21 with the descendants of my great-great-grandparents Shemaya Bauer and Feige Stern who - like several generations of their ancestors - lived in Hungary. So somewhere back in genealogy time, some Bauer or Stern ancestor of mine is also an ancestor of an unidentified Zwiebel or Lewinter. Back in time but recent enough that a segment of at least 13 cM has been preserved from each side.

I have found a number of strangers who share that segment of chromosome 21, but thus far none of them has had any useful information to contribute.

I found it interesting that Gary did not know of his Fleischman cousins and the others descended from Sarah Chana Kwoczka but he does know the family of Aaron, whose grandmother is Sarah Chana's sister.

Neither Gary nor Yaacov has done DNA testing (yet!) and we have no known cousins who are unambiguously Lewinters or Zwiebels on one hand or Bauers or Sterns on the other, so we have no clue where we might find the common ancestor. Yet!

Housekeeping notes
I plan to be in Chicago for my grandson Mordechai's bar mitzvah the first weekend in May. If any program directors are interested in having me speak in the days immediately before or after that weekend, please drop me a note.

I made a kiddush in shul this past week to mark my mother's seventh yahrzeit and while I was at it, my granddaughter's engagement.

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