Thursday, August 15, 2019


The following email landed in my inbox over the weekend.


For those not familiar with the area, Radautz 47°51' N 25°55' E is 31 miles (50 km) south of Chernovitz. Both are in historic Bukovina which is just south of east Galicia. It was part of the Austrian Empire but now the two towns are on opposite sides of the border between Ukraine and Rumania. 
We have two Pikholz families who lived in Radautz, both of them descendants of  Mordecai and Taube Pikholz of Skalat. Mordecai is almost certainly the brother of my great-great-grandfather. 

Moshe and Freide Pikholz
Mordecai and Taube's daughter Chane Chaje (~1823-1896) was married to a man named Eliezer (~1822-1878) a Levi who went by his wife's surname - we do not know what surname he was born with.
Eliezer and Chane Chaje's (first-born) son Chaim (~1849-1910) had eight children that we know of, one of whom is Moshe, who married Friede Kruk of Radautz and at least some of their children were born there. Four of those birth records are included in this project.

Moshe and Freide's son Leiser came to Israel and I know his two children. Moshe's other children were killed in the Shoah. The interesting thing that we see in the index is that Freide is called Kruk/Kruck (pronounced Krik) on three records, but is Ellenberg on the 1906 record of the daughter Chane Chaje. My first instinct is to say that Freide's two parents are Ellenberg and Kruk, though it is not clear which is her father and which is her mother. At least not from the index.

The actual records clarify it for us. Leiser's birth record shows Freide's surname as Ellenberg, but that is crossed out and Kruk is written in its place. That sounds to me as though Ellenberg is her father and Kruk her mother and someone realized afterwards that their marriage was not registered. They are from Kolomea.
The record of the youngest of the four - Raizie Mindel - specifies that Freide's parents are indeed Israel Ellenberg and Jente Kruk.
Freide's own birth record does not appear in the Kolomea records, but her sisters' do. And her mother Jente's 1911 death gives the names of HER parents.

Benjamin Hersch and Rivka Bernstein
I have not seen any relevant death records in the Radautz database, but there are some marriages and in particular this:
Benjamin Hersch Bernstein, born 1876, married Rifke Pikholz, born 1877. Rifke is the daughter of Chaim Jankel and Gitel of Olsowze. We know Chaim Yaakov (Jankel) and his wife as the head of our Buczacz family. Chaim Yaakov is the son of Mordecai and Taube Pikholz of Skalat.

I do not see a listing for Olsowze in the JewishGen Gazeteer, but there is a village called Olesha 49°07' N 25°16' E, which is 6.5 miles from Buczacz which could be the right place.

We know of five children of Benjamin Hersch and Rifke - Chaim Juda, Rachel Ziwje, Isak, Abraham and Gitel - and the Radautz database has all five birth records.
These five records confirm what we already know and do not add  anything knew aside from the births themselves. I had been hoping to find the surname of Rifke's mother Gittel.

The Bernstein clan lived in Radautz and the children of Benjamin Hersch and his brother have given names in common, so it will take a bit of additional analysis to identify the next generation in the Radautz records. (Note to self...)

I have had contact with a few descendants here in Israel, but they have been singularly uncooperative.

I really appreciate the work of Bruce, Edgar and their team in getting this material transcribed and making it available at no charge.

Housekeeping notes - coming attractions
22 August 2019, 6:30 – Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh, Multi-purpose Room of the Heinz History Center
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?
25 August 2019, 1:30 Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland, Pikesville Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road
I shall be part of the Ask The Experts panel
27 August 2019 -  Wake Forest University Campus, 1834 Wake Forest Road, Winston -Salem, NC, sponsored by university's Office of Jewish Life.
4:00 - (Student program) Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
5:15 - (open to the public) Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Monday, August 12, 2019

Pittsburgh, Baltimore, North Carolina

22 August 2019, 6:30 – Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh, Multi-purpose Room of the Heinz History Center
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

25 August 2019, 1:30 Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland, Pikesville Library, 1301 Reiserstown Road
I shall be part of the Ask The Experts panel

27 August 2019 -  Wake Forest University Campus, 1834 Wake Forest Road, Winston -Salem, NC, sponsored by university's Office of Jewish Life.
4:00 - (Student program) Lessons in Jewish DNA: One Man’s Successes and What He Learned On the Journey
5:15 - (open to the public) Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

Sunday, August 4, 2019

The Parents of the MoĊ›ciska Fathers

A few weeks ago, this dropped into my inbox.
Subject: New records on the All Galicia Database
From: Gesher Galicia SIG <>
Date: Tue, 9 Jul 2019 11:38:03 +0100
X-Message-Number: 3

New vital records and Jewish taxpayer records are now available for all
to search on the All Galicia Database <>.

A. Vital records
- Mielnica (Melnytsya). Jewish deaths, 1820-1851 (162 records)
- Mosciska (Mostyska). Jewish births, 1909-1924 (1,259 records)
- Witkow Nowy (Novyi Vytkiv). Jewish births 1829-1861 (447 records)
As is my wont, I had a look, using the "Records added" option and choosing "in the past month."

The search produced two results, both in Mosciska (also known as Mostyska) which is about a third of the way from Przemysl to Lwow. It is not a town where I have ever seen any Pikholz.

The results included a major surprise. Look at what I marked in red.
The standard Galician birth records list the parents of the mother - and in Lwow the mother's mother's birth surname, at least in some years - but nothing about the father aside from his home town and occupation. But look at what we have here. 

In the first record, it shows both of the father's parents, with given names and birth surnames, as well as the mother's hometown. But oddly, not the father's. It also tells us where the parents of the child were married. The second record has all that, except the mother's surname.

This is a very big deal and I have not seen it in any other towns. There are not a lot of Mosciska birth records in JRI-Poland but the ones I found in the early 1900s had this information as well. So my impression is that this is a local custom, rather than one that simply showed up after the First World War.

How I wish we had those in Rozdol, Skalat and elsewhere!

In the case of Hirsch, the son of Benjamin Pickholz and Reisel Lowin, I did not know the parents of Benjamin. I have a birth record for Benjamin and did not have a wife or children for him. Without the paternal information in Mosciska, I would have had no way of identifying the one in this birth record as the one in the 1893 Rozdol birth.

The second record is from the Skalat part of the family. I know the maternal grandmother; she married in Podwoloczysk and her Pikholz mother was from Husiatyn. In fact, I already have both her 1893 birth record and her Podwoloczysk marriage record. This new birth record, from Mosciska, gives us the son Mechel.

Mechel's mother Brane has three grandchildren here in Israel and this record has given me another opportunity to break their collective silence on all things genealogical. One was once a neighbor of mine and all he was willing to say is "We are not from Galicia, WE are from VIENNA!".

Housekeeping notes
1. I shall be in the US for two weeks, beginning two weeks from now, visiting some of my elders. I have one presentation planned and two or three others pending.
22 August 2019, 6:30 – Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh, Multi-purpose Room of the Heinz History Center Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

2. Family Tree DNA is having a sale through August. Here are the major discounts. There are additional discounts on upgrades.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Some Coming Events

Looking past the wedding of my son Devir Tuesday and my subsequent move to Ashkelon next Monday, I am planning a quick trip in August to see some of my elders in West Virginia and Pittsburgh. While I am there I am planning to see my grandchildren in Piscataway and ending up in Baltimore.

Steve Jaron of the Jewish Genealogy Society of Pittsburgh has arranged for me to give a presentation at the Heinz at 6:30 on 22 August. Details as they become available. The subject will be
Why Did My Father Know That His Grandfather Had An Uncle Selig?

This will be my first presentation at the JGS in my home town

We are working on a couple of other things as well.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Skalat: Seventy-Six Years later

The Skalat synagogue, which when I visited
nineteen years ago, was a warehouse.
We met as usual in the Holon cemetery at five-thirty on the day after Shavuot - the second day of the holiday for those in Exile - to commemorate the final destruction of the Jewish community of Skalat seventy-six years ago. There were twenty-seven of us, largely children and grandchildren of the Segal and Sarid (Weissman) families.

There were four actual survivors - Yocheved, Bronia, Lea and Giza. Giza and I discussed her uncle Munio Pickholz, the brother of Rosa the Teacher whose story is told in the two Skalat yizkor books. She was happy to hear that I had finally identified the family of Rosa and Munio, whom I believe to be third cousins of my father.

Mention was made of Mali (Malka) Tenenboim who died last year. She was from Skalat as was her husband Reuven who grew up in nearby Zbarazh.

Zvika Sarid led the program, as usual. Zvi Segal read Psalm 130 and everyone said kaddish together. Zvika read a testimony from Chaika Kavar (Sass) that appears in the yizkor book.

He also read two questions and answers from an interview (a school project) that his eldest grandson did with Yocheved. I bring them here with permission. The translation is my own.

Were you angry with God?

Yocheved and her great-grandson David
My mother said [when I was young] that there is a God in heaven and he directs things from above. We, the humans, do not always understand, therefore I was never angry with God. On the other hand, I did not understand what He was doing. There were many observant [Jews] in town and some said that they were no longer believers. Master of the Universe, how can such a thing be that they come and take us away and where is He and why does He not watch over us? I was of two minds [as a child] but I was concerned [with survival] and did not go into the question deeply. Reality was difficult and I was just a child. I had no childhood and [by then] I had no mother to ask. So I thought that perhaps part of the heavenly plan was that some of should survive to tell the story... and that is what made me observant. Such a difficult time...

Will you bless me?

David, my dear first-born great-grandson, it is a privilege to bless you on your sixteenth birthday. During the Shoah, we could not even dream of [future] family - children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and here you are growing up right in front of me, the realization of a dream. Therefore I wish for you that your own dreams come to fruition, that you succeed in your every endeavor, that you fulfill your own self, to [continue to] develop in health and to be an example to your younger siblings. And that you succeed in your own way.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

It's Time To Go Home

I was in high school when I decided (maybe "realized" is a better word) that I wanted to live in Israel. I came for a year on kibbutz when I was nineteen and stayed most of a second year, in Jerusalem. Then went back to the US to prepare myself for aliyah. I felt it was the right thing - the only thing - to do.

I arrived back in Israel on the eleventh of Tammuz, forty-six years ago.

During those four years in Chicago, I became a member of a gar'in, a group who were planning to live on kibbutz together. Most of those were people I knew.  We were assigned to Kibbutz Alumim, in the south, abutting the Gaza fence.

Things were different then. Of course Gaza was hostile and the army checked the fence daily, but during the watermelon harvest, we drove into Gaza on tractors, pulling loads of watermelons to the packing facility on the other side.

Those days are long gone, of course, as are my own days on kibbutz. I was there two years, which included six months of army service (artillery) to prepare me for reserve service which didn't fully end until I was fifty-six, by which time my service was driving a jeep for combat troops in the Judean Hills. The last years, I served as a volunteer because I thought it was the right thing to do.

Back in my artillery days, we generally did - in addition to training - about three weeks each year patrolling in Gaza, including in Gaza City itself. We could walk freely, with our guard up, in most parts of Gaza. It was rare indeed when we encountered hostile activity. They knew better than to try.

My next stop was Yeroham, a development town deeper in the south. Where the promise of tomorrow was always just out of reach.

I was there for five years, working mostly in the Beer Sheva offices of a company whose chemical plants were at the Dead Sea and nearer Beer Sheva in the middle of nowhere. "Nowhere" being the desert, but it was becoming home.

That was followed by eleven and a half years in Arad, a much larger town - now a city - east of Beer Sheva. And I spent more time in the desert and on its roads. The paved and the unpaved.

Occasionally I would pick up hitchhiking elderly Beduin men and a couple of times Beduin stopped to help when I had car trouble.

After eighteen and a half years living and working in the south, I moved to Elazar, in Gush Etzion, a bloc of communities about fifteen minutes south of Jerusalem. It is a community where you have to be accepted for membership. I declined.

For sixteen years I lived there while working in Yeroham. Most of the time, I would leave at 4:15 in the morning, drive to Beer Sheva, go to a 5:40 minyan and ride the 6:35 company bus to Yeroham, where work began at seven. There were a few years when I did that only three days a week - the other two days I'd work late and sleep over in Yeroham.
Often I would drive all the way to the office. The road through Susya had all of two stop signs from start to finish.

I felt as though I owned those roads of the Southern Hevron Hills. At first, there was no by-pass road and I would drive through the city of Hevron itself, especially when I'd stop to see my mother in Arad on the way home. The early morning fog was mine. The view of the fog from the mountaintop into the valley made Arad look like Teverya on the edge of Lake Kinneret.

During the run-up to Ariel Sharon's infamous expulsion of the Jews from Gush Katif fourteen years ago, I spent some nights and days among the protestors.

I participated in the human chain from Gaza to Jerusalem to protest Sharon's refusal to accept the results of the referendum which had rejected his plan.

I was one of the tens of thousands spending nights and days at the Kefar Maimon protests - and generally I am not someone who attends protests. It was not just that we all knew that Gaza would end badly nor it was simply the government's trampling of democracy; it was also the very fact that our government was surrendering our patrimony.

A few of the Kefar Maimon protestors

And I drove in the procession escorting Yochanan Hilberg to his new grave after the expulsion. 

Since then, Gaza became what we knew it would become - and worse. Hamas took over, launching rockets and missiles into Israeli communities - most notably Sderot, but also at the smaller communities and at cities like Ashkelon, Ashdod and even Beer Sheva. They used their own civilians - including children - for cover. And they dug tunnels under the border. And we went to war - "Cast Lead," "Pillar of Defense" and "Protective Edge."

In the meantime, I had taken early retirement and no longer drove south every day. On the eleventh of Tammuz, the thirty-fifth anniversary of my aliyah, I became a resident of our eternal capital Jerusalem. I became deeply involved in genealogy and later DNA. Wrote a book. Lectured. Got on with my life.

In the past year, the Gazans have discovered a new weapon, in addition to the rockets and missiles. Balloons and kites, booby-trapped with explosives, intended to kill and maim children as well as adults. And intended to start fires.

It leaves us wondering what can we do. We as a government and we  as individuals.

After a brief respite, it started again a few weeks ago. A few people were killed in Israel, including in Ashkelon, a city of about 140,000 people - which for me was always a place to take the kids to the beach.

And Alumim's wheat fields burned. The view from Gaza, where the terrorists and their supporting civilian population celebrates.

So I decided it's time to go home. South. Ashkelon seemed like a good idea. Considering the decision was making it.

I saw two apartments for rent. Signed on one of them last night. Joined the English Speakers of Ashkelon. Devir gets married in forty days. The mover is confirmed for the following Monday. The twelfth of Tammuz, forty-six years and one day later. Eleven years after arriving in Jerusalem.

This Sunday we celebrate the fifty-second anniversary of the liberation and reunification of Jerusalem. In Psalm 137 we say:
If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its cunning. May my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, If I do not remember thee, if I do not raise Jerusalem above my highest joy.

All that is true and valid. But I am going home. It's the right thing to do.

Housekeeping notes
Register here.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

My Upcoming Legacy Family Tree Webinar

Wednesday in two weeks I am presenting a webinar for Legacy Family Tree. It is free but you have to register.

Legacy Family Tree has other webinars which require a paid subscription and they have just announced a 50%-off sale. The sale ends Tuesday 28 May.