Sunday, July 15, 2012


In 1800s Galicia, our ancestors often had a proper rabbinic marriage without bothering to report it to the civil authorities. The children of such marriages were registered as illegitimate and were given the mother's surname, though usually the father would confirm his paternity in the "comments" column. But that was another place, another time, another mentality. Nothing like that happens anymore.
My daughter Merav met her intended, Aharon Zvi Brand, here in Israel, and it was here that they planned to make their home. Her mother was (still is) in Chicago, so that's where they made the wedding, the evening leading into Merav's twenty-first birthday. As required by law, they took out a local marriage license.

In order to benefit from the status of immigrant, they went to the Jewish Agency emissary in Chicago - a friend of mine since we were both teenagers -  to do the paperwork. That included giving him whatever form the rabbi filled out at the wedding ceremony, to ensure that the Israeli authorities recorded the marriage. They didn't bother getting it back in order to report the actual marriage to Cook County within the required sixty days, but that really didn't matter because they planned to live in Israel.

Eleven and a half months later, their daughter Rachel Miriam Brand (called Miriam) was born in Jerusalem.

A few months later, the three of them set off on a two-year adventure in Amsterdam, where Aharon Zvi had been invited to participate in a small kollel, maintained by the local Jewish community, so that this former center of Torah study would continue to have a yeshiva-type presence.

The main feature of the second half of their first year in Amsterdam was the difficult pregnancy. The problem began Pesach when they were in Antwerp, staying with a cousin of Aharon Zvi's. Merav was taken care of then, but it was a few weeks before she was able to return to Amsterdam.

Then she was back in the hospital again and this time they said it would be for the duration - which turned out to be forty-five days. At least it was in Amsterdam. But I was not in a position to go see her - not that there would have been much point in that. Nor was her mother, in Chicago.

Ury Link, whom I knew from the JewishGen Discussion Group, went to visit her in the hospital. (Ury and I never actually met until several years later, but such was the camaraderie of JewishGen, especially back when the group was smaller.)

The baby was born Friday, the eighteenth of Tammuz.

He was very small and jaundiced, so the mohel put off the brit. It must have been a strange feeling, with alomost no family there - even Aharon Zvi's Antwerp family were away. The only family member in attendance was my second cousin Judy Jaffe, whom I hadn't seen in forty years and who was living in Holland at the time. (It was only last summer when we finally visited in suburban DC.) Ury Link was also there.

The baby was named Moshe, after Aharon Zvi's mother's paternal grandfather. They called him Moishie.

Then they went to register the birth with the city. The clerk wanted to see a marriage certificate. Oops. So the birth of Moshe Pickholtz to his unwed mother was duly registered.

A visit to a Justice of the Peace in Chicago a year or so later allowed them to get new documents, but the original birth certificate is still there - waiting perhaps to be discovered by a genealogist working for a matchmaker or a prospective father-in-law. Oy.

Now he is a man, sort of
They returned here after their two years and settled in a neighborhood of Upper Modiin called Ahuzzat Brachfeld. When Moishie was two, Merav survived a bout of cancer and they have since had three more boys.

The bar mitzvah was last week. Frances and I were there for Shabbat, but no one else. In keeping with the custom of their particular community, it was a low-key affair. Shabbat - which was actually the day before his birthday - he read the maftir and haftarah in shul and they made a small kiddush. the kids threw candy.

Moishie's suit made him look grown up. His hat was a good size - he didn't look like a little boy wearing his father's hat. Moishie really wanted it to look right. (Eight year old Menahem made a reference to Moishie's concern with "his holy suit and his holy hat.") I brought him the set of Humash with commentaries that he wanted. The air conditioning worked and it was a lovely day.

Moishie and Menahem
with Cousin Ari

Miriam and Shloimie

Merav on the women's side
with Ari's fiance Bobbi
Wednesday evening they had an open house is a hall not far away. Earlier in the evening there was something for the boys in his class and Moishie spoke there. With the adults it was just meet and greet, though Moishie made a half-hearted effort to speak again, giving up the first time he was interrupted by singing.
Moishie with the microphone and
Aharon Zvi standing behind the waiter

Since we were after the Seventeenth of Tammuz, there wasn't any music or dancing. Behind the head table, there was a growing pile of wrapped packages that looked like books. And there were the inevitable envelopes. Merav tells me he got six copies of Sefer HaHinuch and  a number of different editions of Mishna Berurah. It's challenging to be original.

The boys have school through the summer, until Tish'a beAv, but Merav let them go a bit late the next morning.

Menahem is going on nine, so their next event is probably his bar mitzvah. Or maybe Miriam's wedding. G-d willing. We should only have semahot.

PS - Some day I may learn how to get things lined up on these pages the way I want. Or not.

And here is the birth record.


  1. Oy, the shanda of illegitimacy. Oy, the puzzlement of future genealogists. You better be lining up your replacement or things are going to look bad for Moishe. Mazal Tov!

    1. Merav made me a copy of the birth certificate which I wanted to show here, but I forgot it Wednesday. If I can get it in the next day or so, I'll add it.

    2. If I heard that at the time I do not remember it, so that was interesting! And of course Mazal tov on the simcha.

    3. I know that some people have heard some of these things before, but it serves as a place to collect them.