Currently viewing the category: "Article"

Very little, if anything, is written about mestechko, the small towns or townlets in Eastern Europe with fewer than two thousand Jewish residents.  There is almost nothing about such places in Jewish scholarship.  If lucky, one may find that Jews lived there in a certain year, and that a synagogue or a burial society was created in another year.  For some small towns, there might be a line about Nazi atrocities.  There are some exceptions, for example an 800-page book There Once Was a World.  A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok, written by Yaffa Eliach[1].

Many Yizkor Books were written in the 1950s about the larger towns, with stories about Jewish life from the beginning of the 20th century throughout World War II.  Most of them were published in Israel by societies connected to a town or a region[2].  These books are great testimonies to Jewish life in Eastern Europe.  One of the major Jewish genealogical sources,[3], affiliated with the Museum of Jewish Heritage, has thousands of volunteers creating a memorial for the Jews who once lived all across Europe.   A section of JewishGen, KehilaLinks[4], includes websites for many towns, sometimes very small communities in Ukraine, Lithuania, Moldova, Hungary and other countries.  All these websites were developed by volunteers with connections to these places; they usually include a history of the town, a history of the Jews in that town, old town photos and maps, memoirs of the residents, testimonials from the survivors of the Holocaust, reports of recent visits to these places, discoveries of cemeteries, or synagogues hidden close by and more.

I have a special interest in the Bessarabia[5] region because I was born in Kishinev[6], which was once the capital of Bessarabia oblast and gubernia[7].  My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents were all born and lived in Bessarabia.  In my 2006 Hebrew College course “Through Their Eyes” with Professor Jay Berkovitz, I engaged in a study of Jewish life in the whole region of Bessarabia/Moldova.  My final paper for the course was “A geo-historical and cultural overview of Jewish life in Bessarabia/Moldavia region up to the beginning of the 19th century.”

In addition, I have an interest in pursuing my own Jewish heritage.  Because of the political situation of the 1940’s to 1980’s I had been unable to pursue that interest when living in Kishinev and in Moscow.  Only after emigration from the Soviet Union in 1989 was I able to study Jewish subjects and be involved in historical and genealogical Jewish research.

to read full article please download:


1 Eliach, 1998 Eliach, Y. (1998). There once was a world. A 900-Year Chronicle of the Shtetl of Eishyshok. Boston, New York, London: Little Brown and Company.

[2] Many of the Yizkor Books are available online at NY Public Library:



[5] Bessarabia is a region between Rivers Prut, Dniester, Danube and the Black Sea.  The name originally applied only to the southern part of the territory, and only in 19c under Russian rule the whole region was named Bessarabia.

[6] Capital of Moldova,  the republic of the Soviet Union, and currently the capital of Republic of Moldova.

A large part of Bessarabia was included after WWII into the Republic of Moldova, and southern and northern parts became part of the Ukraine.

[7] Oblast, gubernia – province in Russian Empire.


Yefim Kogan was born in Kishinev, Moldova. After he emigrated from the Soviet Union in 1989 he did extensive genealogical and historical research. In 2012 he received Master of Jewish Liberal Studies from Hebrew College, Boston with focus in Jewish Cultural History.  He is active in Jewish Genealogical Society of Greater Boston. Yefim taught classes on Jewish Genealogy for the local Jewish and Russian communities of Brookline and Boston. He developed a website for the towns of Kaushany, Dubossary and Kamenka, Moldova and Tarutino and Serpneve (Leipzig) in Ukraine. In 2011 Yefim organized Bessarabia Special Interest Group, developed its website:  Most important projects he was leading and coordinating are the Bessarabia Revision List, where already 145,000 records are translated, and the Bessarabia Cemetery project, where 76 cemeteries were located in Bessarabia/Moldova where Jews are buried and 45 of them are already photographed and indexed with more than 45,000 Jewish burial records.

Since 2009 Yefim presented at the International Jewish Genealogical conferences.  Here are several highlights (find excerpts at

2016, Seattle, “When, Why and Where did the Jews arrive to Bessarabia/Moldova”,

2015, Jerusalem, “The Jewish Surnames in Bessarabia / Moldova. What makes our Surnames Unique”

2012, Paris, “Estate and other categories of Jews in Bessarabia, Russia in the 19th century

2009, Philadelphia, “History of Jews in Bessarabia (Moldova) in the 15th to 19th Centuries. Geography, History, Social Status”.

Comedians are unusual characters. Quite a few of them populate my paternal line and this short article will clarify what I mean. In their profession, actors frequently change roles, names, and ages. It appears that in my family they have done that on the real life stage too, maybe reflecting the fact that for them the border between reality and fantasy is thin…!

Let us start with my father’s father, whose name was… well, I am not quite sure actually! He was known to us as David Wagner but in July 1916 I discovered that on the passengers list of a boat sailing from Kobe, Japan, to Seattle, Washington, he appears as Michael. Not Michael Wagner but rather Michael Silberkasten! How did I know that this Michael Silberkasten, aged 6, was ‘my’ David Wagner? Simple: he is listed there with his mother Malka Silberkasten (born Ritten or Ryten), aged 27, whom I knew about from other sources. I knew too that Malka (also known as Molly) was Moishe Silberkasten’s wife, and that Moishe was David’s father. Malka and Moishe were young actors in the Yiddish/Jewish theater in Warsaw, Poland. Probably fleeing from World War I, Moishe had arrived to America from Warsaw via Harbin (China) in 1914 where he stayed for about two years, and from there went by ship to Seattle in May 1917, thus preceding his wife and son by two months. This I learned from Moishe’s 1921 Declaration of Intention to Become a Citizen (of the USA)

Morris Silberkasten Declaration1921

and his 1927 Petition for US Naturalization.

Not getting along too well, Moishe and Malka separated and Malka and her son Michael/David returned to Europe in the early 1920s (on his 1921 Declaration of Intention to Become a Citizen, Moishe wrote that Malka still resided with him but a little later, she and Ben-Zion already were living together in Belgium). Moishe stayed in the US where he became an actor in the troupe of Maurice Schwartz, touring theaters around the globe, including in Brussels in 1935


where his ex-wife and his son David resided. The Schwartz troupe appears on some pictures with Albert Einstein in Princeton and with Charlie Chaplin in Los Angeles. Einstein wrote an admiring letter following a performance in Princeton of Schwartz’s ‘Yoshe Kalb’.

YosheKalb Einstein letter

From a Certificate of Arrival delivered for immigration purposes by the US Department of Labor,

US Dept Labor record

I later found out that Moishe’s first name was in fact Hirsh, but he usually used his second first name, Moishe, and later Morris which obviously sounded American. I do not have his divorce record but in April 1927 Morris/Moishe/Hirsh married again, in New York. Her name was Gertrude Stein, and her profession was, you guessed, theater actor. Their marriage record

Moishe second marriage 1927

was invaluable to this genealogist because it had the full names of Moishe’s parents, and I was able to connect him with the rest of the Silberkasten clan using the Warsaw JRI-Poland records. With time, Morris/Moishe/Hirsh became a member of the Executive Board of the Hebrew Actors Union and died in 1939 in Detroit. He was buried in New York, in the Mount Hebron cemetery section where most actors and play writers of the Yiddish theater of America are resting in peace.

Moishe Silberkasten

Moshe tombstone

His tombstone indicates 1886 as his year of birth but other documents state at least two other dates, 1889 and 1892.

Did I mention that Malka also was a theater actor?

Malka Ritten

Back in Europe she had met Ben-Zion Wagner who was an actor as well,

BenZion Wagner

but not only an actor: he also was a Yiddish writer, dramatist and poet. After the marriage he adopted Malka’s son, David/Michael. This is how my grandfather, David/Michael Silberkasten, became David Wagner, and why our last name is Wagner rather than the original Silberkasten (my mother once claimed that if my father’s name had been Silberkasten she would never had married him; my father replied that she would have married him even if his name had been Donald Duck!).

Malka was in fact Ben-Zion’s second wife. His first was Elka Rozent (yes, with a ‘t’, don’t ask me why because I don’t know), whose profession was… well, you already guessed.

Elka Rozen

Regrettably Ben-Zion died in 1930 of a disease at the premature age of 40 in Brussels. Malka went on to play the Yiddish theater, touring the European scenes with the Habima troupe and other troupes too. She moved to Israel in 1950, following her son David who himself had followed his own son (my then 18 year-old father Benny).

Upon arriving in Israel, David decided to change his last name from Wagner to Bar-Stav! That now gave him two different first names and three different last names. As if he was enjoying ‘principles of uncertainty’ more than physicists, David seems to have taken pleasure in concealing his birth date: on some archival documents he states September 11, 1911, on others it is April 12, 1912, and there are more. I suspect he himself probably did not know; I have never been able to find his birth record in the Warsaw archives. As already mentioned, the same is true of his father Moishe/Morris Silberkasten whose birthdate on different documents appears to be adjustable too. Grandfather David used to publish articles in the Belgian Yiddish press but at some point he became involved exclusively in the printing press business, especially during the activist political years preceding Israel’s Declaration of Independence when he published and distributed political pamphlets in Brussels.

The Bund Club in Tel-Aviv (Moadon Ha’Bund, 48 Kaliszer Street) has a fabulous collection of Yiddish books. Among those are the Zalman Zilberzweig’s catalogs of Yiddish literature and Yiddish theater in which detailed biographies of Moishe Silberkasten, Malka Ryten and Ben-Zion Wagner can be found.

The artistic genes appear to have lingered as my daughter Noa is slowly trying to follow the steps of her ancestors in the theater business. Time will tell.

There were also quite a few musicians over time in the Wagner branch but I will not dwell here into this separate artistic side of the family: it is another story.




The complete story first appeared in AVOTAYNU, Vol. XXXII, No. 4, Winter 2016.


Daniel Wagner is a Professor of Materials Science at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel. He has researched his family since 1995.

About one year ago I had a telephone conversation with Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa, who was the curator of an exhibition entitled “Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis” which was opened in the spring of 2014 at the Tower of David Museum[1]. I then told Dr. Khalifa that my maternal grandparents were both born in Jerusalem and that they had died in Jerusalem from diseases during the First World War. I did not know whether they were hospitalized and died in a hospital or died at their home. They left six orphaned children. The three younger children including my mother were sent to orphanages in Jerusalem. My mother who was about four years old was sent to the orphanage named “Maon le’Banot Israel” (literally Home for Daughters of Israel)[2]. Dr. Khalifa then suggested that I make contact with the Medical Records Department at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. She said that if my grandmother and/or my grandfather had been hospitalized at Shaare Zedek, it is possible that the medical files would be found at the archive. It is worth mentioning that from 1902 until 1980 the building of Shaare Zedek Hospital was located adjacent to Shaare Zedek neighborhood on Jaffa Road (no. 161). The founder of the hospital outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem on Jaffa Road was Dr. Moshe Wallach[3]. In 1980 the hospital moved to its new building located in the Bayit VeGan neighborhood in Jerusalem.

   Shaare Zedek Hospital at the beginning of the 20th century

I then spoke with Mrs. Keren Cohen, secretary of the Medical Records Department at Shaare Zedek Medical Center and gave her the following information: My grandmother, Rivka-Alte Vigiser, daughter of Moshe-Yehoshua Salant, was born in Jerusalem in 1878 and she died of typhus on the 16 of month Tammuz, 5676 (17/07/1916). My grandfather, Shmuel-Leib Vigiser, son of Abraham-Meir, was born in Jerusalem in 1871, served in the Turkish army during World War I, and he died of illness on the 21 of month Shevat, 5678 (3/2/1918). Mrs. Cohen promised to check whether my grandparents’ medical files were archived. A few days later I received a reply stating that only the medical file of my grandmother had been found in the archive and that I may see it at the Medical Center.

  Rivka-Alte and Shmuel-Leib Vigiser (ca. 1910)


On the 26 of Tammuz, 5776 (01/08/2016), one hundred years after the death of my grandmother, I went to Shaare Zedek Medical Center and was excited to see the medical file of my grandmother. The records were written in German and I asked for photocopies. I then submitted it for translation. Below is a photocopy of part of the medical summary and its translation into English:

The General Jewish Hospital Shaare Zedek in Jerusalem
                              Medical Summary
Serial Number 8519    Women’s Department     Number 363

Name: Alte. Age: 36. Occupation: wife of Shmuel Leib Vigiser.  Community: Vilnius
Date Received: 15 Tammuz, 5676 (16 July 1916) Bed Number 76. Bed Number: 75
Diagnosis: Typhus

Release Date: 15 Tammuz, 5676 (July 16, 1916), died. Days of treatment: 1

According to the report my grandmother died in the hospital on the same day she was hospitalized. I did not know that before. Obviously, I was smiling when I noticed the writing of my grandmother’s occupation. Unfortunately I could not decipher the handwritten signature of the doctor’s name which appears at the top of the document.

Additional handwritten medical details (in German) are also included in the report. I sent the medical report to an acquaintance of mine, who is a medical doctor in Germany. He translated to me additional details, such as: names of the medications that my grandmother had received.

Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Nirit Shalev-Khalifa for her good advice, to Mrs. Keren Cohen for her useful assistance and also to the staff of the Medical Records Department for the kind and sympathetic attitude I received during my visit.


  1. link to the exhibition entitled Jerusalem: A Medical Diagnosis
  2. link to an article on the orphanage “Maon Le’Banot Israel” (in Hebrew):
  1. Dr. Moshe Wallach, an orthodox Jewish physician, came to Jerusalem from Germany in 1891 when he was 26. He was the director of Shaare Zedek hospital from 1902 until 1947 and he was also a chief physician at the hospital. The history of the hospital “Shaare Zedek” is described in the fascinating diary of Schwester [nurse] Selma Meyer “My Life and Experiences at Shaare Zedek”. Selma Meyer arrived in Shaare Zedek from Germany in 1916, when the typhus epidemic was rampant in Jerusalem. She was the right-hand assistant of Dr. Wallach and the head nurse of the hospital for over fifty years. The diary is posted (in Hebrew) at:


Ruth Marcus was born in Ramat Gan, Israel. She holds a Ph.D. degree in Statistics from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1988, Ruth has been involved in researching the roots of her family in Jerusalem, Hungary, Lithuania and Byelorussia. She has published two books (in Hebrew): about her maternal family in Jerusalem, and about the shtetl of Lunna – her father’s town of birth. She has also published several articles (in Hebrew, English, Polish and Belarusian) on topics related to her research. She has a Kehilalink site on JewishGen for the town of Lunna: Ruth was also the curator of an exhibition on the “Tarbut” Gymnasium in Grodno, which was opened in October 2012 at the Grodno University, Belarus.




Part 2

Thus far this discussion has revolved exclusively around five people: two known Jagolinzers, Fischel and Keyla, Fischel’s suspected brother Samuel and Samuel’s wife Eva, and the man originally listed as “padre,” Moses, who showed up later in the 1895 census as Haim and whom we have now shown to be Eva’s father. Up until this point we have ignored the other five people on this Weser manifest, Isaak, listed as “hermano” (brother) and his four children. In fact, we don’t know who Isaak was, other than, apparently, the father of the children listed below him, and quite possibly a brother of Eva’s. And we don’t know who the mother of those children was and why she was not there with them. But we do know that Isaak’s first child Leib later became a well-known Israeli educator known as Arye Leib Yagolnitzer. Here is how we know it.

At about the same time that I received the Mosesville material (in 1995 or 1996), I had been writing hard copy letters to other possible relatives whose names and addresses I had found in Israeli telephone books. Some of those letters came back undelivered and some simply went unanswered. But Leah, the wife of a Shlomo Yagolnitzer in Neve Eitan (now deceased), who turned out to be the grandson and namesake of an earlier Shlomo, namely, Solomon, the Providence patriarch of the Jagolinzers, not only replied but was eager to share information. Today’s Jagolinzers were no longer aware that their patriarch Shlomo had been married twice and that he had two sons by his second marriage, named David (whom I will come back to in a moment) and Isaac. The latter, was the father of Shlomo, this woman’s husband. And Shlomo’s wife had long been fascinated by the stories her father-in-law Isaac had related to her. In fact, she had a picture of the elder Shlomo, her husband’s grandfather, the Jagolinzer patriarch, that had been sent to the family in Israel decades before.

Apparently the early Jagolinzers had wanted to bring Isaac and his family to the U.S. but Isaac was a committed Zionist and refused to come, even sending back tickets that had been purchased for him. This led to hard feelings and then the loss of memory about the Israeli part of the family. Shlomo’s wife made lots of contacts in Israel and provided a lot of information about current generations of several branches of the family, but we have had no contact with her for over a decade now. (We had actually hosted her in our home at the time in Owings Mills, MD on one of her trips to Washington, D.C. back in the late 90s.) As we will see in a minute, her information expands on what is found in an encyclopedia article and the even more detailed information provided by Arye Leib’s daughter in the Yad le Yedinitz yizkor book. This latter can be downloaded in full off the Web at as I was graciously informed by another family member years ago.

But before we do that we have to ask the obvious question: could Isaak on the Weser manifest have been the same person as Leah Yagolnitzer’s father-in-law Isaac? The answer is clearly no as Isaac, Leah’s father-in-law, was only born in 1892 and thus could not have been on the 1889 Weser. Nor do his wife and children match those on the Weser manifest. Here is the family tree that Leah sent of her father-in-law’s descendants. Note that the first daughter, Zisl Naomi, is apparently named for her grandmother Zisl, the second wife of Shlomo the Patriarch, and possibly the sister of his first wife, Rose Bertha Press (Rakhel Brakha or Rakhel Brana in the Yiddish?). Note also, that Shlomo, Leah’s husband, born 1934, is more than a decade younger than his two sisters Zisl Naomi, born 1917; Shoshana, born 1920; and brother Mordechai, born 1921. He came into the world just four years after grandfather Shlomo died in 1930.doc7

If Isaak was not the half brother of Samuel and Fischel, could he have been the brother of Samuel’s wife Eva (Chane there), as indicated by the Spanish-annotated Weser manifest? That is certainly possible, but then we have to wonder why (as we shall see below) their father Haim Moshe did not return with his son when the latter left around 1893? This seems strange since Isaak was apparently all on his own with four young children, but then we really don’t know if other family members hadn’t arrived later, about whom we have no information, and we don’t know the inner dynamics of this family. We also don’t know who put up the Spanish-annotated version of the Weser manifest, or who took it down. It could be that the annotations Father, Wife, Son, and Daughter were educated guesses based on the ages and positions of the people in the list. That would be less likely in the case of Brother (for Isaak) or Head of Family (for Fischel). Those would seem to have come from someone with direct knowledge, though we can’t be sure. Nevertheless I think that the most likely possibility is that Eva and Isaak were, indeed, brother and sister, both children of Haim Moshe.

Here we have to go back to David, the brother of Leah’s husband Shlomo. Leah apparently had no direct knowledge of him as indicated in her note at the top of the tree above. But I was fortunate in that another of the letters I had written to Israel found his grandson, and he, too, responded generously.  In it he relates that he, Lev (another Leib) was born in 1928 in Bolgrad in Bessarabia, near the larger city of Izmail. His father, Abraham (named for whom?) was born in Orinin, near Kamenetz Podolsk in 1903. His grandfather David (of whom Leah knew only the name) had been in America early for a few years to earn some money for the family. He returned to Orinin prior to WWI, was stuck there when war broke out, and after the war moved to Bolgrad (as did many other Yagolnitzers as we shall discuss below). David died in 1948 and Abraham, in 1972. A year later Lev and his family moved to Israel.

Unfortunately I have had no further contact with Lev. I don’t know if he had children or not, only that he mentions his wife Hana. There is no date given for the birth of his grandfather David, but if his son Abraham was born in 1903, we might guess it was in the early 1880s, which accords with Leah’s information that he was the older brother, Isaac having been born in 1892.

I should also note here that Shlomo the Jagolinzer patriarch may have been born in Bolgrad, there thus being some kind of very early connection between Orinin and that city. Here is a bit of email correspondence about that issue from our Knoxville, Tennessee expert back on February 22, 1998:


In some message I’m not taking the time to locate you asked when and in what source did Shlomo claim or was it claimed on his behalf that he was born in Bolgrad.

In the 1921 ship record it says he was born in something that I thought when I read it looked liked “Bilgoraj”.  When I read it was of course several years, so with the additional knowledge we’ve gleaned we might see something else there now.  Jeff, the ship is the SS Saturnia, landed NY 22 January 1921. “Shlonia” is on ‘page 3, line 25.  He indicated that he had lived lived in Kishinev and was going to son Jakob at 1140 11th Street SE, Washington, DC.  Because this was after World War I , there was a lot of forgery, so I don’t know if “Kishinev” is necessarily his last place of actual residence.  I do not have a copy of this record.  Leah, over a year ago I thought you’d told Jeff that Shlomo (1829-1930) had had at least three wives.  Is that correct?

(If Shlomo was correct about Washington, D.C., his son Jacob had not yet left for California in 1921.)

Here is my translation of the letter that Lev Yagolnitzer sent me in Hebrew, from Rehovot, in 1996, which I had circulated by email at that time to all of the on-line Yagolnitzers: doc8

For the last nineteen years up until this year 2015, this was all I had on David, Shlomo’s older son by his second wife Zisl. But then this website of WWII Holocaust survivors was brought to my attention:

Among other hits we have Lev’s father Abram Davidovich, here born 1904 versus 1903 as per Lev (working as a dispatcher) and Abraham’s wife Khova Abramovna (Chava?), listed as a non-working “dependent” along with her two children, Lev himself Leba (=Leib) Abramovich and his sister, whom Lev didn’t tell us about, Rukhlya Abramovna (Rachel). Unfortunately we don’t know whom Rukhlya might have married later. Here are the two references:



After all of these preliminaries we can now turn our attention to Isaak’s son Leib, who appears in the encyclopedia article on Arye Leib Yagolnitzer (on page 1618 of the Encyclopedia of the Pioneers) that we have had for several years now, first provided by Shlomo’s wife Leah in Israel. It became apparent right away that this Arye Leib had to be the seven-year old “Leib” listed on the ship’s manifest. The encyclopedia write-up tells us that Arye Leib was born in 1882 to his father Isaac, a teacher, and to his mother Feige. Since we have exact dates for the sailing and arrival of the Weser to Argentina (in the year 1889), there can be no doubt that Arye Leib is the “Leib” shown on the manifest. (Our ancestors seem to have freely used multiple names or parts of names or nicknames almost indiscriminately when talking about themselves, as we just saw with Haim Moshe.) The article goes on to tell us that the “family” (with no list of names) moved to Argentina as farmers but then returned to Russia four years later (hence around 1893), which explains why they never showed up in the U.S. or on the 1895 Argentine census. (If Haim Moshe was, indeed, the father of Isaak and grandfather of Arye Leib, the article does not tell us why he stayed in Argentina, where he shows up in the 1895 census, instead of returning to Russia.)

That Arye Leib’s mother Feige was not in Argentina is not mentioned in the encyclopedia, nor is there anything else about her. Given the fact that the last two children on the Weser list were apparently twins less than a year old, it is unlikely that they would both have survived if the mother had died in childbirth. But maybe that’s what happened, or maybe she died shortly after. If that was the case, it may be that Faagel Jagolinzer (b. 1896, daughter of older brother Max) was named for her. Or maybe after the birth of the twins, Feige was too weak to make the arduous journey to South America. Perhaps the rest of the story can still be discovered from descendants in Israel, if we can locate them as Leah did.

The encyclopedia article further explains that Arye-Leib’s family was from “Kamenetz-Podolsk (Ukraine)”. This could be a reference to the city or the larger province of the same name. The Yad le Yedinitz piece, to jump ahead a bit, tells us explicitly that Arye Leib was born in Orinin, hence Kamenetz Podolsk in the encyclopedia article did refer to the larger province. The most authoritative account of Orinin Orinin: My Shtetl in the Ukraine was written decades ago by Beryl Segal, who became a well-known pharmacist, writer and translator. It originally appeared in the Providence Journal daily newspaper, was reprinted in the Journal of the Jewish Historical Society of Rhode Island and also appeared in a Hebrew version prepared by Segal himself. Years ago a nephew or grand nephew of Segal’s in Baltimore, Miel (Yerakhmiel) Stopak, related that the name of the town comes from the Hebrew “oren/oranim” ‘pine tree(s)’, so it may have originally been an all-Jewish settlement, or at least founded by Jews. We have already seen that Abraham, son of Shlomo’s older son David by his second wife was born in Orinin, and Fischel was handed his army discharge papers in Orinin.

Orinin was also the shtetl of my maternal grandparents (the TISSENBAMs, LIMONCZYKs, GILMANs and GELSTEINs) and of at least four of the Jagolinzers. We know for sure from their naturalization petitions that Jacob and Samuel, two of Shlomo the patriarch’s five sons by his first wife, were born in Orinin. Jacob came first to Baltimore but changed his surname to Jacobs, later moved to California, and was completely lost track of until recently. Samuel lived in Providence and, as noted above, changed his surname to Greenberg. Fischel Yagolnitzer’s army discharge papers discussed above show that he, too, was in Orinin to receive those papers (page 8 in the booklet). Here is that page. From the last half of line 4 “discharge booklet handed to him, while he was living in M. (mestechka=shtetl) Orinin (name of town broken between end of line 5 and beginning of line 6), 1887, the 8th day of January”: doc11

Finally, there was David Jagolinzer in Providence, grandson of Shlomo’s brother Hirsch Mendel, born in 1893, a contemporary of Leah’s father-in-law Isaac and thus perhaps ten years younger than David Yagolnitzer, Shlomo’s older son by his second wife Zisl. He was possibly unique in this family, having served in the U.S. Army in WWI (where his cousin Fischel had served in the Russian army three decades earlier). Here is David’s 1920 passport application, declaring that he had arrived from Rotterdam, Holland in 1910, was a naturalized citizen as of 1916, listing the countries he had served in during WWI, the countries he expected to visit on his trip back home to assist his parents and, especially, showing that he, too, was born in Orinin:

When we add to the Orinin connection between Leib and the Jagolinzers the fact that one of Shlomo Jagolinzer’s sons, Laabe, later known as Louis YAGER, born around 1874 and, thus, of the same generation as Leib on the Weser, was also Arye Leib, we have yet another indication that we are dealing with a very close relationship.


David was the son of the other Samuel, the one who kept the Jagolinzer surname. That Samuel, as just noted, was the son of Hirsch Mendel, a brother of patriarch Shlomo. (Hirsch Mendel, however, was apparently not born in Orinin, but in the nearby town of Khotin, across the Dniester river in what was then Romania.) The spelling of the name Orinin on the naturalization petitions that are the source of this information varied: Orinean (David), Orinian (Samuel, but also David above on his passport application), and Worinion (Jacob). (As an interesting linguistic aside, the ‘w’ in the spelling “Worinion” should probably be understood as the Russian preposition ‘v’, meaning “in”, the ‘w’ being pronounced as ‘v’ in both Polish and German. Thus the entry “Worinion” in the blank space for birthplace was probably meant to be understood as “in Orinion”.)

Orinin was a town of perhaps 3,000 people at its largest, but just a few hundred families where everyone knew each other, and where many, like the Yagolnitzers, shared a surname. Here are two pictures of Orinin taken by my late Tissenbaum cousin Yankel Weissman and his cousin Sidney Flaxman on a journey they made there after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1994:jw-house


Below are two Google satellite maps of SW Ukraine centered around Orinin, both showing towns associated with our families:first a close-up showing Zherdya and Zarichanka (Landskorun) in the north and Zinkivtsi to the southeast. Second, a wider area view showing towns in neighboring Romania and Moldova, e.g., Khotyn, Novoselytsya and Lipcan to the south; Briceni to the southeast; as well as Kamyanets Podilsky, the nearest big city in Podolia; Chemerivtsi to the north; Dunaivtsi, Vinkivtsi, Nova Ushytsya to the east; Chernivtsi (Chernowitz) to the south west. map-1


After the maps, the original Encyclopedia article on Arye Leib:


The text of the encyclopedia article above provides standard biographical information about Arye Leib Yagolnitzer. Besides what was noted above, the date and place of Arye Leib’s birth (Kamenetz, 1882), his parents’ names, Isaac and Feige, and the account of his family’s return from Argentina after a four-year stay there and subsequent settlement in Bolgrad, Bessarabia, it goes on to give a short, rather sterile skeleton history of his life. After receiving a traditional Torah education, Arye Leib traveled to Odessa where he married Bina, the daughter of his aunt and her husband Yitzkhaq Marcus (presumably Marcus is a surname here, otherwise we would expect to see Yitzkhaq Mordechai). While still a young man Arye Leib was considered one of the best teachers of Hebrew in all of southern Russia and was invited to teach in Palestine. However the outbreak of WWI prevented him from accepting the offer. At the end of the war, when Bessarabia was annexed by Romania, he expanded his influence in both Hebrew and general Zionist activity throughout Romania. First he was a teacher in Iaşi, then in Czernowitz, and finally became the director of the Tarbut cultural center in Bucharest for the entire country. He founded the first organization of Hebrew teachers in his district, which became the seedbed for the organization of teachers in the whole of Bessarabia. (Note: no mention here at all of Yedinitz!)
Only in his later years, in 1935, after all his children had made aliyah, was he himself able to get to Palestine. There he taught in Nahalal and then in Rehovot. He did research studies in Tanakh and grammar, published papers on education and culture, as well as songs and poems (among them: “The Power of Repentance”), textbooks, fables for children, both original and translated, and even some plays on Biblical themes (among them: “Michal, Saul’s Daughter”). His students included many of Israel’s finest teachers and doers. He passed away in 1945 and is buried in Kfar Khaim in the Khefer Valley, where his daughter lives.
The article in the Yad le Yedinitz yizkor book, by his daughter Akhino’am, fills in a lot of biographical detail missing from the encyclopedia write-up beyond the mention of Orinin as the town of her father’s birth. For instance she relates that her father arrived in Yedinitz in 1913 and was invited to teach in Palestine the following year (as the Encyclopedia had noted but without the critical mention of Yedinitz or the exact date) and remained there for several years, establishing a Hebrew school for children and developing impressive educational and Zionist institutions which were the reasons for his inclusion in the yizkor book. It was only after Yedinitz that he moved to Iaşi, then to Czernowitz and, finally, to Bucharest. With regard to her father’s publications, Akhino’am expands on the Encyclopedia information by noting that he taught himself several foreign languages, including, especially, German and Russian, to be able to translate great masters such as Heine and Lermontov into Hebrew. He also engaged in lengthy polemics about the state of Jewish education in the journal “Hatzfira,” (‘The Dawn’, by 1886 the most important Hebrew newspaper in Eastern Europe) under pseudonyms such as Avraham Ya’aqov Ha’ivri. Here is the original article, copied from two pages in the yizkor book, with an insert in the second half showing a Jan. 19, 1914 Hatzfira article by Arye Leib. Akhino’am’s more important contributions follow:

Note Bolgrad was founded in 1821 by Bulgarian settlers and is the hometown of current (2015) President of Ukraine. Petro Poroshenko

Yedinitz is today’s Edineţ, Moldova, close to the larger town of Briceni on the wide area map above.



Akhino’am is most valuable for putting flesh on the skeleton by providing fascinating personal details and painting her father in the milieu in which he grew up. She relates that when he was just fifteen, he had already studied on his own the ideas of the Haskalah (Jewish Enlightenment) and was totally absorbed in the Zionist dream. The depth of his passion is illustrated by the following episode: On the eve of Yom Kippur the various charities in town (presumably Bolgrad) would place a collection plate at the door of the synagogue. Her young father decided to put a plate of his own out for the Jewish National Fund (Qeren Qayemet leYisrael). After prayers, he pounded his fist on the pulpit to get the congregation’s attention and then scolded them for not donating to his fund saying that their prayers alone would not bring about the messianic rebirth of Israel. This was tantamount to heresy so his father jumped out of his seat, ran up and slapped his son on the face in front of everyone. While this incident might have soured someone else on his faith for life, it does not seem to have had that effect on Arye Leib. His daughter goes on to relate that his poem “The Strength of Repentance” was about Hasidism, a topic “close to his heart since he himself was from a Hasidic family and from descendants of the Ba’al Shem Tov.” He also fathered a traditionally large set of progeny, seven children in all, whom we will consider in detail below.
At the age of seventeen Arye Leib was sent to study Torah with his uncle Moshe Lamdan. This is yet another intriguing clue to the family’s origins. “Masada,” by Yitzkhaq Lamdan, is one of the most powerful poems in the Hebrew language . One has to wonder if uncle Moshe was of the same family and if Arye Leib’s gift for poetry was in his genes. (That 1920’s Lamdan piece, “a poetic history of the anguished Jewish fight against a world full of enemies” was credited as the inspiration for the Warsaw Ghetto uprising and a couple of years ago was put to music in England in a production entitled “Imagine This”.) As Akhino’am explains, all her father’s life was seemingly controlled by a higher purpose: to spread Hebrew as a means of realizing the rebirth of the language and the nation. The house that she grew up in was always open to others of the same temperament. There were regular meetings with animated discussions and debates that generally ended with heartfelt singing, giving voice to the participants’ longing for Zion. (According to my mother of blessed memory, my grandparents’ Thursday night card games with Russian landsmen ended the same way!)

E.Problems with the evidence.

Consider now the list of Arye Leib’s sever children provided at the end of the encyclopedia article, along with their location in Israel for the first three:

1. Shulamit, the wife of Yosef Qamras (Hadar-‘Am)
2. Akhino’am, the wife of Ya’aqov Hirsch (Kfar Khaim)
3. Pnina, the wife of Pinkhas Franq (Kibbutz Ma’abarot)
4. Matania
5. Tankhuma, the wife of Shaul Milgroim
6. Bruria
7. Emanuel
Akhino’am, at the end of her write-up, provides some supplementary information . She notes that her brother, “Dr.” Matania Yagolnitzer, (number 4 above) was born in Yedinitz and died in Israel in 1971. And she indicates that Pnina (number 3 above) had died in 1972 and that her husband Pinkhas had apparently Hebraized his surname from Franq to Ben-Shaul.

Leah Yagolnitzer in Israel supplemented these two sources from contacts she apparently made with some of Arye Leib’s descendants. She provided two trees that I attach below. They are very faded and would have been almost impossible to decipher without zooming in on them electronically and having had the previous information to work from.

The first tree shows that Shulamit (number 1 above) had been divorced and reverted to her maiden name of Yagolnitzer. She had a daughter named Tzafrira Zore’a, who had three children plus grandchildren that had not yet been contacted (as of the late 1990s). Akhino’am (the author of the Yad le Yedinitz article, number 2 above) is shown to have two sons plus grandchildren, and her husband had Hebraized his name from Hirsch (meaning ‘deer’ in German and Yiddish) to Ofer, which means a young deer. Pnina (number 3 above) and her husband Pinkhas ben Shaul are shown to have three daughters: Orna Eshel, Drora (married name unclear) and ‘Irit, with grandchildren. Matania Yagolnitzer, number 4 (referred to by his sister Akhino’am as “Dr.” is said to have died without children. Tankhuma (number 5) is referred to as Yagolnitzer-Netzer. It is not clear whether this means she married someone named Netzer or she shortened her Yagolnitzer name to Netzer. A Yehoshafat Netzer is shown below her and is said to have died in an airplane accident. And there is a Viti (?) Netzer shown below him. (The relationships here are unclear and unexplained.)

The second tree below shows the remaining two of Arye Leib’s children. (There is a typo at the top of this tree showing Arye Leib having as his wife Feige–actually his mother–instead of Bina, who is correctly shown on the previous tree.) The tree here shows Bruria (number 6 above) as having the married name Chipel or Chifel (the unpointed Hebrew is ambiguous), with two sons Yitzhaq and Menahem. It is also noted that she was suffering from Altzheimer’s. Finally number 7 above, ‘Emanuel, is shown to have shortened his name to Yagol, to have married Zamira and to have two sons Yoav and Arye (presumably named for his grandfather Arye Leib), with grandchildren from each.


And herein lies the rub. Akhino’am specifically states that her “Dr.” Matania Yagolnitzer was Arye Leib’s son and refers to both his birth and death in the masculine form. This would be unremarkable except that she also specifically states that her father had six daughters and but one son. Certainly ‘Emanuel, number 7 above, is also a son–the name is always masculine and he is indicated, by Leah’s informants, as having a wife Zamira along with children and grandchildren. So what is going on here? Maybe she simply got her numbers confused, but I will leave this as a mystery to be solved by hoped for later contact with the family. Here are Leah’s trees (which can be zoomed in on within this document) for those who know Hebrew and want to check out the information given above, or simply wish to try their hand at working with a difficult source:


So the question remains, just how is this large family of Arye Leib and his siblings connected with the rest of the Yagolnitzers and especially with the Jagolinzers? It would seem that Manasse, Divora and Brania were Arye Leib’s younger siblings (about whom there is no further information in any of our sources). But who were the parents? As we have seen, the most likely explanation, supported by the Spanish-annotated Weser manifest, is that Isaak Yagolnitzer and Eva (later Greenberg) were brother and sister, children of Haim Moshe. From information in the two published articles above, we can speculate that Isaak (and Eva) may have had at least two sisters, one married to a Moshe Lamdan and the other to Yitzkhaq Marcus, the parents of Arye Leib’s wife Bina. (However it is also possible that one or both of these were sisters of Arye Leib’s mother Feige, whose maiden name we don’t know, or the wives of Feige’s brothers, and not of Isaak and Eva.) Whatever the case Arye Leib and Bina were first cousins. We might guess that one of Arye and Bina’s two sons might have been named for a grandfather, if he had passed away by the time of their birth. In other words, the grandfather might have been named Matania or Emanuel. But Matania sounds like a Hebraized name rather than an original Ashkenazi name and, again, we don’t know if Matania and Emanuel were named for someone in Isaak’s family or in Feige’s.

So all that we know for sure of the larger connections is that Haim Moshe was of the same generation as Shlomo the Jagolinzer patriarch, that Isaak was born in Orinin as were at least two and possibly all of the original five Jagolinzer children, and that Samuel and Eva, and possibly Isaak and his children, as well, returned to Orinin after giving up on Argentina. Subsequently Isaak and his family moved to Bolgrad while Eva and Samuel went back to the U.S., this time to Providence, in 1906. Possibly this was because Fischel and Keyla, with whom they were closest in age and with whom they had spent six years together in Mosesville, were already there as of 1896. (Remember that older brother Max only arrived the following year, in 1907, and the younger brothers, Yankel and Laabe, had gone to Baltimore in 1898 and 1900, respectively.) It is likely, if not yet corroborated through other sources, that Eva and Isaak were siblings, both children of Haim Moshe, as indicated by the “hermano” notation on the Web version of the Weser manifest. The fact that Shlomo, and then Eva and Samuel, named a son Jacob after the early 1870s, around the time that we might have expected Shlomo’s father to have passed on, is also suspicious. In other words all of these seeming coincidences point to what I find the most likely explanation—that Eva’s father Haim Moshe was a brother of Shlomo’s along with the previously known Hersh Mendel, the father of the Samuel who remained a Jagolinzer. All three of them were sons of a Yankel/Jacob who would likely have been born around the turn of the 19th century, and thus Eva and Samuel were not just cousins; they were first cousins.

But I think we can expand this extended family even further. If Shlomo named his last (or next to last) son by his first wife Yankel/Jacob in memory of his father, we might guess that his first son was named in honor of his grandfather. In other words we can hypothesize that Shlomo was the son of Yankel/Jacob, who was the son of a Mordechai. This seems all the more plausible since there are at least two other Mordechais in the Yagolnitzer lines that we know of who seem to date from or shortly before the 1850s, as does Shlomo’s eldest, and who are associated with Orinin. One of them was the grandfather of Basya Yagolnitzer, who married my maternal grandfather’s youngest brother Nussin. She was living in Orinin in the early 1920s when Nussin met and proposed to her. The family had been living in the nearby village of Pidpilipiya, where Basya may have been born, but were ordered to evacuate back to their home town of Orinin in 1914 as the outbreak of WWI became imminent. Basya was born in 1905 or 1907, but had one or two older siblings. That would put her father Yona’s birth back in the 1870’s or early 1880s. Significantly, she also had an uncle Yankel, brother of her father Yona, who would have been a contemporary of the Jagolinzer Yankel and likely named for a common grandfather. So, Yona and his brother Yankel would have been born in the 1870-1880 time frame and their father Mordechai two to three decades earlier, a contemporary of Mordechai/Max Jagolinzer.

That these connections of her grandfather Mordechai to the Jagolinzers are not known to Basya’s present day descendants is not surprising. As we will see below in another context, her uncle Yankel died in Russia in the early 1920s while her father Yona was exiled at around the same time to the far northern town of Arkhangelsk for the “crime” of being an observant Jew. During WWII he was able to move to Soviet Central Asia, to the town of Kyzyl Kiya, Kirghizstan, where he passed away in 1945. In other words the people who might have known of a previous marriage for Mordechai are long gone.

If Mordechai was married more than once, even though Basya’s descendants today know only of their own line, he could have had other children from one or more previous wives. (It is a well-known fact in families from this area that regular outbreaks of disease, typhus and others, frequently led to the death of a wife or sometimes of a husband. When those left behind had children to care for they had no choice but to remarry. One of the SEIDLERs from Orinin, connected separately to both my GILMANs and GELSTEINs, was married three times, leading to nine total children.)

There are two likely candidates here as earlier children by another marriage of this same Mordechai, both in the Baltimore-Washington area: Morris (Menahem) Yeager/Yagolnitzer, known to be closely related to Laabe Yagolnitzer, later Yager. This Morris was always considered one of the Jagolinzers, just as are the descendants of Shlomo’s brother Hersh Mendel. Then there is the very recently discovered Sheindel Rubenstein, buried in Baltimore, known to be a “Yagalnitzer”, who died in 1960 at the age of 96. She, too, was the daughter of a Mordechai. Sheindel would have been born around 1864, Morris, around 1866 (from the information on their gravestones), which could put their father Mordechai’s birth (assuming they were sister and brother) in the 1840 time period. I should note here in the interest of full disclosure that we do not have any direct evidence of where Sheindel was born, but we do have strong indirect evidence for Morris Yeager/Yagolnitzer, namely that he married Jenny GILMAN, a sister of my great grandmother, both of whom were from Orinin, as were most of Morris’s Jagolinzer cousins. Moreover in the case of Sheindel there is a family memory that father Mordecai had, in fact, remarried, which then caused a rupture in the family. Sheindel only arrived in the U.S. in 1922, six years after Morris Yeager, who I suspect was her brother, had died. She may not have known that he went by the name Yeager while in the U.S., nor that he had moved from Philadelphia to Washington, DC. Since Morris’s death occurred during WWI, there may have been a total loss of contact with the family back in Russia from that point on. So to recap:

  1. It seems too much of a coincidence that we have all these people, Morris and Sheindel of the same generation, and Yona and his brother Yankel roughly a decade later, all children of a Mordechai, and two of the three with a certain connection to Orinin. And, equally suggestive, Yona had a brother Yankel who was a contemporary of Shlomo’s son Yankel.
  2. Yankel, Shlomo’s father, might well have named a younger son Mordechai (“Max” born around 1854) upon the death of his father Mordechai, perhaps in the early 1840s. With Shlomo born in 1829, we can postulate that Yankel was likely born around 1800 or before and the hypothetical Mordechai, 20 to 30 years before that which would make him 70 to 80 if he died in the 1840s.
  3. Shlomo could still have named his first son after his deceased grandfather even though he had a younger brother who already carried that name.
  4. Given the large families that were traditional back then it is quite likely and believable that Shlomo had many siblings, not just the one known to the current generation of Jagolinzers, hence Haim Moshe and Mordechai in addition to Hersh Mendel, and perhaps others, as well.

Finally there is a story in my branch of the family about Basya Yagolnitzer after she had arrived in Canada in 1925 to marry her fiancé, my grandfather’s younger brother Nussin Limonchik (surname changed to Lehman in both the U.S. and Canada). She received urgent communication from her older sister Tsila back in Russia, asking that she contact their “brother” Yankel/Jacob (seemingly referring to Yona’s brother Yankel) in Baltimore to help bring them to the U.S., and were miffed when he did not reply. But it was learned later from Yankel’s daughter, who also made it to Canada in 1925, that her father had died in Russia in the 1920s and never went to Baltimore. So what is going on here? I would argue that it was a matter of mis-communication from the Russian. “Brat” in that language (pronounced roughly “braht”) means “brother” and is actually cognate with our English word. But it is also used in combination with numerical adjectives to mean various degrees of cousin-ship. Thus “dvoyurodniy [second-born] brat” means the son of an uncle or aunt rather than one’s own parents, hence what we call a first cousin. (Back in those days, and even in first generation America, extended families were much closer than is the rule today and often lived in very close proximity, so a first cousin was almost like a real brother or sister.) It seems obvious to me that these early Yagolnitzers in my extended family knew that today’s “Jagolinzers” were cousins and specifically that their cousin Yankel/Jacob (and not Yona’s brother), son of Shlomo the patriarch, a contemporary of their father Yona and his brother Yankel, had arrived very early in Baltimore (in fact, in 1898). What they didn’t know was that by the early 1920s Jacob had changed his surname from Yagolnitzer to Jacobs, had moved to California, and had been lost to other members of the family here in N. America. If Mordechai was a brother of Shlomo and the father of Yona, Yona would have been a first cousin to Shlomo’s son Jacob, a “dvoyurodniy brat”. Yona’s own children would likely refer to their father’s cousins as their own. (In our family my siblings and I would call Nussin Limonchik, “Uncle Nussin” even though he was technically our mother’s uncle, not ours.

F. Conclusions:

This project began with the accidental discovery of two people on the 1889 manifest of the Weser landing in Buenos Aires who appeared to match the ages and names of people later known as Philip and Katie Jagolinzer in Providence, Rhode Island, and who were still remembered as having been in Argentina prior to their arrival in the U.S. Another couple, where the man looked like a brother of Philip but where the wife’s name was garbled and where there was no such memory of an Argentine connection only proved out with the discovery years later of the 1895 Argentine census. On that form not only the names of the two principals matched, but so did those of their children. From there it was a long haul, over a period of years, involving extensive contact with distant family members in Israel and the discovery of more documents, to figure out who the rest of the “Iegelnitzers” were.

There are several conclusions that can now be drawn from these sources about the Yagolnitzers. First, it appears that all the “Iegelnitzers” on the Weser, were closely related and from Orinin. Second it seems more than likely that all the other Orinin Yagolnitzers (quite a number that we can’t begin to consider here) are related and not simply “landsmen”. Third the fact that Arye Leib’s family returned not to Orinin but to Bolgrad well to the southeast of Orinin in Bessarabia, where many more as yet unconnected groups of Yagolnitzers also resided, is clearly significant. It is suggestive of a familial relationship among all the Yagolnitzers connected to Bolgrad, not just the ones linked to Orinin. To deal with these extended possibilities is beyond the scope of this paper, but from the research done by Shlomo Yagolnitzer’s wife in Israel, we should have more than enough information to renew contact with many of Arye Leib’s living descendants as well as other branches of the family that she had contacted, to perhaps clarify some of the inconsistencies discussed above, and to reconnect the family that two world wars have scattered to the winds. Proof of these additional connections might come from identifying additional siblings of Jagolinzer patriarch Shlomo, or siblings of his father Yankel/Jacob and/or siblings of his putative grandfather Mordechai. Given the passage of over a hundred years, and with Yagolnitzers now found in Israel, North America and South America, it is hardly surprising that the puzzle is so challenging. (I should also note that we have one very dedicated Yagolnitzer in Ukraine, not discussed above, who sent me a detailed Russian/English family tree years ago which is still being worked on),

Apart from what we have learned and now suspect about early Yagolnitzer connections there is also a lot to be gleaned here about these Yagolnitzers as people. Clearly they were an intrepid lot. Voyages by sea in the1800s, even the late 1800s, were not easily undertaken and were fraught with uncertainty. (Clearly the Argentine episode did not work out for them as expected.) Yet no less than six such voyages were made before 1900:

  1. Samuel and his wife Chava in 1885 to the U.S.
  2. Samuel and Chava again, with eight more relatives, to Argentina in 1889
  3. Isaak and his family from Argentina back to Russia in 1893
  4. Fischel and Keyla to the U.S. in 1896
  5. Yankel to the U.S. in 1898 (with Laabe arrving in 1900)
  6. Morris Yeager to the U.S. in 1899


We don’t know when Samuel and Chave returned to Russia but we do know that on their return to the U.S. in 1906 they said they were coming from Orinin.

In addition to a spirit of adventure and daring, these early Yagolnitzers were also very dedicated to family. They saved and struggled to bring over as many of their people as they could from Europe and, in so doing, saved whole generations from the later Nazi onslaught that none of them could have predicted. They were passionate about the things they believed in. Some were very strict in maintaining their religious heritage; some were equally fervent about the developing ideas of Zionism and a Jewish national awakening. Surprisingly one even served a stint in the Russian army while another later served in the U.S. army in WWI. Not so surprisingly, perhaps, some were great scholars and educators (including an A.I. Yagolnitzer, later GOLANI, whom we have not talked about in this limited context.)

We also now have direct evidence within this family for some of the lessons we read in the history books. For sure anti-Semitism was the major impetus for the desire to “get out of town.” We all know that Jews were leaving czarist Russia en masse between 1881 (the year of the assassination of Czar Alexander II, for which the Jews were blamed) and the early 1920s, after which the doors to the U.S. were largely shut. But apart from the anti-Semitism, some people in this particular family were perhaps equally impelled to leave by the strong Zionist sentiment that was spreading throughout the Pale. This was certainly the case for Isaac, Shlomo the patriarch’s younger son by his second marriage and for Arye Leib. After 1921, when anti-Semitism in the USSR was theoretically illegal, persecution from the Communist system in many ways was worse. It was no longer a matter of not sharing Christian belief, but of normal Jewish activities that became taboo. Religious observance and traditional Jewish mercantilism were now tantamount to treason. This new persecution was exemplified in my branch of the family, where Basya’s father Yona was exiled to Arkhangelsk for the simple “crime” of observing Jewish ritual. At the same time others who were not religious were undoubtedly turned off by the stifling Communist ideology and/or driven by a general dislike of the old way of life and a desire to find something newer and better–both economically and socially. The Jagolinzers, in particular, worked very hard to bring over every family member they could to the “goldene medina” of the U.S. and it was the extensive records of that quest that have provided much of the evidence for re-establishing broken relationships.

There are also some conclusions to be drawn here in terms of research methodology.

  1. Immerse yourself in the history, geography and culture of the country or countries of origin. Learn as much as possible about the native language or languages of your ancestors even if you cannot learn the languages themselves
  2. Don’t give up hope when you hit a bottleneck. Information may yet turn up from unexpected sources. While I was aware of several towns across the border in Romania and in what is now Moldova that are connected with our Ukrainian families (such as Novoselitza, Botoshan and others), Yedinitz/Yedintsy was not on my radar.
  3. Cast a wide net. Look closely at early related families. Quite often the same families were interconnected (by marriage) in earlier generations. Use the Internet and other sources to search for possible relatives among those early related families, not just your own immediate interest. That search may lead to an unexpected success.
  4. Set up family e-mail groups and SHARE every scrap of information with everyone on them. Even people not directly connected with your family may come across information valuable to you, as you may do likewise for them.
  5. Actively search for sources in Russia and Ukraine as well as Israel, Canada and Latin America. Our ancestors went everywhere they were welcomed but some also stayed behind.
  6. Be sure to have any old foreign language family documents (passports, postcards, letters, the backs of photos, etc.) translated. They may contain valuable information beyond the names that you may already be able to read.

7. Read, reread and cross-check all the information that you have. It is the totality of information, forming a network, from which the best deductions can be drawn.


Jeffrey (Yitzkhaq Moshe) KNISBACHER was born in 1941, Baltimore, Maryland of Galician descent on his father’s side and Ukrainian, on my mother’s. His education includes a BA from Johns Hopkins University, BHL from Baltimore Hebrew College, MA and PhD from Brown University.

He has worked at the IBM Research Center, University of Pittsburgh, and as a teacher and analyst for the US government. Jeffrey has published widely.


This paper describes recent research on a very large and prominent immigrant family in Rhode Island and beyond, many from the area of Kamenetz Podolsk in the SW of czarist Russia and adjacent areas, that have shifted in sovereignty between Romania, Russia, the USSR, and now independent Moldova and Ukraine. It was initially inspired by the response of a 92-year old great uncle, Nussin Lehman (Limonchik) Z”L, who came to my father’s shiva (the one week mourning period after a death) in 1995 and, very sadly, left this world himself just six weeks later. I had asked about his late wife Basya, of blessed memory, and learned that she was from the family Yagolnitzer, a name I had never heard before, and a family to which I am not directly related, but which has led me into fascinating highways and byways of Ukrainian Jewish life and a more critical understanding of the reasons behind the impulse to leave, mostly for the new world.

The writing of this study, which has been ongoing in piecemeal fashion since 1995, has been made possible by the very large store of documentary evidence relating to the many “Jagolinzer” family members (the Rhode Island group) and benefits from the loving preservation of family lore and traditions by them and many other branches of the family. It also benefits greatly from the findings of one particularly prominent researcher in Knoxville, TN from another branch of the family (cited again below), as well as a document on the history of the Mosesville colony in Argentina graciously sent to me years ago by a Tissenbaum cousin in Buenos Aires. However it covers mostly new ground, based largely on Hebrew and Russian documents, copies of many of which are included in the text below. As a retired professional linguist, I look first at the linguistic evidence (though avoiding technical jargon as much as possible), then move on to an analysis of some published and private sources, and a discussion of the difficulties encountered when the sources don’t agree. The paper proceeds in six main parts:

A. The sources of evidence and some preliminary information
B. Linguistic considerations
C. Five Jagolinzers on the Weser and who they were
D. The unexpected and surprising Israeli connections
E. Problems with the evidence
F. Conclusions

  1. The sources of evidence and preliminary information The evidence I use in attempting to reestablish lost connections between members of this family (known by at least four main name variants—Egolnitzer, Iegelnitzer, Yagolnitzer and Jagolinzer) derives primarily from more than a dozen documents that fall into several categories indicated below:
  2. Photographs of people and of gravestones
  3. Debarkation and arrival documents
  4. An extract from the 1895 Argentine census.
  5. Extracts from two published documents in Hebrew
  6. Death reports, from funeral home sources and official vital records

6.1889 ports of call records for the German ship Weser

  1. Personal correspondence in Hebrew
  2. A Russian language army discharge document from 1886-1887
  3. Russian language WWII survivor cards
  4. A very early U.S. passport application


other preliminary comments before the rest of the discussion of these sources. As we will see below on the ship manifest for the Weser, the ten Iegelnitzers are preceded by four Feinsilbers, known to be closely connected to the Jagolinzers of Providence, RI, and are followed by eight Tissenbaums. The grouping itself suggests a close relationship since the names on the manifest are clearly not arranged alphabetically. My interest in this family also stems from the connections between the Tissenbaum family of my great great grandfather Aaron Shmul Tissenbaum (arrived in Baltimore in 1900 with five children by his second marriage and a first grandchild) and the Yagolnitzers. There are three definite connections that I am aware of and one suggestive coincidence, if it is a coincidence:

1. My maternal grandfather’s youngest brother Nussin Limonchik (son of Chaya Reiza Tissenbaum) married Basya Yagolnitzer where they lived in Montreal, Canada before moving to Jerusalem in their later years. This is the connection I mentioned as my initial inspiration.

2. My maternal grandmother’s mother, Chaya Royza Gilman (who, suspiciously, shares the same personal name and was of the same generation as Chaya Reiza Tissenbaum), was married to Mordechai Gelstein, who was related to the Tissenbaums. Chaya Royza had a sister Czarne Gilman (Jennie in English) who married a Morris Yeager (original name Menahem Yagolnitzer, son of a Mordechai). Morris came around 1899 to Philadelphia (which also has a very early Jagolinzer connection), where he shows up in the 1911 and 1913 city directories, but by 1914 was in Washington, DC, where he died and was buried two years later in 1916.

3. Carl Jagolinzer in Providence, RI, married Olga Schneidman, who was the daughter of Eliezer Schneidman and Miriam Tissenbaum, one of my great great grandfather Aaron Shmul’s sisters. A younger brother of Miriam and Aaron’s, Chaim Tissenbaum, had arrived in Providence as early as 1891 (also died in 1916 and buried in the Lincoln Park cemetery in Warwick, RI) and might have been the reason why the Jagolinzers came there.

4. One branch of the Tissenbaum family is connected to neighboring Botoshan, Romania (named for Batu Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan), as is a recently discovered Yagolnitzer, which may or may not be simple coincidence. One representative of that Tissenbaum family, Benjamin Tisenbom, came to England in 1886 and still has a few descendants living there today (in the Midlands area). Very recently one of the Jagolinzer researchers found a naturalization certificate for a Rose Yagolnitzer, “formerly Rose Zacharia, born Jan. 23, 1900 in Bottishan, Roumania.” She and her husband Isidor Yagolnitzer (from “Komnitz”, i.e., Kamenetz) were married in NY in 1927 and had two children at the time of their 1942 Petition for Naturalization. Often times these first generation marriages occurred in the new country on the basis of connections that already existed in the old.

One other basic piece of information concerns the founding generation of the Jagolinzers, the numerically largest of several still to be connected groups of Yagolnitzers, who have held five large reunions over the last hundred years, the most recent one in 2012. Their patriarch, Solomon Jagolinzer, was a nearly legendary figure. He was brought to Providence by his five sons in 1921 and died there in 1930 at the very advanced age of 101, as shown on his gravestone (hence born around 1829). According to family lore, he died on Yom Kippur because, against doctors’ orders, he insisted on fasting, as he had done all his life!

Solomon’s five sons were the following:

1. Morris (Max, Mordecai in Hebrew)–his death certificate from 1941 said he was 67, hence b. in 1874, but family lore insists he was the oldest, and the Providence, Rhode Island Sugarman funeral home card (not shown here) gives the age of 67 crossed out and replaced by 87, the age that is also shown on his gravestone below. Hence he was probably born around 1854:

The Hebrew text in the upper portion of the stone reads: “Here lies an honest and forthright man, our teacher Reb Mordechai son of Shlomo Yagolnitzer, passed away on the 10th of Tishrei 5702. May his soul find eternal life.” (The Yagolnitzer name of Max’s father Shlomo is actually provided in Yiddish, where the letters aleph and ayin are used to indicate vowels. The first two vowels are merely hinted at by the letter aleph. In Hebrew they might both be read as ‘a’ giving a reading of Yagalnitzer. However the Yiddish text under the caption of the photo on the first page of the Yedinitz yizkor book article [see below] shows the precise voweling, via a patakh under the first vowel = ‘a’ and a qamatz under the second =’o’. In the Hebrew under that same caption, the ‘o’ of the second vowel is also precisely indicated, by a vav with a dot above it, the kholam vowel.)

Max Jagolinzer

Max Jagolinzer

  1. Shmil (Samuel), surname later changed to Greenberg, b. 1862, as per the State of Georgia ship manifest, line 83 (not shown here) for his arrival, with his wife, in NY from Glasgow on June 25, 1885 listing his age as 23 (vs. 1864 from his gravestone saying he was 73 in 1937, and vs. the 1888 date, clearly wrong, that he declared–or was misunderstood to have declared–on his petition for naturalization in 1913). We will see below that an even earlier date of 1861 is possible.

He returned to the U.S. on May 22, 1906 on the Nieuw Amsterdam, claiming he had been to the U.S. before, in Philadelphia, from 1883-1885. These dates are mistaken since we have the 1885 arrival document. Perhaps he meant to say merely that he was here for two years and forgot that 1885 was the date of arrival and not of departure. In any case he and his wife were in Argentina from 1889 to at least 1895, where two, and possibly more, of their children were born. Today’s Jagolinzer’s were aware of younger brother Fischel’s connection to Argentina—see next—but not Shmil’s. That may be because

Fischel returned to the U.S., on the Lake Winnipeg out of Liverpool in 1896, just one year after he showed up on the 1895 Argentine census, and the Argentina memories were fresh. By contrast Shmil and his family only returned to the U.S. in 1906, not from Argentina, where they were also listed on the 1895 census, but from Russia, where they may have been living for several years.

Note that there is another Shmil in the family, to be discussed later, who kept the surname Jagolinzer, which may mean that this Shmil Greenberg changed his surname in order to keep the two apart. In lieu of the State of Georgia arrival manifest, which is hard to read, I here append the page from the Hamburg departure list from June 9, 1885 (over two weeks earlier) that clearly shows the first letter of the surname (for Shmil and his wife Chawa), on line 17, as ‘E’ but botching up the rest of the name as “Egolzinzer”. Line 83 on the State of Georgia has “Egolinzer” without the extra ‘z’. This is definitely the same family since Samuel and his wife are listed as ages 23 and 20 respectively on both documents. Where Samuel’s profession is listed as “Tischler” on line 17 of the German outgoing ship Breslau (headed first for Leith and then Glasgow, which explains the sixteen day difference between departure from Hamburg and arrival in NY), he is listed as a “joiner” on the State of Georgia manifest, a perfect translation.


  1. Fischel (Philip), b. 1866, as per an age of 23 shown on the 1889 ship manifest discussed below and probably more credible (since it came from the person himself while he was still alive) than the later date of 1871 suggested by his Providence death certificate showing him 62 when he died in 1933. But born earlier still, in1863, as per his Russian service record, to be discussed in more detail. Fischel was always known to have been in Argentina, the documentary proof of which follows below.
  2. Yankel (Jacob), surname changed to Jacobs (presumably derived from his first name), moved to California, b. 1873 as per his Baltimore petition for naturalization in 1912 which lists his age then as 39. He apparently came to Baltimore rather than Providence because his wife’s DINOWITZERs were already there.
  3. Laabe, Leib (Louis), surname changed to Yager, b. 1874, as per his certificate of naturalization, also in Baltimore in 1912. Apparently he followed his brother Yankel there but moved to Washington, DC in the mid teens, where he had the surname changed to Yager in 1919 (see below), and where most of his descendants still live. (Note that the double ‘a’ spelling for Leib was probably an attempt by immigrants unschooled in English and who were unfamiliar with the letter ‘y’ to represent a pronunciation that rhymes with English “say”. They used the same spelling later for “Faagel” and “Haarsh”)This order is mostly in keeping with family tradition, but only the listing for Max as the oldest seems to be certain. Here is an early picture and likely the only one of the five brothers together, as reproduced in the booklet of the Third Official (Providence) Grand Reunion held in nearby Seekonk, Massachusetts in 1964. It was taken some time after 1907 when the last brother, the oldest, Morris arrived, and probably before 1921 when their father was brought over, or he would almost certainly have been included in it. The photo was preserved by the Providence families of the first three brothers and may date from around 1908 when Yankel shows up in the Providence city directory. Possibly he went there to greet his oldest brother and to spend time with the entire family before moving back to Baltimore and, later, to California.
    Fishel, Mordechai (Max), Sam, Laabe, Yankel

    Fishel, Mordechai (Max), Sam, Laabe, Yankel

    B. Linguistic considerations

Earlier we claimed, without explanation, that this family is known by at least four main name variants: Egolnitzer, Iegelnitzer, Yagolnitzer and Jagolinzer. Unlike the occasional garble or typo, these are not random changes, but in order to understand them we first need to consider the initial letters of the four main variants—E, I, Y, and J, each of which is used to represent the same consonant sound, the high front semivowel that English represents by the letter ‘y’. We also need some background information on the languages of our Ukrainian ancestors, who, for the most part, spoke Russian or Ukrainian (both written in a Cyrillic alphabet) or Yiddish (written in the Hebrew alphabet). Most knew no English before coming to America. The two Roman alphabet languages our Ukrainian ancestors were familiar with were German and Polish: Polish because of significant Polish populations remaining from the days when the area was part of the Polish-Lithuanian empire; German because it was a kind of lingua franca in eastern Europe, especially for business transactions and, in simple situations, was mutually intelligible with Yiddish. In both German and Polish the letter ‘y’ is almost unknown, ‘j’ being the normal way to represent the ‘y’ sound. Thus in Europe the name may have appeared in Roman characters for the first time as Jagolnitzer.

The spelling “Iegelnitzer,” that appears in the Weser ship manifest for arrival in Argentina in 1889, that we will discuss in more detail below, came about because in Spanish the ‘j’ has a different sound value. In that language, the letter ‘j’ has a breathy pronunciation (technically, a voiceless palatal fricative), as in the word “jefe” (chief), which is familiar to most Americans and which actually occurs in one of our documents below. This same ‘j’ is also used to transcribe the Hebrew letter “khet”, as when the Hebrew name Khaim becomes “Jaime”. Thus ‘j’ cannot be used in Spanish for the initial sound of Yagolnitzer. While Spanish could have used ‘y’ as English does, that letter is almost as rare in Spanish as it is in German, hence the choice of ‘I’ as a first letter, followed by either ‘a’ or ‘e’. (There are in fact people today, some in South America, who spell the name as Iagolnitzer rather than Iegelnitzer or Iegolnitzer. We will discuss the reasons for these subvariants in a moment.)

English speakers may first have seen the family name in the European transliteration (from Russian or Yiddish) as “Jagolnitzer”. But, of course, we use ‘j’ as one way to represent the sound that occurs at the beginning or end of the word “judge.” (Note that this sound in English, technically a voiced alveo-palatal affricate, is spelled with a ‘j’ at the beginning, but with the digraph ‘dg’ and a silent ‘e’ at the end of “judge”.) This difference in the sound value of ‘j’ between German and Polish on the one hand and English on the other explains how the ‘y’ sound of Yagolnitzer came to be the ‘j’ sound of Jagolinzer.

Whatever the spelling of the name, the origin, as per Beider’s Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire, is in the pre-WWI Austro-Hungarian village of Jagielnitza. This despite a widespread and baseless misconception among varied Yagolnitzer branches to the effect that the name was derived from a Yagol river, with the “nitzer” part meaning river in Russian. In fact the Russian word for river is “reka” and no other language associated with the family–Yiddish, German or Polish–has any word for river remotely resembling “nitzer”. The village of Jagielnitza itself goes back to the Lithuanian and then the very large Polish-Lithuanian empire and dynasty of Jagiello. That dynasty was created by the marriage at the end of the 14th century, of queen Jadwiga of Poland and grand duke Wladislaw Jagiello of Lithuania. (Even before that the name was Jogailo.) What is now SW Ukraine was for several hundred years part of this empire. Note that because this surname is based on a toponym (the name of a place), it is by no means assured that all who bear the name are related. Nevertheless, as we shall see, there are many new connections that can now be proven, and many more that seem likely

With this foundation we can move on to consider the development of the names Yagolnitzer and then Jagolinzer in more detail with regard to vowels. Why, for instance, was ‘Ie’ used in the Argentinian records instead of ‘Ia’, to parallel, the ‘Ya’ in Yagolnitzer or the equivalent ‘Ja’ in Jagolinzer? It all goes back to a question of stress. In Russian, as in English, unstressed vowels tend to be “reduced”. That is, with unstressed vowels the tongue tends to relax and move either to the center of the oral cavity or to a position closer to surrounding vowels. Consider, for example, in English, how the stressed ‘o’ vowel in the second syllable of the word “propose” loses its quality in the derived noun “proposition”, where the stress shifts to the following syllable. The situation is pretty much the same in Russian. Although two different stress patterns have been preserved for the Yagolnitzer surname (see immediately below), the first syllable ‘ya’ is never stressed. Thus the pronunciation of the initial syllable in Russian will be “indistinct”. It thus makes little difference to a Russian whether or not you spell it with the ‘ya’ character (a single letter of the alphabet in Russian, the very last letter actually) or with the ‘ye’ character (also a single letter in Russian, identical in shape to the English letter ‘e’) as both will be pronounced essentially the same when not stressed. Thus a transliteration into the Roman alphabet as either ‘Ia’ or ‘Ie’ also made no difference to the Russian speaker, which explains why both variants have occurred. It also explains why the capital ‘E’ appears in the 1885 arrival documents: because the Russians wrote it that way while pronouncing it ‘ye’.

There is another issue of stress that is sometimes raised by various members of the Yagolnitzers whenever we first make contact. We are often asked whether we stress the name as YaGOLnitzer or as YagolNITZer, (i.e., on the pre-penultimate or the penultimate syllable) as if this somehow makes a difference in figuring out relationships. Actually I doubt that it does, and can’t even remember for sure how my great uncle pronounced it. The question in this case relates to the differing stress pattern of Russian vs. Polish, and the particular model from which the surname Yagolnitzer developed. In Polish the stress is almost always on the penultimate syllable. In Russian there are some complicated rules for the movement of stress inside various grammatical paradigms; i.e., a given Russian word, a noun or a verb, might be stressed on one syllable in one part of the paradigm but on another syllable elsewhere–on a different case form of a noun or a different person or number form of a verb. For our purposes, and much to the consternation of non-native learners of Russian including myself, stress varies almost unpredictably and usually has to be memorized on a case by case basis.

In Polish, with regular penultimate stress, the pattern town for the surname Yagolnitzer would be pronounced JagielNITZa. In Russian it could just as well be pronounced JaGIELnitza, with the stress on the preceding syllable. The problem for associating those two pronunciations with distinct branches of the family is that there seems to be no correlation between the two differing pronunciations and specific geographic locations or families. Almost all of the bearers of these names discovered so far come from southern Ukraine and very few from the Jagielnica area further north, so we don’t have a “Polish branch” and a distinct “Russian” or “Ukrainian” branch. The pronunciation difference seems completely random and occurs within the area of southern Ukraine.

Now how did we get from Jagielnitzer or Jagelnitzer or Iegelnitzer to Jagolnitzer or Yagolnitzer or Jagolinzer, with an ‘o’ in the second syllable? I believe this goes back to a pan-Indo-European phenomenon known as “ablaut,” defined as the patterned alternation of vowels in these languages that originally indicated a change in tense, aspect or function. A few examples in English (also an Indo-European language), directly related to our name, should suffice to clarify. Consider the alternation of ‘el’ to ‘ol’ to indicate a shift from present tense to past tense in these words: sell-sold or tell-told, exactly the alternation of ‘el’ to ‘ol’ that we find in the shift from Yagelnitzer to Yagolnitzer. (The same vowel shift applies, as well, in: tear-tore or wear-wore; i.e., it is not limited to an ‘e’ before ‘l’. It should also be noted that the reverse shift also occurs in English: ‘ol’ to ‘el’ as in hold-held.) However these and similar shifts can also occur without indicating grammatical change. We have seen already that a very early Jogailo or Jogaila later became Jagiello; i.e., ‘o’ to ‘a’ or ‘ai’ to ‘ie’. (All of the languages involved here–Lithuanian, Polish, Russian and Yiddish are Indo-European.)

More to the point of the ‘el’ to ‘ol’ shift (or vice versa) with Yagelnitzer-Yagolnitzer is another connected family name, from the same area, that shows the same shift. My maternal grandmother was known as Perl Gelstein, as were most of her sisters. But other members of her extended family, in Montreal, in Minneapolis and even in Russia itself, were known as Goldstein, as was shown from documents recovered from the Kamenetz Podolsk archives back before the disastrous fire of a few years ago. I have often wondered (as, I believe, others have also) whether this ablaut phenomenon may itself be an indication of a very early connection between Indo-European languages and Semitic languages. As is well known, in Hebrew, Arabic, etc. the vowel changes, especially in verbs, are so regular that no need was felt to indicate them in writing. So in both traditional religious writing and in modern printed texts vowels are not indicated, resulting in a kind of shorthand that leads to ambiguity in the rendering of foreign names that don’t follow the Semitic patterns.

As we have seen, the 1885 State of Georgia ship manifest and associated Hamburg departure list, both have Egolnitzer with an ‘o’ vowel in the second syllable, while the 1889 Weser manifest has Iegelnitzer, with an ‘e’ vowel. In other words, very early on, even though the name derives from Yagelnitza, there was a version of the derived name with ‘o’ rather than ‘e’.

The final linguistic issue to consider is how Yagolnitzer or Jagolnitzer (with the ‘j’ originally indicating a ‘y’ pronunciation as we have seen) came to shift into Jagolinzer. The steps might have been as follows:

  1. Yagolnitzer to Yagolinitzer; i.e., inserting a vowel between the ‘l’ and the ‘n’. This might have been done because the ‘oln’ sequence is very uncommon in English (other than a common pronunciation of the initial syllable of “only”) and there is not a single word in the dictionary that begins with that sequence. I can think of only one proper name that has it, the town of Olney, Maryland.

In fact we have documentary proof from one branch of the Yagolnitzers that they themselves felt the original name too clumsy for their new American surroundings. In 1919 the Washington Evening Star reported that Louis (Laabe) Yagolnitzer had his attorney S.V. Gusack file a petition on December 30th of that year “that because their last or surname is difficult to spell and pronounce, they desire and pray that it be changed to Yager.”

  1. Yagolinitzer to Yagolintzer (still pronounced at that point YagolintSer–with a voiceless ‘s’ after the voiceless ‘t’); once the extra ‘i’ was added, the word became an unwieldy five syllables long, hence the second (original) ‘i’ was dropped.
  2. Yagolintser to Yagolinzer (or Jagolinzer)); the ‘nts’ combination almost automatically drops the intermediate, interrupting voiceless stop ‘t’ to leave ‘nz’, now all voiced before the voiced ‘er’ (i.e. pronounced like English ‘z’, not like English ‘s’). Consider, for example, the closely related ‘nts’ spellings where a word like “mints” is pronounced, especially in rapid speech, identically to “mince”. (Here there are no following voiced sounds so “mince” is still pronounced “mins”, with a voiceless ‘s’.)

Of course none of these intermediate steps necessarily had any independent existence of its own, though in some unconscious fashion they might represent the internal process that led to the change from Yagolnitzer to Jagolinzer. But there is also documentary evidence pointing to a simpler written explanation. The 1885 Hamburg departure list that we have already considered has “Egolzinzer” where the first ‘z’ is clearly a scribal error. The 1885 State of Georgia arrival version is hard to read but does also seem to have the ‘i’ before the ‘n’ rather than after it. So those very early renditions of ‘inzer’ instead of ‘nizer’ (possibly also the result of a simple scribal error) may have perpetuated themselves ever after.

C. Five Jagolinzers on the Weser and who they were

Back in 1995, in my search for Tissenbaum relatives, I was sent the Spanish-language Mosesville document from a gracious TisseMbaum cousin in Buenos Aires (the ‘n’ of TisseNbaum later assimilating to an ‘m’ from the original dental position to the bilabial position of the following ‘b’ in accordance with Spanish phonological rules). It immediately provided some very exciting information for the large Jagolinzer clan in Providence. They had long known that Fischel, one of the five sons of the patriarch Shlomo, along with his wife Katie had gone to Argentina before coming to the U.S. A ship manifest for Philip and Katie “Jagastinitz” (an obvious garble) and their first three children Harry, Joseph, (later known as Jacob), and “Macks” shows them arriving in the U.S. on the Lake Winnipeg out of Liverpool at the port of Boston in September, 1896. (That raises interesting questions as to how and why they went first to England on their way from Argentina to the U.S.)

The ages shown for Fischel and Keyle on the Weser (1889) fit closely with the Lake Winnipeg manifest (1896). The names of their children match what was preserved in Providence. So that these people are the same as the ones known later as Philip and Katie Jagolinzer is certain. The question then became who were the other eight Iegelnitzers arriving in Argentina in 1889? They were most likely part of the same family but, as far as was known, never came to the U.S. Here are the Iegelnitzer listings followed by a copy of the original pages 290-291, showing Feinsilbers, Tisenbaums and Iegelnitzers adjacent to each other in the second column of the first page and also showing that families are not listed alphabetically:

Moses              50
Samuel            25
Chane              22
Isaak                24
Leybe              7
Manasse          3
Divora             11 ½

Brania              11 ½ (apparently twin daughters)

Fischel             23

Keyle               20

Initially I was confused as to why the twins were seemingly listed out of birth order with the others

until the suggestion was made that the “11 1/2” probably represents months, not years!table

Of course it was reasonable to assume that all these Iegelnitzers traveling together were part of a single family. That assumption became even more likely when I later discovered this Spanish-annotated version of the same listing on, a now defunct website


523   IEGELNITZER         Moses               padre                                      50

524   IEGELNITZER         Samuel                                                            25

525   IEGELNITZER         Chane    Esposa-Wife                           22

526   IEGELNITZER         Isaak                 hermano-brother                      24

527   IEGELNITZER         Leybe    hijo-son                                  7

528   IEGELNITZER         Manasse            hijo-son                                  3

529   IEGELNITZER         Divora               hija-daughter                           11.5

530   IEGELNITZER         Braina    hija-daughter                           11.5

531   IEGELNITZER         Fischel               Jefe Flia.-Family head             23

532   IEGELNITZER         Keyle                 Esposa-Wife;                          20

This listing tells us explicitly what we might have assumed anyway, that Isaak in the fourth line was the father of the four children listed below him. It also seems to imply that he was the brother of Chane directly above him. Apart from Fischel and Keyle at the bottom of the list, with Fischel listed as family head, none of the others were immediately recognizable to today’s Jagolinzers, although there was a suspicion that Samuel and “Chane” on the second and third lines might be Samuel and his wife Chave (Eva), with Chane being a typo or scribal error for Chave. (That idea was treated with considerable reservation since the Providence Jagolinzers had no tradition of Samuel being in Argentina.) And if it was so nonetheless, why weren’t Samuel and “Chane” listed together with Fischel and Keyle, and why was Fischel listed as family head when Samuel was older? And what was the difference between family head and “padre” (father) Moses? And who was Moses the father of—certainly not of Fischel and Samuel, whose father was the patriarch Solomon? table2

That Samuel and Chane Ieglenitzer were indeed the later Jagolinzers, Shmil (Samuel) and his wife, Eva,

On this first page we have Fischel, his wife (now spelled Keilla) and their first child Hersch. Note that Iegelnitzer is now spelled with an initial ‘J’ immediately followed by ‘golnitzer,’ i.e, Jgolnitzer, dispensing altogether with the unstressed, indistinct vowel of the first syllable (Ja or Je, Ia or Ie).

On the next page we have their second child Jacob and third child Mordche (like Fischel’s oldest brother, this Mordche was also known as Max in English, which raises the question as to whom he was named for since the older brother Mordche-Max was still alive). These three children, all born in Mosesville, match precisely what was known to the Jagolinzers, as the first three of an eventual family of seven children. (The last four were all apparently born in Providence since when Fischel and Keila arrived in the U.S. in September 1896 they only had their first three children with them.) Likewise the first two children of Samuel and Eva (now shown as Eva, not Chane): Rosa (after grandmother Rose Bertha Press? see below) and Jacob, match the first two of their eventual five children known to the Jagolinzers. There is also a question here of whom the two Jacob children (Fischel’s and Samuel’s) were named for since Jagolinzer brother Jacob-Yankel was still alive.

With regard to the two brothers Samuel and Fischel, this census provides a lot of new information. Apparently both brothers owned real estate (assuming that “posee propiedad raiz” is an old Spanish way to express that—it does not show up in my Spanish-English dictionaries). They both, in fact all the Jgolnitzers, were said to be unable to read or write. Presumably this meant only in Spanish as virtually all Jewish males and many of the females knew how to read Hebrew and Yiddish and often Russian and other languages, as well. (As we will see below, we have documentary proof that at least Fischel could read and write Russian.) In response to the question about profession, Fischel listed “agriculture” while Samuel wrote “carpentry,” which accords with the earlier 1885 data, both from the German listing on the Breslau and the English listing on the State of Georgia.

Keilla reported that she had had three children, all of them shown on the page above, and that she had been married eight years. That would mean that she and Fischel were married around 1887, just a year or two before they left Russia for Argentina. Eva reported that she and Samuel had been married for ten years, which would mean they were married in 1885, and then, apparently, departed shortly after for the U.S., where they arrived in New York on June 25 of that same year on the State of Georgia. (Did they do honeymoons back then?)

But, as often happens with such official data, they can also be confusing. Eva reports that she had had three children, but only two show up here. From the Jagolinzer data we know that these two were the oldest, born in Mosesville, but all the others were younger, and at least the last two were born in Providence. We also know from the early reports in Mosesville that in the very first difficult months a typhus epidemic killed a large number of children:

“Railway workers distributed food among the hungry children but soon enough a typhus epidemic exacerbated by poor hygiene, took the lives of 64 of them. In a very short time two cemeteries were built, one in Palacios and the other in Monigotes. Those cemeteries in the surroundings of Moises Ville founded the base of the Jewish community and bonded the Jewish immigrants to the land: they made the families stay and not leave the resting place of the deceased unattended.”

From the above census data we know that Fischel and Keilla’s first male child, Hersh, was born around 1890. If Samuel and Eva’s first child was born shortly after that, and named Jacob who then succumbed to the typhus epidemic, that would explain how both brothers named their following male child Jacob, in memory of the deceased. It might also explain why the Providence Jagolinzers never knew that Samuel had been in Argentina, even though they always knew that Fischel had been there. The Mosesville experience was very difficult from the outset but, with the death of their first child there, it may have been impossibly painful for Samuel and Eva to talk about Argentina.

We also have inconsistencies in some of the numbers here that don’t jibe precisely with what we had earlier. Since the census year of 1895 is six years after the arrival year of 1889, the ages of Fischel, Keilla, Samuel and Eva ought to be about six years older than reported on the Weser arrival manifest. Here are the ages for the two dates:

1889    arrival manifest                                   1895 census

Fischel                         23                                                                    30

Keilla                           20                                                                    28

Samuel                        25                                                                    34

Eva                              22                                                                    30

Fischel’s age of 30 in 1895 is only seven years more than in 1889, perhaps within the margin of error, especially since we don’t know the exact date when the census information was recorded. Keilla’s information shows an eight year difference as does Eva’s. tombstone-mother

Samuel’s shows a nine year difference. In each case these people are telling us they were actually older than they had reported on the Weser manifest. According to the census data Fischel was born around 1865 and Samuel around 1861. This date for Samuel is within striking distance of the 1862 date suggested by the age he gave of 23 on his 1885 arrival papers in NY. As we will see below, Fischel’s earlier Russian army discharge papers had him as 23 in 1886 which put his birth year at around 1863. I would tend to credit these earlier records, especially the military record; thus 1861 for Samuel, 1863 for Fischel. But these dates also are consistent with the claim that Samuel was older than Fischel, on all of these documents as well as with Jagolinzer tradition. Why the younger ages were reported on the Weser remains a mystery.

There are also two more issues that arise from this census:

  1. What happened to Moses, age 50, from the 1889 Weser manifest? Was he, perhaps, a victim of the typhus epidemic or did he leave Argentina before 1895?
  2. Who is the Haim shown here, age 68? If his age was actually 58 and simply recorded incorrectly as 68, we might suspect that he was that same Moses, whose full Hebrew name was either Moshe Haim or Haim Moshe. (The eight year age difference between 1889 manifest and 1895 census would then be in the same ballpark as the age difference for the rest of the family.) But this Haim is also listed as ‘S’ for “Soltero” meaning bachelor (and not ‘V’ for “Viudo” meaning widowed). Moses on the Spanish-annotated listing above was specifically said to be “padre,” father. So this Haim was supposedly a 68 year old bachelor, which, back then was rather unusual. It was a religious obligation to marry (“Be fruitful and multiply”), and the overwhelming majority of Jewish men in those days did marry. But it turns out that “Soltero” was some kind of mistake (perhaps reflecting misunderstanding of the word as “solo”-alone) because the gravestone for Eva Greenberg shows that her father was in fact Haim Moshe (lines 3 and 4 on the Hebrew inscription below).

Since there is no record of this Haim Moshe arriving with his daughter and son-in-law in the U.S. in 1906, he may either have stayed in Argentina, or passed away before his daughter and son-in-law left, or left after Samuel and Eva departed, perhaps back to Russia. Moreover we have no clue as to his possible demise from Eva and Samuel’s last three children, one of whom would likely have been named for a deceased Haim Moshe, because their last three children were all female. In any case today’s Jagolinzers had no idea that Eva was also a born Yagolnitzer although a careful review of the printed data available, in this case the Providence Sugarman funeral home cards, would have suggested it, even if the Hebrew tombstone data were inaccessible to most. On the card below for the death in 1937 of her husband Samuel GREENBERG (originally himself a YAGOLNITZER), she gives her name not as GREENBERG, but as Eva JAGOLINZER! card

Later that same year, her own death certificate shows her as Eva GREENBERG, but has her father as Hyman Moses Jagolinzer and adds her mother’s first name as Rebecca. Interestingly the other Samuel Jagolinzer, the son of patriarch Shlomo’s brother Hersch Mendel (Harry Max in the records), had six children, the first of whom was a Rivka, born around 1892, quite possibly named for Eva’s mother, assuming she passed away before her husband Haim Moshe’s arrival in Argentina in 1889.

The question now arises as to where Eva’s father Haim Moshe (Hyman Moses) fits in the overall family? If he was 60 on arrival in 1889 (and not 50), that might better explain why his wife, now known to be Rebecca—perhaps deceased–was not with him. An age of 60 would also mean he was born right around the same time as the Jagolinzer patriarch Shlomo (1829); an age of 50 would mean ten years later. Either way he could have been a previously unknown brother of Shlomo’s, in which case Samuel and Eva would have been first cousins, a not uncommon situation in old country Jewish marriages. In fact it also happened in this very family in the next generation. Samuel’s son Jacob (the one born in Mosesville) married his first cousin Fannie (Faagel) Jagolinzer, the only daughter among the six children of his father’s older brother Max.

If Samuel and his wife Eva were first cousins that could also explain whom their putative first son (and later surviving son) Jacob was named for: Samuel and Eva’s common grandfather: Jacob, the father of Jagolinzer patriarch Shlomo. Shlomo’s own son Jacob, born around 1873, would likely have been rhode-island

named for Shlomo’s father. But Haim Moshe perhaps did not have a son to name for his father at that time or even if he did, his daughter Eva might still have wanted to preserve the memory of her grandfather. For the moment, all of this is speculation and merely possible; we simply don’t know for sure.

But we do know that the annotation of “padre” on the Spanish version of the Weser manifest was correct although initially we didn’t know whose father Haim Moshe was. And the fact that Haim Moshe was the father, the eldest in this group, certainly meant he would be listed first, with his son-in-law and daughter directly below him. We can also postulate that Fischel, even if younger than Samuel, was listed as “jefe de la familia” because he may have been the one who arranged the trip, at least more likely he than his much older father-in-law. Samuel and Eva were in the U.S. as of June 25, 1885, and later, supposedly in Philadelphia. But we don’t know when they left the States. We only know that they somehow turned up on the Weser in 1889. It is possible that they went back to Russia in time to board with Fischel and Keyla, (if we credit the two years but wrong dates that they give on their return in 1906 on the Nieuw Amsterdam), but, if they were still in Philadelphia, it may also have been possible for them to board in nearby Baltimore.

The Norway-Heritage website . shows the Weser arriving in Montevideo, Uruguay on August 11, 1889 from where it moved up the Plate River to Buenos Aires to discharge its Jewish passengers a few days later. It had called at Baltimore earlier that year (April 12 and May 24) and did again on November 23 of that year. It could have stopped there on this voyage, as well, as the listing on this site makes no claims to completeness.  norway

Here is a picture of the ship off that web site. Note that in these early days the steam engine was still complemented by a full double mast of sails. On this same site pictures from inside these ships show that this was often a very unpleasant ride, especially for those in steerage class, with passengers laid flat out on the deck from extreme sea-sickness. ship

But this now leads us to consider an even earlier document that has survived about Fischel: his discharge papers from the Russian army dated the eighth of January, 1887. These papers consist of two booklets. The first one had twelve pages that were preserved. From gaps in the numbering it is apparent that there were over twenty pages originally, but it may be that the missing ones had no information recorded on them since these twelve pages appear to be a complete record of Fischel’s service. The second booklet, with a nearly identical cover, has fifteen pages of text with no gaps and no separately recorded information. Rather it is a pre-printed set of regulations, from 1874, the reign of Czar Alexander II, laying out the rights, responsibilities, and obligations of Russian servicemen. It is a fascinating document in its own right but is not directly germane to this discussion.

If Fischel did arrange the trip, it must have been quite an undertaking for him to have Samuel and Eva meet them without coming home to Russia, either out of the home port of Bremen, Germany or, possibly, via an intermediate stop in Baltimore. If we remember how slow mail was in the days before airmail, we have to marvel that effective international communications were accomplished at all. In any case, discussions by Jews in Podolia on the trip that eventually ended in Argentina were said to have begun only in 1887.

Here are the cover and first three pages of text from the first document, Fischel’s service record, which I scanned in two pages at a time and which contain the information most important for this discussion:

On the cover at the top is his name Fischel Yagolnitzer. The date 1886 is recorded in the rectangle to the left of the large circle with the crossed rifles. I cannot read what is in the block to the right of that circle, or the words below the circle. The rectangle at the top of page 1 on the right repeats his name, but this time apparently as Fischel Drakhnev Yagolnitzer (the handwriting, in the old orthography, is not always clear) There is a note in bold letters under “Bilet No. 104” that was on the cover, as well, that this document could not serve as proof of residency (an internal passport). Line 1 gives his rank as private and a second word I can’t fully decipher, but may indicate a one year service hitch, since it seems to include the Russian word “odno” meaning ‘one’. But his name is now listed as Fischel Shliomovich Drakhlev Yagolnitzer. That he was the son of Shlomo makes it clear that we are talking about the same person later known as Philip Jagolinzer in Providence. doc2

On the cover at the top is his name Fischel Yagolnitzer. The date 1886 is recorded in the rectangle to the left of the large circle with the crossed rifles. I cannot read what is in the block to the right of that circle, or the words below the circle. The rectangle at the top of page 1 on the right repeats his name, but this time apparently as Fischel Drakhnev Yagolnitzer (the handwriting, in the old orthography, is not always clear) There is a note in bold letters under “Bilet No. 104” that was on the cover, as well, that this document could not serve as proof of residency (an internal passport). Line 1 gives his rank as private and a second word I can’t fully decipher, but may indicate a one year service hitch, since it seems to include the Russian word “odno” meaning ‘one’. But his name is now listed as Fischel Shliomovich Drakhlev Yagolnitzer. That he was the son of Shlomo makes it clear that we are talking about the same person later known as Philip Jagolinzer in Providence. Here are pages 2 and 3:

The name Fischel Drakhlev Yagolnitzer here extends over the top of both pages. Line 4. says he was inscribed for service at the Kamenetz district on Dec. 16, 1885, with his service to start on January, 1, of 1886. Line 5 says he was not in any campaigns. Lines 7 and 8 on the next page say he was trained in combat but was not successful enough to be considered for the army’s combat reserve corps. Line 9 lists his one mastery: the ability to read and write (Russian). Lines 11 and 12 give his age as 23 and his marital status at that time as bachelor. We might recall that in the 1895 Argentine census Keyla reported that she and Fischel had been married for eight years, which means that the year he was released from active service, 1887, was also the year he married. If he was 23 in 1886 as this document indicates, he was born in 1863 or even possibly in 1862, which could mean that he was older than Samuel, another possible reason for him to be considered head of the family. But then why is Samuel consistently shown to be older in both the 1889 arrival manifest and the 1895 Argentine census? And if Samuel was 23 on his 1885 arrival papers in the U.S., had he also served in the Russian army? If not, one might think he would not have gone back to Russia because of the danger of being arrested as a draft dodger. If he had served, like Fischel, then the question arises how either of them was able to leave when they were supposed to be in the Russian reserves? But we know from the Nieuw Amsterdam ship manifest of Shmil’s 1906 return to the U.S. that he did go back to Russia since his last residence is listed as Orinin, not Mosesville. As we will see shortly, Isaak and his family also went back to Russia, so this was apparently not much of an issue at all. doc3

We now return to the question of the mysterious “Drakhlev” part of Shmil’s name. It is strange in terms of Russian naming structure which is typically one or more given names, followed by a patronymic, followed by a surname, but rarely if ever with another name between the patronymic and the surname. It is also strange because there is nothing similar to Drakhlev in any of the very extensive records of various Yagolnitzer lines. (There is a Jewish Drachlen family from Uman or Lupowice in the Ukraine that shows up in NY arrival records in the early 1900s, but they are far from the Kamenetz Podolsk area of the Jagolinzers and have no known connection to them.) Moreover Drakhlev appears in several forms, as if Fischel were playing with his new-found Russian writing ability. It even appears as “Drakhlevicha” on page 6, a feminine form, but implying “son of”. And this is the clue which led me to the following two images. Who could Shmil have been the son of other than his father Shlomo? The obvious answer is his mother! So maybe Shmil was trying to create a “matronymic” to honor his mother as well as his father. On Shmil’s death report she is listed simply as Bertha, while Fischel has her as Blanche, but eldest son Max’s Sugarman Funeral Home index card below also has Bertha, with the addition of the maiden name Press: doc4

 And then there is a fuller given name recorded on the Sugarman funeral card for her husband, the patriarch Shlomo. However this is not at all obvious. Here is the card:


At first glance, the Rose Bertha listed here is his mother’s name, not his wife’s. But this is questionable because other pieces of information on this card are clearly wrong. First his age is listed as 69, when we know from pictures of him, from the information recorded on his tombstone, and from family tradition that was even sent to the half-brothers in Israel when he passed away in 1930, that he was far older and quite possibly the 101 claimed. (He was, after all, a bookkeeper, so numbers might well have stuck with him!) Second, on the line for husband or wife, we have Jacob Jagolinzer, his father, which makes no sense at all. It is unclear who provided this information, but the question about age may have been misunderstood by the informant to mean his own age, in which case 69 could have been Shmil. In 1830 that would imply that Shmil was born in 1861 which fits perfectly with the age of 34 that he gave on the 1895 Argentine census. Max and Shmil, traditionally the two oldest sons, had apparently told the family that their mother’s name was Bertha (possibly Bracha or Brana or Bruria in the Yiddish original), which is then reported years later on their own death certificates (1941 and 1937, respectively). Given all these considerations, I think it is fair to assume that the fuller Rose Bertha given here earlier (in 1930) refers to the same person, Shlomo’s wife, the mother of the five sons and not Shlomo’s own mother.

Now Rose, or a variant Rozhie, is sometimes used as a nickname for Rachel, which is Rakhel, stressed on the final syllable, in Hebrew; or Rakhele or Rukhele, stressed on the first syllable in Yiddish. There is an obvious similarity to the “rakhlev” part of “Drakhlev,” the ‘ev’ part being a standard Slavic suffix on names. And then I recalled a list that Leah Yagolnitzer in Israel (to be introduced more fully below) had sent me over fifteen years ago. On that list of names of “Iagolnitzers” found to be alive then in Argentina, was a Malke V De Yagolnitzer, possibly a pseudo-French affectation, similar to the “von” that Germans use, “of such and such a house,” to signal patrician parentage.

Here we need to remember that Shmil learned to read and write Russian in the army, where the likely instructors were from the lower nobility, and virtually all Russian nobility at the time spoke French as well as Russian. The works of Pushkin, Turgenev (with the ‘ev’ suffix) and other classical Russian writers are replete with French expressions. So the D rakhlev, may well have been meant to stress that Shmil was the son of Rakhel (Rose Bertha), as well as of patriarch Shlomo. Of course there is no definite proof, but this explanation is at least consistent with what is possible from the facts at hand. In my own maternal family from this same area, I was surprised to find that on my mother’s birth certificate from 1920 here in Baltimore, not only was her mother listed, as we knew, as Pearl GELSTEIN, but her father was very unexpectedly listed as Sol GELSTEIN Lehman (the surname LEHMAN Americanized from an original LIMONCZYK). Only from extensive family research over the last two decades did I learn that he really was a GELSTEIN descendant also. Here is that list of Latin American Iagolnitzers, in a letter that is half English, half Hebrew:doc6-hebrew

Part II will be published next month.


Jeffrey (Yitzkhaq Moshe) KNISBACHER was born in 1941, Baltimore, Maryland of Galician descent on his father’s side and Ukrainian, on his mother’s. His education includes a BA from Johns Hopkins University, BHL from Baltimore Hebrew College, MA and PhD from Brown University.

He has worked at the IBM Research Center, University of Pittsburgh, and as a teacher and analyst for the US government. Jeffrey has published widely.