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The Solovachik Family

Selections from a 1995 family history by Henry Soloway about the Solovachiks
and some of their descendants.

 

Geography

Our branch of the Soloway family can be traced back over 200 years, to several shtetls (towns) in the province of Minsk (“Minsk Gubernia”) in White Russia (“Byelorussia” now “Belarus”) - the westernmost part of the former USSR near its boundary with Poland and Lithuania. The principal city in the area was then Mir (the Russian word for “peace” and in a different context for “world”), and the area was home to about 5,000 Jewish families in 1934. Almost all were killed during the summer of 1941 - including six family members - in an historic massacre during the Holocaust. Mir is where my grandfather Mayshe Solovachik (aka Morris Soloway) was born, and where his parents lived as adults until their deaths in the 1930s. Baranovichi (Anglicized: Baronovich, in Polish: Baranowicze), is about 10 miles from Mir. Baranovichi is where my father Gershon Solovachik (aka George Soloway) was born, and where his family lived prior to their departure for the United States. [1]

Ivenets (aka Ivenitz, Ivenec, Iwienic in Polish) is yet a third town in the area. It is 35 miles - or 80 vyarst- west of Minsk. Ivenets is where my great-grandfather Yankef (Jacob) Solovachik was born, and where he lived with his wife Chaya Soreh (Reznick) Solovachik until the family moved to nearby Mir sometime prior to 1870. Yankef’s ancestors had lived in Ivenets at least since the 1770s. Chaya Soreh’s family apparently was not originally from Ivenets, as the 1850 Ivenets census lists no Reznicks as residents of the city. [2]

My grandmother, Gitel Faitelewich Solovachik (aka Katie Soloway), was also born in the general area, in a shtetl called Neshviz. Yet an additional shtetl in the area is called Lechowitz (aka Lachowicze). It was the birthplace of of Katie’s mother - my great-grandmother - Blume (Rabinowitz) Faitelewich, and apparently also of Blume’s father Yechiel Rabinowitz. Lechowitz is relatively close to Baranovich, the city in which my father, George Soloway (aka Gershon Solovachik), was born.

 
Family name
The family name - before it was Anglicized - was spelled (in English) “Solovachik”, but several iterations of the spelling exist both in Europe and the United States. Many - or most - of the descendants of the many Solovachik immigrant branches adopted the surname Soloway, but since the name derives from the Russian noun for nightingale, a few Solovachiks adopted this surname upon arriving in the United States. Other iterations encountered include Solow, Soloff, and Soloveitchik.

The better known Soloveitchiks (the Anglicized spelling most often encountered) were and are an Orthodox rabbinic family, known throughout Eastern Europe and the United States for their scholarly activities over a period that dates to the late middle ages. A chapter devoted to the famous rabbis Soloveitchik can be found in the Encyclopedia Judaica. [3] Also, a reference to “the Soloveichiks (sic) from Minsk” appears in a short story by Vladimir Nabokov. [4]

While no direct relationship between the Rabbinic Soloveitchiks - who were principally from Kovno (aka Kaunas) - and our own less illustrious forebears can be established, the origins of all the Solovachiks / Soloveitchiks / Soloways / Soloveis / Solows/ Soloffs/ Nightingales, etc. from a restricted geographic area suggests that a relationship, while unproven, may exist.

Census records from Ivenets indicate that the Solovachiks were living there at least since 1773. But in what year the surname Solovachik was adopted by them - or assigned to them - is not known. A family tree constructed from these census records by Olga Gutman lists “Donya” (aka Daniel), “son of Meyer”, as the earliest documented ancestor of the present-day Soloways. Donya was born in 1773 and died in 1847. Donya’s wife was named Pesha (last name not known). Pesha was born in 1786; her date of death is not recorded. Donya and Pesha had six children, one of whom was Meyer Durn. Meyer Durn was born in Ivenets in 1804. Meyer Durn’s wife, Basya (last name not known), was born in 1815. Together Meyer Durn and Basya had six children, the oldest was a girl named Bluma (aka Blyuma), born in 1840. [5]  Meyer Durn’s first born son was Yankef - my paternal great grandfather. Yankef was born in Ivenets in 1841. According to my father, George Soloway, Yankef was a literate but poor orchard-tender. Yankef spent much of his adult life in Mir. He died in Mir 1937 at the age of 96.  During his working years Yankef was said to have rented orchards from estates and to have raised and harvested the fruit for sale. [6]

There exist two photographs of Yankef (aka Jacob). These are reminiscent of “Tevya” from Fiddler on the Roof, including the full beard as well as the traditional skull cap. The more recent of the two photos, from 1927, is of Yankef - then 86 - with two of his granddaughters, Pesha and Breina. This photo was sent as a postcard with a handwritten note on the back. [7] It was sent to Yankef’s son Morris (my grandfather) in 1927. Morris was living in New York City at that time, and had not seen his father for 23 years.

  

The Reznicks of Ivenets: Chaya Soreh and her descendants

Yankef (aka Jacob) Solovachik married Chaya Soreh Reznick (my paternal great grandmother), who was said by George Soloway to have been a “tremendous business lady”. Chaya Soreh had been previously married prior to her marriage to Yankef. It an arranged marriage [8] to which she had objected. This first marriage was apparently never consummated and ended in a religious divorce (a “get”). Although Chaya Soreh was said to have come from Ivenets the 1850 Ivenets census records list no Reznicks residing there. Census records from the 1880s, however, indicate that two Reznick families had been “assigned” to live in Ivenets. Two individuals named Reznick from Ivenets were killed during the holocaust. Their names are listed in the Ivenets Yiskor book as Lieb and Dina. It is not known whether, or how, Lieb and Dina were related to Chaya Soreh’s family.
An abbreviated family tree prepared by Victoria Soloway Friedman (my aunt) together with Katie Soloway (my paternal grandmother) in the mid 1930s indicates that Chaya Soreh Reznick’s mother was Breina from Mir, and her father was “Jehudah (?) Zorch Halevy” (sic). [9] A photocopy of this tree suggests that Jehudah was from Ivenets.
Chaya Soreh had a brother Isaac who married in Belarus (I don’t know Isaac’s wife’s name). Together they produced a daughter named Breina, who was named after Chaya Soreh’s deceased mother. Breina married Sam Kaplan. Sam and Breina Kaplan immigrated to the United States about 1900 and raised four children: Abe, Mary, Jean and Harriet. Abe became a neurosurgeon at the New York Polyclinic Hospital, and was said to have been the last resident trained by Dr. Harvey Cushing prior to Cushing’s retirement. Abe lived in Mount Vernon, New York. He died - probably in the 1970s. [10] Abe had two children, including a daughter about my age. I do not recall her name. There were other Reznicks from Ivenets in New York City but it is not known whether, or how, these individuals were related to Chaya Soreh [11], or to the two holocaust victims noted above.

The Soloways who immigrated and who didn’t

Together Jacob and Chaya Soreh had four children, all born in Mir: sons Mayshe Solovachik [12] (aka Morris Soloway, my grandfather, born either 1869 or 1870) and Asriel Solovachik [13] (aka Isadore Soloff, younger than Morris), plus two daughters: and Saina (?Shaina) Lapofsky and Henya (aka Senia) Sklar. Jacob and Chaya Soreh’s daughter Henya (aka Senia) married Wolf Sklar. This couple remained in Belarus and lived with Jacob and Chaya Soreh in the same house, where Jacob and Chaya Soreh helped them raise their four children. Chaya Soreh died in 1935.
Henya and Wolf Sklar perished during the holocaust. They were executed in Mir by German troops in the summer of 1941. (Note: Henya [Solovachik] Sklar and Wolf Sklar were my father’s aunt and uncle.) Breina, one of Henya and Wolf’s two daughters, was also killed, as was one of Henya’s and Wolf’s son Mordechai Sklar - together with Mordechai’s wife and child. [14]

Jacob and Chaya Soreh’s daughter Saina married Schimon (Simon) Lapofsky. The Lapofskys immigrated to New York City shortly before Morris and Isadore and their families. Morris, Kate and family initially stayed in New York City at the home of the Lapofskys. Whereabouts of current Lapofskys are not known.

The remaining daughter of Henya and Wolf was Pesha, who together with her husband Berel, evaded death during the Mir massacre by joining the “partisans” and hiding in the woods for several months. Both she and her husband died quite young after the war of natural causes, leaving behind two sons (see Julius Sklar below). [15]

A book called "All for The Boss" by Ruchoma Shain contains a series of letters written by the author to her parents in America during the mid 1930s. The book provides an excellent insight into everyday life in Mir and provides some historical insights relative to the Soloway family.

Immigration to the United States

The last decade of the 19th century - and continuing on into the early 20th century - was characterized by economic stagnation, czarist oppression, periods of political instability and religious persecution. From the 1790s through 1880 there had been political calm coupled with a population explosion in the “Pale of Settlement” zone (Polish-Russian border area) where Russian-Polish Jews were compelled to reside by virtue of edicts proclaimed in 1795 and subsequently in 1835. In 1882 500,000 Jews living in rural areas of the Pale were forced to leave their homes and move to towns or townlets (shtetls) within the Pale; 250,000 Jews living along the western frontier of Russia were also moved into the Pale, and 700,000 Jews living east of the Pale were driven into it by 1891. By 1885 over four million Jews were living within the Pale. [16] The population increase within The Pale converted their poverty into abject poverty. The 1881 assassination of Czar Alexander II then set off waves of pogroms. An especially ugly series of pogroms in 1903-04 is probably what prompted the departure of Morris and family, although there is historic evidence that Baranovici was relatively spared from these tribulations.

While official government policy was to expel 1/3 of Russia’s Jews, emigration was nonetheless illegal. This “Catch-22” led to exploitative practices by the shipping companies - principally Hamburg-Amerika and Norddeutscher - Lloyd - whose agents “scalped” steerage tickets and held “classes” on market days in various villages preparing families to emigrate. The majority of these Russian immigrants entered the United States via Ellis Island.

Morris, Katie and family debarked for the United States from Liverpool on August 24, 1904 and arrived in New York on September 2. A photograph taken of George shortly before the family left Baronovich exists. [14] The vessel on which the family traveled was the Baltic. Their ticket number was 10529. Since there was no berth indicated on the ticket, they most likely traveled “steerage”. The anglicized spelling of “Solovachik” first appears on the ticket from Liverpool to New York City. I believe that Morris and family arrived in Liverpool by ship from Hamburg, possibly also on the Baltic. How they got from Russia to Hamburg is not known, but the book "All For The Boss" describes the author’s trip from America to Mir. This involved a two-day train trip from Hamburg to Poland, then on to Horodzei, the closest train station to Mir. From Horodzei it was a 2.5-hour drive in a horse drawn wagon to Mir.

Julius Sklar - The Last Immigrant to the United States
Julius Sklar, a first cousin of my father George Soloway, was born 1914. Julius was one of the four children of Wolf Sklar and Henya (Solovachik) Sklar. Julius apparently “ran away from home” and went to Israel at age 18 with an organization called “Youth Aliyah”. He subsequently returned to Mir hoping to persuade his family to immigrate to Israel but was unsuccessful. Apparently Julius’ father, a cantor, had no interest in going to Israel because he would have had to do manual labor there. Julius then immigrated to the United States in 1938 at age 24, the year after Jacob died. [18] In the United States Julius married Frances Kantor. In 1955 they settled in Claremont, New Hampshire where they lived with their two sons: Richard and Warren. Julius developed a successful business which he eventually sold in order that he might attend college. He obtained a degree from Dartmouth at an advanced age. At the time of his graduation Julius was the oldest graduate in Dartmouth’s history. In 1972 at age 58 Julius died of a heart attack while driving down Main Street in Claremont. [19] At the time of Julius’s death his marriage had dissolved. There was another woman in his life, This resulted in a legal battle regarding his estate. The battle was eventually won by Frances. Mimea Kaminer, who survived the Mir massacre and knew the Sklar family in Mir told me that when she and her husband emigrated to the United States Julius Sklar gave her husband his first job here.

As of November 1989, Frances Sklar - then 71 - was living in Seattle, as were her two unmarried sons.

When Julius immigrated to the United States three siblings were left behind in Byelorussia (Belarus): A brother Mordechai and two sisters: Pesha (Sklar) Reznick and Braina Sklar. Braina (the elder of the sisters) was executed during the holocaust. Pesha spent 1941 - 1945 with “the partisans” - during which time she was 17 to 21 years old. She, and they, lived in the woods, trying to prevent capture which would have meant certain annihilation. [20] Mordechai, his wife, their child, Wolf and Henya all were executed in the summer of 1941.

At the end of World War II Pesha and her husband - Berche (aka Berel) Reznick - went first to Warsaw, then to Italy and finally to Israel. Along the way they had two sons: Avram (aka Abe, Abraham) and Mordechai (aka Motti, born in Israel in 1949). Pesha died of cancer of the stomach at age 30. She came to the United States only months prior to her death for treatment, but to no avail. After Pesha’s death Julius Sklar brought both of her sons - his nephews - to the United States for their education.

A letter from (my aunt) Fannie Soloway a few years before her death advised “there are no living relatives in Russia”. 

Morris and Katie Solovachik - My paternal grandparents
Both of Jacob’s sons - Morris and Isadore - were carpenters and cabinet makers. The oldest was Morris, my grandfather who was born about 1869 or 1870 in Mir. For unknown reasons Morris left Russia for London in about 1895, and worked as a cabinetmaker in the Whitechapel district for a Lord Wilson. Victoria said that Morris sometimes talked of having gone to the Opera House in Covent Gardens (of “My Fair Lady” fame). By the time he lived and worked in London Morris was already married to Gitel (Katie) Faitelewich [21] (my paternal  grandmother) and had two young daughters: Fagel (aka Fannie), born 1893 and Henya (aka Anna) born 1895. Katie, Fagel and Henya were all left behind in Byelorussia. A photo exists of Morris in London, circa 1895. Most likely he had it taken to be sent back to the family in Byelorussia. [22]
In late 1895 or early 1896 Morris arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he once again worked as a cabinet maker, this time for the R.I. Wilson Company. Apparently Lord Wilson had opened a furniture business in the rapidly growing city of Johannesburg and Morris was sent there to work by Lord Wilson. [23]

In July 1899 Morris left the Transvaal and returned to Belarus. I suspect that the Boer War had something to do with his timing. Possibly he was given the option of being drafted into the South African Army or leaving the country. Morris returned to Belarus. Prior to leaving South Africa Morris obtained a letter of recommendation. There exists a copy of it in my files. Gershon Solovachik (aka George Soloway, my father) was born in Baranovich in March 1902. [24] A daughter named Blume was born in 1903 or 1904. Then the extended Solovachik family “sailed” from Liverpool (first from Hamburg to Liverpool) for New York in 1904, eventually arriving via Ellis Island. Blume died of dehydration secondary to diarrhea in New York shortly after their arrival. My aunt Victoria was born in New York City on April 23, 1910, completing the family. Morris died of cancer of the esophagus in October 1946 and is buried in the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Forrest Hills, Queens (NYC). Katie (Gitel) died of cancer in 1947. Katie is buried next to Morris at the Mount Hebron Cemetery in Forrest Hills, Queens (NYC). [25]

 
The Faitelewiches of Neshviz and their descendants
Gitel (Katie) Faitelewich Solovachik was born in Neshviz in 1869. She was married to Morris in an arranged marriage in 1892. Copies of the papers exchanged by Morris and Katie prior to their wedding (a marriage contract known as a “ketubah”) are in my possession. The marriage would have taken place either in Mir or nearby Neshviz. Katie herself was born in Neshviz. [26] Katie’s father Gershon Faitelewich (my paternal great grandfather) - after whom George Soloway was named - had died when Katie was just three years old. No information is available regarding him. Katie’s mother was Blume (Rabinowitz) Faitelewich. Blume was the daughter of Yechiel Rabinowitz. She was born in Lechowitz (now: Lyakhovichi, in Polish: Lachowicze). [27]
Blume’s older sister, Leah Rabinowitz, had been originally married to Gershon Faitelewich, but Leah died at an early age. Gershon then married the Rabinowitz’s younger daughter, Blume. From his first marriage Gershon had two sons: Yeshayahu (aka Shaiya) and Yankel (see family tree provided by Olga Gutman). Presumably, Shaiya and Yankel were brought up by their “aunt-turned-stepmother”, Blume. Shaiya in turn fathered three daughters [28], one of whom - Frumah Faitelewich Cohen [29] - was the mother of Nobel laureate Stanley Cohen. Gershon - like his first wife Leah - died at an early age, for (his second wife) Blume was in her early 30s at the time she was widowed. Blume never remarried. Within a few years of Gershon Faitelewich’s death, widow Blume and her daughter Katie were in business together. An uncle of Fannie’s and George’s (i.e., a brother or brother-in-law of Blume’s) would send bales of cotton from St. Petersburg. [30] Blume and Katie would open these up, size them, and make them into sheets of wadding. These were then sold by the yard into padding for clothing, or bedcovers, or whatever. Blume chose to immigrate to Israel rather than the United States. She died shortly after her arrival there and is buried in Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives.
The abbreviated family tree prepared by my aunt Victoria and her mother (Katie) in the 1930s contains a few cryptic notes of interest relative to Blume and Gershon. One states that prior to the “Polish revolution” the family name Faitelewich had been Shimenovitz (son of Simon). [31] It further indicates that Gershon Faitelewich was from Neshviz and that his mother Vichne Spiles was also from Neshviz. Gershon’s father was named Shimen. The town of Shimen’s origin appears to read Vilna). [32] This tree further notes that Blume Rabinowitz Faitelewich’s parents - Henya and Yechiel Rabinowitz - were from Bialystok (now in Poland).
Research done by Olga Gutman in 1995 - based upon tax and census records from Neshviz - indicates that Gershon and his first wife Leah were born in 1813 and 1812 respectively. Gershon’s father Shimon was born in 1777. The records do not indicate where he was born. Gershon’s grandfather Vigdor was born in 1750. Once again the records do not indicate where Vigdor was born. That’s as far back as the records go.
The Israeli connection
At least a year before the family left for America (which was in 1904) Blume immigrated to Israel by herself, probably through the auspices of the Zionist group called Mizrachi. Apparently the option of moving to America was considered by her but ultimately rejected. Fannie told me that she, Fannie, remembered going to the port of Odessa to see her grandmother off shortly before Morris and family departed for America. Blume died in Jerusalem on July 28th,1903 [33] and is buried on the Mount of Olives. Vic Soloway reported to me in 1990 that Dr. Abraham Reznick (see Israeli connection above) reconfirmed the records of Blume’s death and burial. Vic then caused a tombstone to be placed on her grave in 1990. It reads “Blume, daughter of Yechiel Rabinowitz, of Neshviz.”
Sources of Information
Information in this essay was provided by my father, George Soloway, his eldest sister Fannie and his younger sister Victoria. Considerable information was developed by Dr. Ida Selavan of the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati. Other sources include Patrick Gordis of Berkeley, California, Mimea Kaminer of Brooklyn, YIVO (NYC), an assortment of essays in Avotanyu - a Jewish Genealogic magazine, distant cousin Avraham (aka Avram, Abraham, Abe) Reznick, translations of Ivenets and Neshviz census records provided by Olga Gutman, as well as translations of various Yiskor (memorial) books written by survivors of the holocaust in the late 1940s.

Note: December 2007: This essay represents a compilation of information from many sources. It was collected over three decades, but written in 1995, principally for my children. Information pertaining to relatives came from my father who passed away in 1982, his two sisters - both now deceased, and Abe Reznick. Background information on Mir, the Pale of the Settlement, World War II, and other matters was culled from many sources. These include articles published by JGS, translations of documents provided by Olga Gutman and Ida Selavan, conversations with dedicated genealogists, and various books and articles. If I have overlooked any sources that should have been acknowledged please accept my apology.

Addendum 2012:
In 2009 I had my Y-chromosome analyzed by Family Tree DNA. My reason for having this done was to try to answer a specific genealogic question: Are the various Soloway / Soloveitchik families all descended from a common male ancestor ("the founder") who lived hundreds of years ago in the Pale of the Settlement? Or was the Soloveitchik surname adopted by, or assigned to, several genetically unrelated families? If all the living male Soloways are descended from a common founder their Y-chromosome markers will be identical to mine, or nearly so. But if the root name was adopted by, or assigned to, several families at some time in the distant past, the Y-chromosome patterns will be distinct within each set of descendants, and many different marker patterns will be evident representing each of the different founders of these clans. See Y-DNA certificate

For more information about the extended family and the text of the later family history, contact Henry Soloway.


Footnotes

1. Baronovich was immortalized by Sholom Aliechem - of Fiddler on the Roof fame - in Aliechem’s short story “The Train Station in Baronovich”. Baronovich was originally part of a large wooded estate. It did not become habitable until the railroad put it on the map.

2. Olga Gutman suggests that Chaya Soreh’s family may have lived in one of the nearby smaller towns surrounding Ivenets.

3. There was a rabbi in Brookline Massachusetts (now deceased) who during the late 1970s was the dean of American Orthodox rabbis: Joseph Ber Soloveitchik. I wrote two letters to Rabbi Soloveitchik in the 1970s inquiring about his ancestry. He never replied.

4. Nabokov’s Dozen Penguin Books, Ltd., Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England 1958, page 50: “Whom did that woman resemble? She resembled Rebecca Borisovna, whose daughter had married one of the Soloveichiks - in Minsk, years ago.”

5. Morris and Katie Solovachik had an infant daughter named Blume who died shortly after the family entered the United States. Most likely this child was named after Morris’s aunt, Yankef’s oldest daughter.

6. Jews could rent, but not own, property.

7. The translation from Yiddish was provided for Victoria Soloway (my aunt) by her first cousin Julius Sklar: “A good year, and may you be inscribed in the book of life. God is to fulfill all your wishes. From your father who is coming to you as a guest [through the medium of this picture] together with your nieces, the daughters of Henya. From me, Jakob Soloweychick” (sic)

Note: In "All For The Boss", page 270, the author, Ruchoma Shain - writing from Mir to the USA - ends a letter to her parents as follows: “May you both be inscribed in the Book of Life for a happy and peaceful New Year.”

8. Called in Yiddish a “shiddich” and arranged by a “shadkhan” as in the Fiddler on the Roof song “Matchmaker, matchmaker...”

9. One would think that the father of Chaya Soreh Reznick and Isaac Reznick should be named Reznick rather than Zorch. Perhaps his name should be Jehudah Zorch Reznick Halevi.

10. Abe Kaplan operated unsuccessfully on my mother Anna (Wachtel) Soloway in 1957 the day prior to her death. The text of the Frank Netter - "Ciba Atlas on Diseases Of The Nervous System" was in part written by Abe Kaplan. Of some collateral interest, Frank Netter was a medical school classmate of my aunt Victoria Soloway (Friedman).

11. Joe Rubinstein is a genealogist with roots in Ivenets. He advised me that there were Reznicks from Ivenets in his ancestry. I called Joe’s uncle, Dr. Benjamin Rubinstein on April 10 1994 (212-799-1192). Dr. Rubinstein was 86 years old at the time, and is a retired dentist in Manhattan. He confirmed the presence of Reznicks in the family but remembers only the name of Joe Reznick. He said that the Reznicks were “financially substantial”, lived in the Bronx, “tended to be snobs...and looked down upon their poorer relatives who lived on the lower east side”. Ida Selavan, in a July 1989 letter, advised that Hinda, Hyman, Max, Irving and Lea Reznick - all from Ivenets - were living in New Jersey according to the Ivenets Yiskor Book. 

12. Mayshe - my grandfather - was said to be the seventh first born son in as many consecutive generations. My father George Soloway was therefore the eighth first born son in eight consecutive generations, my older brother Louis, the ninth, and my nephew Marc, the tenth.

13. Asriel Soloff had one son named Julius, a poor soul who was a World War II veteran who never adjusted after the war. Julius never married and left no heirs, i.e., the Soloff line did not continue.

14.  On July 14, 1995 the Las Vegas Review Journal had a story about the arrest of Szymon Serafimowicz, an 84 year old retired carpenter who was arrested in London and charged with war crimes under Britain’s 1991 War Crimes Act. Serafimowicz was a police commander in the Mir district of Belarus in 1941 and 1942. According to information released by the Simon Wiesenthal center in Jerusalem Serafimowicz was responsible for the persecution and murder of thousands of Jews in Belarus. The specific charges brought against Serafimowicz relate to the murders of four Jews in three Belarus villages. One of the witnesses against Serafimowicz will be Oswald Rufeisen, who advised the Sklar family to flee or be massacred in the summer of 1941. (See footnote #19 below)  

15. On November 16, 1991 I got a phone call from Patrick Gordis  who referred me to Mimea Kaminer, a survivor of the Mir massacre who knew the Sklars in “shtetl Mir” and later in the United States. I had not previously heard her name. I called Mrs. Kaminer - then in her eighties. Mrs. Kaminer recounted to me the names that had previously been provided by Victoria: Bryna, Pesha, Wolf and Mordechai Sklar, and independently confirmed their massacre during the holocaust. I called Victoria who then also called and spoke with Mrs. Kaminer.

16. In Russia Jews were not permitted to live in large metropolitan areas,  but there was an exception. Russians who had capital and who owned their own businesses were termed “pomeshik”, i.e., they were part of the upper class. Jews were permitted to a apply for a licenses - called “avorynim” -  which officially recognized them as part of the upper class - “pomeshik”. If this license was granted (usually it was not) they could reside in the larger metropolitan areas (e.g., Moscow and St. Petersburg).

17. It may have ben an identification photo or for a passport. The back of the photo indicates (in Russian) that the photo was taken in Baronovich at the Barona Photo Studio near the Moscow-Brest Railroad Station. It further states “Indicate the desired size of portrait wanted” and at the bottom it indicates “Negative saved”.

18. My brother Louis told me that as a child, he remembers Julius - then a newly arrived immigrant - staying for a period of time with our family at 1063 Prospect Place in Brooklyn.

19. A copy of the October 11, 1972 Claremont New Hampshire Daily Eagle provides an obituary for Julius. It says he operated the Forrest Wedge and Clark Company and the Vermont Stacked Heel Company in White River Junction for several years. He then sold the businesses and entered Dartmouth. Following his graduation he became manager of the Claremont Flock Company.

20. The story of Pesha’s survival was related to me by my aunt Victoria, as well as by Pesha’s son Avram Reznick. Pesha and her husband-to-be Berche were warned to escape by a Jewish man who was an interpreter for the Nazis. This individual, whose name was Shmuel Oswald. Oswald hid his true identity and pretended to be a Polish military officer. He was soon discovered to be an imposter. To escape death he entered a Carmelite monastery where he became a convert and assumed the name “Brother Daniel”. After the war Brother Daniel applied for citizenship in Israel. His request as refused on the grounds that he was a Christian priest. After five years residency at the Carmelite monastery in Haifa he was granted citizenship. Subsequently he became Father Daniel. Father Daniel remained in touch with Avram and Motti Reznick who both live in Israel (Avram and Motti are the sons of Pesha Sklar Reznick). In 1990 a book titled "In the Lion’s Den" by Nechama Tec was published by Oxford University Press. It is a biography of Oswald Rufeisen / aka Father Daniel.

21. Morris and Katie were married in 1892 according to Victoria.

22. It is of interest that the photo shows Morris without beard or skull cap, indicating that by 1985 he had eschewed the Orthodox dress code of his forebears.

23. Once again the book "All For The Boss" provides some insights about why Morris was in Johannesburg and Baronovich. Johannesburg had a large enough Jewish population to support at least one rabbi. The rabbi (or one such rabbi) was named Kosovsky and he was originally from Mir (page 239).

24. Baronovich was originally a wooded estate. Morris was a cabinetmaker and a carpenter. The author of "All For The Boss" in one letter home writes that her “furniture and bedding had finally arrived from Baranowitz (sic)”. It is likely from this statement that Baronovich had lumber mills and a furniture industry and that such was not the case in Mir.

25. Block 115 of Mount Hebron cemetery in Queens

26.  Currently Nesvizh (in Polish: “Nieswiez”). Neshviz was originally a castle and surrounding township owned by Prince Radzewille. The town was also of historic importance in that Czar Nicholas maintained a battalion of soldiers there.

27 The Lechowitz Yiskor book lists one individual named Rabinowitz who perished in the holocaust. It is likely that this individual was related to Yechiel and his daughter Bluma. I own a copy of the Lechowitz book. Unfortunately it is all in Hebrew, but some historic material provided by Alan Streit of Albany California follows:

“Jews were living in Lechowitz by the first quarter of the 17th century. According to a decision of the Lithuanian Council of 1623, the community was subordinated to the kahal of Pinsk. During the second half of the 18th century the city’s annual fairs were an important meeting place for Jewish merchants. There were 729 Jewish poll tax payers in 1766; in 1847 the community numbered 1,071, increasing to 3,846 (76.6% of the total population) in1897. The chaos of World War I and the immediate postwar years caused a drop in the Jewish population and in 1921 they numbered only 1,656 (58.7% of the population).

On the eve of the World War II German occupation (June 24, 1941) the community consisted of 6,000 Jews. On June 28 a number of Jewish community leaders were murdered in the nearby forest, following which a pogrom broke out in which 82 Jews were killed (July 1). In the fall of 1941 the Jews were ordered to assemble in the marketplace, were a Selektion was made to separate the able-bodied from the “non-productive”. The latter were taken to a trench and murdered: some tried to escape but most of these were shots. The “productive” persons were interned in a ghetto. A group of young persons, led by Zalman Rabinowicz, Josef Peker, and Haim Abramowicz. organized resistance units. In summer 1942, a second Action was carried out in which 2,500 Jews were murdered. Some attempts at resistance were then made. When an Action to liquidate was carried out the Germans met with armed resistance. Some ghetto inmates escaped to the forests and joined the partisans, among them Shmuel Mordkowski, who was an outstanding resistance fighter. Less than ten Jews survived in Lechowitz. About 80 Jews from the town who had joined the Soviet Army in 1941 also survived. A society of former residents of Lechowitz functions in Tel Aviv.”

28. Shaya and Itka had three daughters: Ruchel, Reindel and Fruma. In fact I remember them when I was a young child. The family tree prepared by Olga Gutman shows that Shaya and Itka had three children: Ruchel, Malka and Abram. The Gutman-family tree is incorrect. It is noted that many of the old Russian records contain inaccuracies, many purposely planted to avoid taxes, military service, etc.

29. A copy of the ketubah (marriage contract) between Yehudah Leyb Ha-Kohen son of Lipman Ha-Kohen and Frumah, daughter of Yeshayahu, is in my possession. The original is filed under the name of Morris Soloway with YIVO in NYC. The Ha-Kohens were Stan Cohens parents - also the parents of Ethyl Feldman and Bill Corwin. Stan Cohen explained that Ha-Kohen was originally “Katz”. Another iteration of the same name was “Caino”.

30. Jews were prohibited by law from residing outside the Pale, in places such as Moscow or St. Petersburg. There was an exception, however, for Jews who applied for, and were granted, pomeshik. (Pomeshik was not usually granted.) Pomeshik was a distinction that indicated that an individual or family had money and owned his own business. Census records from Neshviz from 1816 and 1827 indicated that the Faitelevich family had been granted this distinction, and that Ovsher Faitelevich - an older brother of Schimon had “moved to a different community” in 1814. This was probably the source of the St. Petersburg connection. 

See Solovachik family photos and family trees provided by Henry Soloway

updated Jan 2012

Updated January 2008

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