Last updated September 23, 2012
This article originally appeared in a Pittsburgh Jewish genealogy publication in 1984.
One evidence of the resurgence of Jewish consciousness is interest of younger Jews in their roots.
Twelve years ago, my son Elliot, then living in Boston, sent me an old map of a section of Russia which included Minsk Gubernia. He circled a village called Schedrin which he knew to be the birthplace of my mother and asked me to inquire about details of the origin of this community and about our family.
A flashback to the mists of my memory as a small boy recalled my Zayde, Henach Horvitz, chatting with a croney, wishing he could afford to visit his native Schedrin. Why? "Besides seeing who was left, maybe I could locate a document which my father said did not yet have his name listed." It was a family tree to the first Levite. Even though this may be apocryphal, the possibility of my mother's lineage rooted to the Chumach was enough to motivate me to organize a gathering of Schedriners from which I might get more information.
Assembling a mailing list of several relatives plus relatives of some of the people buried in the Lubavicher cemetery, I was able to send fifty invitations for a gathering at South Park. Over 200 persons attended and the reunion of oldsters; after decades of absence, was heart warming.
On the basis of a tape I already had of an uncle, Sam Oklin, I was able to trace the family of my Grandma Freda Horvitz back to an Okun born in Sevastopol about 1795.
I learned the origin of the name OKUN. When Russia ordered all Jews to assume surname in the 1640's, Freda Horvitz's Zayde was a fisherman whose nickname was the commodity he sold, a perch called OKUN in Russian. I now enquire into the origin of names; sometimes it is known.
Another Schedriner prominent in Pittsburgh is Maish Okun, the sign painter, now residing in North Miami. An immigration clerk printed the U carelessly and Okun became Oklin.
By talking with several of the older Schedriners and reading stories assembled by historians of Plotkin, Friedman and Weiner families, and also from an excellent history published by the Lubavichers, I learned that Schedrin was founded in the 1840's. The Lubavicher rabbi, the Tzemach Tzedek, persuaded a prince Schedrinov to sell a tract in a forest he owned to a lumber merchant in Bobroisk.
Timbers were cut for houses and barns for the 300 families which the Tzemach Tzedek ordered to settle in the village. Most of these were craftsmen and all were very traditional. By 1900, the population reached 4,000, but economic and political conditions sparked a migration of half the population mostly to the United States, some to Palestine.
Many synagogues served the population which was entirely Jewish in 1900. The largest schule was Elkonen's Schul. Rabbi Sholom Posner, Dean of Achai Tmimim in Pittsburgh, was one of the last graduates from a Yeshiva at that schul, in 1917. A considerable number of the Schedriener descendants are observant.
By 1942, half the population was gentile, many of whom pointed out Jewish homes to the invading Nazis. Over 1200 were herded to the cemetery area and killed. In 1961, a Prussian war hero, General Olshensky, was able to get permission to build a commemorative monument. It still stands but the Hebrew letters have bean obliterated. The last Jew to live in and to visit Schedrin (1970) was Pittsburgher Mark Livstone. He was born shortly after his mother escaped the Nazi slaughter. She hid in the forest nearby and joined the Freedom Fighters. Another Pittsburgher who visited Schedrin recently is Joseph Margulin.
At the first gathering a format was established which has been followed each year. A brief history of the community is rendered; a visiting Schedriner gives a short account of life in Schedrin; new faces are introduced; and alI are invited to study the charts on display and to correct and update the family trees. A short memorial service is held for the over 1200 Jews who were massacred in 1942. Prussian survivors cannot say kaddish. So this group hears the Kail Moln Rachemim and says kadish. The time of the meeting is always a week before or after Tisha B'av. Some years, we have short renitions of songs of Schedrin. Performers have been Jacob Gorelik, Sage of Schedrin, who recalls many melodies and Galit [the last line of this paragraph has been obliterated.]
The three charts originally prepared have grown from trees to a forest. Families descended from Chaim, Bela and Frada-Galya Lifshitz, include Efroim Leff, Henach Horvitz, Tevya Horvite. Other tribes started with Eliezer Plotkin, Aaron Weiner, Yale Greenblatt, Yaccov and Israel Okun, Chaim Friedman, and others.
Many prominent Pittsburghers are Schedriners. They include Nate Alpern, Nancy Bromberg, Esther and Sid Busis, Mrs. Sam Cohen and Norm Cohen, Mollie Congress, Rose Aronson, Sog Bergad, Mrs. S. Boodman, Bob Cantor, Selma Cohen, DeBroffs, Lil Epstein, Bernie Friedman, Bernie Alpern, Marv Apple, Marshal Cherner; Abe Garrick, Jean Gottlieb, Sam Horvitz' sons, Fanny Katz' sons, Bess Kaufman, Mrs. Boris Kentor, Sam Horlick's children, Mrs. H. Goldstein, Dave Horvitz, Mrs. Sandy Jacobs, Nate Katzen, Mrs. M. Landay, Mrs. Phil Goldstein, Lou Harvey, Matey, Jim and Lou Leff, lrv Leff, Lloyd Livstone, Mrs. George Levinson, Mrs. Herb Lichtenstein, Mark Livstone, Sol Metlin, Jack Meyers, Mrs. J Falk, Lillian Meyers; Marsha, Lee and Teddy Nisenbaum, Maish and Mark Oklin, Mrs. Rebecca Parkansky, Ben Plotkin, Lil Spear Rubin, Dave Shader, Rudicks and Greenblatt of Youngstown, Abe Plotkin, Art Plotkon, Howard Selekman, Mrs. Harvey Simon, Phyllis Unger, Mrs. Gil Weil, Sid Weiner, Bess Winograd and children, Ruth Strauss, Ruth Zeiden, Myrna Wolk, Stan Wymer, Mrs. Morris Zweibel.
My list is on 260 cards and these do not cover all names. At each gathering, new tribes appear, always with intertwining branches. A lot of cousins married in this small community. The data on births, deaths and marriages grows steadily; a computer will be needed to keep track if it keeps up.
For the benefit of Floridians who cannot make it to Pitsburg, gatherings are held at Greynolds Park, North Miami Beach, Florida. This year's gathering, the third, was attended by 30 persons.
Last year a letter came from a woman in Omaha who had just arrived from Russia asking for help in locating family. Her uncle was a Boruch Okun and he had a son Laib, an attorney, and a son Schai, a pharmacist. I wrote to the 10 names in the Okun clan with the translated letter. By return mail I received a letter from Judge Louis Okun of Manhattan, N.Y. She was indeed his cousin.
My library of tapes has grown to 25. After copies are made, I plan to send them all to YIVO in New York City for future study. Tapes include genealogy and references to life in Schedrin and early years in the United States.
During the 20's and 30's, Schedrin Societies existed in Pittsburgh, New York and elsewhere. The New York group is at present only a cemetery organization.
Costs of the mailings and other costs are partially borne by hat passing at the gatherings.
A cookbook of Schedrin delicacies is being prepared by Esther (Bob) Horvitz, Niecki (Sandy) Gordon and others. It will also have a short history of Schedrin included. It will feature dishes handed down by Schedrin mothers to their daughters and relished by descendents worldwide.
This year, on Sunday, July 17th, , 2 days before Tisha B'av, another gathering (we don't call them picnics) will be held at the Mt. Lebanon Public Park. Galit Sassower and Jacob Gorelik are expected to attend and to bring to life a moment in the life of the Shtetl Schedrin as our grandparents knew it.
Thanks to Harry Katz, now in Deerfield Beach, FL, for his permission to reprint his article here. Mr. Katz remains active in the Pittsburgh Shchedriner community.
Also available online are four articles about other Schedrin reunions in Florida.
Scadryn Site Index
These include some sites outisde of JewishGen.org
|Historical Information||Personal Accounts||Reference Information/Sites|
|Home||Harry Katz: Pittsburgh Schedrinners||Belarus, Minsk & Schedrin Maps|
|Goldmann Museum: Schedrin||Kaplans: From Schedrin to Sioux City||Family Names in Schedrin|
|Founding of Schedrin||Sara Plotkin||Schedrin Family Researchers|
|Russian Law & Jewish Farming||Schedrin Descedents||What's in a Name?|
|Schedrin Reunions||History of the Family Golodetz||Evolution of Names|
Site created and maintained by Melissa Kaplan.