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Joel Levinson family history "Memories of Europe"  courtesy of Joel Levinson               An interview with Joel's grandmother and her sister talking about their memories of life in Europe prior to 1904. The family came from several smaller towns that were near Dunilovichi.  They lived on a farm that was on an estate that belonged to a Polish count named Shizdevski, very near Varapareva.  It was about 20 miles from Dunilovichi, and the family went there on market days.

The Family of Chaim Yoshe Schneider and Itte Ceplowitz  courtesy of Linda Wilson, re-told by Helen Kessler Gresky An interview with Rose Schneider, daughter of Chaim Yoshe Schneider (1849-1891) and Itte Ceplowitz Schneider (1847-1921) at re-told by her daughter Helen Kessler Gresky.  The story recalls their life in Dunilovichi from their marriage in 1862 through the immigration of five of their daughters to the United States. Family names include Schneider, Ceplowitz and Reichel.

The Family of Pesach Mordechai Raichel courtesy of Susan Weinberg The history of the Raichel, Zinger and Kodish families from Dunilovichi as told by Susan Weinberg. On a recent visit to Dunilovichi, Susan found the tombstone of her great-great grandfather Pesach Mordechai. In this narrative she traces his descendants from Dunilovichi to the United States and Great Britain linking cemetery records and immigration records to reconstruct family relationships.




























THE FAMILY CHAIM YOSHE AND ITTE SCHNEIDER

Recollections of Rose Schneider daughter of Chaim Yoshe Schneider & Itte Ceplowicz

Retold by Helen Kessler Gresky, daughter of Rose Schneider


Our family history begins in Danilowicz, Lithuania, twenty kilometers from Vilna, with Chaim Yoshe Schneider who was thirteen when he married Itte Ceplowicz, sixteen. He was sometimes delayed getting home from shul because he hung around with his friends there.  Chaim Yoshe had at least one brother who we know was the father of Barney Schneider.

 

We know that Itte (Edith) was a blond and an only daughter.  She had several brothers, described to me as tall men who came into Danilovitz occasionally.  Edith also remembered a little brother of five, who was picked up and carried away by one of the tsar’s soldiers who came through town on horseback.  This was a fairly common occurrence when a soldier needed a boy to shine his boots or to take care of other chores. Sometimes these boys remembered where they came from and returned later on to help out their families.  This little brother never returned.  Another of Edith’s brothers was Itzhak Pesach Ceplowicz, father of Etta, who later married Nathan Metz.  Their children were Morris, Henry,Rose and Eleanor.


To pick up on their life together, Chaim Yoshe and Edith Schneider lived in a house with a dirt floor and something of a front porch.  There was also a smaller house at the back of the property.  Chaim Yoshe was a glazier and a carpenter, and Edith ran a bakery and inn.  We could hardly call it an inn, except that sometimes a peasant would come in with a fish that he had caught and Edith would prepare the fish for him.  He might sleep overnight on the floor if he was too drunk or if it was too late for him to get back home.

 

Should anyone want to try to find Danilovitz, there were many towns with that name.  This particular one was almost completely surrounded by water, probably of a lake or river. We know that the water was badly polluted because a Russian scientist once tested the water.  He said this was the reason for all the bad teeth he saw.  All the children learned to swim, however.  My mother did a dog paddle.

 

Chaim Yoshe and Edith served liquor illegally, so eventually Chaim Yoshe had to spend a  year in jail.  Edith brought him kosher meals, but there were rough characters, also incarcerated, who took the food from him.  He became ill as a result.  When he was taken to Vilna to see a real doctor, (they had only the local “felsher” in Danilovitz) he was diagnosed as having “TB of the throat” – more likely cancer.  Edith went on serving liquor and she too went to jail. She had very good relations with the locals, so she sat all day and did her knitting, and the jailer let her go home to take care of her family at meal times.  The non-Jewish peasants would also warn her of impending pogroms so she could close the shutters and keep the family out of sight.

 

Edith and Chaim Yoshe had thirteen children, two sets of twins among them.  Only seven of the thirteen reached adulthood. Chaim Yankel was the first born and the only son to survive.Chyenke (Hannah), who married Louis Reichel, was the first to marry.  Chaim Yoshe was already ill, but Hannah had friends who came of more prosperous families, so she had a trousseau, a dowry and a wedding.  Chaim Yankel was engaged at the time of his father’s death, in 1891, and his marriage was postponed.   His father had always promised that when Chaim Yankel married, he would have to live in the little house at the back of the property, but Chaim Yoshe was gone by the time that marriage took place, so Chaim Yankel and Neshke Gitlitz moved into the large house and life changed for the girls.  The usual in-law problems developed and were a factor in the girls beginning to emigrate to America.

 

A gypsy had taken Edith’s hand when she was a youngster, and she predicted that Edith would be a young widow.  Although she had had thirteen children, she was not an old lady when Chaim Yoshe died.  At the time that these seven children were growing up, girls in small towns usually got no education, but Edith wanted to be sure that her girls would be able to write to her if they left home.  They were taught to read and write Yiddish.  Chaim Yankel, of course, had gone to Cheder.

 

The first of Edith’s children to come to the United States were Anna and Nechameh.  They came together; both went to school and learned English.  (Author’s note: later, we inherited books that proved that either one or both had gone to high school.)   Anna, especially, became interested in trade unions, communism, anarchism, and “free love”.  They both went to lectures of Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman etc.  Anna was way ahead of her time; she “shacked up” with a married man who much have been a Union organizer because after living with him in New York, she went with him to Chicago.

 

The two, Anna and Nechameh, lived on the lower East Side of Manhattan and worked I sweat shops – hence, their interest in unions.  Nechameh was very much impressed with the “heroic deeds” of some of the other lecturers who had left Russia in fear for their lives because of their revolutionary ideas.  The factories where the girls worked would slow down at various seasons of the year, “slack seasons”, and few jobs were available.  One year when Anna got a job and Nechameh didn’t, Nechameh became depressed and committed suicide.  She drank carbolic acid.  I think I remember my mother saying she left a note saying that she didn’t want to live if she couldn’t do something heroic with her life.

 

Rose (Ruchel Leah) was the net to come to the states.  She took some English courses, started going to lectures with Anna, and worked in a shirtwaist factory. (They were both lucky not to have worked in the Triangle Factory.  The fire there in 1912 resulted in the first fire safety regulations).  Rose wouldn’t work on “shabbos” at first, but she wanted to go along with Anna to the lectures, so she soon forgot her religious scruples, worked on Saturday, and was able to go along with Anna and her friends.  After five years, in 1906, Rose went back to Danilovitz to see her mother.  The Russo-Japanese War started while she was there, and during the year that she spent there, she realized that she preferred life in America.  She returned in 1907 and continued working in a shirtwaist factory until her marriage in 1912 to Morris Kessler, introduced to her by her sister Ida Gitlitz.

 

I don’t know when Ida and Louis Gitlitz (brother of Chaim Yankel’s wife, Neshke) came to this country.  My earliest recollections of them are of the Bronx.  My parents, Rose and Morris Kessler, had settled there immediately after their marriage and the Gitlitzes lived a few blocks away, near Bronx Park.  Their children, Herman and Eleanor, were several years older than we, so Ida was able to help my mother occasionally.  (My mother had given birth to four children within a five and a half year period; the first was stillborn.)  My mother and Aunt Ida were as close as sisters could be.  Ida would back and bring us challahs and cakes.  Eleanor babysat for us and Norma (Helen’s sister) stayed at Aunt Ida’s house when I had chicken pox.

 

We finally come to the family that was the last to leave Danilovitz, Hannah and Louis Reichel’s family of seven.  Louis was a carpenter, and he and Hannah and their brood had lived on a large estate outside of Danilovitz – probably owned by a Russian noble.  Louis ran a mill and did all the maintenance work.  They had vegetable gardens, a lake or pond with freshwater fish, and plenty of living space for the children.  Occasionally, one of Hannah’s sisters would come out for a few days to help out with the children.  Unfortunately, a law was passed that forced the Reichel family out of their pleasant existence.  The law forbade Jews from living on these Russian estates.  In any case, the family moved into Danilovitz, surely into more crowded quarters, and Louis couldn’t make a living.  Grandma Edith would press a few kopecks into Sam’s had, so that he wouldn’t pick up anything form the stands without paying for it.

 

Louis Reichel left first, with Sam and Ida. They probably came to the east side of Manhattan, but by the time Hannah came with the other five children, it was to Brownsville, Brooklyn, to a cold water flat with a wood-burning stove.  Louis had gotten a job as a janitor in the building.  They weren’t called supers yet in those days.  The tiled hallways and stairways had to be swept and washed, and the girls dragged pails of water, with aching backs, as they helped out.  Sam and David were pleasant looking, but the girls were beautiful, smart and hard-working…successful in all they did.

 

Aunt Anna Schneider, although busy and distracted, was there for them with advice about schooling, always encouraging.  They all looked up to her and loved her.  Unfortunately, she became ill with cancer.  I think a Dr. Berg performed some kind of surgery at a Manhattan hospital.  When she returned from Chicago and went to see Dr. Berg, he could do nothing for her.  She died in the hospital of some kind of gynecological cancer in the spring of 1916. 

 

Now that we’ve brought the Reichels to the States, who was left in Danilovitz?  Chaim Yankel and Neshke with their two children, and Esther, her husband, and their three children.  The fourth child, Celia, had come here.  She married Harry Ehrlich probably in 1917 and five days after giving birth to Charlie in 1918, died in the flue epidemic.  When the famine and epidemics hit Danilovitz during and after WWI, Chaim Yankel, Neshke and Esther all died.  The sisters here began planning to send Sam Reichel to bring Edith here, but she died, blind, before the plans could be carried out.

 

My mother corresponded with her nieces for a number of years, but that petered out during the early 20’s.  Most immigrants from the various little towns formed fraternal societies here; they were especially important for those who had left large families behind.  The Danilovitzer were no exception, and they periodically gave “balls”.  Everyone shined up and showed off their children.  The Metz children attended these affairs also, and I’m sure we were there at the same time.

 

Danilovitz may still be there.  My mother followed all the reports, in the Jewish Daily Forward, of Hitler’s atrocities and learned that Hitler’s troops had come through Danilovitz.  They did this in many towns; they herded all the Jews into the synagogue and torched it.  Some may have escaped; we don’t know if Chaim Yankel’s children had remained in Danilovitz and we don’t know Esther Schneider’s family name.

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    THE FAMILY OF PESACH MORDECHAI RAICHEL

as told by his great-great granddaughter Susan Weinberg




In 1904 my great-grandfather, Schloime Raichel (1860-1932), was the first family member to immigrate to the United States.  He went to stay with his nephew Mendel Brach (?) on Belmont Avenue.  His profession was a joiner which I believe would be a carpenter.  In 1906 he brought over his oldest daughter Jennie.  Along with her on the boat was Nachman Reichel and Esther ReichelNachman is found in another Reichel family referenced on this site and his presence on the same manifest page points to a connection, yet unknown.  He was a contemporary of my great-grandfather and also indicated his profession was a joiner.  Esther indicated that she was going to her father Schloime Raichel, even though there was no record of an Esther as a daughter.  Presumably she was a cousin who thought her arrival would be expedited if she was going to a parent.  She was released to my great-grandfather so was presumably family of some sort.

Over the next twenty years Schloime Raichel brought over his other children, Mary (1907), Abram (1911) and Chana (1923).  Chana/Anna had been one year old when he left in 1904.  His wife Malka didn’t join him until 1925, over 20 years after his original departure.  During this time his oldest daughter managed the home for him until her marriage to Abraham Schwartz.

 Abram (Raichel) Rothchild’s son reported on a name change which ensued after immigration. “The family name was originally Raichel. I was told that some cousins, when they arrived in America (I remember the name Morris, who lived in Borough Park, Brooklyn), had changed their name to Rothchild because they heard it was a prominent name and could help them do better in the Golden Medina. My father(Abram) and his father (Schloime) went along and changed their names accordingly.”

 My aunt who was born in 1918 shared her childhood memories of her grandfather. “I used to travel on the train with him to different places in the Bronx when I was nine years old. He was the patriarch of the family, my grandfather.  He was well loved by all the cousins, the children of other relatives. Everyone referred to him as the uncle. He was a very clean old man with a beautiful Van Dyke, always wore a fedora. My grandfather lived with Tante Jenny. Tante Jenny was his eldest daughter and until his wife came he lived with her. When his wife came from the other side they got an apartment for themselves in Brooklyn...on Pitkin Avenue.”

It was not until recently that I began to flesh out this branch of the family tree. My great-grandfather is buried in the Dunilowicz section of the Baron Hirsch Cemetery in Staten Island, NY.  On his tombstone it indicates that his father was Peisch Mordechai.  As I prepared for a trip to Belarus, I had the good fortune to obtain a translated list of Dunilovichi tombstones from another researcher.  That list is now posted on this site.  I scanned the list for any names which resembled this name and my eyes lit on Pesach Mordechai, the father of Eska Zinger.  My parents spoke of Abraham and Sadie Singer, contemporaries of my grandparents, as cousins related in some fashion of which they were uncertain.  The tombstones indicated that the source of the connection was a daughter to my great-great-grandfather who had married a Singer.  When I referenced immigration records it confirmed that Abraham Singer, son of Eska and Benes Zinger, was going to his “cousin” Abraham Schwartz (cousin by marriage), the husband of Jennie, Schloime’s oldest daughter.  Another Singer also indicated that he was going to his uncle Schloime Raichel.  By crossing the immigration records with cemetery records I was able to build out a family tree linking the Raichels and Zingers who later become the Rothchilds and the Singers in the United States. On a recent visit to Dunilowicz, I had the opportunity to complete the circle by saying the Kaddish at my great-great grandfather's tombstone as well as doing rubbings of family tombstones.

 In addition to the Singers, I began to explore those original Reichels who changed their name. Long ago I had found a record for an Awsaj Rajchel going to his son Morris Rothchild.  Here the name change was captured within one record.  Born in 1857 he was of the same generation as my great-grandfather. He came over in 1923 and after that I lost his trail.  I could find no record of him in the 1930 census so assumed he may have died prior to then.

From an obituary for Morris Rothchild, I found the Mt. Carmel Cemetery in which he was buried in New York.  In the Rothchild plot there was also an Israel Rothchild listed who had died in 1927 at age 75.  I ordered photos of the tombstone which revealed that his name was Osias in English, but in Hebrew it translates to Yoshua.  As expected his father was Pesach Mordechai.  Now I knew that my great-grandfather had two siblings, a sister Eska who stayed in Dunilowicz and a brother who immigrated late in life to the United States.

I am also researching a branch of the family that went to England by the name of Kodish.  A cousin of my father recalled getting boxing gloves as a holiday gift from them.  When the cousin died, I received his photos among which I found one with the inscription “from your cousin Louis Kodish” on the back.  I’ve found immigration records for Louis and his wife Katherine going from Glasgow to his cousin Abraham Singer in New York.  From there they made their way to Chicago where the 1930 census indicates that both of his parents were from Russia.  In 1934 they made their way back to Glasgow.  His immigration record told me his father's name was Marks.  After ordering the visa records for Louis Kodish, I obtained his birth record which gave his mother's name as Kate Epstein.  By researching both Scottish records and the Jewish Chronicle, I found the death record for his father, listed as Max Kodish.  Interestingly it gave his mother's name as Sarah Rothchild, wife of Barnett Kodish.  My US relatives changed their name from Raichel to Rothchild and it is quite likely that a parallel transition occurred with family in England and Scotland.  It is likely that Sarah was the sister of Pesach Mordechai given the time periods and that is the linkage to the Kodishes of the UK.  I now have identified Solomon and Jacob, additional children of Barnett and Sarah, and hope to eventually find the descendents of those branches.

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© 2009-2016 Compiled and Created by Susan Weinberg
 Last updated August 12, 2016

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