Family Trees and Biographies

Biographies from Lyakhovichi
(Investigations into the Jewish History of Lyakhovichi)

This is the Biography Home page of the Lyakhovichi website. As we add new biographies and identify relevant material across our pages we will describe the article and link to it on this page.

Professional historians, memoirists, and many of our readers have created fascinating stories of Lyakhovichi residents. They have based them on their own memories or that of an informant. They have done original research in archives and newspaper files and the records of social communities created by groups like those of artists or writers. They have used the resources opened by this site and those which reside in online databases, national libraries, and genealogical networking sites. Tell your families' stories and the sources of information that were productive for you. We want true and engaging stories -this is not the forum for your raw research. Pedigrees, genealogies, and ahnentafels, are best posted on the invaluable sites of JewishGen - The Family Tree of the Jewish People; and JewishGen's Family Finder. There you will find partners in your research, people who want to work with you to extend the lines further forward and back in time. But here, we want those special stories, of individuals and events that moved you when you first heard them. All articles submitted for publication will be edited to fit our format and the webmaster reserves the right to decline publication on any material. But we encourage all submissions and we would like to expand this section.

Photos of Lyakhovichi People of Note

Dr. Alexander Mukdony (ne Sander Koppel)

He was a writer and a theater reviewer, but most notably, a cultural force to be reckoned with, for almost half a century. This 1910 collector's card was printed in Warsaw, for a following that was eventually as great in the US and Argentina, as it had been in Russia and Poland.

Levi Ben Amitai

Levi Ben Amitai son of Lyakhovichi photographer Alter Brevda, stands in the center rear; Zalman Shifres son of Lyakhovichi teacher Chaim Shifris stands to his right and Yakov Rabinovitz of Nesvizh and Lyakhovichi to his left.This picture shows people who were part of the Poalei Zion organization in Nesvizh, which ran the group out of Poalei Zion's aliyah (immigration to Israel) office in Minsk. They all emigrated to Israel in 1920. The emigrating pioneers' surnames included a number of Lyakhovichi names - Angelovich, Menaker, Kirzner, and others. Degania alone is supposed to have had at least a half dozen early settlers from Lyakhovichi and many more from nearby Belarusan communities. Other famous first generation Degania settlers included Lyakhovichi natives Joseph Busel, Chayuta Gavza Busel, and Gabriel Berkowitz.

Zalman Shifres, pioneer of Degania A, from the Nesvizh Yizkor book

This photo was printed in the Nesvizh yizkor book, but it too shows a large number of Lechovichers. The caption includes the names of at least six Lechovichers - Zalman Shifres, and Levi Ben Amitai in the back row 2nd and fourth from the right. Sara Leah Angelovich and Zipora Malovitsky Ami on the first row in that same second and fourth from the right positions. And in the middle row, Yosef Kirszner, fifth from the right is sometimes accounted to Lyakhovichi, also.

Zalman Shifres, the son of R' Chaim Nezvisher, as Chaim was called in Lachvitch, where he had resided after his marriage,and where Zalman was born and educated. During the 1915 war the family moved to Nesvizh. Zalman was then a soldier in the Russian army. In 1918 he was released and when he returned home he joined the Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion).

Shifres excelled immediately in meetings. He had original and practical ideas. Very soon after he was elected to the committee as a secretary and then he became the chairman. He represented the Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion) in many city organizations. About two years before he immigrated to Israel he was a Bible teacher in the Chelnov Hebrew School. After the Tel Chai incident in Israel, Shifres was the first to originate the idea of an organized group of pioneers for "Aliyah'' and his suggestion was accepted by the committee of The Poalie Zion (Workers Of Zion). Zalman Shifres was the first among the names registered to immigrate in 1920.

In all of his 50 years in Israel, and 45 years in Degania A, Shifres was an active participant in realizing his dream – the creation of a working Jewish nation based on equality, friendship and mutual support in our free land, and he was among the defenders of Degania when the Syrians invaded in 1948. He underwent a great shock when his only son, Daniel, fell defending Degania and for a very long time he could not recover from this terrible event. Out of anguish and sorrow he wrote several poems that appeared in the collection entitled "In the Tempest on the Day of a Whirlwind" that was dedicated to the fallen of Degania. Zalman Shifres passed away in Degania A in 1970.

Chayuta Gavza and Joseph Busel, both of old Lyakhovichi families

Pioneering couple, who were among Degania founders. They were not yet married in this 1905 picture taken with their fellow Zionist activists in Lyakhovichi. She fought for the creation of the State of Israel and eventually served in its parliament. He died very young in the 1920s.

Lyakhovichi's Zionist activists at the turn of the 20th century

This picture taken in Lyakhovichi in 1905/06 shows a group that all made early aliyah to Eretz Israel. From right to left standing: Shaya Pintschuk; Avigdor Grinspan; Isaac Lipshitz; Israel Winogrod; and Azriel (Zelik) Neikritsch. From right to left sitting: Joseph Busel, Chayuta Gavza, and an unnamed friend from Baranovichi.

Lipa Gavza

Lipa Gavza fell defending Israel in its War for Independence. He was the son of Azriel Meir Gavza and grandson to Rabbi Aron Lemkes Gavza of Lyakhovichi. The picture is from the Kletsk Yiskor book where he had moved as a young Zionist organizer. Like many in Kletsk's Zionist movement, he headed for Eretz Israel as soon as he could.

Sarah Kamm Kaplan

Trade Unionist, Anarchist, Lyakhovichi native. Settler at the Ferrer Anarchist Colony in Stelton NJ.

Biographic Articles across Our Pages

Individual studies have been written for Joshua Meir Mandel, an innkeeper in a rural town near Lyakhovichi; Rabbi Azriel Gavza, an eighteenth century rabbi and Rosh Yeshiva; and Rabbi Mordechai of Lyakhovichi, instrumental in eight streams of Hasidic life. There is a biographical sketch of Rabbi Yehiel Michael Rabinowitz, a story of a young boy of Lyakhovichi, Solomon Keston, who was among the Deportees to Siberia in 1941.

Quick glimpses of over two hundred pre World War I Lyakhovichi figures of note and characters worthy of remembrance can be found in the reminisce of Avrom Lev, A Walk through my Devastated Shtetl, which was evocatively translated by Dr. Neville Lamdan, now printed with additional photos.

One of the biographies on our pages is a plea for help. It is not too late to reunite Wilfred Kay (ne Shlomo Katz) with his brothers and sisters who entered the Soviet Orphanage system in 1940 and who might yet be reunited with him with your help! See The Katz Children of Pultusk and Lyakhovichi.

Compilations of biographies appear in our article, Rabbis, Rebbes, and Crown Rabbis, of Lyakhovichi, with biographical data on over 120 of our so-far identified religious leaders. There is also a complementary article, Teachings of the Rabbis of Lyakhovichi.

Rachil Sztejn Palgon's life in interwar Poland is described in the page The Rachil Sztejn Palgon Photo Collection. Dr. Jacob Lowell (ne Lifschutz) who was orphaned soon after his emigration in the early 1900s, nevertheless became one of the earliest physicians of emigrants born in Lyakhovichi. He appears on our page Lyakhovichi Residents Abroad. Lyakhovichi Jews who served both their hometown and the Jewish communities of their new towns include David Robinson (nee Rabinowitz) of Lyakhovichi whose detailed obituary is translated from the 1930s Forwert in which it first appeared, at our page on the value of Obituaries.

Famous People connected to our Town
Described in various books of the Who's Who variety;
Local Histories around the world;
and professional journals and publications

  1. LEVI, Shaul (1868 Lyakhovichi-1935 Jerusalem); Pioneer of business and commerce in E. Israel and one of the first builders of Tel Aviv. Moved to E. Israel in 1884.

  2. BEN AMITAI, Levi (nee Lipa BREVDA) (Lyakhovichi- ); Israeli poet. A founder of kibbutz Degania Bet. Son of Alter and Nechama Brevda of Lyakhovichi. Born Lyakhovichi, active with Zionist organizations in Lyakhovichi and Nesvizh, prior to his emigration to Eretz Israel.

  3. BUSEL, Chayuta (nee Chayuta GAVZA); a founding member of Degania. Member of Israeli Knesset, member of Israeli cabinets. Daughter of Rabbi Lemel and Bluma (Rabinowitz) Gavza

  4. BUSEL, Joseph; a founding member of Degania, noted Israeli pioneer.

  5. DECKSTON, Annie Beder; Wellington New Zealand philanthropist. Daughter of Girsh and Zlata (Grunberg) Beder

  6. MUKDONI, Dr. A. writer, literary critic, and expounder of the Yiddish theater. We can now thank David Mazower for a special biography of Alexander Mukdony that examines how this central cultural figure was portrayed by Yiddish artists.

  7. ZISLING, Aron (1901-1964). Haganah leader, founder of two different Israel political parties in 1944 and 1948, 1948 Israel's first Minister of Agriculture. Immigrated to Israel in 1914.

  8. TKOA, Joseph (nee Tukachinsky). Head of Israeli diplomatic delegations for decades beginning his service in 1949. After a career of service that included peace negotiations from 1948 through 1968, he retired and became president of Ben Gurion University in Beersheva. He emigrated from Lyakhovichi to Shanghai China in the 1930s and eventually got his graduate level education in the United States. In 1949 with his law degree from French University in Shanghai and his degree in International Law from Harvard University, he emigrated to Israel where he began his public service career.

  9. BRODY, Cantor Joseph who was a renowned NYC composer and contemporary and colleague to Cantor Yosele Rosenblatt in the 1910s to 1920s until his death in August 1937. He has a significant discography on Victor records. His cemetery stone in the Lechovicher graves in Beth David cemetery NYC is designed to look like a podium with a book of music on top. Can you share biographical details on this composer with us?

  10. COHEN, Nathan - Canadian theater critic from the Cape Breton (Nova Scotia Canada) communities that housed so many former Lechovichers. Most noted drama critic in Canada from the 1940s through 1970s.

Lechovichers of Distinction

(Expanded to the children and grandchildren of Lechovichers, but restricted to those who have great renown)

  1. Michael MUKASHEY - Attorney General of the United States 2007-2008. His parents were born in Baranovichi and his grandfather Michael Mukashey was a teacher in Baranovichi who was born in Lyakhovichi.

  2. Abraham FOXMAN - Head of the Anti-Defamation League in the United States. He was born in Baranovichi but his father Joseph Foxman, author of a Baranovichi Yizkor book, was of a noted Lyakhovichi family, Joseph Foxman's grandfather was noted Lyakhovichi businessman of the nineteenth century Gedalia Miletsky.