Lyakhovichi Residents in Slutsk Chevra Kadisha Records

Documents- Chevra Kadisha Records: Slutsk
by Deborah Glassman, copyright 2004 and 2005

In the article Lyakhovichi Residents in the Records of Nearby Towns and Cities, I introduced the records of Burial Societies. These registers of burials were of a type kept throughout the Russian Empire's 2,000+ Jewish communities in Europe, yet only thirty-five are known to survive, including those of Lyakhovichi neighbors Nesvizh and Slutsk. Both have been microfilmed by the Jewish National and University Library on the campus of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. A research group, titled the Slutsk Historical Society, has created an English language translation of the Slutsk Register which can be purchased from them on CD. It is over 18,000 names long with many entries further annotated by the translator, Carleton Brooks. An explanation of the Slutsk Chevra Kadisha book and of the Society can be found on the Slutsk KehilaLinks website at History of Slutsk Chevra Kadisha.

The records provided in the Complete Lyakhovichi Records Catalog are not anywhere near as breathtaking in scope. It is first, a list of the 134 people from 1848 to 1924 whose listing in the Slutsk burial register was accompanied by the phrase “mi Lekhovitz” (from Lekhovitz) or “Lekhovitzer”. Anybody who has associated with groups of Jews knows that “er” endings are fairly common on Jewish names so it is not easy to determine if a “Lekhovitzer” was a native of Lekhovitz or a form adopted by an ancestor as a surname. I did not try, I included them all. But even when the “from Lekhovitz” is clear in the register, it is less clear as to whether they are referring to the deceased, the deceased’s father, or for females, a husband. After you have figured out which of the parties is being identified with our town, you are still left with the confusion as to whether they came from Lyakhovichi of their own volition in their lifetimes, or if a corpse was transported from Lyakhovichi to Slutsk to be buried in association with other family members. Since the majority of those who died in Lyakhovichi were buried in Lyakhovichi, it seems reasonable that most of those “from Lyakhovichi” named in the Slutsk Chevra Kadisha were residents in Slutsk but originally from Lyakhovichi. This seems borne out by the great reduction in names from “out of town” in the years previous to 1848, when there were less economic incentives to bring Jews from towns to cities. There were only sixteen people from Lyakhovichi buried in Slutsk between the 1770s and 1830s and that in a time period in which the Lyakhovichi Jewish population was in the 700s and the Slutsk population just double that. If it had been a long tradition to transport the dead, the numbers would have probably remained consistent. So the list of 134 people who moved to Slutsk for economic reasons through the late nineteenth century and because of the war conditions of World War I, when many appear in Slutsk records as "refugees/displaced persons from Lekhevitz", is augmented by the much smaller proportion of 16 who died in the previous 100 years. We are well into the 1870s though, before one custom of the earlier burials disappears – recording the dead with a father’s name in lieu of a surname. This doesn’t mean that the dead did not use a surname that was well known, just that, in the conservative custom associated with recording deaths, the surname was not given. Finally, these records reflect my interpretations and transliterations of information relevant to Lyakhovichi and its inhabitants. You can find the original in Hebrew available for purchase from the Jewish National and University Library (on the campus of Hebrew University in Jerusalem) or you can contact the Slutsk Historical Society to purchase an English language translation of the document.

Note - Baranovichi and Gantsevichi both railroad boom towns that originally largely derived their populations from Lyakhovichi are here, as are Mush, and Medvedichi. We have searched for, but did not find, clear entries to other Lyakhovichi communities. Gorodeys, for example, is a common name and so we can't be sure to which town it refers unless the listing places it "near Baranowitz'' or something comparable. We also have created in the first column on this page, an alphabetical index to the chronological list below and a name index to those from Lyakhovichi's nearby towns is embedded in that column's list.

Explanation of title headings in the records

  • Death Date - The register entry gave the death date in more detail than I provide. It always lists on what day of the week, the death occurred. That is a helpful attribute if the Hebrew date and the Gregorian calendar are to be aligned, or if a source must be searched for a confirming record, but this index does not include it.

  • Date Gregorian – I have confirmed with a Hebrew Calendar software program that the dates line up. But remember if searching among Russian records, the country was on the Julian calendar until it became the Soviet Union.

  • Surname – It is not always easy to determine what is a surname and what is an occupation or a patronymic. What you have here is my best judgement.

  • Town as given – I wanted it to be clear as to the source of my finding that this person was from Lyakhovichi. Sometimes the person was called Lekhevitzer, sometimes they are referred to as a refugee from Lekhevitz, sometimes the locale seems appended to their father’s name.

  • First Name – This is given as it is in the entry. But I caution that if someone had two names, i.e. Avraham-Moshe and was only called by one, use was likely to follow the European custom with the second name being the common name.

  • Father – Father’s name and titles as given in the register using the abbreviations that appear.

  • Status or Title - The descriptives and abbreviations given in the register as relates to the deceased. The comments are extracted from throughout the report so multiple comments might have been separated by other observations.

  • Burial Info – In this column you will usually find the person whose grave they are buried next to with a death date of that person to distinguish them from others of that name. If there is a last name with this person and it is not in the Gaons’ row, it usually means that I have put in the name because the text just listed “next to the person who died on such and such a date.” The death dates of those they are buried near do not usually have a year unless it was in a previous year. Their burial location is given as r (row) and a number or a row title. It usually further describes the location by the town side or south side. Named rows listed here include – Gaons’ row (a row reserved for Torah scholars and rabbis); maids’ row (for never-married females); bachelors’ row (supposedly for never-married males but not clear this restriction was observed); kdoshin (a row reserved for martyrs); child-bearing women’s row (I am not sure if reserved for those who died in childbirth or if for mothers of young children); yiladim a row reserved for children.

  • Listing # – Number by which it is listed in the translation of the Slutsk Chevra Kadisha by the Slutsk Historical Society. Their translation process proceeded from the latest in the 1920s to the earliest so in this table you will find "number 2" who died in 1924 and number 17,350 who died in 1774.