Berenshteyn | Baraff | Koifman | Schechtman | Trachtenberg | Tzipershteyn | Vaisenberg





My Sokiryany Ancestry

My connection to Sokiryany goes through my maternal side. While my father's family has origins in Poland and Moldova, both my maternal grandparents lived the majority of their lives before WWII in Sokiryany. My mother's father, Iossif Schechtman, z"l (03-Dec-1909/18-Nov-2000  |  20-Kislev-5670/20-Cheshvan-5761), was born to Moishe Schechtman z"l (1877, Sokiryany) and Rivka Tzipershteyn z"l. My mother's mother, Zelda Berenshteyn z"l (14-Apr-1907), was born to Boruch Berenshteyn z"l and Sosia Koifman z"l, in Ojeva (Ukraine), later moving to Sokiryany, where she would build my family.  For a complete list of the names I have on any of these surnames, please check my family tree at You have to have an account there to be able to see it... Will think of something better soon :-) .


Very little is known from prior generations to my grandparents. Family legend says Moishe Schechtman was a renowned shoikhet in the shtetl - he was regarded as a just and pious man. In a very recent account (probably happened in 2007, 2006 at most) My mother was once at a doctor appoitment, and, while waiting her turn, she met an old jewish lady from Otke (I believe probably Ocnita today, very near indeed Sokiryany), who said visited Sokiryany a couple of times. When the lady heard my mom saying she was a granddaughter of Moishe Schechtman, known as "Moishe Shoikhet", she replied: "Moishe Shoikhet ? Of course, Moishe Shoikhet... who did not know him". Unfortunately I tried tracing this woman a few months after hearing this story, I called the doctor, obtained the woman's phone number, but when I called either a woman picked up the phone and said the lady was too old and it was not good for her to dig into old memories or the lady herself answered she did not remember - I don't remember :)

I also know that he was one of the founders of Sokiryany's Talmud Torah school, shown in a picture below. The family was rather simple and humble, sometimes he did have nothing more to give their children on their way to the Cheder than 2 nuts, for the meal, they carried in their pockets. My grandfather might have told this to my mother. My mother, in turn, told this to me time ago. The nuts are still being carried, not anymore in the pockets, but I carry two in my room's desk and a picture of two in my wallet. In order to know where to go, one must always remember where does he come from.


My great grandfather went once to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - to check how things were going to most his children - who did settle there I believe around 1920, 1930. While the family in Brazil insisted he should bring the remaining ones from Sokiryany to Rio, where the prospects were great, Moishe could not bear the idea of moving to such a "treyf erd", it was not an alternative, he had to go back his shtetl. After sensing what was going to befall the in a not very distant future, he wrote, in hebrew, what is our only one written

document from him: he said "Men do not know how to measure the time of their existence", asking for his children to watch over the principles of Judaism, to keep performing the Mitzvot, to observe his Shiva and Yortzyait, remembering to give 18 prutot for charity, to put tfilin through all the Shiva period and always when possible.


Left to right, above: my grandafather, his father and

Brani Schechtman, z"l, one of his sister.



There is nothing left about my great grandmother Rivka Tzipershteyn, Moishe's wife, except another account I heard from my mom: the oldest child of Moishe and Rivka's marriage, Ruchl Schechtman z"l, who later raised my grandfather after the loss of their mother when he was still an infant, said to my mother once: "You have strong eyes. The same ones from bobbe Rivka Tzipershteyn". Since she passed away soon after the birth of my grandfather Iossif Schechtman, the youngest of all the children, I can assume she died around 1909. 


 Left to right: Brani, Moishe and Iossif.



My great grandfather Moishe Schechtman z"l,

one of the founders of Talmud Torah in Sokiryany,

1st from left to right, 3rd row from the top.


Moishe Schechtman and some of his books.

The only time I saw my grandfather Iossif old

enough to remember that (I was 12), I remember have seen this big picture of an old man with beard hanging on the wall. He just looked different, suggesting he was from an old and distant past. Later I learned he was my great grandfather, the one who during all my mother's years in her parents house saw lying on the wall, the one to whom his daughter in law, Zelda Berenshteyn, would resort to intervene in her favor and her family with God, for he was so righteous he certainly was granted a place somewhere near Him. After I started delving into genealogy, I learned that on my father's side, my father's grandfather, Shulem Hersh Kano z"l (who looked very much like this "distant man", above), when had to hide with one of his sons from the Nazis that were coming to inspect the house, posed: let's not waste time, pack your things while I pick up my prayer books with me. I can't leave them behind.

Can you imagine being in his place and having said the very same thing ? If not, can you think the reasons why ? When I see this picture, I remember both my great grandfathers.




Probably all the couple's boys (4 from 7 children) went to a Cheder. It seems my grandfather's Cheder was in Chernovitz, and I assume it was somewhere within today's Chernivsti, which seems to be a district/state that comprises our Sokiryany. I tried unsuccessfully so far to locate all the previously existent Chedarim that might have existed there. My grandfather (as well as his other brothers, no one seems to have wanted to follow religion like Moishe, the father), later on, went to a lyceum, to pursue secular studies - at the "Technical School" and The Commerce Institute of Bucharest. I wrote once to the general topic jewishgen mailing list and one man who lived and studied in Romania told me he knew a Technical School in Bucharest named Ciocanul, located on Dudesti Street. He said the school received donations from the Joint and functioned until 1944-45, when the communist regime closed it. Eventually my grandfather worked in a "Export-Import" company in Bucharest (perhaps the company's name) and in Bessarabia's Bank, this one in Sokiryany (?). On 16-Jul-1930 | 20-Tamuz-5690, Iossif Schechtman married to Zelda Berenshteyn. On this very year, my grandfather was drafted to the army, leaving my grandmother and his father in Sokiryany. Back from draft, he worked in Sokiryany's Power Plant as chief accountant.


My grandmother, Zelda Berenshteyn, did have a more simple background. Like his future husband, she also lost his mother, months after her birth. By the time her parents did have already two sons, Lhova/Leova z"l (born in Briceva) and Itzik Berenshteyn z"l. For some reason, we don't have as much accounts on my grandmother's side as we do on my grandfather's. Some time after the death of his wife, Boruch Berenshteyn married again, to Lhuba (Liba) Trachtenberg z"l. It seems Lhuba did not want to raise the children from Boruch's previous marriage - and Boruch agreed to it - it happened that Lhuba's sister, Beila Trachtenberg z"l, married to Chaim Vaisenberg z"l, could not have children - so he took my grandmother to raise her as a her daughter. My grandmother always referred to bobbe Beila with the most cherishing words. The family did not have money to send her to a school outside town (she probably did not move to Sokiryany till she was maybe 8, 10, who knows), so all my grandmother knew was from a private teacher, perhaps Sara Borovitshn (?), z"l, who I found as an answer to "does she remember any teacher's name ?" in a homework paper from my younger sister, 1991, my grandfather answered. The mother of my father, Sima Giverts z"l, who did finish High School and later pursued professional courses on dactylography and accountancy, used to say about my bobbe Zelda: "she was not learned, but she knew so much about life." I met my grandmother with a problem on her leg, that made her walk with difficulty. It was said that it was due a poliomyelitis she had when still a child. On the few times I have been with her old enough to remember, I recall my aunt took us to the mall. When we got to the moving staircase, she quickly signalized "No, I never used such things, I am affraid". It's interesting to think that I had a bobbe that feared moving staircases, but had just enough strength to survive the Holocaust and rebuild her life from scratch - and "arrange things so I could later be get my ticket into this world". It's worth saying that my bobbe Zelda shares with bobbe Sima the role of presenting me to the world of krechtzing in Yiddish, something I still recall today. Every 7th grade, at Abraham Liessin jewish school I studied in Rio, there was this project to build a family tree. My older sister did hers 3 years before, so basically my parents did not give me much - I was supposed to look in my sister's work. I remember after the book was finished realizing my bobbe had less than 5 lines of text about her life. Having used some of the information contained in this piece of work ever since I started digging into genealogy, in 2006, it's hard to stare at her lines and think this is only I have for her there. What comforts me is, that she was the last one to pass away from all my grandparents, and I decided to travel to visit her 2 months before her death (although at that time she did not recognize me anymore), and even though she lived far away ifrom us in the country, here in Rio, I do keep strong memories of her - not necessairily from the times we spent together - giving the fact that I was raised by a mother who did never know her grandparents but talked so much about them to her children, giving the impression she lived with them several years. My mother definetely tailored the meaning of the word family in me, and she "always resembled her mother, here and there", so my bobbe was present in my life much more than I am aware of. Speaking about family, I'm 25, hopefully I'll be building my own soon, and b'ezrat Hashem, a family worth my origins and the people I carry behind, my grandparents Iossif Schechtman and Zelda Berenshteyn lived together for 70 years. Through all my life I did see my parents argue, sometimes avidly. When I got older, past my 20s, I remember listening to my mother say "you see, everyday you can't find couples who don't argue with each other, they might very well be discredited for such a thing is almost a pre-requisite for a marriage, if missing it's not real, under today's eyes. But I was raised on a home where I did never see my parents argue with each other. Sometimes they would speak more firmly, but they trully personified the image of a loving jewish couple. Your grandfather, so much learned, and your grandmother, so much simple." I am sure, as a man, that my grandmother was the pillar for such relationship. Women are much stronger than men, we just pretend much better.


My grandfather, although the youngest of all in the family, seems to have always been regarded by all in the family with much respect, for his wisdom and rectitude. He was versed in 8 different languages, the last one he may have learned, Portuguese, for example, says the legend he learned while on ship, studying and speaking with other immigrants heading to Brazil. I myself saw him busying himself at age of 86 or so, quietly studying mathematics and physics in Romanian, French, Russian among others - most of the time self taught. He showed me some world globes he built himself. Mom says it's hard to remember of her father doing other things than reading or studying. Mom says he named each of his grandchildren an animal in

Yiddish, according to their resemblence to each of us, much more in behavior than in appearance (nobody told me otherwise, then !!!): I was called "veverkl", or little-squirrel, for I was always a "shovav". There's a miniature squirrel I bought when I visited NY's Central Park, in 2007, which I placed in front of those nuts I mentioned, so the veverkl always remembers home.


My grandfather refused any sort of financial restitutions for WWII, always rejecting under the following basis or something close: "I want to see no money intending to buy my father's bones. I want to have the right to hate the germans till the last day of my life". Although apparently my grandparents left many of the rituals and customs they were raised with (not sure about my grandmother, but very likely both were raised by orthodox parents), most of the time for all the grief the Holocaust left on their lives and the everlasting sense that "di welt shtink", I had the chance and I think I might say luck, after waking up 5:00 in the morning to go to the bathroom, to see for the first and only time in my life him putting Tfilin and praying, silently. By the time the tragic faith of jews in Europe was knelling over Sokiryany, most of the children of Moishe and Rivka Schechtman were settled in Brazil, except Brani and Iossif, the youngest. My grandfather could have moved to Brazil at that time, but he did not want to leave his father and his sister there. So he stayed. And underwent the Holocaust.



Accounts From The War 

In 1939, my grandparents were taken to Pavlivka's Concentration Camp, in Ukraine. A brother of my grandmother, Chaim Berenshteyn z"l, brought them to Abudovka/Obodivka's camp. My grandparents endured 4 years in concentration camps.



... looks like there's more into it

This story doesn't end here. Brani Schechtman, the youngest from 2 daughters, married my father, Shalom Tsvi Kahana, and gave birth to 3 children: