Interview excerpts:
  1. Living Jewish
  2. Jewish Genealogy
  3. The Jewish Traveler

Book excerpts:
  1. Jewish Roots in Poland
  2. Jewish Roots in
      Ukraine and Moldova

The Jewish Traveler

By Miriam Weiner

Typical traffic on
Ukraine highways

Many MetroWest residents may well have cousins in the former Soviet Union whom they don't know and who don't know them. More than 75 percent of American Jews can trace at least one grandparent to that region. Additionally, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of Jews still live in the countries that comprised the former Soviet Union.

Recently, I conducted research in Mogilev Podolsky, in Ukraine, for Mark Eckman of Vienna, VA, whose family immigrated to America more than 75 years ago. He wanted me to trace his Schwarz relatives from Mogilev. While he hoped I would find archival documents with information about his family, neither of us ever dreamed any family members would still be living there. Interviews with the Jewish community led to telephone calls with four Ukraine Schwarz families. Although data was eagerly supplied by the first three families I telephoned, none of the names in the information they provided matched the names on Mark's family tree. With the fourth call, we high pay dirt. One of Mark's family stories referred to a cousin who had immigrated to Sao Paulo, Brazil. When I asked the fourth Schwarz family about family members who had emigrated from Mogilev, the response was, "Oh yes, one branch of our family left long ago, for Sao Paulo, Brazil." Within a few days, I interviewed Mark's new cousins on video along with another visiting relative from St. Petersburg.

When Marjorie Goldberg of Stamford, CT, decided to trace her family history, she wanted to know more about her grandfather, Solomon Zavelsky, son of Aron Moshe. Zavelsky was born in 1877 in Glukhov and, to Marjorie's knowledge, was the only child of Aron Moshe. Marjorie knew some of her grandfather's family later lived in Odessa and provided what limited information she had. Research in the Kiev Historical Archives producd a city directory record for Mendel Zavelsky of Glukhov, son of Aron. I was sure Marjorie's grandfather, Solomon, had a previously unknown brother named Mendel. In Odessa, I visited the Address Bureau (a former department of the KGB, I am told) and, during a meeting with the director, was able to see index cards for all people named Zavelsky living in Odessa. Of the 13 index cards, two were Jewish names. One individual was Leah Zavelsky (daughter of Marko), who died two years previously and was born in Glukhov. (It is not common to find the place of birth on these index cards. I am afraid my professionalism gave way to something akin to "whoopee!") After two days of visiting four former addresses, we found someone who knew the married name of Julia, Leah's daughter, who lived in St. Petersburg. We telephoned Julia and asked her many questions amidst her excitement and tears. When we asked Julia what her grandfather's Jewish name was, she replied that it was Mendel, although he used the Ukrainian name of Marko. I sent Marjorie a fax from my apartment in Mogilev-Podolskiy, telling her she had a second cousin in St. Petersburg. Within a month, Marjorie had arranged for a video interview with Julia, to be shown at a huge family reunion in Philadelphia.

A visit to Novograd-Volynsk at the request of Paul Gass of Boston, MA, reinforced my understanding of the importance of timing. Gass asked me to help him gather information about his Goldman and Korff ancestors for a book in progress. In a meeting with the mayor in Novograd-Volynsk, I asked if any Goldmans still lived there and was delighted to see four entries in the local telephone book. However, the telephone book was published almost 20 years ago, and only one Goldman family still lived there. After a telephone call to Paulina Goldman, I was invited to her apartment, where I asked many questions and conducted the interview with a video camera. During the interview, Paulina referred to the same noted rabbis in her ancestry as those on Paul's chart. What makes this discovery so special is that Paulina was in the midst of a move to Kiev, where she planned to live with her married daughter. Within a matter of weeks, she would have been gone and it would have been nearly impossible to trace her. Her newly-discovered cousin gasped when he saw Paulina's photographs: It seems she bears a striking resemblance to Paul's mother.

Excerpted from an article published May 4, 1995 in the MetroWest Jewish News.
Reprinted with permission of the MetroWest Jewish News, Whippany, New Jersey.



Copyright ©1997-2016 by Miriam Weiner - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

All photographs, maps and illustrations are owned and/or copyrighted by
the cited photographer, cartographer or institution.

Permission to reproduce, disseminate or display any map or photograph
in any form must be obtained from the copyright holder of the illustration.

All requests for reproduction or dissemination should be addressed to
Routes to Roots, 73 Harbor Key, Secaucus, NJ 07094.