Jo’burg 2018

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Photos from my visit to Jo’burg
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With Elona Steinfeld at SA Friends of Beth Hatefutsoth
SA Jewish Report
The impact of tracing family roots

by Mirah Langer 

Ever wondered who your great, great, great- grandfather might have been? South African- born Eli Rabinowitz did and embarked on an intrepid genealogical journey to nd out. It culminated in the discovery of the astonishing life and legacy of Rabbi Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref.

Tzoref, born in Keidan in Lithuania in 1786, was determined to begin an Ashkenazi return to Israel.

Rabinowitz spoke about his ancestor earlier this month while delivering a talk to members of the Jewish Genealogical Society of SA in Orchards, Johannesburg.

The first hurdle Tsoref had to overcome when arriving in Israel, in 1811, was a dead man’s unpaid debt. “Zalman went to the Old City and had to disguise himself as a Sephardic Jew.” This was because there was a story that 100 years before, an Ashkenazi Jew had come to Jerusalem and borrowed money from the Arabs, and then died. Thereafter, anyone who came from Lithuania was told: ‘We want the money.’”

Tzoref then embarked on various negotiations to lift the embargo on the debt. In doing so, he paved the way for Ashkenazi Jews to return to their homeland. And, said Rabinowitz, “in 1836, he got permission to establish a settlement.”

After making aliya, Tzoref and his family became signicant contributors to rebuilding the holy land. However, in 1851, he was murdered by those opposed to the work he was doing in re-establishing the Ashkenazi presence in Jerusalem.

“He was recognised as the first victim of terror,” explains Rabinowitz.

The impact made by Tzoref continues to be heralded, most recently with a huge celebration held in Jerusalem a few years ago that was attended by 15 000 of his descendants from all over the world.

“There are stories like mine everywhere,” muses Rabinowitz. “You just have to look for them.”

After discovering his Keidan roots, Rabinowitz returned to the area and made contact with a school in the area. He taught the non-Jewish students there about what, until then, had been a ghost culture of a long- forgotten past.

“ There is not one Jew in this town,” remarked Rabinowitz.

He noted how many South African families had contributed to putting up memorials in towns in Lithuania to mark the areas in which Jews were murdered. “We need to show the Lithuanians that we know what the history was.”

Referring to how transformative genealogical research can be, Rabinowitz explained how the students used a database from a genealogical website and created a tree artwork in their classroom, commemorating all the Jewish families who once lived in Keidan.

“This is what you can do with your information – you can make it powerful,” said Rabinowitz.

“And there is a bigger message. The message is: continuity for the Jewish people.” 

Atzalynas Gimnazija Kedainiai Visit 2017

Atzalynas Gimnazija Kedainiai Visit 2017

The Keidaner Family tree on Laima’s classroom wall – an unique work of art! The complex of two synagogues and the tree featuring the names of Keidaners, including  my 3rd great grandfat…


IAJGS Conference Warsaw 2018

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We are very pleased to inform you that the following proposal has been accepted for presentation at the 38th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy in Warsaw, Poland from August 5 -10, 2018.

Abstract Title Status Role
The Partisan Song Project and Genealogy – Inspiring and Connecting a New Generation Accepted Author
Back From the Polish and Litvak Diaspora: Virtual Journeys That Connect Us To Our Roots. Accepted Author


1. The Partisan Song Project and Genealogy – Inspiring and Connecting a New Generation

“Zog Nit Keynmol” is the anthem of Holocaust survivors. It is a legacy that is in danger of soon dying out. The Partisan Song Project is an initiative to connect it to the next generation through meaning, context, and family histories.

This multi-media presentation follows the path of the project from its genesis in January 2017:

the initial request from a school for information;

my research methodology and content;

my “out of the box” teaching style to 1000 students;

planning and running a separate online class with five schools in the FSU and hosted by a sixth;

introducing family history to the program;

working with more schools;

spreading the message via social media, Holocaust centres and survivors;

going global with the support of World ORT; HET UK, TEC Lithuania, Yad Vashem; and

the case study of Oscar Borecki, a Bielski Partisan from Novogrudok and commemorating his legacy in Australia.

2. Back From the Polish and Litvak Diaspora: Virtual Journeys That Connect Us To Our Roots.

Back From the Polish and Litvak Diaspora: Virtual Journeys That Connect Us To Our Roots.

My first heritage visit to Poland and the Baltics was in 2011. I have returned six times since, accumulating a wealth of information, photos, stories and contacts.

In this multimedia presentation find out why and how we gather and share this data with others in mind; and why we include both past and contemporary Jewish Life.

I will help you grasp the importance of the web using the following tools, drawing on some examples:

JewishGen KehilaLinks – my 80 KehilaLinks (35 Lithuania, 7 Poland, 6 Belarus, others in Latvia, Germany, Russia, Estonia, China, Africa and Australia);

WordPress – 600 posts and pages that make up my tangential travel and Jewish Life website;

online classrooms which can simultaneously connect nine schools at once;

Google, including Google Search, YouTube, Translate, Maps, Earth, Hangouts, Chrome and Drive;

social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn; and

additional resources such as Wikipedia

Last year’s conference in Orlando

IAJGS Orlando

IAJGS Orlando

Orlando Jewish Info – Your Jewish Guide to Orlando Orlando Jewish Info – Your Jewish Guide to Orlando Orlando Jewish Info Guide Source: Getting there The Swan …


Nechama Lifschitz sings Zog Nit Keynmol

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 Nechama Lifschitz was born in 1927 in Kaunas, Lithuania and passed away in 2017 in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Nechama, the nightingale of Soviet Jewry, an opera star, defied the authorities and performed concerts in Yiddish throughout the former Soviet Union. Crowds adored her beautiful voice and strong character.
Nechama arrived in Israel in March 1969 and very soon thereafter performed her first concert in Hichal Hatarbut Auditorium, Tel Aviv.
We have received permission from  Roza Litay to share the Partisan song recording of her late mother.
Our thanks to Roza, and to Carol Hoffman who arranged this.

Beloved Singer Nechama Lifshitz Has Died

Beloved Singer Nechama Lifshitz Has Died

Performing Yiddish and Hebrew songs in the Soviet Union despite the ban against it, Nechama became a symbol of hope for the silenced Jews.





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A ceremony was held on Wednesday to thank those in Kedainiai, Lithuania who organised the recent cleaning of the Jewish cemetery and the matsevot.

Tzvi Friedl, Natan Katzel, Jill Rabinowitz and I  joined those at the meeting at the Atzalynas School in Kedainiai  just after 8pm Perth time. We joined online from CHABAD Perth, Australia. We thanked those involved in undertaking this huge mitzvah. There are no Jews living in Kedainiai today.
Here is the report from teacher Laima Ardaviciene in Kedainiai – translated from the Lithuanian below:

Valentinas Tamulis, governor of the town of Kėdainiai and Rimantas Žirgulis, director of the Kedainiai Regional Museum, visited Kėdainiai Atzalynas gymnasium. During the meeting the members of the gymnasium community thanked them for their cooperation in carrying out project TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן activities related to the Jewish community in Kedainiai. The students shared a recent presentation about the old Kedainiai Jewish Cemetery. Eli Rabinowitz (Australia), rooted in Kedainiai, and Rabbi Natan Katzel joined the meeting virtually and thanked the headman of Kėdainiai for his contribution to the old Kedainiai Jewish cemetery in honor of the Kedainiai Jewish people, Jewish music was played by Tzvi Friedl. Further cooperation activities were discussed during the meeting. The guests were presented with the Kedainiai drawings.

Atžalyno gimnazijoje lankėsi Kėdainių miesto seniūnas Valentinas Tamulis ir Kėdainių krašto muziejaus direktorius Rimantas Žirgulis. Susitikimo metu gimnazijos bendruomenės nariai padėkojo už bendradarbiavimą vykdant projektą TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן apie Kėdainiuose buvusią žydų bendruomenę. Gimnazistai pasidalino pastaruoju metu sukurtu pristatymu apie senąsias Kėdainių žydų kapines. Susitikimo metu prisijungė Eli Rabinowitz (Australija), kuris kėdainiečių žydų vardu padėkojo miesto seniūnui už jo indėlį tvarkant senąsias Kėdainių žydų kapines, padėkos žodį tarė ir rabinas Natan Katzel, o muzikiniu kūriniu pasidalino Tzvi Friedl. Susitikimo metu buvo aptarta tolimesnė bendradarbiavimo veikla. Svečiams buvo padovanoti gimnazijos mokinių piešti Kėdainių miestą vaizduojantys piešiniai.

We made three videos:

Participants in Kedainiai:

Valentinas Tamulis, the headman of Kėdainiai                    
Rimantas Žirgulis, the director of the Kėdainiai Regional History Museum
Gintaras Petrulis, the director of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium
Rasa Cicėnienė, the assistant of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium
Lina Blinstrubienė, the assistant of Kėdainiai Atžalynas gymnasium
Giedrius Galvanauskas, a student
Aistė Vosilytė, a student
Šarūnė Makaraitytė, a student

More about the project – Building Bridges In Kedainiai

Building Bridges In Kedainiai

Kedainiai Atžalynas gymnasium students continue the Project: TILTAI-BRIDGES-בריקן . We thank Valentinas Tamulis, the mayor of Kedainiai, and Rimantas Žirgulis for organising cleaning activities in the old Jewish cemetery. Not a single tombstone is covered by a growing tree or a bush now. All the matsevot remind us about the Jewish community that lived in Keidan. We are presenting the recent view of the Old Jewish Cemetery of Keidan.


The video of the cemetery

The 59th Yahrzeit of Isocher Zeldin

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Socher’s passport. He was born in Dvinsk (today Daugavpils)  Latvia
He re-established himself and his family  in Cape Town South Africa
On Muizenberg Beach 
 Socher’s descendants around the world
Socher and Chasa Zeldin
and their six daughters  left Riga for South Africa between 1927 to 1937.
Two sons were left behind. Moisey died in the Holocaust, David survived.
Socher and Chasa, their 5 married daughters and their husbands.
Socher’s other children
David Zeldin
Chana Zeldin


11 of the 15 his Cape Town grandchildren.

Leon Spiller’s Barmitzvah – Socher is not in the photo!
With his mate Charlie Slivkin
Socher passed away on Guy Fawkes Day – 5 Nov 1958 aged 77.
Family reunion in Cape Town in the 80s
Socher’s late grandson Mendel and Mendel’s daughter Bella, Mendel’s nieces Alla &  Mira, and Mendel’s great niece Angela.
Socher’s 2 x great grand daughter Lucy’s wedding in NY in 2010
Socher’s grand daughter Zara and her late brother Mendel’s NY & Toronto families in 2017
Socher’s grand daughter  Zara, her daughters Mira and Alla and Avram-Yakov in Toronto
In Brooklyn NY with Bella, Lucy, Estee, Jonathan, Alex & my brother Michael – meeting for the first time.

The Wiener Family History

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From Dennis Wiener

Netanya, Israel


A family geneaology takes on a life of its own, a continuous evolving science, as new facts from new sources come to light and once verified, need to be documented. Added to this is as the geaneologist becomes more experienced in the science so he becomes more adept in moving forward at a faster rate, being better able to differentiate between the important information relating to his study and the vast amount of chaff existing on the periphery.

Since publishing the book in October 2016 I have  made some major discoveries:

  1. The discovery and confirmation of direct descendancy of the famous KALONYMOS family through Bunlin Günzburg, daughter of Rabbi Shimon Günzburg, and wife of Goan Eliyahu Oettingen. This family lived from the 8th century in Lucca, Tuscanny, and are known to be one of the first Jewish families to live in Germany. This virtually doubles the genealogical timeline I am researching and there is a lot more work I need to do on it
  2. The discovery of more of our relatives who survived the Holocaust, the most prominent of which was the WIENER-COHN family living in Raanana, Israel. The story of how we met up is fully described in this edition.
  3. The phenomenal discovery of the DUCKESZ REPORT ON THE WIENER-RIES-OETTINGEN LEVYTE FAMILY which was a direct result of meeting up with the COHN family mentioned above. This document proved that my research was highly accurate in essence but also disproved a hypothesis I made concerning 3 generations was incorrect, at the same time giving full information of the correct lineage. This to me is The Holy Grail of my research and I have appended it at the end of this book. This can also be read as either an alternative or supplemental addition to my research – it certainly details a lot more family information than what I originally had.
  4. The above report also includes new and different branches in my family lineage – including the well-known SPANIER and WARISCH families. These will also need further investigation.
  5. Updated information in research relating to the Levite R1a1a research.
  6. Discovery of many more family graves in the Konigstrasse Jewish Cemetery in Hamburg including inscriptions and date of deaths.
  7. Various other bits of information regarding the family.

You can download this book, free of charge, from Dennis’s website:

NY in Images 2017

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This is my best – meeting people and taking lots of photos of things I see.


The skyline and the people of LIC

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Long Island City

Long Island City – Wikipedia

Long Island City (LIC) is the westernmost residential and commercial neighborhood of the New York City borough of Queens. LIC is noted for its rapid and ongoing residential growth and gentrification, its waterfront parks, and its thriving arts community.[1] LIC has among the highest concentration of art galleries, art institutions, and studio space of any neighborhood in New York City.[2] It is bordered by Astoria to the north; the East River to the west; Hazen Street, 49th Street, and New Calvary Cemetery in Sunnyside to the east; and Newtown Creek—which separates Queens from Greenpoint, Brooklyn—to the south. It originally was the seat of government of the Town of Newtown, and remains the largest neighborhood in Queens. The area is part of Queens Community Board 1, located north of the Queensboro Bridge and Queens Plaza; it is also of Queens Community Board 2 to the south.



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With Michael and his florist
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Schwartz Family

On August 6, I made a presentation on Avraham Shlomo Zalman Tzoref to six of his descendants at Dara Reid’s apartment. This was organised by Wilma Solomon.

With the Solomon family also descendants of Tzoref
The Solomon family, also descendants of Tzoref

Manhattan Scenes

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Fire destroyed this old synagogue

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Fire Damages New York Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue

Fire Damages New York’s Beth Hamedrash Hagodol Synagogue

The abandoned building on the Lower East Side, built in 1850, once housed the city ’s oldest Jewish Orthodox congregation. No injuries were reported in the blaze.


New York Public Library

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New York Public Library – Wikipedia


Russ & Daughters

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With Brigitte & Michael
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Russ & Daughters – Wikipedia

Russ & Daughters is an appetizing store[1] opened in 1914. It is located at 179 East Houston Street, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, New York City. A family-operated store, it has been at the same location since 1914.


Meeting My Cousin Mendel – With A Twist!

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Meeting My Zeldin Family in Brooklyn NY

Our first meeting ever took place at the Washington Cemetery, Brooklyn New York on Sunday 6 August 2017 at 9:30am

After finding the whereabouts of my cousin Zara Smushkovich in September 2016 in Toronto, I sadly discovered that her brother Mendel had passed away less than two months before in Brooklyn NY.  Mendel, originally from Riga, Latvia, had only ever met one of his Zeldin first cousins, the late Phyllis Jowell in Riga in 1960.

Chassia & Isadore Zeldin, my maternal grandparents

Here are the children and grandchildren of Isocher and Chassia Zeldin

Isadore and Chassia with 11 of their 17 grandchildren c1953

The children and grandchildren of Mendel Zeldin. There are also a couple of great grandchildren not listed here.

Meeting My Cousin Zara Smushkovich

Meeting My Cousin Zara Smushkovich

Toronto, Canada 30 July 2017 I meet my first cousin Zara Zeldin Smushkovich again after 42 years. It is a delightful reunion at a restaurant and then at her condo. The only other time we met was in…


New York

The early August morning view from my room in my brother, Michael’s apartment in LIC, NY.

When I arrived in New York,  I called Mendel’s daughter Bella. She invited my brother Michael and me to meet her, her brother Alex and their families at the Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn on the Sunday morning.

Washington Cemetery, Brooklyn NY

Washington Cemetery is an old, historical, and predominantly Jewish burial ground located at 5400 Bay Parkway in Mapleton, Brooklyn, New York, United States.



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Why did we meet at the cemetery?

It was our first cousin Mendel’s unveiling! Strange “meeting” my cousin for the first time at his unveiling.

With my brother Michael
With Bella. Lucy, Estee, Jonathan, Alex and Michael and Lucy’s daughters – all descendants of Isadore and Chassia Zeldin, my grand parents
With late Mendel’s carer, Estee, Bella and Innes

We then had lunch at a Russian Jewish restaurant in Flatbush. After many vodkas and a few speeches in honour of our departed cousin, it was off to Bella’s house for tea and more reminiscing! 

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With Mendel's children, Bella & Alex

Riva, Mendel’s wife

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My cousin, Zara & Meir Shmushkovich wedding
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Zara & her mother, Esther
With Michael, Estee and Jonathan
Saying goodbye – Estee, Jonathan & Alex

Stan The Good Shabbos Man

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Stan TGSM – Home

Stan TGSM – Home


With Lionel Slier

Taken at my talk at the Great Park Synagogue earlier this year.

Lionel Slier’s article


appeared in the Jerusalem Post and is on the Brest KehilaLink:

Brest, Belarus

L-R Zinky Agulnik, Kfar Saba (ex SA); Susan Jacobson, Cape Town; Jack Slier, Shanghai; Hayley Slier, London; Lionel Slier, Johannesburg; Paula Slier, Modi’in; Tanya Jacobson, Cape Town; Phillipa Jacobson, Baltimore; Leanne Jacobson, Amsterdam; Daniel Goldfine, Tel Aviv; Alicia Slier, Johannesburg

The Brest KehilaLink homepage:

Brest, Belarus

My Talks at the Great Park & Gardens Shuls