• Archives

  • Label Cloud

  • February 2018
    M T W T F S S
    « May    
     1234
    567891011
    12131415161718
    19202122232425
    262728  
  • Meta

  • Advertisements

Montana: An officer, a dog and a rabbi ..

How does a Montana police officer communicate with his Israeli-trained sniffer dog who only understands Hebrew?

He finds a Hasidic rabbi – a rare commodity in the state – to tutor him in Hebrew.

Nu? You were expecting a joke from that headline?

The Jewish world learned about Montana in a big way back in 1993 when homes displaying a hanukiah (menorah) were broken into by vandals. Church leaders organized a successful protest by more than 10,000 city residents and business owners to display the holiday symbol in their windows to support and protect the tiny Jewish community of some 36 families.

But Jews have been in the state since the 19th century, when immigrant Jews arrived in mining towns and worked in jobs needed by the miners and townspeople. Butte had kosher markets, B’nai B’rith, a Jewish mayor and three synagogues. Helena’s Temple Emanu-El (built in 1891) could seat 500 worshippers, and its cemetery has stones dating to 1866.

Today, there are many fewer Jews than in the old days, but there are now three rabbis. Two are in Bozeman, one in Whitefish – Tracing the Tribe can imagine the jokes about that one!

Eric A. Stern, of Helena, is senior counselor to Gov. Brian Schweitzer, and wrote a New York Times column on the Montana rabbis and an Israeli-trained bomb-sniffing security dog.

In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions.


Last year, all the rabbis were at the Capitol on Chanukah to light the menorah. That’s when the security officer and his dog followed the rabbi.

Amid the haggling of who gets to light the candles in which order, reports Stern, other attendees commented that a Great Falls supermarket would carry matzo on Passover and a Missoula man mentioned his pastrami shipment from Katz’s Deli in New York. Things seem to be changing in Montana.

The officer and his dog watched the ceremony and the chanted Hebrew blessings.

According to Stern, the dog sat at attention, watching the ceremony with a peculiar expression on its face, a look of intense interest. After the ceremony, the officer approached the Hasidic rabbi, introduced himself and Miky, and asked some questions.

Miky was born in a Dutch animal shelter and shipped to Israel as a puppy and trained by the IDF to sniff out explosives. The Helena Police Department needed such a talented animal – the cost is around $20,000 – but learned it could import a surplus bomb dog from Israel for only the airline ticket. Miky’s new home was Montana.

The problem: Miky had been trained in Hebrew and his non-Jewish handler received only a list of Hebrew commands and expressions. While Fosket tried practicing and also studying a Hebrew audio-book to learn more, Miky didn’t respond or understand what he was to do.

Stern comments that Mikey was perhaps just using Fosket’s bad accent as an excuse to ignore him. The officer needed a Hebrew tutor.

Lubavitch Rabbi Chaim Bruk – a recent immigrant from Brooklyn (definitely a different country than Montana!) now helps Miky and Fosket when needed. Fosket has learned to pronounce the difficult Hebrew/Yiddish “ch” (as in CHanukah, CHutzpah, CHaroset, etc.).

Happy officer, happy dog and, says Stern, the rabbi now has someone to converse with in Hebrew.

Read the happy story at the link above.

Advertisements

Denmark: Rare Jewish manuscripts online

The Royal Library (Copenhagen, Denmark) just made available some 160 Judaic manuscripts originally belonging to Rabbi David Simonsen (1853-1932). The collection was acquired by the library in 1932, and thanks to a private donation, they have been digitized.

The digitized collection contains items from 20 countries in 15 languages, and 163 volumes of various types, covering 131 shelfmarks, and more than 26,000 digitizations.

Denmark’s Chief Rabbi, Simonsen was also a scholar, bibliophile and philanthropist, whose private library (some 25,000 printed volumes in numerous languages, 500 periodical titles and 160 manuscripts) forms the core of the Royal Library’s Judaica Collection. Some items exist in only a few copies worldwide, making this collection very rare. His personal archives (some 100,000 documents, letters, etc.) are also at the Library.

The manuscripts have been digitized, with exceptions noted below. Read more about the project, including the user’s guide. See the digital facsimiles here.

Tracing the Tribe was mesmerized by the collection’s most well-known manuscript.

Gemma’s Prayerbook is a Hebrew prayer book written for the widow Gemma (Yemma) in Modena, Italy in 1531. Many pages are decorated with red and blue ink designs (see above left for an example on page 86; cover at right).

View each of the interior 622 pages by clicking the green square to the right of the photo in the link above to reach the viewer.

For those into Jewish heraldry, the title page has two coats of arms (at the top and bottom), and it includes a Haggadah, complete with wine stains. View each of the interior 622 pages by clicking the green square to the right of the photo to reach the viewer.

View page 8 for more handwritten personal information concerning the scribe and recipient. The Mahzor was written by Eli’ezer ben Avraham, of Pisa; אליעזר בן אברהם מפיסה for Yema, widow of Moshe of Modena; יימה, אלמנת משה ממודמה

The Passover haggadah (seder shel pessah) starts on page 334, and see page 344 for the Four Questions (mah nishtana…..).

The image viewer provides excellent detail except that only a narrow window is given and one must focus on a detail to see it in magnification. I would have liked to see the whole page in large format, rather than pieces.

There are handwritten inscriptions dated 1601 in Bologna (page 628), 1613, 1626 and others, containing names of individuals that I cannot decipher.

Other items include the only Genizah fragment in Danish collections, a Judeo-Arabic letter, tentatively dated to the 12th century , a musical score, three Jewish marriage contracts (ketubot)and more.

The unusually shaped ketubot are for: (1831, Rome) Ya’aqov Avraham ben Yosef Pipirnoa (Pipierno?) and Perla bat Shabtai; (1847, Rome) Yeshayahu ben Shlomo Piani and Yudita bat David; and (1847, Rome) Ya’aqov Refael ben Shabtai and Grazia bat David.

Items excluded include 10 megillot (scrolls of Esther for Purim), as a new viewer needs to be developed to view the scroll format. Also excluded are those with technical problems (size, condition or other concerns), although they are expected to be included eventually.

High resolution copies (B&W, Color, and even posters) of the digitized documents may be ordered. For more information, contact the Royal Library’s Judaica Collection research librarian Eva-Maria Jansson.

The Jewish dimension of 9/11

An interesting column appeared in the New Jersey Jewish Standard posing the question if there was there anything distinctly Jewish about the suffering that resulted from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Orthodox Rabbi Howard Jachter wrote in his Torah Commentary column that there was a uniquely Jewish facet to this horrific event despite it being an undiscriminating attack on all Americans.

The terrorist attacks left hundreds of individuals whose remains were not found or only small remnants of their bodies were discovered. Besides families waiting for a measure of clarity that their loved ones perished in order for them to begin the formal process of mourning, the plight of the women who wish to one day remarry loomed large in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

These women remained agunot, unable to remarry until a bet din (rabbinic court) was able to amass sufficient evidence to issue a ruling verifying the death of the husband and thereby permitting the wife to remarry. As a result of this tragedy, 15 cases of agunot were presented to batei din (rabbinical courts) in the New York metropolitan area.

Throughout history, rabbis have tried to resolve agunot cases. According to the rabbi, the Otzar Haposkim encyclopedia (1982 edition) devotes eight volumes and 1,500 pages to summarize responsa on this topic.

Throughout history, rabbinical authorites have wrestled with this problem during the Holocaust, Israel’s various wars and following terrorist attacks. The New York tragedy, writes Jachter, also saw the rabbis focus on months of research, to find evidence that could be used to reach decisions.

The material used – including records for telephones, cellphones, subways, elevators, dental and DNA testing – connects the city’s rabbinical court investigations with CSI.

This is a fascinating example of how the rabbinic courts tackled this problem:

The first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., between floors 93 and 98. Rabbinic courts determined (after consultation with experts) that this immediately destroyed the elevators and all stairways from the 92nd floor and above. Thus, anyone who was located in this part of the building at the time of the plane’s impact could not escape. Indeed, there are no known survivors from the 92nd floor or above. Thus, anyone who was determined to have been above the 92nd floor or above at 8:46 a.m. was presumed dead by Jewish Law.

The second plane hit the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. between floors 84 and 87. Of those who were at floor 78 and above at the time of impact, only 10 are known to have survived. The 10 who survived were standing by stairwell “A.” The elevators and stairwell “B” were destroyed by the impact of the plane. It seems that stairwell “A” remained intact only for a very brief time after the impact, and that only people who were standing immediately next to it were able to survive. The 10 survivors sustained very serious injuries and would not have survived without immediate hospitalization. Thus, anyone determined to have been in the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. regarding whom there was no record of being hospitalized on Sept. 11 was presumed by Jewish Law to have perished.

He goes further into the sources and presents specific examples such as a husband’s phone call to a friend. DNA evidence was accepted and US rabbinic courts were authorized by eminent Israel rabbis to use that evidence.

Read the complete column for more details at the link above.

The Jewish dimension of 9/11

An interesting column appeared in the New Jersey Jewish Standard posing the question if there was there anything distinctly Jewish about the suffering that resulted from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack.

Orthodox Rabbi Howard Jachter wrote in his Torah Commentary column that there was a uniquely Jewish facet to this horrific event despite it being an undiscriminating attack on all Americans.

The terrorist attacks left hundreds of individuals whose remains were not found or only small remnants of their bodies were discovered. Besides families waiting for a measure of clarity that their loved ones perished in order for them to begin the formal process of mourning, the plight of the women who wish to one day remarry loomed large in the wake of the World Trade Center attacks.

These women remained agunot, unable to remarry until a bet din (rabbinic court) was able to amass sufficient evidence to issue a ruling verifying the death of the husband and thereby permitting the wife to remarry. As a result of this tragedy, 15 cases of agunot were presented to batei din (rabbinical courts) in the New York metropolitan area.

Throughout history, rabbis have tried to resolve agunot cases. According to the rabbi, the Otzar Haposkim encyclopedia (1982 edition) devotes eight volumes and 1,500 pages to summarize responsa on this topic.

Throughout history, rabbinical authorites have wrestled with this problem during the Holocaust, Israel’s various wars and following terrorist attacks. The New York tragedy, writes Jachter, also saw the rabbis focus on months of research, to find evidence that could be used to reach decisions.

The material used – including records for telephones, cellphones, subways, elevators, dental and DNA testing – connects the city’s rabbinical court investigations with CSI.

This is a fascinating example of how the rabbinic courts tackled this problem:

The first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m., between floors 93 and 98. Rabbinic courts determined (after consultation with experts) that this immediately destroyed the elevators and all stairways from the 92nd floor and above. Thus, anyone who was located in this part of the building at the time of the plane’s impact could not escape. Indeed, there are no known survivors from the 92nd floor or above. Thus, anyone who was determined to have been above the 92nd floor or above at 8:46 a.m. was presumed dead by Jewish Law.

The second plane hit the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. between floors 84 and 87. Of those who were at floor 78 and above at the time of impact, only 10 are known to have survived. The 10 who survived were standing by stairwell “A.” The elevators and stairwell “B” were destroyed by the impact of the plane. It seems that stairwell “A” remained intact only for a very brief time after the impact, and that only people who were standing immediately next to it were able to survive. The 10 survivors sustained very serious injuries and would not have survived without immediate hospitalization. Thus, anyone determined to have been in the South Tower at 9:02 a.m. regarding whom there was no record of being hospitalized on Sept. 11 was presumed by Jewish Law to have perished.

He goes further into the sources and presents specific examples such as a husband’s phone call to a friend. DNA evidence was accepted and US rabbinic courts were authorized by eminent Israel rabbis to use that evidence.

Read the complete column for more details at the link above.

World Jewish Studies: Italian section

An extensive section at the conference focused on the Italian Jewish community, in cooperation with ASSEI (The Israeli Association for the Study of History of Italian Jews)

Here are some of the categories and lectures (E=English, H=Hebrew):

The attitude towards the other in Italy
Silvia Cappelletti (E) The Expulsions of the Jews from Rome under Tiberius and Claudius: A Juridical Study
Yosef A. Cohen (H) The Place of the Apostate Alessandro Franceschi in the Jesuit Mission to Italian Jewry in the First Half of the 16th Century
Francesco Spagnolo (E) Participants-Observers: Christian Presences in Italian Synagogue Life
Itzhak Sergio Minerbi (H) Pope Benedict XVI and the Jews

Jewish Thought and Society in Italy
Pier Gabriele Mancuso (E) Sefer Yetzirah: Early Jewish Mysticism
Lea Naomi Vogelmann Goldfeld (H) Mordechai Shmuel Ghirondi, Rabbi of Padova, Scholar and Kabbalist
Asher Salah (E) From Odessa to Florence: Elena Comparetti Raffalovich and Jewish Russian Intellectuals in Post-Risorgimento Italy
Cristina Michal Bettin (E) Jewish Youth in Italy: Between Integrations and Assimilation, 1861–1938
Anna-Dorothea Ludewig (E) Marranism and Identity Construction in 19th-Century German-Jewish Literature
Paola Ferruta (E) “New Marranism” and the Encounter Between Jews and Universalism
Marina Arbib (H) The Diaries of Gershom Scholem: A Jewish Intellectual Shapes His Identity
Amir Ashur (H) Developments in the Status of Jewish Women in 12th-Century Egypt as Portrayed in Prenuptial Agreements from the Cairo Genizah
Avraham David (H) Culture and Trade Connection Between Egypt and Crete in the Late Middle Ages, as Reflected in Cairo Genizah Documents

There is also another list that didn’t seem to be categorized, but included the following very interesting topics:

Joseph Rapaport, “The Leadership of the Jewish Community in the Kingdom of Navarre Before the Expulsion”
Yosef Hacker, “Charles the Eighth, the Conquest of Italy and Hispano-Jewish Aspirations on the Eve of the 16th Century”
Luis Cortese, “Isidore of Seville, Thomas Aquinas, and Alonso de Cartagena on Forced Conversion”
Ahuva Ho, “Alfonso de Zamora: an Apostate in the Service of the Church”
Ricardo Munoz Solla, “Conversos burgaleses: Historia de una silenciosa presencia (siglos XV-XVI)”
Samuela Marconcini, “Tolerance and Anti-Judaism: the Politics of Conversion to Catholicism in Tuscany Between the Seventeenth and the Nineteenth Centuries”
Matteo Al Kalak, “The “House of Catechumens” in Modena between Dukes and Popes (1583-1797)”
Ilaria Pavan, “The “House of Catechumens” in Modena during the Emancipation Age (1804-1941)”
Yosef Kaplan, “The Building of Sephardic Communities in the “Confessionalization Era”: A Comparative Approach”
Anita Waingort Novinsky, “A Critical Approach to Sephardic Historiography: The Forgotten Marranos of America”
Jose Alberto Rodrigues Da-Silva Tavim, “A Troublesome Theme: The Jews and the Intelligence Networks in Portugal’s Asian Empire In the 16th Century”
Schulamith C. Halevy, “Los Trevino: a `Tribe of Sefarditas’ in El Nuevo Reino de Leon District”
Asaf Ashkenazi, “Historia general de las Indias”
Limor Munz-Manor, “The Old World and the New”: The Jewish Discourse on America in 16th-Century Italy”
Claude B. Stuczynski, “Jews and Judaism in the Juridical Debates on Amerindians in 16th-Century Spanish-America”

Women and Widows
Tirtsah Levie-Bernfeld, “Sephardi Widows in Early Modern Amsterdam”
Ruth Lamdan, “Widows, Old and Respected Women in Ottoman Jewish Society”
Michal Ben Ya’akov, “From Marginality to Opportunity: Widows in Nineteenth Century Eretz-Israel”

What a wide panorama of topics addressing women, history, America, pre-Expulsion issues, conversion and much more!

Tracing the Tribe believes that Jewish history and genealogy cannot be separated. Each helps us learn about the other and to understand events on a very personal level as we realize that our own ancestors may have lived through those exact events and in those places.

DNA: Are you a Halpern or Heilperin?

If you are a Halpern/Heilperin descendant, here’s a DNA surname project of interest.

Organized by Dr. Steven D. Bloom, Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, preliminary results are available and more men are being sought for the Y-DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA.com.

Steve is hoping that Tracing the Tribe’s readership may wish to get involved in this project.

As part of the core project related to this study, we wanted to specifically test males with documented genealogies tracing to male lines of the Rabbinic Heilperin families (see either “Lurie Legacy” by Neil Rosenstein or Meir Wunder’s “Meorei Galicia” for details). Should any two or men match, we could be fairly sure we had found the haplotype related to this family (and confirmed the written genealogy).

Results have been mixed so far, thus the pressing need for more men to be tested.

The first two men tested did not match (Steve names them Halpern A and Halpern B). There are numerous reasons why this may have happened, but he feels the top possibilities are:

– females passing down surnames to males (a fairly common historical occurrence)
– informal adoption of orphaned non-direct male line family members
– Marital infidelity or rape.

However, one man (Halpern A) – with a documented 500-year-old genealogy – matched another Halpern male (Halpern C) in the study. Halpern C previously knew nothing about his connection to the Heilperin rabbis.

Steve explains that although this isn’t as positive a result as matching with a man with a known connection to the Heilperin rabbis (a Halpern B match), it does likely mean that Halpern A is a true male line Heilperin in the way he claims.

Although this study is just at the preliminary stage with early results, Steve says that he think he can say that the branch from Zebulon Eliezer Heilperin has a haplotype of G2c (associated with Halpern A and C)

Steve’s own male Halpern cousin – supposedly a direct descendant of Jehiel Heilperin of Minsk (whom Rabbi Wunder lists as a Zebulon Eliezer descendant) – does not match Halpern A, as the cousin is a J2.

There is always the possibility of the reasons mentioned above as to why two males of the same male line do not match, or perhaps Jehiel Heilperin was not a descendant of Zebulon Eliezer.

The problem is that there are not yet enough participants to analyze these options, so Steve has put out another call for male Halperns to participate.

If you are a Halpern or a descendant of the rabbinic Heilperins, consider testing and joining the project. Do you know of someone (perhaps at work, in your synagogue, school, neighborhood, etc.) who fits that description? If you don’t wish to test and join the project, but have genealogical information to share, that’s also important. In all these cases, please contact Steve.

The project is most importantly looking for known or suspected descendants of the rabbinic Heilperins discussed above, but any Halpern can join. Remember that the first project match was someone completely unsolicited who was unaware of any rabbinic connections.

As is the case with many similar situations, there are many reasons why someone may not know of a connection – such as the early death (via pogrom, war, epidemic, etc.) of a parent who could not pass on the family story, and perhaps followed by adoption into a non-Halpern family upon remarriage of a mother. There are many scenarios that could be put into play.

In our Talalay tale, there is a persistent story that one of Rabbi Leib ben Mikhail Talalay’s numerous sons was an infant found on the rabbi’s doorstep and raised as part of the family. However, we have not yet been able to determine who that son might have been. I’m sure readers can also describe scenarios from their own family history.

Contact Steve for more information, to provide information or to test and join the project.

Eliyahu’s Branches: Database update

Chaim Freedman writes that he’s now updating the descendants’ database for the Vilna Gaon and his siblings. He last published this in his 1997 book, “Eliyahu’s Branches – the Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and His Family” (Avotaynu).

He writes:

In the light of material received from many families and with resource to archival records which were not available when my book was published, I have much to re-assess.

I invite those whose families appear in my book to send updates of children born since its publication twelve years ago, and corrections. I would also like to hear from all families who hold a tradition of a relationship with the Gaon.

Please send family trees in a gedcom file if possible.

Contact Chaim for more information.