Sunday, June 24, 2012


When this Pittsburgher first began having New York friends, they would always ask me how I am related to Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland, whose five sons went to Yeshiva University. In fact, over the years, most everyone I have ever met from Cleveland has asked that as well. Sometimes I joke that this is why I do genealogy - when my time comes after a hundred and twenty, I will no doubt be asked that again and I would be well advised to know the answer.

In the course of my genealogy work, I have corresponded by email with two of the sons of Rabbi Pickholtz and even had the occasion to speak with the rabbi himself on the phone, but it never worked out that I actually met any of them.

Soon after we moved to Jerusalem four years ago, we learned that Noah Pickholtz, the middle son of the youngest son of Rabbi Pickholtz, was studying at a yeshiva not far from us. We had him over for lunch and although it was very nice, it turned out to be a one-time thing.

We kind of kept up on his doings - mostly via the grapevine and Facebook - as he went into the army and eventually became engaged to Michal. We invited him to some of our activities, but as I say, it never worked out.

So we were really pleased to receive an invitation to the wedding, which was last Monday evening, not far from Jerusalem. Aside from the simcha itself, I was looking forward to meeting whatever of his family would be coming from the US. I don't think his father and I had ever had contact (though he had been in contact with my son in suburban Chicago on shul business), but I had a bit of contact with some of his father's brother's families.

I had also heard from Noah's older brother on the births of each of his four girls.

A couple of weeks before the wedding we received a Facebook invitation to the kiddush they were making the Shabbat before the wedding. It was at a shul about thirty minutes' walk from here, so we said we would be there. (It was a hot day and the walk was mostly uphill.)

I met his parents. (His father says "You are the one from the website." I suppose that's one way to put it.) And we met the bride's parents - they are from Basel Switzerland. I introduced my self to people as the Pickholtz genealogist, without getting into specific relationships.

The wedding itself was nice. It actually started on time. Since both families live abroad, most of the guests were friends of the couple, so we older folks were distinctly the minority. We met Noah's brothers and his sister-in-law. We sat at a table full of Clevelanders.

There were four people there named "Mrs. Pickholtz." During our trip to the US last summer, there were three occasions where there were three, but it has been some years since I have been with four. There should be a photograph which includes all of them - and the men too.

The family structure
So now you know why I am writing about this particular family at this time. Let me explain the structure.

The late Rabbi Isidore (Israel) Pickholtz was one of four children of Berisch and Golde Pickholz. That's Pickholz for both of them. They said they were cousins and some of the descendants took that to mean first cousins, which as you can see below is incorrect.

Berisch and Golde were both born in Rozdol, east Galicia. The four children were all born in Galicia and they went to the US in the early 1920s. Berisch went first, with some of his brother's family and Golde went with the children in 1924, after the quota system had been instituted - a fact which necessitated some "special payments."

To the right is an outline of eight generations of the family, beginning with Isak and Feige Pikholz (maybe one couple or maybe two with the same names - a discussion for another time) and going down to Noah and his brothers. Nine, if you add in Dov and Tammy's four girls.

It is clear that Berisch and Golde are, at best, second cousins.

We accept as axiomatic that the generation above Isak and Feige is Pinkas and Sara Ryfka Pikholz and that all the Pikholz families from Rozdol are descended from this couple. I think that the name Pikholz came from Sara Ryfka, rather than Pinkas.

Our family website has more detailed information about the family of David and Serka Pikholz (the grandparents of Berisch) and that of Hersch Leib and Sara Pikholz (the grandparents of Golde), for those who are interested.

Are you related to Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland?
None of this addresses the original question about my relationship to "Rabbi Pickholtz from Cleveland."

My Pikholz family - as I have written here before - comes from Skalat, about a three-four hour drive from Rozdol in today's conditions. The Skalat families go back further than the original Rozdol couple and there are more of them. It is possible that Sara Ryfka, the wife of Pinkas of Rozdol, came from Skalat around 1800, but there doesn't seem to evidence of that. Not even a significant overlap of given names.

So the answer to the question remains as it has always been - not that we know of.

Oh and let's not forget:


Sunday, June 17, 2012


Nana had this photo on
display forever. My grand-
daughter knows it will be hers.
Click to enlarge
This is not about my grandmother's mother, Regina Bauer Rosenzweig, who appears here on the right. Or as we call her - "Nana's mother."

It isn't even about her parents Simon/Shemaya Bauer and Fani Stern.

It's about her grandparents, and in particular, her mother's parents.

But first a bit of background. The Bauers had seven children, all of whom lived to adulthood. The children were born and raised in Kunszentmiklos Hungary, where the Bauers lived. The Sterns were from Kalosca. All this I knew from Nana.

The map on the left shows a section of Hungary directly south of Budapest, including the towns I will be discussing here.
Some years ago, I acquired copies of all the Bauer records from Kunszentmiklos and organized them into a rudimentary outline. It was clear from those records that earlier Bauers had lived in Apostag, not far away and the whole lot of them seem to have moved in the same period, perhaps because of legal restrictions on where Jews could live. I have a set of Bauer records from Apostag, but have not done anything with them.

At the same time, I acquired the marriage record of Simon Bauer and Fani Stern.
The marriage in Kalosca on 29 January 1862, 19 Shevat 5612 of Simon son of Lasar Bauer, age 28, of Kunszentmiklos
and Fani daughter of Salomon Stern, age 21, of Kalosca. (Click to enlarge - it's the second  record on the page.)
This document gave me both the ages of the bride and groom and the names of their fathers. In the case of Simon's father Lasar, we have a Lazar Bauer in Kunszentmiklos, married to a Roza Lowenstein. Lazar was born in 1791 and died in 1867. They may be Simon's parents - or not. I have not recorded them as such, but have recorded that Simon's father is Lasar.

I searched Kalosca records for any Salomon Stern and I found a death and two births.
This Salomon Stern died in Kalosca in May 1862 at age 57. That was a few months after Fani's wedding. Fifty-seven is within the norm for Fani's father's age, but who knows if this is actually the right person! As I say in one of my lectures, even if I am quite sure this is the right person, once I record him as such, I won't re-examine it later. Nor will my research heirs, should I be so fortunate as to have any.

I also found two births for children of Salomon Stern, a daughter Sali in 1851 and a son Wilhelm in 1853. The earlier record is very poor quality, so I bring the one from 1853 here.
Wilhelm Stern, born in Kalosca, 2 February 1853 to Salomon Stern and Beti Grunwald
Now obviously it is tempting to say that our Fani Stern is the daughter of this same Salomon Stern and Beti Grunwald. But the truth is, even if we know that this is her father, we have no idea if Beti Grunwald - whose children were born nine and eleven years after Fani - is Fani's mother. Problem is, the Hungarian National Archives and LDS have Kalosca Jewish records only for the period 1850-1895, so we have no idea if there were children between Fani and the later two.

In preparing this blog, I had a discussion with Beth Long, a professional researcher in Budapest, and she explains that after 1895, all the records are part of the civil record, rather than the Jewish record. These records exist for Kalosca (as well as Kunszentmiklos) and can be searched. There are certainly deaths after 1895 for people born in the 1830s and 1840s, so perhaps we can find more there.

I'll get back to this a bit later. Meantime, here are some Jewish population numbers. In Kalosca, the Jews were 4-6% of the total population. These numbers are from Yad Vashem's Pinkas Kehillot.

Sunday, June 10, 2012


National Commander, American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor

Uncle Kenny
When I still very young, I already knew that Uncle Kenny was different from my other relatives. He had tattoos on his arms and his back. He was an electrician and smoked Lucky Strikes. He came from rural western Pennsylvania and used expressions like "redd off the table." He sat flat-footed on his haunches, with his arms around his knees, the way he learned from the Filipinos. And he had been a prisoner of the Japanese.

And on one or two occasions that I recall from childhood, he referred to himself as a Jew.

He was also my sandak (~godfather).

Kenny Stull was the eldest son of Francis Jackson Stull and Velma Thompson and was married to my mother's older sister, Ethel Gordon. Aunt Ethel had grown up in Vandergrift Pennsylvania without any Jewish education to speak of. There were no outward signs of anything specifically Jewish in their home or their lives.
The house on Franklin Avenue,
two and a half years ago.
I was surprised how annoyed I was that the
owners had allowed it to deteriorate so.

They had gotten married shortly before he went off to war and although he had been home a couple of years by the time I was born, they had no children. I guess that's partly why my parents chose him to be my sandak. Besides, the sisters were close despite the eleven year age difference.

We lived in Pittsburgh and they were in Vandergrift, but we visited with them often and when we'd stay over, it was at their house on Franklin Avenue, rather than with my grandparents. When I was very young - I want to say six, but that's crazy even for my parents -  my mother put my younger brother and me on a bus to Vandergrift for a few days' visit with Aunt Ethel and Uncle Kenny.

They had a "Lassie phone" with a party line and you had to dial the operator and ask for Vandergrift 577A. I knew how to do that well before first grade.

One time we went to see them when I was about five and they brought out a little blonde girl, maybe three years old. "This is Sally. Soon she will be our daughter." Sally became Donna and about two years later, they had a daughter on their own. Aunt Ethel was in her fortieth year.

With their children and son-in-law
 Eric was born seven years later. Aunt Ethel died when he was just turning fourteen.

A few days before his thirtieth birthday, Eric was killed in a freak automobile accident in which he should have played no part.  Donna died of cancer five years later, leaving a husband and two children. The second daughter has not responded to our attempts to make contact during the last few years, even when my mother died.

I stayed in touch with Aunt Ethel and Uncle Kenny until I moved to Israel thirty-nine years ago. They travelled to Chicago for my wedding and we visited with them a couple of times in Vandergrift.

To the extent that I thought about it at all, it was obvious to me that he had become Jewish because he married a Jewish girl and they wanted to keep her parents happy and his references to himself as Jewish were for effect. Shows how much I knew.

He Killed a Girl
One day, when I was about twenty-six and here in Israel, my mother started talking ex nihilo, as she did from time to time. I will tell you what she said, but mixing in the details I have learned since. I don't know if my mother knew all these details as she had been ten years old and hadn't yet known Kenny.

Indiana (PA) Evening Gazette, 3 February 1937
"Mudless Shoes Freed Motorist"
On the evening of 8 January 1937, Kenneth Jackson Stull of Leechburg was driving on the road between Leechburg and North Vandergrift and he hit a girl. She had been walking along the road - one of a group, which apparently included her mother. Catherine Frayer Beatty was seventeen when she died and had been married for two weeks.

On 2 February, a coroner's jury accepted the highway patrolman's testimony that it was an accident. She had no mud on her shoes, so she must have been walking on the road itself, not off to the side as Mrs. Frayer had claimed. It had been dark, so he wouldn't have seen her. No charges were brought.

Soon after, he was in church on Sunday morning and the angry voice from the pulpit said something like "There is a murderer among us. The law says he is not guilty, but he knows and we know he is a murderer." Kenny left the church, never to return.

Having renounced his spiritual anchor, he was rather at a loss what to do next. My mother said "He drove around until" - and she made it sound like hours, but it may have been days or weeks - "he came to a 'Jewish church' and he went in." And some time after that, he completed his conversion and became Jewish.

I don't think he knew any of the Gordons at the time. He didn't marry Aunt Ethel until November 1940. Very possibly he decided that since he had become a Jew, he should look for a Jewish girl. Yet they were married in Hardy West Virginia, so it seems they eloped. (Thanks to Beth at the Vandergrift Historical Society for that  bit of information.)

Soon the army came calling. He learned about the Phillipines. And Bataan. And Corregidor. He survived the infamous death march and whatever else the Japanese had in store for their prisoners.
The four Vandergrift Gordons in WWII        (My mother was too young)
The Jewish Criterion (Pittsburgh) 24 September 1943.
 He came home, went to work for my grandfather for awhile, eventually going off on his own. He tried a few businesses, eventually settling on one he called Ken Electric, was elected to serve as a Vandergrift Councilman and smoked his Lucky Strikes.

Beth Jacob Cemetery, Lower Burrel Pennsylvania
Uncle Kenny served two one-year terms as National Commander of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor veterans organization and participated in a veterans trip back to the Far East to see the camps once again.

He lived his last years near his second daughter down south and died weeks before his seventy-sixth birthday.

Milt Rosenberg and His Guest, Jan Thompson
I often have podcasts on while I work and two or three times a week will listen to Milt Rosenberg's wonderfully eclectic night time interview show on WGN in Chicago. On Memorial Day, he had on a woman named Jan Thompson who is in the process of releasing a film called "The Tragedy of Bataan."

As I listened to the archived show the next day, I decided to google "Kenneth Jackson Stull," just to see what is out there. What I found included this
On January 25th  members of the “A” Company led by the 803rd Battalion’s Executive Officer, Captain James D. Richardson joined men of the 21st and 34th Pursuit Squadrons, all virtually untrained and poorly equipped to become combat infantrymen in the defense of the Aglaloma-Quinauan Point area on Bataan’s rocky southwest coastline.  These raw troops aided by Philippine Army and Scout forces engaged in combat with about 600 Japanese invaders who had attempted a landing behind the lines.  On January 26th in a Japanese ambush, 10 men of “A” Company were killed-in-action and another 38 wounded, decimating the unit.  On February 5th “A” Company’s survivors were relocated to Corregidor where they spent the next 3 months engaged in tasks that they had been trained to do, i.e., widening and extending Kindley Field, the island’s airstrip, constructing aircraft revetments, maintaining roads and utilities, etc.  Working in the open, the unit was exposed to ever-increasing Japanese artillery barrages and air raids and suffered eight more casualties including the C.O. of the company, Cap’t Zbikowski who was killed on April 2, 1942.  Just prior to Corregidor’s surrender on May 6, 1942 the remaining physically fit “A” Company men were integrated with marine and navy defenders on the beaches at Monkey Point.  Troops of the Japanese 61st infantry Regiment, a component of the 4th Division landed on the north coast of Corregidor on May the and the island was surrendered by General Wainwright the following day.

Pvt. Kenneth Stull left Corregidor in the latter part of May and after a brief stop at the Bilibid Prison in Manila he was transported north to the Cabanatuan P.O.W. camp where he remained until November 1942 when he sailed to Japan on the freighter, “Nagato Maru.”  After his arrival in Japan in late November 1942, Stull spent some time at the Shinagawa P.O.W. camp/hospital in Tokyo, perhaps in ill health prior to moving to the large Omori camp located on an island in Tokyo Bay and connected to Tokyo proper by a 300 foot long timber causeway.  The Omori camp became the home for many Air Force personnel downed in the Pacific during the war or over Japan in the last year.
Thanks to the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Museum at
the Brooke County Library in Wellsburg West Virginia for this envelope
I sent the link to some of my family, including to three of my DC-area second cousins who are some years older than I.

Cousin Dick Sincoff wrote back:

I greatly appreciate the article. A significant omission was the Bataan Death March, which he survived. At a local theatre in D.C., not long after the fall of Corregidor, we saw captured Japanese film and saw Kenny standing near Gen. Wainwright. My mother made us stay through to the next showing to confirm it. She ran from the theatre; she called Ethel in Vandergrift and told her that he was alive. Ethel already had received a telegram from the War Department that Kenny was missing in action and presumed dead.
He continued thus (emphasis mine):

After the release of prisoners, he went to rehab hospital in Hawaii for many weeks and finally was flown to Andrews air base in suburban Maryland outside of Washington. I went with my mother and father to greet him. He was rail thin but held himself tall. He still had the thick glasses he wore--albeit wired and patched. He spoke very little about the war thereafter, but in 1948, when I was 13 and spent 2 weeks with him, he opened up some, told me some of the horrors and some of the sabotage that US prisoners did while in the camps. He was often beaten because he was Jewish.
As you know, Kenny converted to Judaism. At one time while a POW, the camp boss told told all Jews to come forward, and Kenny did so. As he stepped out, a fellow American, held his arm and said, "Stull, you don't have to do that." Kenny said yes he did, because he was a Jew. I felt great emotion hearing his stories, as I guess did he. For the rest of his life, he never liked men with extra-short haircuts and avoided rice.
On summer afternoons after work, he would walk with me on the bluff overlooking the river and rail tracks and softly tell me things, out of earshot from Ethel. I still wonder if he opened up with others as he did with me. Maybe I was just a kid who needed to know, who needed to hear the horror, and maybe not let it happen again. But it did, didn't it?
This is the story of one man, my uncle and sandak and has significance for me and other family members, so I can close here.

I really should be saying kaddish for him. For my sandak.

Afterword for Genealogy Researchers
But there is also a lesson here for us genealogy researchers which I don't want to pass by. I don't know who besides me knows the story of the conversion. Cousin Dick, for instance, will learn those details when he reads them here. Nor do I know how many other people know the bits I emphasized in red above. I certainly hadn't and my mother probably didn't either. Until last summer, Cousin Dick and I had not seen each other in probably fifty years, though we have been exchanging emails recently.

Often when we researchers contact cousins, we will talk to one or two of a group and assume we have them covered.  That is not the case. You can never tell when a particular story or piece of information has fallen only to one specific person. And even so, what makes something come up from distant memory into conversation. It is important to talk to everyone, and not just once. And there are still important things you will miss.

Graphic by Sarajoy

Sunday, June 3, 2012


Last week, I told you about the annual Skalat memorial that was to be held last Monday at the cemetery in Holon. So let me tell you a bit about how it went.

There were more people there than last year. Shammai's son Zvi was there with his kids, so we were fine for a minyan.

David, the son of the late Chaim Braunstein - the leader of the Skalaters for many years - was there for, I think, the first time.

Henia showed me a book about her mother, Tonia Kaczor Winter, which had been ghost-written for her, including a large collection of photographs from Skalat. Her uncle had been a professional photographer in Skalat, so this is not a trivial collection. You can page through the book here. Tonia herself was there as well, with an aide, who comes from Poland, but walking and looking well.

Zvika Sarid, Yocheved's son, has been leading the program since Chaim Braunstein fell ill a few years ago. He spoke of the visit that a group of them - about twenty people, many from the Sarid family - made last year. He gave a very detailed report on the state of the two monuments, how they are being maintained, what money is needed, etc.

Chaim and Shammai had a fund for maintenance of the monuments and Zvika recently authorized the release of  about half of it for immediate needs. The fund needs replenished and anyone who wishes to contribute can send a check to Zvi Sarid (on his name), Kevutzat Yavne, DN Evtach, 79233 ISRAEL.

The mayor of Skalat spoke of refurbishing the shul and making into some kind of museum, but Zvika told them that the amounts of money involved were far beyond any possible benefit to anyone. It's not as though Skalat has much in the way of tourists or other visitors. The physical shul building is deteriorating, much graffiti etc, but we must all accept that this is the way of things. Perhaps the condition of the building can best be seen as a mark of shame for the local Ukranians.

We said more Psalms than usual and everyone said kaddish. Motel said the memorial prayer.

Zvika also told the story of his uncle Herschel Weissman, the older brother of Motel and Yocheved. Herschel had been in a work camp and after Skalat was liberated by the Red Army, he decided to forgo making aliya and instead joined the Russians, as a guard for German prisoners. "I want to find opportunities for revenge," he told the others.

He ended up working in a prison camp near Sverdlov and for a few years the family had some kind of contact. Apparently he took too many liberties with his revenge plans and found himself in prison. After  awhile they never heard again. Yocheved's late husband Yitzhak decided that Zvika was to be named for him.

Recently, Yocheved retired from her job on the kibbutz and used her new free time to go through all kinds of things that she and Yitzhak had collected over the years. In the process, she found a letter she had never seen before. A Jewish woman who worked in the prison had written that Herschel had died. No one but Yitzhak had ever seen this letter and no one had ever known the details contained in it.

Now the Sarids are talking about going to see his grave in Sverdlov and perhaps bringing Herschel back for burial here.

The group that made the trip last year published a book with photographs and narrative from their trip. Lots of Skalat of course, but also other places on their itinerary. Oddly enough, there was a section on Podkamen. My great-grandfather was almost certainly born there, to his mother who was from Skalat. Turns out, Yocheved's husband Yitzhak was from Podkamen, hence the Sarid family's interest. I asked them how I can get a copy and they said they'd let me know.

Next year will be seventy years.

Also please note, I will be speaking - in Hebrew - on Sunday, 10 June, 20 Sivan at 7 PM - at the Israel Genealogical Society's Giv'atayim branch, on the subject
What We Know vs. What We Can Prove
at the Shazar Center, 30 Yavnieli Street, Giv'atyaim. There is a small charge for non-members.