Tuesday, August 21, 2007

correction re Drs. Aybalit and Doolittle

In correction of my mention of Dr. Aybalit and Dr. Doolittle below, according to Wikpedia, Aybalit was based on Doolittle and not the other way around.


more photos from Vilnius

1st picture--Walter with Faina Bramtsovskaya, a 85 year old survivor of the Vilna Ghetto who escaped to the forest to join the Jewish partisans in fighting the Nazis.

2nd--a long abadoned pre-war factory that still retains fading Yiddish letters.

3rd--Beautiful lakeside Trakkai Castle from which Grand Dukes of Lithuania resisted the Teutonic Knighs in the 14th and 15th Centuries.

4th--Walter with a Hall of Fame lineup with the great Litvak rabbis. Rabbi Spektor is on the opposite panel in the middle.

some photos from Vilnius

Vilnius--one of the most hauntingly beautfil cities I have ever seen, but somehow our photos mostly missed the mark. A few of the more interesting ones:

1. The Vilnius Cathedral--originally a pagan temple stood here, as Lithuania didnt become Christianized until 1381, the last pagan country in Europe. Its pretty Catholic these days.

2. The new, playful post-Soviet Lithuania. Those workers are really dummies, not people.

3. Our guide, Regina Kopilevich, in front of the door of Vilnius University, which dates back to 16th Century.

4. In the Jewish Quarter

5. Walter and Tanya with a statue of C. Szabard, a Vilna Jew who was the prototype for Dr. Ibalit, upon whom Dr. Doolite was based.

photos from Kaunas (part 2)

images of Kaunas, grim and lovely--life is complicated, eh?

picture 1--grave pried open by robbers looking for gold in the old (and practically abandoned)Green Hills Jewish cemetery in Kaunas. Shmuel Elchanan found and repaired here the graves of Rabbi Spektor's wife Sarah Raizel and his youngest son Binyamin Rabinowitz. It is almost certain that the grave of Chaim Rabinowitz, the rabbi's oldest son our great-great grandfather and his daughter Rachel are here in this neglected and much vandalized cemetery as well, but we were unable to find them. The masoleum of Rabbi Spektor and Tzvi Hirsch Rabbinowitz was originally here but destroyed in the early 1980's when the Soviet authorities decided to level the cemetery for new development (that never happened but many graves were destroyed). Their bodies were dug up and moved to the new Jewish cemetery.

picture 2
The ruined house in the center of Kaunas where Rabbi Spektor once lived. His youngest son, Binyamin Rabinowitz lived here until 1906, when he was murdered by the husband of the family's washerwoman. Shmuel Elchanan lived here with his family as a youth until they were arrested by the Nazis in 1941 and taken to concentration camps.

picute 3--an upscale street scene in downtown Kaunas only a few blocks from Rabbi Spektor's ruined house.

picture 4 Walter Ruby, Asia Gutterman and Tatyana Rapaport

picture 5-- another vista over Kaunas

a few photos from Lithuania (Part 1)

As you all know by now, I got mugged and had my camera grabbed in Kaunas while visiting sites connected with the life of Rabbi Spektor. While the culprit was caught and the camera returned, the memory chip was lost so all precious photos from Ukraine, Rostov, Moscow and Belarus were lost as well. Fortunately, my wonderful guides in Kaunas and Vilnius, Asia Gutterman and Regina Kopilevich lend me cameras so I was able to bring home some meaningful photos from those places. Here are a few of them.

picture 1--the ohel (masoleum)dedicated to Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor and his sopn Rabbi Tzvi Hirsh Rabinowitz at the new Jewish cemetery in Kaunas.

picture 2 inscrption on the ohel rwsing in part--Blessed to the great Gaon and his son--Isaac Elchanan Spektor and Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Rabinowitz

picture 3--messages to the Kaunas Gaon, Rabbi Spektor placed there by visitors, many asking for his blessing or help in various endeavors

picture 4--panorama of Old Kaunas

A Few Things Are Illuminated...

This is the first draft of a piece I expect will show up soon in the New York Jewish media--probably in shortened form. I thought I'll put the full version up here first.


By Walter Ruby

“Searching for family roots is like snorting crack cocaine. The rush it gives will hook you for the rest of your life.”

If someone had said something like that to me after the deaths of my parents, Helga and Stanley Ruby, three years ago, when I began working on a modest family history project together with my siblings Dan and Joanne, I would have found the analogy ridiculous and more than a little sacrilegious. Yet my fascination with our ongoing search for generations of lost ancestors has grown exponentially since then. By the time a fellow family history enthusiast, Eli Wohlgemuth, of Montreal, made that remark to me in jest several weeks ago in Vilnius, Lithuania, where we met by serendipity and quickly discovered unexpected overlaps in our respective family trees, I understood exactly what he was talking about.

Somewhere between the time, early in my search, when I found New York City death records proving that my colorful grandfather and namesake, Walter Ruby (1893-1939), a self-made liquor magnate remembered in our family for having invented the rum and coke, actually committed suicide instead of dying of a heart attack as our family had always believed; and my setting out last month with my fiancĂ© Tanya on a two week jaunt through Russia, Belarus and Lithuania in search of archival records of ancestors who wisely abandoned these places for America well over a century ago, I too had become an impassioned ‘Jewish roots’ junkie.

What, I have been asked, can be so fulfilling about researching family history that one would choose to devote considerable money and valuable vacation time to shlepping across the former Soviet Union on steamy, overcrowded trains? Actually, there is quite a lot. There is the excitement of sleuthing around in the distant past; experiencing an electric connection with history. There is a deeply satisfying sense of accomplishment in recovering and placing on our family history Internet site, www.rubyfamily.blogspot.com, the names of family members my siblings and I have recovered who would otherwise have been forever forgotten. Yet the greatest rush of pure excitement comes in uncovering unexpected pieces of information which connect the dots (or branches on the family tree), while providing startling insights into the psychological makeup of family members who died many decades before my birth.

One such ‘Alex Haley’ moment came for me shortly before leaving on my trip, as I sat in the Gottesman Library perusing an obscure 1961 biography of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor (1817-1896), known as the Gaon of Kovno (now Kaunas, Lithuania), and widely considered the most prominent rabbi in the Russian Empire in the late 19th Century. Spektor, for whom the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at YU is named, was both a brilliant decisior of halacha and a politically astute community leader who negotiated with high officials of the Czarist regime on behalf of beleaguered Russian Jewry amidst government-sponsored pogroms during the 1880’s even as he simultaneously sent coded messages to Jewish leaders in Western Europe; asking them to orchestrate international pressure to get the Czar to cease and desist.

As a child, I often heard from my father that we were descended from a mysterious figure he called ‘the Kovno Rav’. Yet as my siblings and I put the family history together, we realized we did not understood exactly how Spektor was related to my great-grandfather, Joseph Rabinowitz (Walter Ruby’s father), who emigrated to New York in 1875. Suddenly, in the book on Rabbi Spektor, written by a New York rabbi named Efraim Shimoff, I found a short passage explaining that after the death of Spektor’s oldest son, Rabbi Chaim Rabinovich (1834-1874), the Gaon of Kovno “took care of his grandson, Joseph Rabinowitz, studying with him until he became proficient in Talmud and Jewish Codes.” Eureka! Not only did that passage establish that Joseph Rabinowitz (the Americanized version of Rabinovich), was the grandson of Spektor, it also made me the Kovno Gaon’s great-great-great grandson.
The text also provided context to a conflict my father had often spoken about between the deeply pious Rabinowitz and his youngest son, Walter Ruby, a headstrong self-made businessman who not only shortened his family name from Rabinowitz to Ruby, but also took pleasure in eating lobster and celebrating Christmas. Walter Ruby used to say that his father, who spent his days learning Talmud while his wife, Lena, struggled to run a corner grocery store in East Harlem and raise nine children, was good for only one thing; getting Lena pregnant every year. Now I understood that Joseph must have been powerfully impacted by the experience of studying with his tzaddik-like grandfather just before his emigration, and therefore devoted his life to an Old World tradition of lifelong Judaic learning that his Americanized son found a betrayal of his father’s core responsibility to adequately support his family.

A similar moment of revelation awaited me in Rostov-On-Don, a raucous river town in southern Russia where in the 1870’s and 1880’s, Shalom-Aron and Sophie Tulbowitz, my great-great grandparents on the other side of my father’s family, are said to have run a tavern. In Rostov, Yevgeni Gimodudinov, a first-rate archivist employed by the city’s revitalized Jewish community, unearthed two documents in the handwriting of Rostov’s main rabbi 130 years ago, recording the birth of a son Gavriel to the Tulbowitzes in 1878 and the death of their three year old son Isaac the following year. The document referred to the family as mecshane (a social rank that can be translated as ‘townspeople’) of Rechitsa, a small town in what is today southeastern Belarus, about 500 miles from Rostov.

Not only did that attribution solve the mystery as to where the family had lived before moving to Rostov, it also offered a plausible motive for their decision to leave for America in the early 1890’s. Gimodudinov informed us that in 1887, the Russian government announced the creation of a new military province of the Don, to be under the control of the virulently anti-Semitic Don Cossacks. At first, it appeared likely that all Jews would be forced to leave Rostov as a result of this edict, but in 1891, the government, leery of destroying Rostov’s economic vitality, announced that Jews registered as residents of Rostov would be allowed to stay. Yet while we know the Tulbowitzes had been in the city for at least 15 years, they were likely still listed as being residents of Rechitsa. Also, according to family lore, the Tulbowitzes’ daughter Rose (1874-1949) was kidnapped by Cossacks as a small child and had to be ransomed. So it seems probable that the new ascendancy of the Cossacks would have led the Tulbowitzes to regretfully to pull up roots; with the entire family moving to Albany, New York.

I now knew that both sides of my father’s family hailed from Belarus, as Rabbi Spektor was born and grew to prominence in tiny shtetlach that are today located near the border of Belarus and Poland—once the very heart of the Pale of Settlement. Tanya and I spent a day travelling through those towns and villages, a penultimate Chagall dreamscape with goats, cows and storks on roofs. Only the Jews, massacred by the Nazis almost to a person, were missing. In overgrown Jewish cemeteries in small market towns like Rabbi Spektor’s birthplace of Ros’, only a few forlorn stones stuck out of the rich black earth amidst the high grass and thorn bushes, as a disappearing testament to a lost civilization.

As soon as we arrived in Vilnius (Vilna), a ravishingly beautiful city similarly haunted with still-vivid memories of the killing of nearly all of the 100,000 Jews who lived here in the early 1940’s, our guide, Regina Koplevich, informed us that a visitor named Eli Wohlgemuth wanted to meet me. It turned out that his great-great grandfather, Rabbi Yishai Wolgemuth of Memel, (then the easternmost city in the German Empire and today the Lithuanian city of Klaipeda) had been a good friend of my great-great-great grandfather, Rabbi Spektor of Kovno. That was extraordinary enough, but I was more excited because the maiden name of my grandmother on my mother’s side, Elli Ringel, a German Jew raised in the East Prussian city of Konigsberg (today the Russian city of Kaliningrad), a short distance from Memel, also happened to be Wolgemuth. After we compared notes, Eli, a world-class expert on the extended Wohlgemuth clan, expressed the belief that my great-grandfather, Julius Wolgemuth, who was in the moving business in East Prussia, was likely closely related to his Rabbi Wohlgemuth. Eli also told me that all of the East Prussian Wohlgemuths were descended from family members who left central Belarus for the German Baltic Coast during in the first two decades of the 19th Century.

My grandmother, Elli Ringel (1900-1981), who fled the Nazis from Berlin to America with my mother, Helga, was a charming woman with a wry sense of humor, but one of her less edifying qualities was a German Jewish aversion to Ostjuden, (i.e. Russian Jews). This was a prejudice about which she remained outspoken all her life, although she deigned to make an exception when my mother married my Russian-descended father. Yet, here was an exquisite irony; if Eli from Montreal was correct, the snobby ‘more German than the Germans’ East Prussian Wolgemuths were really Ostjuden themselves! All of my life I have blamed my myriad neuroses on the conflict bubbling inside myself between my Prussian and Russian sides; between the repressed and authority-fearing side of my personality and the exuberant, romantic and rebellious side on the other. Now it appeared that I might have saved myself thousands of dollars in therapy costs, since the uber-yekke Wohlgemuths turned out to be nothing more than self-hating Ostjuden.

The last strange thing to happen on the trip was that I somehow managed to get mugged in the center of Kaunas while viewing buildings associated with the life of Rabbi Spektor. It was an event so rare in Lithuania’s normally somnolent second city that it made Page 5 of the country’s main daily newspaper. As our guide showed us a building that once housed an orphanage named in the great rabbi’s honor, a middle aged man collared me, wrestled my camera from my neck and ran off. I gave chase and some local youths, hearing my cries, caught the robber and held him until the police arrived. They handed me back the camera, but somehow the memory chip had disappeared, and with it, all of the photos of our trip. Then two cops showed up and removed a loaded pistol from the assailant’s jacket. Apparently he had shouted “I will shoot” in Lithuanian when he accosted me, but since I hadn’t understood him, I foolishly gave chase.

Given that I was the first American in memory to be mugged in Lithuania on a Jewish roots trip, some local people semi-seriously suggested it might have been a supernatural occurrence. Perhaps the ghost of Rabbi Spektor was displeased that his descendant travelled by bus from Vilnius to Kaunas on a Shabbat with the intention of snapping photos of the ohel (mausoleum) he shares with his son, Tzvi Hirsch Rabinovich, in the Kaunas Jewish cemetery. Perhaps he therefore arranged for a mugger to steal my camera as a kind of warning to change my non-observant ways, but mercifully, arranged things so that my life would be spared.

I don’t buy that theory because I learned from my readings about Rabbi Spektor that he was a kindly man with a relatively tolerant approach to those who had slipped away from tradition. So perhaps my attacker was simply was one of those dybbuks who were said to have haunted these parts a few centuries ago. Or perhaps he was just a timely reminder that there is plenty of tohu v vohu (chaos) in the natural order of things, and no rational explanation suffices for an inexplicable happening.

Whatever. Despite the mugging, I returned home from my sojourn among my ancestors with a deep sense of fulfillment. I hadn’t found answers to some of the questions I had come with, but I learned other things that added incomparably to my understanding of those who came before me. The whole thing may indeed be a kind of narcotic, but as someone who has sampled less edifying substances in my lifetime, I can testify that roots research is the most uplifting addiction I’ve yet succumbed to.

photos of graves of Solomon and Sophie Tulbowitz

Here are photos of the grave of our great-great grandparents Solomon (Shalom-Aharon) and Sophie Tulbowitz, which I took at the Beth Abraham Jacob Cemetery in Albany last month. Solomon Tulbowitz lived from 1845-1918 and Sophie from 1846-1928. We are not yet sure where they were born. According to documents Tanya and I found last month in Rostov, which I will shortly post here as well, which record the birth and circumcision of a son, Gavriel in 1878, and the death of a three and a half year old son Isai in 1879, the couple was described as "meshanene (townspeople) from Rechitsa, a town in southeast Belarus. So given that the bulk of Rostov's Jewish population growth came in the 1860's and 1870's as the trading and manufacturing town on the southern reaches of the Don, just above the Azov and Black seas, making it "the Chicago of Russia", my guess is that the couple was lured there in search of prosperity, which is also why they would be still registered as belonging to Rechitsa. According to Ruby family lore, they ran a tavern there and their oldest daughter Rose (1874-1949)was kidnapped by Cossacks as a small child. The Tulbowitzes could not have been thrilled by an ukaz (degree) by the Czarist government in 1888 that henceforth Rostov (which was formerly part of the Pale and attached to a province centered in Ekaterinaslav (today Dnieperpetrovsk) in Ukraine, would be part of a new Don military province. When the law came down, it looked like the Jews would be forced to leave en masse but by 1891, clearly fearful of destroying Rostov's economic vitality, the regime ruled that all Jews registered as Rostov residents could stay. We know that the Tulbowitzes were still registered as being from Rechitsa as of 1879. Were they able to change that in the ensuing decade? If not, their anonamlous status would go a long way to explaining their pull-out from the city to America--first newly married Rose, her husband Abraham Bloch and mother in law Sophie Tulbowitz in 1890 and Solomon and the rest of the family three or four years later. We know they were gone by 1895-96, as no Tulbowitzes show up in the all-Russia census taken in those years. Certainly, given Rose's traumatic experience as a small child, and a small pogrom in 1883, which took place at a tavern when a drunken Russian refused to pay the Jewish owners, they couldnt have been confident that Cossack control of Rostov made the place a safe bet for the long run.

The 1900 U.S. census shows Solomon, Sophie and son Edward (born 1876 and probably the twin of Isai) living in Albany near Rose, Abe and their own growing family, with Solomon and Edward working as tailors. Did all the rest of their children die in childhood? What about Gavriel? We know from Sandy Brenner, who heard from her mother Lillian Ratner Klein, that matriarch Sophie in her later years was known as the "scoial worker" because she was concerned about everyone's welfare and got involved in trying to solve the problems of others. Thats not a lot, but its something and we;ll keep digging. Love to you, Shalom-Aharon and Sophie Tulbowitz, from across the centuries.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Wohlgemuths and Spektors

Ugh! Down with the flu and/or severe jetlag, so am taking it easy today. Let me use this opportunity to clarify some of what Tanya and I learned, starting with the Wolgemuth-Spektor connection. In fact, Eli Wohlgemuth of Montreal did NOT claim that the two families were related. Rather, he said that his great-great grandfather, Rabbi Yishai Wohlgamuth (the name, by the way, means 'good natured' in German) (1809-1898), the chief rabbi of Memel from 1836-1881, was a good friend of our great-great-great grandfather, Rabbi Yitzhak Elchanan Spektor, the rabbi or Gaon of Kovno (Kaunus). We already know that Spektor turned for help to Jews in Memel (just across the German (East Prussian) border from Russian-controlled Lithuania in getting the message about the danger to Russian Jewry when pogroms started in 1881 to influential Jews in Western Europe. It seems likely Rabbi Wohlgemuth played some role in that as well.

In any case, the desire to say hello to someone whose great-great-great grandfather was a friend of his great-great grandfather was the reason Eli Wohlgemuth informed our guide in Vilnius, Regina Koplevich, that he wanted to meet me; it was only after I expressed surprise at the common name of Wolgemuth that we made an effort to try to see how Julius and Betty Wolgemuth of Koenigsburg might have been related to Rabbi Wohlgemuth of Memel. We didnt establish the connection in the short time we had together, but as he seems to be the world's expert on the family and is anxious to work with us, we should be able to figure it out. Eli says that Wohlgemuth is a relatively common name in Germany with non-Jewish Wohlgemuths as well as Jewish ones, but the fact that they came from so close to each other means our Wolhgemuths were probably related to his. He pointed out that the East Prussian Wohlgemuths had moved to that area from from the area of Minsk, Belarus around the period 1805-1815; if that is true of our Wohlgemuths as well, they not only lived close to the Ostjuden geographically, but they gthemselves were descended from Ostjuden. Eli said the East Prussian Jewish community was split between those who essentially stayed Ostjuden (i.e. deeply devout and Old World) like the members of Yishai's congregation and those who assimilated into Germans to the maximum degree possible and observed a Reform-like form of Judaism with such innovations that were anathema to the Ostjuden as organs in the synagogue. It is clear our Wohlgemuths, at least by Julius' generation, belonged to the second group. He was interested to know the name of Julius father, who, according to Helga, owned the largest clothing store in Konigsburg, but I dont believe we have that yet.

We ended up not going to Memel or Konigsburg--we were simply too exhausted on our last day and went instead to a jewel-like place called Trakkai near Vilnius with a castle in the middle of a lake. So, Dan, the Memel-Konigsburg trip is there for you to undertake. What is clear is that the Wohlgemuths lived on one side of the divding line between Central European Jewry and Eastern European Jewry and the Spektors on the other side, but they were only about 200 miles apart and there was a good bit of going back and forth. But both families had roots in Belarus, slightly to the east, as, it turns out, did the Tubavitzs of Rostov as well. I'll stop now and file soon on the rest of new knowledge we attained in Lithuania, Belarus and Rostov.


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Wolgemuth-Spektor connection?

One more quickie and then I have to get back to work. While we're waiting for Walter's trip report, I'll pass on this tidbit he shared with me by phone from Vilnius. While researching Rabbi Spektor in Kaunus, he learned of yet another person who claimed to be a descendant. That in itself is not surprising, but the kicker is that this gentleman's last name is Wolgemuth, which is also the maiden surname of our grandmother Elly on Helga's side of the family.

Now, Wolgemuth (with its various alternate spellings) is a fairly common name in those parts, but it does present an intriguing possibility. Our Wolgemuths came from Konigsberg in East Prussia, which is now Kaliningrad, a disconnected enclave of Russia. As I have pointed out to Walter in the past, Konigsberg and Rzeszow, where Elly's husband Herman Ringel's family originated, are not far removed from Grodno in Belarus, where the Spektor/Rabinowitz family was from.

Further, Kaliningrad is a short distance from the Lithuanian coastal city of Memel, which was an early outpost of Jewry in the region, and to which I had tentatively traced the history of our Wolgemuths. So that raises the interesting possibility that our Wolgemuths and our Spektors were actually related and that we modern-day Rubys are the result of some kind of extended family inbreeding (which could explain some things ).

The other thing interesting about it is the light it sheds on the disdain of many German Jews, including Elly Wolgemuth Ringel, for so-called ostjuden, supposedly less-cultured Jews from places like Poland and Russia. It seems that Elly's own family was separated from ostjuden-ness by a hair's-breadth accident of geography.

Elhanan relatives in Israel

As long as I am catching up, here's information from a newly discovered distant relative who turned up in Walter's researches. He is Shmuel Elhanan, and is a descendant of Binyamin Rubinowitz, the fourth child of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Spektor. That makes him our fourth cousin. He lives in Rehovot, Israel, with his wife Zippora.

Walter discovered him while preparing for his trip to Lithuania, when he was told that another Spektor descendent had made a similar trip some years ago. Following are two emails that Shmuel sent in response to Walter's inquiries.

Dear Walter Ruby shalom,

It was most interesting and touching to receive your mail. As you are asking for quick reply i am doing so and might be a bit short.
Our home address is:
5 Goldberg street
Rehovot, 76283 Israel
Phone: 972-89471139

We live in Rehovot since 1958, when we came there with our son Binyamin, two weeks old, as my wife came to the Machon as a Postdoc. My two brothers were sent to Palestine in 1940, from Kovno, at the age of 13 and 14, to their grand parents (mother's parents). They both changed their family name to Elhanan in 1944 when they thought that we perished (that is a separate story). My parents did not change their family name Rabinovitz.
Onfortunately my brother Binyamin fell in our Independence War on July 18th 1948. My eldest brother Amos passed away in 1965 from leukemia, at the age of 65, leaving after him a widow and two children. My two brothers were born in Berlin in 1925 and 1926 where my parents met and married. They moved to Kovno, after my father finished his studies as DrPhil. in Chemistry with Prof. Fritz Haber.

We are descendens of Binyamin the youngest son of Rabi Itzhak-Elhanan Spector, the Gaon of Kovno, who was murdered at the family home on Gardino street in Kovno in 1906. I am fifth generation of the Gaon who is my Great, Great Grandfather.

Our family was imprisoned in the Ghetto of Kovno, from 1941 to 1944, then we were deported to the Camps in Germany. My mother was separated frm us to the KL Sttuthof and was released by the Red Army on March 10 1945. My father and I were imprisoned in Kaufering Camp One, which belonged to KL Dachau.We were releasedby the Japanese unit of the US Army on May 2nd 1945 in Waakirchen bei Hauserdorfl in Bavaria near Bad Tolz.
Fortunately we met in July with my brother Amos, a soldier of the Jewish Infantry Brigade Group from Palestine, and with our mother, at the boarder in Italy. On 8th of November 1945 we reached Palestine as legal new comers.

We will be happy to hear from you and to tell you moreand we invite to be our guests in Rehovot.

Best regards

Shmuel and Zippora

Best regards to your family and to Regina in Vilnius.

And the followup email:

Dear Walter shalom,

In reply to your questions, and following our phone conversation tonight I am sending bellow the following answers:

1. Binyamin the youngest son of the Gaon was killed by a robber, who was the son of the laundress who worked with the family, and therefore was let into the house. He is buried with his wife, who died in 1929, in the cemetery on the "Green Hill" in Kaunas.

2. To the best of my knowledge, and stories told at home, the reason for the family name change was the following: At a population census the Russians who performed it have asked who are the children playing in the yard. They were told that they are the children of the Rabbi and therefore registered them as Rabinovitz (children of the Rabbi in Russian). So the reason for the name change is not mobilization to the Russian Army.

3. My brothers changed their family name after the name of our father. But their excuse to our Grandfather, who told them that the Ashkenazi community, does not name after people that are alive, was that they named themselves after the great, great grandfather the Gaon of Kovno.

4. My wife works at the Department of Biochemistry, and did not know your father.

5. I did receive the e-mail of your brother Dan, and in our case our son is a fifth generation cousin of your children.

I would like to add to our phone conversation the following in writing: Rabbi Itzhak-Elhanan Spector with his son Rabbi Zvi-Hirsh Rabinovitz are buried in the active cemetery in the suburb Aleksotas (across the Niemunas river). They were transferred to Aleksotas in 1984. The wife of the Gaon, and his son Binyamin with his wife Dvora remained buried on the Green hill (see 1. above). I have repaired the gravestones of Binyamin, his wife Dvora and my grandfather Israel-Isser Rabinovitz during my first visit to Lithuania .

The name of the guide who guided us during our visit to Kovno is:

Chaimas Bergmanas

P. Luksio gatve 37/22

LT 49391, Kaunas, Lithuania (Lietuva)

Mobile : 370-37-779948

Home: 370-68-177166

Best regards

Shmuel Elhanan

Aborted visit to NY Public Library

I keep meaning to spend time researching microfilm of New York newspapers from the 1920s for more details on Walter Ruby's exploits during prohibition. As you may recall, we have NY Times articles about his 1922 indictment and the later dismissal of those charges, as well as an intriguing mention of him as a boxing manager.

I've been to New York twice now in recent months and both times was frustrated in my efforts. In April, the library was closed for a Jewish holiday the day I was there. Last week, I was very busy during my two days in the city and managed to get to the library just 45 minutes before closing. Most of that time was consumed learning how to retrieve microfilm and how to operate the machine.

So I had precious little time to get to the actual work. I did manage to find one relevant article, from the August 15, 1926 edition of the New York Herald Tribune, reporting on the dismissal of the Catrow case. There was no new information in it, but it reinforced my determination to read more newspapers, especially the tabloids, from that date and several others when Walter Ruby made news.

I'm not sure when I'll next be in New York, but when I am I will schedule a whole day for microfilm research.

Josh Funt checks in

Our first cousin once removed, Josh Funt, the oldest son of Wendy Felenstein, checked in from Sarasota FL by email after having discovered this blog, probably after learning of it from his aunt Marsha. Here is the text of his email, along with a great photo of his family.

It's wonderful to hear from you, Josh. Needless to say, we're excited to learn the location of Grammy's Walter Ruby scrapbook, and hope to be able to post scans of some of the photos and clippings here. -- Danny

This is Josh, Wendy Felenstein's son. I was the recipient of a number of items when my mother died that are directly related to this blog. I have an old scrapbook that has clippings of Walter Ruby's accomplishments, and I also have a number of items from Selma.

These things are unique and I treasure them. There are a number of pictures of Walter Ruby from the days of Errol Flynn and Clark Gable. He has that studio type portrait and it looks so like the old 8X10s from that era. I also have a number of clippings showing the invention of Rum and Coke as well as some of his manufactured inventions revolving around the spirits business.

I love what you did with the family history and it is very cool to learn about the old history of our family.

I have saved this blog as a favorite and I plan to revisit it often. I keep in touch with Marsha and Robert, but I am not really in touch with anyone else on Joan's side of the family.

I would be happy to scan and send you some of the items I have. Let me know if you are interested.

All the best to you all.