Friday, July 31, 2009

The Rabinowitz sisters

Besides the five sons of Joseph and Lena Rabinowitz, there were three daughters—Sadie (b. 1881), Meta (b. 1886) and Blossom (b. 1891). Here are photos from Harriet's collection.

Here is Meta as a college graduate. She went on to be a schoolteacher for many years.

Harriet says she doesn't know which one this is.

Here are Blossom and Meta together.

Long Beach photo from the Harriet collection

While we are identifying family members in old photos, here is a great one from Harriet's batch. It looks like the front steps of the Long Beach house and we definitely have Walter and Stan in the front right. Harriet says that is Henry's son Harold Rabinowitz standing behind them. I'm pretty sure the three at front left is the Kline family (our Aunt Lil and Uncle Lee and little Sandy) who lived for a time with the Rubys in Long Beach. The others are uncertain. Harriet thinks that might be Selma next to Harold, but it doesn't look like her to me. Could she have been the one taking the picture and so is not in it?

The women behind Aunt Lil bears a resemblance to a woman identified by Harriet as Blossom in another photo. I'll post that one and a couple of others of Rabinowitz women in the next item.

Wedding and engagement announcements

More on Stan and Helga's wedding. I did more NY Times searches today and found more Rabinowitz material. Here are two items relevant to the previous post: first a June 8, 1947 announcement of the wedding happening that same day, and then an April 7, 1946 announcement of Stan's previous engagement to Lorraine (who gets a last name—Sweedler—for the first time in our family narrative). Stan broke off his engagement with Lorraine before renewing his acquaintance with Helga.

Those who have read Walter's "Early Lives of Stan and Helga Ruby" manuscript will recall that after the breakup practical Stan sought a new girlfriend who lived within a 20 block radius of Selma's apartment on W. 73rd St. Helga was slightly outside that range but got the nod anyway.

Stan and Helga wedding photos (for Harriet)

Harriet has been asking me to return the favor by sending her pictures of Stan and his family members. Today I emailed her a precious set of three photos we have from the June 8, 1947 wedding of Stan and Helga at the Beacon Hotel in New York City. Unfortunately, the attachments did not come through in her email, so I told her I would post them here.

Of course, they should have been here already, but were never previously posted—an example of the spottiness of this blog as a complete historical record. Anyway here they are now (click to enlarge).

We've always been able to identify only some of the people in these photos. Maybe Harriet can help, especially with the second one, where the six people in the front are Rabinowitz family members. The others are Stan's Ratner relatives. In the third picture, Helga's mother Elly and Aunt Hilda are to her right with their escorts (Herman Peyser probably and Uncle Joe Leibman) and the young people in front are various friends of the bride and groom. But the partially obscured couple next to Uncle Joe are unidentified.

I'm looking forward to getting Harriet's input on this.

Tiffany Street in The Bronx

Update: FUBAR on this item. There was only one address where the family lived together in the Bronx: 965 Tiffany. I misread the 1920 census form to get a different address for that year. I've begun reading E.L. Doctorow's World's Fair to get a feel for life in the neighborhood in the 1930s.

I looked up the location of the two addresses where our family members lived in The Bronx during the 1920s, relocating there as their long-time previous neighborhood in Jewish Harlem underwent a demographic shift. The first address was right on the water in Hunt's Point in what later in the century became the blighted South Bronx. Two years later, they moved about a mile to the north into the neighborhood called Longwood, today also considered a part of the South Bronx. Here is some information about Longwood from Wikipedia:
For much of the first half of the 20th Century, Longwood was home to a predominantly Jewish population. Beginning in the 1950s, the neighborhood experienced a demographic shift as many Puerto Ricans moved to Longwood. Shortly after, white flight and abandonment began. By the late 1960s, many buildings in the neighborhood had burned down in an epidemic of arson.

There are still remains of the old Jewish presence in Longwood. For instance, 830 Fox Street, which is now a newly constructed low income apartment building, was formerly a Jewish synagogue and was burned down in the 1960s.

Colin Powell grew up on Kelly Street in Longwood.
The Fox St. address is about five blocks from 965 Tiffany.

More about Harriet Berkowitz

Catching up with more of the materials sent by Harriet Berkowitz, I'll begin with photos of Harriet herself, along with family members past and present. (Click photos to enlarge.)

These first two photos are from just two weeks ago, when Harriet and her husband Stanley were visiting their daughter's family in Southern California. First, here are Harriet, Stanley and their daughter Hillary Cohen. Now we know who got the good Rabinowitz hair.

Here are Harriet and Stanley with Hillary's children Julian and Avery. It is great to see a new generation of Rabinowitz offspring. I hope they get the chance to meet their third cousins Twyla, Gene, Zach and Elana sometime soon.

Now we go back 51 years to Harriet's wedding day on August 14, 1958. Here you see Sam (Seymour) Rabinowitz and Harriet's mother (we don't have her name yet) escorting Harriet down the aisle.

And here are Harriet and Stanley looking radiant in a group photo with family members present for the occasion.

Finally we have a few items of memorabilia from Seymour. The first is a photo of a 1934 banquet at the Waldorf Astoria, a formal affair for the Board of Education, where Seymour worked for many years.

And finally a letter of appreciation written in 1921 to Seymour by Edward Flynn, the newly elected Sheriff of the County of Bronx. As Harriet notes in her annotation, Flynn became the so-called "Boss of the Bronx" and played an important role in state and national Democratic Party politics until his death in 1953. It is worth noting here, that the letter is addressed to the 965 Tiffany St. address that would be listed three years later as Lena's residence at the time of her death, not the 305 Tiffany St. address where a number of the family members lived 23 months earlier at the time of the 1920 census.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lena's obituary and much more

Fueled with new information from Harriet Berkowitz, and by Walter's plan to visit Mt. Hebron cemetery this weekend, I took another dive last night into the New York Times historical database and other sources. The results were outstanding.

I got going because I was musing about what Harriet has told us about Henry Rabinowitz, who ran a restaurant in Edgewater Park in the Bronx. Searching on the name and the town, I got this entry from the July 19, 1937 edition of the New York Times:

Not a certainty, but it seems like this is probably the right Henry. Interesting, considering we had an earlier wild goose chase over a Walter Ruby auto accident in the same year in Jersey City. That turned out to be a different Walter, but here is Henry living in the right neighborhood and an accident a few miles from home.

I had to pay to download the item for the Times archive, either $3.95 a pop or $15 for 10 downloads. With all my new Rabinowitz information to try, I decided to buy the more economical download pack.

One piece of Harriet's new information was the approximate date for Lena's death. That helped me to this eureka moment, an obituary item from the NY Times on January 10, 1924.

A few comments: This date does not match any of the Lena Rabinowitzes at Mount Hebron. Also her address is listed at 965 Tiffany St. Four years earlier on the 1920 census she was living at 305 Tiffany St. I may have mentioned this before but I saw again today that the mother of choreographer Jerome Robbins was named Lena Rabinowitz. I guess Robbins was a fairly common name change for various Rabinowitzes. We know that Julius's children Abner and Judith also took that last name.

Lena's maiden name was Lincoff, and her brother Bernard Lincoff came to American with Lena and Joseph and lived with the Rabinowitz family for many years. Searching on his name turned up an obituary item for him, as well, dated April 8, 1948.

We've known him as Bernard for a long time, but the obit indicates that he was known as Uncle Ben to his nieces and nephews. In Harriet's recent mailing to me, she refers to him as Harry Lincoff. First I thought Harry could have been a son of Bernard/Ben, but in Harriet's photos he looks to be a few years older than Lena's sons Julius and Henry. So I guess he went by all those names. You'll see that the obit does not mention a wife or children.

One of the other new names we have to work with is Zimkin. Harriet told us that Sadie married someone named Zimkin and had a child Arthur. The Times database did not turn out any Zimkin obituaries, but a simple Google search uncovered this page at, which has indexed information from newspaper obituaries. And there is our Sadie, dead at age 47.

ZIMKIN Sadie 07,Feb, 1929 DN. Maiden name-Rabinowitz. Spouse-David. Funeral on Feb. 8, in N. Y. City.

Finally, I looped back around to the searchable index of New York City death records at With our new information, we can now be pretty sure that the following listings are our two great grandparents.

Surname Given Name Age Month Day Year Certificate
Number County Soundex
Rabinowitz Joseph 60 y Apr 25 1917 14014 Manhattan R153
Rabinowitz Lena R 62 y Jan 8 1924 194 Bronx R153

Walter points out that the ages don't precisely square with our recorded birthdates for the them, which had been drawn from census records and also from a reconstruction of hypothetical events following from Joseph's Spektor relationship. If our previous narrative is correct, Spektor's son Chaim dies in May 1874 and Joseph goes through religious training, is married and sent off to America, all within about 15 months of Chaim's death. If Lena is 62 at her death in 1924, then she would have been just 13 or so when married and emigrated — seemingly too young. So maybe she is really more like 65. Also, we have Joseph's birth from other records in January 1855, so he would have been 62 at the time of his death.

In any case, we will soon have additional information since we have now ordered physical copies of the two death certificates from the New York City Department of Vital Records. They cost $15 and take four to six weeks to arrive. When they do, they should provide a great deal of important information about Joseph and Lena, including their parents' names and birth nation, burial place, cause of death and lots more.

Rabinowitz Yahrzeit scroll

Update: Walter has translations for the Hebrew names above the "Dear Mother" and "Dear Father" inscriptions. The information sheds doubt on the Rabbi Spektor theory of Joseph's genealogy, though multiple questions remain to be answered. On Joseph's side, the Hebrew reads "Dear Father, Reb Yehuda, son of Abraham .... On Lena's side, it reads "Dear Mother, Rachel Leah, daughter of Abraham.... This is the first we have seen the names Yehuda and Rachel. Abraham does not match with the theory that Joseph was the grandchild of Rabbi Spektor. In that scenario, the father should have been Chaim or possibly Aryeh.

Somehow on my first several perusals of Harriet's trove of Rabinowitz materials I missed the most important page. Two of the pages were stuck together in my pile and until just now overlooked the following commemorative document recognizing the Yahrzeit for Lena and Joseph. What is so important about it is that it provides exact dates of death for our great grandfather and great grandmother, which will finally allow us to track down their New York City death certificates, which we expect will lead us to their burial sites and also provide parent names and other information.

Here is the Yahrzeit scroll. Click to enlarge. Hebrew translations welcome.

Reprint of my account of my visit to Kibbutz Afeq during the Lebanon War of 2006

I thought I would repost this account of my visit to Kibbutz Afeq in August 2006, while Hezbollah rockets were falling all around--including in the kibbutz fields because it gives an indelible impression of Pnina.


Walter's Israel journal (Part 1): At Kibbutz Afeq

I was having lunch with my 87 year old aunt Pnina, her daughter Raya and son-in-law Amiram in the communal dining room on Kibbutz Afeq, listening to Pnina reminisce about how her husband, 89-year-old family patriarch Ze’ev, a refugee from Hitler’s Germany journeyed to the Land of Israel as a teenager in the mid-1930’s and, together with other members of his Zionist youth group, helped to found the kibbutz and to plant orange groves on land located on the coastal plain between Haifa and Acre that was then mostly sand dunes and malarial swamps.

Penina talked movingly about how she herself escaped the Nazi invasion of Poland as a young woman by fleeing to Soviet Russia, where she was interred for several months in a prison camp in Siberia before being allowed to emigrate to Palestine. Finally she spoke about the desprate struggle for survival that was Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, and how Ze’ev and other members of a platoon from Afeq took part in house to house fighting in the battle to capture the ancient seaside city of Acre from Arab forces during the 1948 War of Independence.

Suddenly my absorption in Pnina’s narration of a piece of our family history I have heard many times before but which never fails to fascinate me, was pierced by the unmistakable wail of an air raid siren. Manifesting no discernable sign of alarm, Penina said, “OK, we’ll finish our meal in a little while, but right now we need to get up and walk quickly to the shelter”. So I followed my dynamo of an aunt and about 30 other kibbutzniks out of the dining room and down a flight of stairs to a smallish space underneath the stairwell of the building; an alcove which, it appeared to me, would offer only minimal protection to its occupants in the event of a direct hit by a katushya missile.

We stood against the walls of the shelter for about five minutes, with the kibbutzniks socializing and discussing the latest developments in the war, and then, without waiting for an ‘all clear’ signal, walked back up the stairs and concluded our meal.

As we tarried over coffee and ice cream, I asked Pnina how it felt to have survived the onslaught of the Nazis and the rigors of a Soviet prison camp; to have experienced seven Israeli-Arab wars, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War, during which one of her three children and her her only son, Avinoam was killed; to have participated in the building of a kibbutz from swampland into a thriving entity and to have watched her beloved Israel grow from a struggling entity of 600,000 Jews to one of six million, only to find herself having to run to an air raid shelter in the sunset of her life.

She paused for a moment to consider the question in all of its weight and then said, “Look, I don’t appreciate having to run for the air raid shelter five or more times a day as we have been doing here for the past three weeks, and sometimes I ask myself why I bother to take shelter at all, because I am going to die soon enough anyway. But then I say to myself, ‘I don’t want to give those Hezbollah bastards the satisfaction of killing me.’ So I get up from whatever I am doing when the alarm sounds and head for the shelter.’”

Photos of Ze'ev and Pnina from my visit to Israel in 2006

These images of Pnina, Ze'ev, raya and Amiram (who is pictured showing me the remains of a katushya rocket fired by Hezbullah fighters in southern Lebanon that landed in the fields of Afeq about a kilometer from the kibbutz itself) were taken during my memorable visit to Afeq during the 2006 Lebanon War when Afeq and all of northern Israel were under sustained rocket fire for nearly a month. I will write more about that extraordinary experience in a subsequent post.

Memories of Ze'ev and Pnina (first in a series)

Memories of Ze’ev and P’nina (Part One)

I have been delaying starting this series of reminiscences because there is so much to say, so I will do it in a series of short dispatches, which will be easier for the reader to assimilate.

I can’t say for sure that I have an exact memory of our family’s first visit to Kibbutz Afeq upon our arrival for our year in Israel in 1961. It must have been a few weeks after we arrived, as we were met at the boat in Haifa by the Benesches, who drove us directly south to Rehovoth. Was Ze’ev at the boat to greet us? I don’t recall seeing him then, and am not sure whether or not he came to meet our boat, the S.S. Theodore Herzl.

In any case I have a dim memory of Helga crying upon meeting Ze’ev during our first visit to the kibbutz, 25 years after the time she last saw him; in 1936 at the Berlin train station from whence he and his garin (literally, nucleus) of sturdy young Zionists were about to depart for Palestine. Helga often described to me the great emotion of that scene; how much she admired Ze’ev for his bravery and commitment to the Zionist cause, how her own imagination was fired by the prospect of the building of a Jewish society and eventually a state in Palestine; yet how much she longed to go with them and how bereft she felt to be left behind in the hell of Nazi Germany. Of course at that point she still had the guiding strength of her father, Herman Ringel, himself a staunch Zionist and a big influence on Ze’ev’s own development.

It is interesting though that Herman was surreptitiously putting money aside to get the family out of Germany and eventually to reopen his factory in Holland—not in Palestine. Of course, Elli Ringel, our grandmother was staunchly opposed to the Palestine option; not wanting to go and live in a pioneer society in a desert, but one wonders whether Herman himself was really ready to make that plunge, despite his rhetorical advocacy of the Zionist cause and his sending Helga to Theodore Herzl School, a place which prepared many young German Jews for the rigors of Palestine. Certainly relocating the family there would have involved a diminution of standard of living, though many tens of thousands of middle class and even affluent German Jews made the plunge and went to Palestine between 1933-37, when it could still be arranged fairly easily.

These were the years following the so-called ‘Transfer Agreement’ when the Nazi government allowed nearly 200,000 German Jews to leave for Palestine with much of their assets in exchange for Zionist organizations opposing an economic boycott of Germany that Jews in America and elsewhere were advocating in 1933. It was clearly a strategic pact with the Devil by the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Movement. Yet it was one made with eyes wide open and one which clearly paid off, as it made possible the economic blossoming and political and military strengthening of Jewish Palestine in the 1930’s, and proved to be an indispensible factor in the growth of the Yishuv to the point that it could stand on its own feet and achieve an independent Jewish state in 1948.

As for Ze’ev, who soon changed his ‘diaspora family name of Kaufler to the properly Hebraic Sharon, he and his garin members arrived in Haifa in 1936 and spent the next 5-6 years living communally in Haifa and working as laborers in the port for pennies a day; money they collected to help pay for the land that would eventually buy to start their Kibbutz. Eventually, no doubt with the help of the Jewish National Fund, they were able to purchase land on the coastal plain close to Akko (several miles northwest of the present site of Afeq) and to start a kibbutz known, if I remember correctly as Mishmar Yam (Guardians of the Sea).

It was one of the so-called Tower and Stockade’ kibbutzim, and was no doubt created as a hedge against the hostile Arab population of Akko. There were, however, problems with that land (too sandy? I recall there were big sand dunes in that area) and after a few years—around the time of the creation of the State of Israel in 1948—the collective moved to the present site and renamed the place Afeq in honor of an ancient Canaanite city of Tel Afeq that still molders under a tel (artificial hill covering ancient ruins) just off the road between Kibbutz Afeq and the Haifa-Akko highway.

Pninah was born and raised in eastern Poland and was saved from the Holocaust by the fact that her area was annexed by the Soviet Union in 1939 as a result of the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact signed just a week before the Nazi invasion of Poland launched World War II. Say what you will of Stalin; his government saved hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than one million, Jews from the Nazis, although many of them were interred for a time in Siberia, or were part of the mass evacuation to Siberia and Central Asia which began at the time of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941.

I recall that Pnina was a group of Polish Jews who were eventually able to get to Palestine through Iran after spending time in Siberia, but I don’t remember much of what she told me about it. (Ahikam, it would be great if you can enlighten us on Ze’ev and Pnina’s early lives, because as you see, I have retained only fragments).

I gather that once Pnina and her garin arrived, they somehow decided to join in the venture to create Mishmar Yam and there she met Ze’ev. The two began living together without benefit of marriage, as in those days the socialist, militantly secular kibbutzniks scorned the clericalism of the Chief Rabbinate and the bourgeois institution of marriage, and they only officially married years later together with many other kibbutz couples-after the creation of the state.

Ze’ev and members of Mishmar Ha Yam were part of the Haganah forces which laid siege too and captured Akko during street to street, alley to alley fighting that ended with the fall of the city on May 17, 1948, three days after the creation of the State of Israel. Anyone who has visited the maze of alleyways and souks of old Akko, crammed between the sea and its great Crusader walls, can imagine what that fighting must have been like. I remember asking Ze’ev about it during the years I lived in Haifa in 1976-77, but as I recall, he didn’t like to talk about it, only saying that it was kasheh (hard) and that several of his close comrades fell during the operation.

Anyway, I need to stop now and get to work…In my next dispatch I will write about my memories of Ze’ev and Pnina and life on Kibbutz Afeq during my life-transforming year in Israel as a child 1961-62…

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harriet's package arrives

Harriet Berkowitz followed through on her promise and yesterday I received her package containing about 20 photocopies of her family photographs. In many cases, these are the first photos we have seen of Rabinowitz family members. There are also new photos of our father and his parents that are new to us, plus the promised invitation to Stanley Ruby's bar mitzvah. Together they begin to paint a fuller picture of the Rabinowitz family.

It is going to take me a few days to get the images all scanned and processed. Here is a start. Click on the images to enlarge.

Joseph Rabinowtiz

Lena Rabinowitz with Arthur's wife Anne, apparently at a beach club.

Brothers Henry (also called H.V. Lee) and Julius Rabinowitz flank their cousin Harry Lincoff.

A young Selma Ruby with either Joan or Stanley Ruby as an infant. (Sorry this is cock-eyed. My scanner is having trouble with the oval image.)

Invitation with elaborate menu for Stanley Ruby's bar mitzvah in 1937 at the Hotel Ocean Crest in Long Beach. The menu even includes liquor brand selections, such as Carioca rum served with hors d'ouevres.

Penina passes away two weeks after Ze'ev

More sad news from the Sharon family. Penina took ill following her husband's funeral and shiva period. She passed away Sunday, July 26, at Kibbutz Afeq.

Joanne plans to visit surviving family members at the end of August, in time for a Shloshim observance as well as a bar mitzvah of young Amit Dori.

We will post photos and memories as they become available.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rabinowitz cousin Harriet, daughter of Seymour, discovers our blog with delight and astonishment

Our hope for living Rabinowitz relatives paid off when I got a call Thursday night on my cell phone. It took me a moment to understand that the caller had just discovered this blog and disclosed herself as a previously unknown to us member of the Rabinowitz family.

She is Harriet Berkowitz, a 73-year-old retired schoolteacher from Miami Beach who was calling from her daughter's home in Westlake Village CA. She said that she was the daughter of Seymour Rabinowitz, Walter Ruby's older brother, who was mainly known to us as "the truant officer." Seymour was in his late forties when Harriet was born in 1936.

In our call and in a subsequent talk with Walter, Harriet provided quite a bit of interesting new information. She knew Blossom and Meta, and had met Thad a short time before his death. She had wild new information that brother Henry changed his name to H.V. Lee and operated a restaurant. She mentioned Julius' children Abner and Judith. There are several Arthurs in the mix, Arthur Zimpkin, son of Sadie, but also apparently another son of Joseph and Lena who we don't have on record. Is he younger than Walter?

She described her father Seymour as a brilliant but flawed man. He studied classics at City College but struggled with his own Jewish identity. He had lost an eye in a childhood accident. He tried to pursue an academic career but settled into his work for the school district, just one of two Jewish truant officers in the borough, Harriet said. He also had a gambling habit, which eventually drove his marriage apart. When he was found dead in his apartment in February 1963, he was wrapped in his Jewish prayer shawl.

About our branch of the family, Harriet said she had memories of Walter Ruby's wife Selma from when she was remarried to Jack Prager. That would have been after Stanley and his sister Joan were gone from the household. Harriet said she didn't know Stan and Joan well and had always wondered what happened to them. Seymour was somewhat estranged from other family members and then when Harriet's parents divorced and she went to live with her mother, then later got married herself, she lost track of her Rabinowitz family.

Until the other day when visiting her daughter in Los Angeles and they googled on Walter Rabinowitz. Imagine her delight to land on our Ruby Family History Project and to start reading about all her aunts and uncles. Imagine my delight when she told me who she was on the phone call.

Now that we have connected, there is lots of interest in sharing information, photos and planning a physical meeting for the next time she is in California. I'll have more to add soon, but for now welcome Harriet Rabinowitz Berkowitz and her children and grandchildren to our Ruby/Rabinowitz family.

"dedicate peace efforts to Ze'ev's memory"

I apologize to everyone for being a few days behind in my writing about Ze'ev; I am presently in the last stages of a project to bring a group of European imams and rabbis to New York and Washington from July 20-23 as part of an ongoing efforts on behalf of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding to promote better relations between Muslims and Jews worldwide.

As the family in Afeq well knows I have been a peacenik my whole life and Ze'ev and I often had heated, though wonderful and enriching, discussions back in the 1970's about my efforts to reach out to Israeli Arabs like Father Elias Shakour of Ibillin, just up the road from Afeq. I know that Ze'ev longed for peace with every fiber of his being and that by participating in the upbuilding of Israel as he did, he did far more to contribute to the eventual coming of that day than whatever my own tiny efforts may have accomplished. Ze'ev, like many Israelis, sometimes told me that I was naive about the realities on the ground in Israel and Palestine and he had a point there as well. But I believe that both Ze'ev and I and all of us are animated by the same goal--bringing peace and security to the people of Israel as well as to the Palestinians. We may choose different paths to reach that goal, depending on where we choose to make our lives and the attiutudes we imbibed from our parents and our life experiences (that of Ze'ev and Penina having been so much harder, so unimaginably harder, than my own). Yet we are all on the same team, be oto ha tzevet.

So I am going to dedicate my efforts to strengthen ties between Jews and muslism worldwide to the memory of Ze'ev Sharon z"l, a proud Jew and a fighter for Israel and to the memory of Avinoam Sharon, who was taken from us all much too young by the same terrible conflict, and to the future of all of our children and grandchildren--my beautiful little Israeli nieces and nephews, that we may all live to see the coming of peace and that the little ones will grow up safe and free.

Love to You All,


"Tracing Ringel family roots"

Shalom, It is Danny here adding my deep sympathies for all of Ze'ev's wonderful family. I regret that I have not visited you in all these many years and that I did not renew my connection with Ze'ev before his passing.

One small contribution I can make is to review some of the knowledge of the Ringel family history that I gained during my research project into our family roots. Sad to say, that work has been on hold for most of the past year, but this solemn occasion might be the catalyst for me to take up that work again, just as our initial project was set in motion by the deaths of parents, Helga and Stan.

So here is some of what we learned: Ze'ev's grandparents on his mother's side were Schija Ringel (1856-?) and Feigla Kauffler (1854-1921). Schija was a merchant who had came to Berlin from Rzeszow in Galicia as a young man. It was not uncommon by the second half of the 19th century for Jewish youth to be leaving their traditional towns for the progress and opportunities of cosmopolitan cities.

Similarly, Feigla had come from Krakow to make a living as a housekeeper. She came to work for Schija in that role, but their relationship later became personal. Their first child, Herman, arrived in November 1885, though they didn't formalize their marriage until July 1888. Later they would have two other children, Bette and Rosa.

Your family members will know much more than I do about Rosa's family, and also Bette's, and I would love to learn more from you about Ze'ev's life story, as well as what you have learned about his cousins Edith and Gina. About Hermann, we know that he served in World War I, became prosperous in the garment business, married Elly and had a daughter Helga. Walter's account of Helga's early life is very rich (link below). There are some good photos on the blog (links below). Hermann died of natural causes in Berlin in 1938, and his widow and daughter fled Germany soon after, eventually settling in New York in 1942.

[Ruby Family History text (Helga's story begins on page 35):
[Page with photos and documents for Hermann Ringel:]

Going back in the other direction, we have located official records from their ancestral towns for both Schija and Feigla and a number of their relatives. Schija's birth record (link below) does not provide a great deal of information, but we see that his parents are Moses and Rose. I also have similar records for several other Ringels that are not posted on the blog. Another artifact in my possession is a copy of the yizkor book for Rzeszow, which does not have specific information on the Ringels, as far as I can tell, but paints a rich picture of life in the town in the 19th century. There are also census records that I have not yet obtained. As I say, there are lots of loose ends and I hope to post more of this information on the blog sometime soon.

[Schija Ringel birth record:]

Information about the Kaufflers in Krakow is much more extensive, and we can trace our ancestors back quite a few generations to Nachman Kaufler (born in Krakow in 1755). Nachman had Izaak, Izaak had Schulim, and Schulim had 10 children including Abraham Mojzesa Kaufler (b. 1829). Abraham married Chaja Esther Grunberg (b. 1826) and Feigla was one of their three children. An assortment of vital records are linked below. The full Kaufler family tree is provided in a link below.

[Feigla Kaufler 1854 birth record:]
[Schulim Kaufler and Reisel Bluma Singlust 1825 marriage record:]
[Schulim Kaufler 1847 death record:]
[Bayla Kaufler 1831 death record (mother of Schulim):]
[Kaufler family tree:]

In the coming days, I plan to post news of Ze'ev's passing along with stories and images from Joanne and Walter. If there is anything that any of you might wish to contribute to our small memorial, especially text that helps to fill in his life story, I would appreciate that very much. In the meantime, I hope this little bit of Ringel family information is interesting and helpful to you.

With great sorrow for the passing of our elders but great hope for our children and their future,


"Meeting him last year..."

Dear Penina, Ahikam, Dalit, and Raya,

I am so sorry to hear that Ze'ev has passed. I have great memories of meeting him last year and spending time with all of you and the rest of the family. I'm so happy to have met him after hearing so much about him from my mom. I remember Ze'ev's remarkable ability to communicate with me in English, and how happy and close to him I felt afterward. I know he was an incredible man from what I have heard through the family and through what I saw last summer.

I miss all of you very much and can't believe it's been a year since my visit. I remember it as an amazing one and can't wait til the next. My heart goes out to all of you, and the whole family.

Be'ahava, hazak ve'ematz (I hope that is fitting),

"Proud of what he accomplished"

Dear Dalit, Tal, Ahikam, Gali ve kol hanechedim,

Ha leve sheli eetchem be rega atzuv hazeh. Ane akshav deebartee eem Penina ve Raya ve amartee lehem eich she Ze'ev hishpe'a al ha chayim sheli. Beeshveel li ha historia shel Ze'ev hiyita ha historia shel Medinat Yisrael. Lamadetee meemenu ve me Penina et ha tzura chayim shel ha kibbutz, ve zeh gam hishpea le me'od.

I am very happy I had the chance to see Ze'ev in 2006 and to hear his reminiscences about his arrival in Palestine in 1936 and the creation of the kibbutz, and the battle of Akko, etc. I know you are all very proud of him and what he accomplished in life, ve sof sof, zeh ma she ichpat. Anee mitztair me'od she anee lo yechol lihiyot eetchem be rega zu, aval anee margeesh me'od eetchem be lev. Anachnu tzrichim lishmor al ha kesher shelanu be shanim ha ba'im.



"Ze'ev liked to tease me"

Dear Penina and all the family,

I have been thinking of how you and Ze'ev have been part of my life since I was six years old. I have many memories of that year, and much of what comes up is actually mixed up with Helga and Stan's recollections. I was thinking of what Helga would be saying now about Ze'ev and it would be that July 1961 - July 1962 was the best year of her life. She would talk about reuniting with her brave cousin who she so admired as she said goodbye to him at the Berlin train station in 1935 as he set off for Palestine. She would say how wonderful it was to have found her family in Israel on beautiful kibbutz Afeq. She would talk of the seder in the Heder Ochel as being very, very meaningful. She would say how happy she was for her three children to run around the kibbutz and splash in the pool with their three Israeli cousins. Stan, for his part, would be talking about how much Ze'ev taught him about the Irgun, and the Palmach and 1948 and Ben Gurion and Golda Meir and the kibbutz movement. He would probably talk about the carp ponds and how envious he was of the kibbutz lifestyle.

Despite their decision to return to the US, you -- our Sharon family -- stayed very dear to them. The year that Avinoam came to visit us in Glen Ellyn/Chicago was wonderful for Helga especially, but I know we were all influenced, in various ways. He was the first Israeli out-of-the-army that I knew, on his journey, and so happy and excited. I'm just thinking now, that his visit must have influenced me to come to Israel many years later.

When I came to Israel in 1974, you and Ze'ev were there - right there -- at Lod as I got off the plane and you swept me up into your family, with such love and warmth. I remember how intense it was at the hospital visiting Raya a day after Ahikam was born, but you both kept making sure I was okay while you had so much going on as a family. And then you both drove me all the way to Jerusalem, and made sure I was okay in the dorm on Har HaTzofim.

I will always remember how caring Ze'ev was and that he liked to tease me. I think he he enjoyed my visits in part because he could practice his English. He loved asking me endless questions, and always wanted to talk about Stanley and Helga. But he also pushed me to speak Hebrew with you, Penina, because he really wanted me to love Israel. It was the first year after Avinoam's death and while you both grieved, you shared it with me. You were remarkable Penina -- that you found a way for me to be comfortable and help me understand your experience, and teach me about death. I will always cherish that about you both.

I am so happy that Lani made it to Israel last summer, and has wonderful memories of her own. I wish we could be with you all tomorrow at the Shivah to hear all your stories and memories of your dear husband, father, grandfather, greatgrandfather, friend. But do know that we have you in our hearts, and know that we are celebrating his life right here in Piedmont, California.

Until soon / l'hitra'ot, all my love to everyone of you,

Ze'ev Sharon, 92, passes away surrounded by family at kibbutz Afeq

Ze'ev Sharon, a pioneer of Israel and first cousin of Helga Ruby, passed away July 2, 2009 at Kibbutz Afeq surrounded by loved ones.

Joanne got the sad news in a call from Ahikam. We'll post more information and photos here as materials are collected. To get the ball rolling, I will post emails from the Rubys to Ze'ev's wife Penina and other family members.