Jewish Family History Foundaton
BY NEIL ROSENSTEIN & DOV WEBER
The 1784 census of Slutsk, a city of major Jewish importance, as will be mentioned, has contributed significantly to, and has helped to clarify, the genealogy of rabbinical families from that city. Some important highlights are discussed in this article.
Slutsk, a town in Minsk oblast, Belarus, was, from the end of the 13th century under Lithuania, from 1793 under Russia, and a district town in the province of Minsk until the Revolution. Jews are known to have lived in Slutsk, one of the oldest Jewish communities in Belarus, from 1583. The community developed under the protection of the owners of the town, the princes Radziwill. Within the structure of the Councils of the Lands Slutsk was at first subject to the community of Brisk (Brest-Litovsk), but it became independent from 1691 and was granted jurisdiction over the surrounding villages. From that date until 1764 Slutsk was one of the five leading Lithuanian communities which sent delegates to the Council of Lithuania, and the last session of this council was held there in 1761. Slutsk declined in the 19th century, becoming a township whose principal income came from retail trade, craftsmanship, and vegetable- and fruit-growing, the latter being renowned throughout Russia. From 1,577 in 1766 the number of Jews increased to 5,897 in 1847 and 10,264 (77% of the population) in 1897. At the end of the 18th century Slutsk was one of the centers of the struggle against Hasidism, remaining a stronghold of the Mitnagedim.
Among the Slutsk families there were three prominent rabbinical families — Isserlein, Landau and Lipschutz. Others included families such as the Gunzburgs.
The Isserlein and Landau families trace back to one, Isser. The descendants of one of his son’s, Abraham Isser’s (Abram Iserowicz in the 1784 census), who died in 1786, an extremely wealthy (gevir) and prominent Slutsk character, adopted the surname Isserlein Isser’s second son, Bezalel, adopted the surname Landau. Abraham Isser’s is listed as family entry #263 of the 1784 census. His wife is listed a Rywka (Rivke or Rebecca), who is known to have been the daughter of Jonah and that she died in 1813 (from the Slutsk Chevra Kadisha Pinkas housed in the Hebrew University).
THE ISSERLEIN BRANCH:—
Jewna (Jonah) Isserlein, son of Abraham Isser’s, who became a famous gevir in Slutzk, we learn form the census, was as yet unmarried in 1784 when he was still a young teenager. Thus we can deduce that he was born about 1768-70. It is known from various sources that he died in 1849. The Pinkas of Slutzk records that “he was even richer than his father.”
Abraham Isser’s one son-in-law was Saul (Szewel in the census) ben Judah, who, from the extant Slutsk Pinkas, died young in 1784, probably not long after the census was taken. Further, the Pinkas states only that he was the son-in-law of Abraham Isser’s. The question arises as to who was his wife? The census gives us that answer — her name was listed as Merim (Merke) in the census. At the time of the census they had one son, Meier. Elsewhere in the Pinkas, fifty-five years later, Merke, when she died in 1840, was married secondly, which we discovered, to her first cousin, Nachman ben Bezalel Landau. The census shows Nachman still living at home in 1784 so he married after that date, and died on the eve of Yom Kippur 1840, the same year as his wife.
Another son-in-law of Abraham Isser’s was Joseph (Josiel in the census) Gunzburg, who was born in Brody, where his father, Rabbi Naftali Herz Gunzburg lived. Joseph and his wife, Beila (Beyla in the census), were living in 1784 with her parents in Slutzk, as a young couple, without children, although their son, Naftali Herz, was born shortly thereafter. Joseph died in 1829 and Beila in 1827 (as stated in the Pinkas). Naftali settled in Israel and died there in 1860, and was buried on the Mt. of Olives. His grave is recorded in Aryey Leib Brisk’s book Chelkat Mechokek which lists the burials on the Mt. of Olives. Details of this Gunzburg family can be found in Neil Rosenstein’s The Unbroken Chain (Chapter III). Israel Isser’s (Iser Abramowicz in the census) family is #134 in the 1784 census. He was another son of Abraham Isser’s (and brother of Jonah Isserlein). He was married to Beila (Bayla). In 1784 they had one daughter, Brayna. Other children were born later, so Brayna must have been the eldest child. Brayna was the wife of Abraham Lipschutz, as explained below.
The Pinkas records the death of a daughter, Deborah, of Abraham Lipschutz, who was recorded as “buried next to her grandmother, Beila” [the wife of Israel Isser’s (Isserlein)]. This indicates that her mother, Brayna, was married to Abraham Lipschutz.
THE LANDAU BRANCH:—
The Landau family group (#94 in the 1784 census) was headed by Calka Iserowicz (or Bezalel son of Isser) and his wife Freyda. The census is the only surving source to tell us her given name. Bezalel’s brother was Abraham Isser’s (mentioned above). All Bezalel’s children adopted the surname Landau, but this is not recorded in the census. Bezalel died in 1796 (from the Pinkas). The son Isser married after the 1784 census was taken to Feigel. His brother, Nachman, also married after the census, to first his cousin (see above). Their sister Chayla in the census is Chaya in the Pinkas. The census makes no mention of a daughter Hinde who, from the Pinkas we learn, had died in 1771.
THE RABBINICAL LIPSCHUTZ FAMILY OF SLUTSK:—
There are four Lipschutz family groups in the 1784 Slutsk census — #375, 376, 377, and 378. They appear sequentially, indicating a close family relationship. It remains only for this article to elucidate the exact relationships and to learn what the 1784 census can share that no other surviving source can.
Family group #376, with the household head, Manus, son of Meir Lipschutz. He and his wife had a large household in 1784 and six of their children were living at home. Three were unmarried — Pinchas, Zissel, and Aryey Leib; two were married and included heir wives and children in the household Shachna and his wife, Yetta, and two daughter (Drasna and Zelda) and Meir and his wife, Sarah [known from other sources as the daughter of Moses Zeitlin of Shklov] and their five children — Judah, Devora, Sender, Joseph, and Shlomo. The last child at home with Manus was the widowed son, Shabtai with his three-year old child, Channah, who was named after her mother, Channah, who died in childbirth in 1781. The Pinkas records the death of a Channah in 1781, “wife of Shabtai ben Manus, she died in childbirth.” This explains how Shabtai was widowed and named his child after his wife.
David Tebele Efrati, in Toldot Anshei Shem, records Manus’ children – Solomon Zalman, Aryey Leib, David (who is not found in the census, suggesting he lived elsewhere or was deceased by 1784), Meir, Moses, Pinchas, Shachna, and Zissel, [who married after 1784 to Jonah Isserlein (above)].
The Slutsk Pinkas records a person named Shabtai ben Manus who died in 1798. Was he indeed a son of the head of the family, Manus Lipschutz? Since Efrati omits mentioning Shabtai, it was unclear if this person, based soley on the Pinkas entry, was another son of Manus. The 1784 census once again has the answer to this problem and confirms that indeed Shabtai, who died young the same year as his father, was another son of Manus. The fact that he died young is the possible explanation that Efrati forgot him or did not even known of his existence.
The next Lipschutz family group #377 is that of the Rabbi of Slutsk, Solomon Zalman Lipschutz, another son of Manus, and based on the census sequence, probably lived next door to his parents. In 1784 his children living at home, unmarried, were Nathan Nata, Esther, and Sarah. Another son of Zalman, David Tebele, named after his maternal grandfather, had moved to Slonim and was the maternal grandfather of David Tebele Efrati. Another daughter of Zalman, Temke, we shall meet in houshould #375, as she was already married in 1784. Efrati also omits Temke (died in 1795) as a child of Zalman Lipschutz. She is found listed in the Pinkas. Her relationship is confirmed by being listed in the 1784 census, living in household #375, adjacent to her parents’ home, and married to Hirsch ben Leib ben Idel (Judah) “Segal,” possibly of the levite Horowitz family. In 1784 Temke and family were living with her father-in-law’s household (#375). The census lists the word “Polak” after Leib’s name indicating he was from Poland (and not that his surname was Polak). Temke’s children listed were Feige and Chatzkel. Once again, the 1784 census is the only source for this family unit.
Moses ben Manus Lipschutz, head of family unit #378, lived next door to his brother, Rabbi Zalman, with his wife Freidel and their children — Judah, Berko, Tova, and Zelda.
The 1784 census of Slutsk has helped to clarify family relationships which were uncertain in other primary sources, such as the Chevra Kadisha Pinkas manuscript of Slutsk. It has enlarged family genealogy (such as the Lipschutz family) by filling in missing names and relationships that are missing from published family genealogies (such as Efrati’s Toldot Ansehi Shem). Finally it has added explanations about deaths in childbirth, the charting of given names, and how we can learn that (in the case of the Lipschutz family of Slutsk) the family head (Manus) had his children’s families living on both sides of his home while one other son was a mere two houses away.
Source: See Jewish Family History Foundation www.jewishfamilyhistory.org for 18th century Grand Duchy of Lithuania records.
Dr. Neil Rosenstein is the author of twelve scholarly books and has provided genealogical information incorporated in thirteen more. Dr. Rosenstein has published more than thirty articles on genealogical topics, as well has having spoken to ten IAJGS Conferences and many other genealogical meetings around the world over the past twenty years. For information on many of his publications, and links to means for obtaining them, please go to http://tali.com/neilr .