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Finding Uncle Aaron

By Jack L. Weinstein

aaron weinstein

Aaron Weinstein 1903


Like Ivory Soap, I know where 99 and 99/100s percent of both sides of my family are living or where they are buried. All except Uncle Aaron. When the Weinstein family emigrated to America in 1905, my father’s brother Aaron stayed in the home town of Gorodnitsa, Ukraine. He was an extremely religious man and had heard that America was treyf. The rest of the family heard about the pogroms.

rachel and aaron
Rachel and Aaron Weinstein, c. 1893

In the early part of 1990 I wrote to The American Red Cross in association with The Holocaust and War Victims Tracing Service in Arolsen, Germany. I requested a search for Aaron and his wife Bracha. I provided the year of birth and the last town that they lived in, which was all the information I had.

Sometime in March of 1995 I received a telephone call from Amy Blanchard, a tracing specialist with The American Red Cross. We set up an appointment to meet at my mother’s house. She presented us with tracing results from March 14, 1994 and April 5, 1994, listing Aaron Weinstein.

The year of birth and town were correct and after World War II he was living in Amsterdam. A street address was also provided. Further fate was unknown. The local Red Cross Chapter would not give up. They provided me with the address of The Joods Museum in the Netherlands. They forwarded my request to the only Weinstein listed in the telephone book and also provided me with a copy of the page.

Another dead end. However, an email to Stefan Pinkus of the Netherlands Society for Jewish Genealogy provided me with the place of birth, parents’ names, date of death and the last five addresses where he lived. His parents name did not match. Not Uncle Aaron.

In early 2003 I wrote to the local chapter of The Red Cross to give them a change of address, since I had moved, and also included my email address. Still not giving up, I received letters from The Red Cross in Dec 2003 and Feb 2004 stating that my file was still open and research was continuing.

weinstein family

Weinstein Family, 1903 - Gorodnitsa, Ukraine
Back Row - Aaron and Benjamin
Front Row - Saul, Morris (author's father), Rachel and Sarah

In August of 2004 I received a telephone call from Deborah Cooper, International Social Services of The American Red Cross, who informed me that she had some information on Uncle Aaron and we set up a time to meet at my home. She arrived promptly and as we went to sit down she said that she had something for me and handed me an envelope.

Upon sitting down and opening the envelope I saw the heading on the letter which said URGENT. Scanning down I saw my name, Uncle Aaron’s name, and the names of two living relatives that had been lost to time and war. It had taken The American Red Cross fourteen years but they found Uncle Aaron with just a guess of the year he was born and the town in Ukraine. After Mrs. Cooper left I sat down again and just read and reread the names of my new found cousins, tears filling my eyes.

There were two living siblings. One lived in Ukraine and one in Israel. I immediately wrote to Esther in Israel. I purposely held back on information and requested what they knew. Again, I included my email address and shortly after started corresponding that way. The information I was receiving started to blend with what I knew, such as the family came to Gorodnitsa from Slavuta. A young man came to live with them by the name of Micha. We knew him as Moshe. They thought he was Aaron’s brother—he was. They talked about a wedding picture that was sent to them. The whole family in America has that photograph.

morris cup
"Kosher for Passover, Moshev"
Porcelain cup and saucer from Gorodnitsa belonging to author's father, Morris

The deciding factor was several photographs that included Uncle Aaron. Although he was about thirty or forty years older than the one photograph we have of him, the facial features were there. The shape of the face and the Weinstein ears. The Red Cross found my Uncle Aaron.

On discovering that Aaron’s daughter, my previously unknown cousin Esther, was going to celebrate her birthday in February, I decided to go to Israel and be with her on her special day. I was met at the airport by her son Alex, his wife Maria and granddaughter Alin.

Meeting Esther at Alex’s apartment that night was a thrill. Tears were flowing from everyone. Mein blut I told her. I met all the other members of her family except for her grandson Uri who had just entered the military.

weinstein family today
Weinstein Family Reunion, 2006 - Haifa, Israel
L-R: Esther, Jack, Tunia and Bella

I spent six days with my new-found family. They treated me like a king. A special chair for me to sit in. The biggest meals that I have ever seen. Food flowed like water. Alex took off from work every day and escorted me to all the sights I wanted to see. He even paid for an interpreter when Alin could not be with us. All family members made sacrifices to see to my needs. When I could not understand what was said, a telephone call was placed so someone could explain it to me in English. On my last evening with the family, Alex and Maria presented me with two tea pots that they brought from Gorodnitsa to Israel with them. These were made in the porcelain factory where my uncle Aaron worked.

On my next trip to Israel to attend the wedding of Alin and Dov, the results of my search were complete when I met Aaron’s other daughter, my cousin Tunia, who immigrated to Israel from Ukraine after my first visit. I can never express enough thanks to my new-found family and The American Red Cross.

Finding Uncle Aaron was a thrill of a lifetime.

October 2012
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

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Research Notes and Hints

Jack Weinstein was determined–and very patient–in the search for his Uncle Aaron, a search that spanned 14 years.

The Holocaust Tracing and Documentation Services of the American Red Cross played a crucial role.

Contacting the Joods Historisch Museum (Jewish History Museum) in Amsterdam and the Netherlands Society for Jewish Genealogy also proved to be helpful.

Jack’s research was rewarded when he connected with his previously unknown cousins and their families, Uncle Aaron’s descendants.

Of further interest, an article regarding Jack appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in July 2010. The picture of his interior staircase reveals a remarkable display of old family photos.

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Updated on October 18, 2012 .

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