Reminiscences
of Jacob Greenebaum, Sr. (cont.)



As regards the synagogue, he was compelled to go to Teschenmoschel, a distance of more than a league; therefore he established a synagogue himself, had the Scrolls of the Law written, and was sustained by the government of the Palatinate, situated in Mannheim at that time. The Jews of Nußbach and Hebensweiler were transferred to the synagogue at Reipoltskirchen, and a penalty of one hundred Reichsthaler threatened, if they did not join.






rhe003a.jpg (30 KB)

Overlooking town of Teschenmoschel from cemetery
Photo, copyright 1995, Susan E. King. All rights reserved



Peace in the home and financial success marked this happy union, yet their existence was not one of uninterrupted joy; they experienced sadness and grief. In the first place, on account of the war, there were foreign troops in the land and Elias (GREENEBAUM) was twice robbed.

Secondly, at that time there was a band of robbers in the land, whose leader was John BREYLER or, as he was called, Schinderhannes, who often molested him with threats and incendiary letters, the details of which would take too much space to relate.

An end was made to this band of brigands in 1803, through the efforts of the French Government and the watchful eye of the police. The captain and several of his accomplices were guillotined at Mainz, and the others were sentenced to prison for life at hard labor.

The land was now safe from brigands, and the war continued in a more regulated manner. Many people again prospered in business and every citizen was granted a chance to recover from the hardships he had endured. But the couple mentioned was but the least of the hard fate they had to endure.

They (Elias HIRSCH (GREENEBAUM) and Miriam (FELSENTHAL) had a family of eleven children seven sons and four daughters. At that time there was an epidemic of smallpox. Vaccination was not yet discovered, or at least was not generally practiced in the country, and death through this horrible illness demanded many victims among the children. Even of the many that escaped death, a number suffered in such measure that they became almost blind. Others bore deep scars, being thereby disfigured.

Among the children of the above mentioned couple this sickness raged terribly and six sons were torn from them by death; the writer of these lines, who has the honor to call himself the son of these estimable parents, alone was spared by the Heavenly Father and under His protection was allowed a longer existence.[2]

My name was originally Israel (GREENEBAUM), but on account of the sad fate which my parents, of blessed memory, suffered in regard to their children, the name of an animal, BAER, was added to mine, and I was called Israel BAER. Whether this old established custom was of a cabalistic origin or of a religious nature is unknown to me.[3]

My parents endured all patiently and bowed to the will of God with all submission. They lived piously and were faithful adherents of our faith. The daughters' were Hannah, Fromet and Beier (GREENEBAUM). The name of the fourth one will be explained later.

The sad experiences of the parents were continued in the lives of the children and caused grief and sorrow without parallel in that region in those days. In June, 1804, our father (Elias GREENEBAUM) died as a result of a hemorrhage, which illness he had had some years before through shock, when two Austrian soldiers, who were known only by the name of
Red-coats[4], shot at him, and a bullet came so close that it singed his coat.

The death of my father caused general mourning in the whole region. Many mourned in him their guide, benefactor and protector. The loss that the nearest of kin had to bewail cannot be told in words, nor written down by pen, especially as the mother was pregnant and felt the grief of carrying an unborn orphan under her heart.

Great changes followed in the house, as according to French law[5], everything had to be put at public sale. Our mother (Miriam FELSENTHAL) had the firm resolve to continue the business in the same manner in all respects, partly to keep it for her children and bring them up under her own surveillance in her own business and she bid in everything herself. Her purpose was unfortunately not achieved.

Nineteen weeks later, in November of the same year, she gave birth to a daughter (Miriam GREENEBAUM); it was the easiest confinement she had ever had. Hardly had the child seen the light of day, when our mother swooned and alas, had to suffer death at that moment; all attempts to revive her proved fruitless. The physician explained that her death was caused by weakness and heart failure.

If the misery endured before had not reached the greatest measure, it now was overflowing. The new-born child was kept alive by fostering care with the aid of God, received the name of its mother, Miriam.

A second public sale was now held, and in sadness we had to see all that our dear parents had acquired with toil and trouble, all that they had taken pleasure and comfort in, pass into the hands of strangers. Only the house and garden, one piece of ground and a Scroll of Law were assigned to the writer of these lines as his property. A new epoch began for us now, in which the hard blow we had suffered was in a measure softened for us.

Our eldest sister, Hannah (GREENEBAUM), now also deceased, was married during the life of our parents to my father's nephew, by the name of Benjamin ABRAHAM (GREENEBAUM). These were the parents of the Reverend Dr. Elias GRUENEBAUM, district rabbi in Landau.






At the time of the death of our mother, she (Hannah GREENEBAUM) was nineteen years old and was the mother of her eldest child (Dr. Elias GREENEBAUM), then three months old. Not alone that she nourished the little orphan at her breast as she did her own son during a year and a half, but all of the children found a home with her, and she took the place of a mother to all of us.

She devoted especial attention and devotion to little Miriam (GREENEBAUM), who theretofore did not know the loss he had sustained and until her eighth year believed she possessed parents, and called her brother-in-law, father, and her sister, mother. At the time that this mistake was explained to her by an officious woman, her grief for the loss that she only then discovered was so intense, that it caused a scene of mourning not only for us all, but in the entire neighborhood; it was like a day of mourning for one recently passed away.

In the year 1808, owing to an imperial decree, the Jews were obliged to take surnames, at which time the family of my father took the name of GRUENEBAUM and my mother's, the name of FELSENTHAL. The reasons for the choice of these names were that one of my father's ancestors had an inn,which bore a shield: Zum Gruenen Baum. The maternal ancestor was born in a region where high cliffs towered above the valley. The first name had also to be changed in many instances, as only those names were allowed that appeared in the calendar[6]; my name was changed to Jacob and in this wise I was called Jacob GRUENEBAUM.

At the same time there began for me a new period of life. It was the wish of my guardian, Nathan GRUENEBAUM of Winnweiler, that before my tenth year I should leave my home, where under the care of my sister I had not yet experienced the greatness of my loss. They brought me to my uncle, David FELSENTHAL, who lived in Odenbach on the Glan, one and one-half leagues from Reipolskirchen, as there was a better school at the former place.





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Streets of Odenbach
Photo, copyright 1995, Susan E. King. All rights reserved



Although I was among friends and lacked nothing, and was under good supervision in every respect, everyone will appreciate that I began only now to feel the loss more keenly, and envied other children who were under the protection of their parents. Even here the fostering care of my sister Hannah did not end. She came often to look after us, exercising a supervision necessary to children of that age.

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  1. See NOTES where the foregoing genealogy is charted. Return
  2. "The Bible records changing of names as symbolic of a new status or destiny e.g., [Abram becomes Abraham, Sarai becomes Sarah] Gen. 17:5 ...Basing itself upon this precedent the Talmud declares that among the `four things that cancel the doom of man’ is changing of name (RH 16b). From this there developed in the Middle Ages the custom of changing, or more accurately giving an additional name to, the name of a person who was dangerously ill, or suffered some other misfortune, in the belief that the Angel of Death would be confused as a result of the new name. (Encycl. Judaica, v12. p. 802) Return
  3. For a brief account of French occupation of this region and recurrent episodes of war between France and Austria, the latter usually allied with nearby Prussia, see NOTES which follow this text. Return
  4. The region remained under French rule until Napoleon’s defeat in 1814. Thereafter the Congress of Vienna, in 1814-1815, establishing the rule of crowned heads across most of Europe, including France, re-establishing reaction and stability after Napoleon’s defeat, announced "In the name of the Most Holy and Indivisible Trinity" that…
    …The Diet of the Confederation shall take into consideration the means of effecting, in the most uniform manner, an amelioration in the civil states of the confessor of the Jewish faith in Germany, as well as the means for providing and guaranteeing for the same the enjoyment of civil rights in the Confederated States in return for their assumption of all the obligations of citizens. Until then, however, the rights of the adherents of this creed already granted to them by the individual Confederated States shall be maintained. (The Jew in the Modern World, p. 129. Emphasis added.)
    The Confederation had thirty-six states, replacing several hundred in the former Holy Roman Empire, (that non-Holy, non-Roman, non-Empire entity headed by a Prussian monarch for centuries), each jealous of its powers and autonomy. As a practical matter this decree, wherein the word by replaced the word in in the original draft, was designed to permit the states to rescind the emancipation of the Jews decreed by Napoleon, which, for the most part, they did. (Cf. also, Sachar, 286) Return
  5. The term "calendar" here is unclear. There were, however, rules, and probably lists, that both guided and restricted the choice of names, which probably underlies the intent of this passage. "…the statement giving one of the causes of the deliverance of the Children of Israel from bondage as they did not change their names (e.g. Lev. R. 32:5), [often repeated in the Talmud], is to be viewed as a homily appealing for the retention or giving of Hebrew names in view of the prevalent tendency of adopting foreign names." (Encycl. Judaica, v. 12, p. 807)
    "As modern Jews reaped the benefits of [post-medieval] emancipation, they increasingly imitated the mores of their neighbors, appellations included. Governments in some instances furthered this tendency by rewarding or even legislating the adoption of European forenames and family names." (op. cit. 809) Most jurisdictions, however, explicitly forbade the adoption by Jews of surnames existing among the Gentiles. Thus, in the first half of the nineteenth century, we see a preponderance of Old Testament given names, and newly-invented surnames assigned to the Jewish people in German (and, likewise, French) lands. Return


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