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The Rabbi Aaron Gorovitz   Boston Marriage Database

Researched and Compiled by Joseph Douglas Lurie


This database contains records of 971 marriages, 1910 to 1956, performed by Rabbi Aaron Gorovitz of Boston, as extracted from his personal notebooks.

Data fields are broken down into two sets, one for the groom and another for the bride. Data fields include the following information:

  • Bride surname
  • Bride given name
  • Age of bride
  • Street address and city and state of bride
  • Occupation of bride
  • Number of marriages of bride
  • City and state or country of brideís birth
  • Brideís fatherís given and surname
  • Country of brideís fatherís origin
  • Brideís motherís given and surname
  • Country of brideís motherís origin
  • Date of wedding
  • Groom surname
  • Groom given name
  • Age of groom
  • Street address and city and state of groom
  • Occupation of groom
  • Number of marriages of groom
  • City and state or country of groomís birth
  • Groomís fatherís given and surname
  • Country of groomís fatherís origin
  • Groomís motherís given and surname
  • Country of groomís motherís origin
  • Date of wedding

The marriage records span the years 1910 to 1956, although during the later years few marriages were performed, and in 1956, the year of Rabbi Gorovitzís death, only one marriage was recorded. There are gaps in the years covered by the marriage records, and no records exist for the years 1919 through 1926. It is known that a significant number of other marriages were performed by R. Gorovitz for which the records either no longer exist or their whereabouts are unknown. Should these records surface they will be added to this database.

This database consists of information listed in four handwritten journals, the originals having been donated by the Rabbiís daughter Alice Riseberg to the American Jewish Historical Society in Waltham, Massachusetts, where they are catalogued as manuscript collection [P-087]. A set of original copies resides with the family and I maintain a photocopy of these records, with additional information gleaned from City Directories incorporated into them (e.g. occupation of the father of the bride or groom).

The records themselves are handwritten by six separate individuals, Rabbi Gorovitz, and five of his seven daughters. The differences in handwritings, some poorly written, or written in bold low strokes making individual letters difficult to discern, and other aspects of the records made the transcribing challenging and time consuming. Boston, Malden and Chelsea City Directories and House and Street listings from the period were used to cross-reference many hundreds of these more difficult entries, specifically to verify spellings of surnames and insure the accuracy and therefore the reliability of the information in this database. There remains however, the possibility for errors on my part when interpreting the records. Additionally, there are times when obvious misspellings appeared in the database, and in most cases they remained as written.

Spelling of Surnames:

Interestingly, surnames during this period could be found to be spelled differently from family member to family member, for the same individual during different years, from marriage record to marriage record, from the marriage record to the City Directory listing, for City Directory listings for different years, and so on. Differences could be as simple as the surname "Haloon" listed in the marriage record and "Halloon" listed in the City directory, or somewhat more varied with the name "Kaminson" listed in the marriage record and "Kanison" listed in the city directory. In one example three members of the same family were found to spell their surname differently, "Winocar", "Winocoer", and "Winokur". Therefore, it is exceedingly important when looking for oneís relatives to consider alternative spellings and soundexing. Many reasons can be cited for these name differences, which obviously were more pronounced for the earliest, first generation immigrant, for whom English was a second language. These surnames became more consistent towards the middle of the century. Due to this lack of consistency in the spellings of surnames it is reasonable to assume that many surnames were written as they were pronounced at the time a record was made when an alternate spelling may not have been offered. This means that spellings of surnames would be dependent on who was writing the record as well as who was acting as the informant.

The most difficult fields to complete were the surname of the mothers of the bride and groom. This was usually the last entry of a record, the most poorly written, hardest to discern, and the one record not contained in City Directories or other listings. All fields were not always filled in for each marriage; and in a fair number of instances the country of origin of the parents was not filled in, presumably because it was the same as for the son or daughter.

Several types of notation are used to help clarify information, especially in cases where a surname was unclear. If the spelling was clear except for a single letter the two potential spellings of the name could be listed, as in "ROOTSTERN or ROOTSTEIN". When some of the letters could be discerned and others not, an example of the notation used would be "RO.ST.N?" Very often in these cases if you were to know what you were looking for it would in fact be readable, so if one was looking to confirm a surname it would be possible looking at the original record. A question mark may follow a surname when it appears to be correct but where there remains a small concern as to its correctness, as in "ROOTSTEIN?". A question mark alone in a field signifies that there was information in the record that was unreadable.

When listing the surname of the father of the bride and of the groom several of the authors of the records filled in only the fatherís given name for a small percentage of these records. In these cases the surname of the son or daughter has been entered into the record after the given name of the father for purposes of searching the database. The caveat required here is if the son or daughter modified their surname (not common but would be more likely in later marriages) from that of their father. For example a father with the surname "Sokolovitz", the son or daughter taking the name "Sokolove".

About the Rabbi:

Aaron Gorovitz who was referred to as the Dean of the Orthodox Rabbinate in greater Boston, was distinguished as a pioneer for his efforts and achievements in building and nurturing the greater Boston Jewish community in the first half of this century. He was known for trying to "strengthen Judaism from within and to build a bridge of understanding between the Jews and Christians in the community", at a time when most others avoided this type of outreach.

He served in various rabbinical positions for some 65 years, the last three decades of which were as Rabbi of Congregation Bnai Abraham, Wayland Street, Roxbury. Previous to this he held positions in St. John New Brunswick, where he established the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, had served as Rabbi for the Congregation Bnai Israel, Woonsocket, Rhode Island, and as Rabbi of the United Orthodox Congregations of Cambridge and Somerville, including Congregation Beth Israel of Cambridge.

He was vice president of the Assembly of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States, treasurer of the Council of Orthodox Rabbis in Boston, and chaplain of Mass Memorial Hospital and Deer Island. He was one of the founders of Etz Chaim Yeshiva (later the Rabbi Isaac Elchonon Rabbinical College and Yeshiva Jacob Joseph).

He was known as an ardent Zionist and held the position of vice president of the Federation of American Zionists. He attended the sixth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland in 1903, where he was in the minority by voting against the "Uganda Scheme", and also attended the seventh Zionist Congress in 1905. In the book The Jews of Boston by Sarna & Smith, mention is made of the Yavne Congregation, referred to as the only Zionist congregation in the United States, whose Rabbi was listed in 1910 as Aaron Gorovitz.

Rabbi Gorovitz was both politically astute and politically connected. One of his close personal friends was the controversial Boston Mayor (and Massachusetts Governor and Congressman) James Michael Curley, who used to call Aaron Gorovitz "his" Rabbi. Curley often attended and spoke at public forums, particularly those related to immigrant issues with Rabbi Gorovitz. A poster now on exhibit at Ellis Island states that then Congressman Curley invited Rabbi A. Gorovitz of Roxbury (as well as others) to a rally at the "Scenic Temple" (Blue Hill and Lawrence Ave.) and at Fanueil Hall, Boston, in December of 1913, to fight against the Congressional "demands" for literacy testing for immigrants. On a more personal level, Curley spoke at the dedication and laying of the corner stone of Rabbi Gorovitzís new Wayland Street synagogue in June of 1924 (among those in attendance were Judges and other political notables), attended Gorovitz family functions (including the wedding of Alice Riseberg, who donated the Rabbiís marriage records and sermons to the AJHS) and is known to have also planned several business ventures with the Rabbi. Rabbi Gorovitzís political intuitiveness and connections were of untold significance to the Boston Jewish communityís gaining in stature and influence during the first half of the 20th century.

Rabbi Gorovitz was born Aaron Soloveichik (coincidentally, a first cousin twice removed to the younger R. Joseph Dov Soloveichik who became a prominent figure both locally and nationally), on March 15, 1870, in Svir, Lithuania.

Biographical information on Rabbi Gorovitz exists in some detail at the American Jewish Historical Society, and also in the book Eliyahuís Branches: The Descendants of the Vilna Gaon and his Family, by Chaim Freedman (Avotaynu, 1997). Additionally, I have amassed considerable biographical information, much of it from interviews, as part of my research over the past two years.

A very sincere and special thanks to my cousin Brad Lucas, a great-grandson of Aaron Gorovitz, for his financial support of this project which allowed for the purchase of a microfiche reader and for the acquisition of many of the city directories necessary to insure the accuracy of this database.

I would appreciate hearing from anyone relative to clarifications, corrections, questions or comments on this database, and can be reached through my email at: lurie@charter.net.

Joseph Lurie
4/21/99


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