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The Source of My Origins (cont.)

“To Yitzchak and Aliza from Sarah, 30 April, 1942,”
Yosef Poritz and his wife Sarah nee Shapira with their children:
Dov (Bernard), Liebele (Lily), Golde (Olga), Shneor-Yaacov (Sidney-Jack) [1939]

Olga Zabludoff (Poritz): We have enlargements of that photo, and I actually remember when we had it taken. I was scared of the photographer when he went under a black sheet to work the big camera. For some reason he covered himself with a black sheet. Oy!

 

The Poritz Families in Eretz Yisrael

From right to left, back: Abba Poritz and Rivka; Aliza and Yitzchak Poritz with their children (front): Razya with the twins David and Yonatan

My great-grandfather (on my father's side), Rabbi Abali, was an accepted Kabbalist but did not serve in the Rabbinate. Legend has it that many years ago an epidemic broke out in Vidzy [Vidziai] and many children died. People turned to Rabbi Abali and asked him to pray for the epidemic to end. He arose early in the morning, went through the streets of the shtetl, and read all kinds of prayers aloud. When he reached the center of the shtetl he cried out: “Lord of the Universe! There should already be an end!” The Divine Voice came out and said: “The chickens will die!” And the next day there was not one living chicken in the whole area, and the epidemic was over.

The boys in our branch of the family who bear the name “Aba” were named after Rabbi Abali.

Father, Reb Shneor-Yaacov Poritz (son of Reb Shmuel-Noah), a forestry merchant, was mostly occupied outside the house, and died when mother was only 42. I remember father especially during his sick days when he returned in 1914 from the hospital in St. Petersburg suffering from a fatal illness. He died on February 13, 1914.

So we ten orphans remained - eight boys and two girls. At that time the little boys were two and three years old. I remember at dinner when mother wanted to address one of her children, it was difficult for her to call them by the right name, because she was exhausted after a day's work. She would call the first name, then the second and the third, and so on until she would get to the right name of the child she had intended addressing.

We did not know want. Even during WWI there was a storehouse full of good things (double walls hidden from the Germans) and also enough to support the poor. Mother worked day and night in order to bring food home to prevent our situation from deteriorating.

From my mother, Rochel-Leah, I know about the origin of her family, Zilber.

In 1812, when Napoleon's army invaded Russia and went through our shtetl Dusiat, a young French soldier strayed from his route, entered the synagogue, opened the Gemara and plunged into the fountain of the Talmud. Immediately the Jews of the synagogue enveloped him: “Listen, son! You're not going anywhere with Napoleon. You'll settle here in the shtetl.” They brought him clothes and hid his uniform. Among those Jews there was a great scholar who had three daughters all of whom were marriageable. One of them married the French soldier (Gilbert? / Jilver?), and that is the origin of mother's family, Zilber.

Sara Weiss: Father told me a similar story when I asked how we were related to Yitzchak Porat.

It also turns out that they gave the name “Lesl” to a few of the daughters in the family, and the circulating theory is that this was the name of the daughter of the French soldier, Gilbert/Jilver…

Yosef Yavnai (Slep): I remember that Grandpa Hanoch, mother's father, used to rebuke my father and say: “Nu, you French”…

Lillian Adelman: From stories told by my father Yosef (son of Chana-Geile, nee Slep) about his great-grandmother, I learned that she was the French soldier's daughter. Father told me that he himself saw that the name engraved on the soldier's tombstone in the cemetery in Dusiat was Spanish. Actually, it was a famous Portuguese name.

Miriam Slep: They say that when the French soldier started to pray in the synagogue, the windows vibrated from the strength of his voice.

Most of the Zilber brothers and sisters lived in Dusiat.
Tzirl married Hirshl Levitt.
Sheine married Avraham-Moshe Schmidt, the melamed.
Etl married Naftali Shub.
Rochel-Leah married Shneor-Yaacov Poritz.
Israel-Shaul Zilber's wife was Rachel (nee Levitt).
David Zilber's wife was Michle nee Levitt, Rachel's sister. The brothers Israel-Shaul and David immigrated to the U.S.
Yosef Zilber's wife Malka was from Dvinsk. The couple immigrated to Sweden, and later to Palestine.
Yishayahu Zilber lived and studied in Berlin, until moving to Vilna, where he died in 1940.
Aaron Poritz son of Rochel-Leah, married his cousin Lesl, daughter of David and Michle Zilber. Henya (nee Levitt) married Yosef Melamed, was the sister of Michle and Rachel Zilber.
Lesl, their sister's daughter married David Schwartz.
His brother, Hillel Schwartz, married Elka Slep whose family's origin was Zilber…

 

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