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[Pages 75 - 83]

Jewish Family Names of
Residents of Lida and Its Neighborhood

by Itchak Ganuz (Ganuzowitsch)

translated by Rabbi David Haymowitz

As we inquire and learn about the family names of Jewish residents of Lida, we must emphasize the very same rules and the same development that directed and influenced the formation of Jewish family names of the last generations in Europe, especially in Eastern Europe; these also formed the family names in this area. Lida is not exceptional in that area. However, at the same time, we must emphasize the fact that every city and district had specific differing factors that influenced the creation of the family names as they developed. We dedicate this review to these factors: what is common and what is different.

A family name is like a drop of water in the sea of names that reflects the conditions and moods of the period. Like a shell in the sea, it is filled with the spirit and soul of the last generations of Jewry and connected directly and constantly to generations past, even though sometimes turned and twisted with the change of fate.

Out of the study of family names emerges the picture of the Jewish way of life approximately 150 years ago. We get to know the people, their professions and trades, and their language. We trace the waves of their successive wanderings; and we fully realize the set of relationships with their neighbors that formed nicknames that they coined for each other. Before a family name was formed, there was “a tzunamen” – which means an additional name or nickname. This was a second name to designate a specific individual. Later, when the government rules ordered the adoption of family names, the nickname became in many cases the official family name. Between the family names and the nicknames that preceded them, there is a genetic connection.

Eastern Europe residents were ordered by the authorities to adopt family names in a much later period than in the West. In Austria, this was established under Kaiser (Emperor) Joseph II in 1787. French Jews were ordered by law in 1808 and in Germany by order in the year 1812. In Russia, for official papers, they used only the person's name and his father's name. The law to adopt a permanent family name for Jews was enacted by order in the year 1804. Then, they were given free choice in selecting a name. The law was repeated in 1835 and probably went into action only years later.

In Poland, this was done by the order “Namistanic” on 27 March 1821. This review deals with Jewish family names in Lida in the period of the two World Wars. Many times, we were assisted by family names of Jews from other towns and villages in the neighborhood. Since the movement of residents between cities and town of this section of the country is a normal and natural occurrence, the restrictions that apply by time and place to one area may help to define the scope of our review by touching historical and etymological aspects very lightly and only temporarily.

Y. C. H. Tavyov assumes that the family name – the special name adopted in the family that passes from father to son that no one has the right to change– lost its meaning, not only as a result of waves of refugees stemming from the Holocaust, who in their new countries adopted new family names including the universal tendency of Hebraizing family names in Israel. Already, in the generation that preceded the Holocaust with the tremendous emigration of Jews to countries across the sea, there was a definite movement to change family names. True, when Tavyov made his assumption, the Jews in Tsarist Russia did not have the right to change their family name. This right was given only to apostate Jews to enable them to disconnect their ties to their people and also to cantonist children. (Translator's note: children, who were kidnapped from their families to be trained in the tsar's army.) Cases are known of young men who took a different name from their family to deceive the authorities to evade the draft. They claimed to be the only children to their parents.

The study of Jewish family names testifies to very deep changes that began at the end of the last century. The demographic and sociological change in the nation that occurred during World War I and World War II paralleled the increasing movement of the Jewish population, a complete change of Europe and the establishment of the Jewish State.

Therefore, as we erect a statue to the memory of Jewish communities that were destroyed, as we come to recount and memorialize towns and cities that existed and are no more, it is befitting to review and think about the family names of the residents that continuously vanish from the map of Jewish family names, to identify their meaning and the factors that shaped them.

The beginning of Jewish settlement in Lida starts in the latter half of the sixteenth century in the period Jan Kasimir. At that time, Lida was a large agricultural village of about 15,000 people; and the Jewish community numbered 160 people. The citizens of this settlement were sharecroppers on land which was given to them in a concession by the landowner, who lived in the “Zammek” Palace. In return for the right to use the land, the peasants had to give the owner a substantial part of the harvest and to appear by demand for land digging and fixing of roads and bridges. One of the documents of the year 1680 states that all these duties were defined by the Polish kings, On the list of people using the land, we find two Jewish names: (Movsha and Avram) Moshe and Avraham.

In a later document, apparently in 1701, the leaders of the Jewish community of Lida were ordered to pay a debt of 2100 guilder. The debtors were Yakov Yonsovitz, three members of the family of Yakovitz (Yitzchak, Moshe, Yakov), Isaac Yitzchak Kushlevitz, Reuven (Reuben) Nisnovitz, and Chaim Yovzelevitz (Yoselevitz). All these names are patronyms (the name Kushelevitz-Kushka-Yekusiel). This proves that in this early period the Lithuanians and the Byelarussians called the Jews by their given name or with an additional patronym. This was also used in the official papers for government. The family name of non-Jews also was composed of their given name ending with a patronym or name of a place with a local ending that hints of the person's birthplace.

In the family names of the residents of Lida and its environment in the first part of the twentieth century, almost of no mention is made of Lithuanian names or Lithuanian language. Only a few rare family names remained and only among the Polish nobility.

The majority of the Christian population spoke Belarussian. In the period of Poland before its division (the first division was in the year 1772), this language was the official language of Lida for hundreds of years. After the division of Poland, the penetration of the Russian language in the cities turned Byelorussian into the language of the simple people --the masses alone -- while the Lithuanian nobility spoke Polish. The primitive Lithuanian culture surrendered] its neighbors, from the west –Polish – and from the east – Russian – that diminished it. This was significant in the way of life, religion, and language. The names of the non-Jews were influenced from this development and its affect can be recognized the Jewish family names of the area.

Jewish family names can be divided into a number of groups according to their meaning. The majority of them are:

Geographical Family Names

The names referred to in this class reflect names of cities and towns still existing or villages or estates that were wiped from the map long ago and forgotten or changed as time passed.

At the end of the fourteenth century, the “Volosch” of Lida belonged to Prince Ygylo. In historical documents, he calls himself the Prince of Vitebsk, Kravck, and Lida. The borders of Lida Volosch were defined as follows: The rivers Zheshizshema and Gavia separate it on one side from Vilna Volosch of Oshmina on the other side by the Dziteva River and borders with the principality of Troki.

No doubt, next to these rivers were places that were called by these names. Hence, here is the source of the following Jewish family names:

Zheshisemsky from the name of the river Zheshizshema
Gavensky from name of the river Gavia
Trotzky from the name of the principality Troki
The owner of the Zheshizshema estate was Prince Zeshizeshemky, mentioned already in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Among the others, another estate by the name Berdovka is mentioned and is the source of the name Berdovky.

Up to the beginning of the Second World War, Lida's “suburbs,” Zaretshe and Kaminki, are mentioned by in the seventeenth century as estates (the latter next to the Kaminki River). This is the source of the Jewish family names Zarechansky, Zaretzki, and Kamiansky.

In the year 1785, King Stanislav August distributed lots of land in Lida on Zamkova Street and among those who received the lots appears the name Ivan Romer, obviously also an estate owner. He transferred the land to Jews and city residents “with eternal rights”. From this derives the Jewish family Romerovsky.

During the reign King Sigizmund August, the Calvinism Movement was spreading; and among the towns around Lida, this movement developed deep roots in the Yelitsa and Lidesk. This is the source of family names, Bielitzky, Latzky. In that period and in connection with that, the place Trokel is also mentioned. Immigrants of this city of our generation still remember “Melamdin”, Hebrew teachers of their youth, whose name and family were forgotten, but their nicknames are remembered. They called them: the Trikeler, the Lazoiker, and the Eishishker. Also known is the family name Eishishky.

Lands in the neighborhood of Lida owned by Alexander Vismont in the year 1668 are called Vismonty and from that derive the Jewish family name Vismonsky. In the same way also, the family name Bielsky is after the name of the village Bialsk located five viorst from Lida.

In the little towns of Eastern Europe, also in last generation, when somebody arrived from another city or town to settle and already had a fixed family name, his neighbors nicknamed him by his city of origin. Immigrants from the city tell stories of a woman's tailor whose name was Esther the Rostoverke (from the city of Rostov), Rivka the Orlanker, Hirshl the Doliner, Zalman the Ziemlanker, Nachman the Lipienitzer, Archik Pupky from Gavier hoyf, and Lipnishker shoemaker. In the same way also family names were created simultaneously or later: Arlansky, Dalinsky or Dalinka, Ziemlansky.

The Yeshiva boys, who came to town to study, were called by the name of their town of origin: the Prodigy of Maichet, and sometimes also on appearance: the little Horodishchy, or only by the name of the town: the Volozhiner, the Doshetler and the Dilatitcher.

In his memoirs, Mr. B. Goren (Goido), a native of Lida and its resident of many years, tells about the residents of the city: Yeliake the Olshaner, Shlomo the Radener. And from these derive the family names Olshanky and Radunsky.
The courts of the Polish or Russian landowners from whom they leased land also named Jews. In the 1890s, there were known heads of families in Lida:

Isaac-the Holdever derived from the court of Holdova,
Yankle-the Palovniker derived from the court of Palovnik
The family of Dokor –derived from the court of Dokor.
Also family names that are mark the city of Lida are spread around the world: Lidsky, Lidovsky, Lider, Liden, Lida. Also known was Reb Dovid ben Aryeh Leib Lida, who served as rabbi of Lida in the year 1671; he was the nephew of Reb Moshe Rivka'sh (by the way also from the name Rivka) the author of “Baer Hagola”. Later, he was a rabbi in Shavel, Ostrog, and Meinz and in 1681 in the Jewish community in Amsterdam.

Sometimes, a local place was used for a family name in different forms, for the same family the part that lived on the other side of the river they called: Zaretsky, Retzky, Zarechansky, Zartzin, and Rekachinsky. (In Poland, we find: Teich, Teichman, Teicher).

Generally, we can say (but not as a formula), that family names from names of cities or settlements testify that one of the fathers of the family came from these cities, but as an exception to this rule, we must emphasize that is very popular among Jews when they settled their family names in their naturalization certificate to be called by names from the Bible. In Lida, the following names were known: Yerushalimsky, Damesek. This was an expression of the constant desire of people to link to something superb that is grander than the regular.

Possibly, also, this geographical place appears in a number of localities in the same land or that this was a nickname with no connection of the origin of the person, but these cases are very rare. The great majority of all geographical names are derived from places from White Russia and only a small number is derived from places in Poland and Germany. The Jews that assembled in Lida did not get there from distances. One of the fathers of the Lidian family Vinogradov, which is a geographic family name, is mentioned with another geographic name – Horvitz – in the Book on the City of Vilna – the Memoirs of the Congregation of Israel and the History of Its Leaders as follows: Rabbi Eliahu Shlomo, the son of Moshe Itzchak haLevi Horvitz Vinograd, the fourth generation of the Gaon Reb Shmelky the head the religious court (Beit Din) Nikelshborg, the brother of the Gaon the author of “Haflah”.

The family name Lider that carries the name Lida deserves special attention.

Most of the families of Israel that carry that name are descendants of Reb Zalman Relis (derived from his wife's name Reli). He was born in Vilna in the year 1762 and died in Tiberius in Palestine in 1837. He was the son of Reb Eliahu Hindes, the scribe and member of the court of the Gaon of Vilna. His signature appears on the excommunications that were issued against the Chassidim by the order of the Gaon of Vilna.

Reb Zalman Relis was from the family Ivansky and a relative of Reb Moshe Ivir (maybe that is the origin of the name Ivansky). From his first wife, Reli, Reb Zalman had five sons and three daughters; and after her death, he married another woman, Sara, the sister of the author of “Pitchai Tshuvah”. From this wife, he had two sons, Reb Mordechai and Reb Moshe Gronem, and the daughter by the name Batya. After the death of his second wife, he decided to leave his city Lida and emigrate to Palestine. Surely, he was one of the first immigrants from Lida who made aliyah to the ancient homeland to renew it, to inhabit it, and to wallow in its dust.

Rabbi Zalman Relis left his house and his belongings. His little son Moshe Gronem, who was only one year old, he left with a relative of his family; and he got on the road. From Odessa, he got to Kushta in Turkey, where thieves cheated him and stole his money. In the year 1851, he arrived at the port of Jaffa. As he descended from the ship, he threw himself on the sands of Jaffa, kissed the land, and in a crying voice whispered “Sweeter than honey, sweeter than honey.”

He settled in Tiberius; and there he found the rest and relaxation that he desired all his life. He was nicknamed by the citizens of Tiberius "Reb Zalman Lider" by the name of his origin. His son, Reb Mordechai had great influence on his younger brother Reb Moshe Gronem Ivansky, who remained in Lida and was educated by the Enlightenment Movement, but then turned to be an enthusiastic Chassid of the Rebbe of Koidanov, and like his father Reb Zalman, who used to travel to the old Rebbe of Koidanov, Rabbi Shlomo Chaim, so did Reb Moshe Gronem.

Reb Mordechai Lider served for a period of years as the leader of Kolel Reisin in Tiberius; and he is signed a protest letter that the leaders of Tiberius sent to Reb Tzadok Hacohen complaining about the clerk of the Yka in southern Galilee, Chaim Margolit Klvarisky, for his violation of religion (“Chavatzelet ”, year 32, issue 8, 11 Kislev, 1902) and many other public letters that were published in the same newspaper.

One of the sons of Reb Mordechai Lider was Reb Azriel Zelig Lider one of the most important merchants in Jerusalem in the last generation. Reb Azriel Zelig Lider settled in Jerusalem in the beginning of the twentieth century. His name was mentioned a number of times in “Chavatzelet” as one of the most dedicated leaders of the community. He also published articles in “Chavatzelet”. In the year 1903 this newspaper published his articles: “From Jerusalem to Tiberius” and “Improving the Suffering of the Needy in Jerusalem”. In this article he declares emphatically the importance of Jewish settlement in Nazareth. He also published a few articles in “Chavatzelet” in ] 1909 concerning the controversy that broke out about “Chacham Bashi”. In that very same year, he visited Russia and published in the “Chavatzelet” his impressions of “Jews and Judaism in Russia”. He owned letters of the first Chassidim in Palestine of great value to the history of Jewish settlement in Tiberius. He gave it to Dr. A. Y. Braver who published them in “Hator” year 4,issues 16,17, and 5 on 12 Shvat 1924.

The geographical names are as follows:

Volkovisky Ivensky
Volinsky Aishishky
Volpiansky Olkenitzky
Voronovsky Ostrinsky
Vismonsky Azshekovsky
Valach*1 Olshtein
Zshermonsky Olshansky
Zshelodkovsky Boyarsky
Zarechansky Belagradsky
Dzientzielsky Breskin
Zimlansky Bielitsky
Zheshizemsky Bielsky
Zabludovsky Berdovsky
Zaretsky Bedzovskv
Turetzky Bykalsky
Trotzky Biniakonsky
Yanovsky Bitensky
Yeziersky Grozinsky
Landa Grodzensky
Lubachansky Grozenchik
Lutzky Guralsky
Lipnishky Gavensky
Ladsky Gornopolsky
Lidsky Dogusky
Mostovsky Dzivonisky
Mikolitzky Dvoretzky
Molchadsky Dolinsky
Mirsky Dolinko
Mazovietzky Derechinsky
Novoprutzky Vilenchik
Novogrodsky Vinogradov
Slobodsky Viner
Soltz Viniatzky
Snovsky Kamienitzky
Starodvorsky Kovensky
Slonimsky Krasnosielsky
Stolovitzky Kamionsky
Slonimchik Kozlovsky
Smorgonsky Kalish
Slutzky Rozshansky
Fodvorisky Rodnitzky
Podziemsky Radunsky
Peresietzky Romerovsky
Kranik Rodzivonishky
Kletsky Retzky
Krimsky Sheliovsky
Krinsky Shapiro
Kenigsberg  

The family name Boyarsky was very widespread in Lida and its environment. That local name basically derives from the Russian word “Boyary”. From the elimination of Tartar rule to the time of Peter the Great (1682-1725), the Russian nobility was called “boyarstavo.” Maybe the source of the word is the word “barin” that means master. It may be derived from the word “boy” that means battle. Members of this nobility ruled rural stretches of land in extensive areas of Russia. Also, after their removal from the political and economic map of the Russian Empire, some villages and settlements that were under their rule continued to be called by the nickname of their status. Possibly, Jews living on these estates or next to them were nicknamed by the name of the settlement. However, there also were Jews in the service of the royal army of the boyars. In the archive of the Archaeological Institute of Leningrad (St. Petersburg) is a “skazka” (a personal questionnaire in ancient Russian language) of the year 1680 of a Jewish boyar child that includes details of name, age, period, and place of service; and the document ends in a statement in Russian but in Hebrew letters. “Ye Shmuleh Vistitzky eek say kazko ye roko prolazil”, which means “I Shmuleh Vistitzky attached to this questionnaire my hand”, that means: I signed it.

Unquestionably, the Russian language was very flowery in the mouth of the person answering the questionnaire, but the Russian handwriting was not so good. On the other hand, he was very good in the Hebrew transcription; and in this handwriting, he affirms the details.

“Children of boyars” was the lowest level of the boyar nobility. In the beginning, they were in the service of the very rich nobility in the status of members of the family; and therefore were called “Boyar's children.” But later and at the time of this document, at the end of the seventeenth century, boyars children” were in the service of the state in those places that had a strategic importance of the first degree.

What is the Place of Origin of Schmuel Visitzky?

In his “skazka,” he tells that he served in the vorchotorya for twelve years. Before that, he served in the schlachta (the nobility) of Smolensk and his father Avraham served in the nobility service of Brest-Litovsk. From this, we may assume that Schmuel Vistitzky was born in the area of Brisk but more reasonably in the village of Vistitza next to Grodna.

Family Names That Designate Profession and Vocation

These family names testify of the profession of the people who carried them at the time when they were set. From them, we learn about the professions and employment of the Jews in Lida. In the brick industry, a generation ago in the city were mostly Jews. Y. Gurin tells us about Beryl the Tzigelnik (the brickman or brickmaker). From this is the family name Tzigelnitsky. Our generation used to tell about Rochel di Krupnitze, her profession does not exist any more but the family names Kurpsky or Krupnik remained. Sometimes all the way to the Holocaust, there was a custom to call a person according to his given name and his profession. Yashe the Sofer, Yoshe the Kotler, Dobeh the Fisherkeh, Munye the Tzukernik, these found expression in the family name: Sofer, Kotler or Kutlarsky (potmaker), Fisher, and Tzukornik.

Family names designate not only the profession of its carrier but also his form of employment, for example Moslovaty (butter), Karpovich or Karpinovich, Latute-a profession as a helper for a tailor. This profession disappeared from the horizon of Jewish professions in the last generation before the Holocaust. His job was to patch old cloths. Before World War I, man known in Lida by the name Beryl the Teichel used to travel to Prussia very often for business and therefore got his given name Teichel (a distortion of the word Daichel-German). Jews used to sell fat and grease for the soap industry in the city and one of them was Pinchas the Kheilevnik that means the Fatman or the Greaseman.

The influence of the local language and the constant change in government can be found in the nicknames for professions. The following are family names that are from equivalents in the languages spoken by the Jews in the city:

Schneider-Kravitz-Portnoy-(tailer),
Fisher-Ribak-Rebatzky-(fisherman),
Shuster-Saporzshnik-(Saporzshnikov)-Sandler (shoemaker),
Glazer (Glazman)-Shklarovsky-Shklar (Shklarsky)-(glazier),
Fleischer-Miasnik-(butcher),
Chazen (Chazenovitz)-Cantor,
Schmid-Kuznietz-Kovalsky-(blacksmith).
There are some that designate the same profession using the same language but with different suffixes, as follows: Resnik, Resnitsky, Resnikov.

The following are samples of the same kind:

Einbinder (bookbinder)Teper (potter)
BasistYablonsky
Beker (baker)Lichtman (lightman, candlemaker)
BudovnitzLatuty (patchmaker)
Glazer (glazier)Muler (miller)
Glozman (glass man)Melamed (Hebrew teacher)
Garberovich (tanner)Mielnik (miller)
Goldman Maslovateh (butter maker)
Gorfung (a shining stone)Masliansky (probably another butter maker)
 Musikansky (musician)
Darshon (preacher)Miesnik
Druk (printer)Meshengiser (prob. Tin caster, ie. metal worker, from root “messing” –tin
Zinger (singer)Sapazhnikov (shoemaker)
KhazenStrugach (carver?)
KhazenovitzFisher
Fleisher (butcher)Krasilshtik (from krasic, to decorate or paint?)
Ferdman (horseman)Kaplan, Cohen, via Slavic word for priest?
Pepirmeister (paper master)Krupsky (groats maker)
Furman (driver)Krupnik (groats maker)
Frukhtman (fruit man)Rabinovich (son of a rabbi)
Parnes (person who serves the community)Reznik
Portnoy (tailor)Reznitsky
Feinschreiber (one with fine script)Ribak (fisher)
Feldman (field man)Ribatsky (form of fisher)
FidlerReizman (someone who deals with rice)
Tzigelnitsky (brick maker)Shlyapak (hat maker)
Tzukernik (sugar)Shlyapaknik
Tzirulinsky (barber)Shuster (shoemaker)
Kotler (pot maker)Shapoznik (shoemaker)
Kotlarsky (pot maker)Shmukler
Karabelnik (peddler with wagon)Scmid (blacksmith)
KarchmerSharfstein (whetstone)
Krechmer (innkeeper)Shulman
Kirzhner (Kirshner) (furrier)Shreiber (scribe)
Kopelushnik (hat maker)Sklarovsky (glazier)
KantorShifman (ship man)
Kravitz (tailor)Shifmanovich
Kravietzky (form of tailor)Shneider (tailor)

The family name Darshon was the family name that the sons of the Magid of Kelm (The Kelemer Magid). One of his sons arrived in Lida and lived there in 1900.

The origin of the family name Karabelnik is Russian meaning a man on a boat, a member of the staff whose profession was to go over seas and lands. This word was implanted in the Jewish experience of Eastern Europe generations ago and developed a different meaning similar to the original.

Karabelnik is a Jew who peddles around with his horse and wagon from village to village, offering his merchandise to peasants and also buying their produce to sell back to people of his own town. Most of his time, he spends away from his family and from home. The roads were badly kept. He was always in danger from robbers and weather.

The peasants of the town neighborhoods were very poor and could not afford to buy his merchandise except through tough bargaining. Then, compare the lot of the “karabelnik” to that of the “piechotinietz,” who like the karabelnik wandered with his merchandise between the villages, but did not own a horse and wagon and walked; the karabelnik was better off.

Because of the poverty and the lamentable lack of income sources, the number of the karabelniks were always growing. They competed among themselves in the available villages. Then, they got together and established “parafyes.” Every karalnik had his own parafye, an area that belonged just to him. Consequently, Jewish newcomers joined that occupation were forced to wander very far distances from their town.

By the way, this kind of business also existed in central Poland. As a result is one Jewish family name to remember, “Piechotka”.

The family name “Klepatch” (Klaptz) originated by very widespread occupation of fixing broken kitchenware, pails, bowls and dishes made of tin, clay or wood kitchenware. Those broken or worn out from longtime use found some fixing in the trained hands of the klepatch in order to go back into use in the house.

The name “Musikansky” meant a person playing in a band or a musician and includes also the special professions of the klezmer: bassists and fiddlers.

Also very recently, the profession of the people was identical to the family name. From the list of the professions mentioned above were at least five such cases, which proves that the profession of the father was transferred to his sons and to their children.

Patronymic Surnames (using the father's name)

Our rabbi's said that in the earlier generations they knew their “yichus” (their family lineage) and used it as a family name. However, we who do not know our family lineage use the name of our father as a family name. The old generation had the power of prophecy and used it for their family names, but we who do not have the power of prophecy use our father's name.

To be called by the father is an ancient Jewish custom that is kept to our own days when you are called to the Torah and when you the name of a person in prayer.

In these family names, we find the given name of the father in its original form and sometimes with a suffix. In the Jewish family names, often the given name was set by the Russian, such as:

Matusevich – from the name Matitihu, who is called Matush
Berkovich – from the name Baruch, who is called Berka
Movshavich –from the name Moshe, who is called Mobsha
Benyakovsky-from the name Benymin, who is called Binek
Volkin-from the name Volf, who is called Volk
Or as is called in the local dialect of Yiddish:
Itzkovitch – from the name Yitzak, who is called Itchka
Khatzkelevich – from the name Yechezkal, who is called Khatzkel
Arkin – from the name Aharon, who is called Arke
Toder – from the name Teodor
Ilyutovich – from the name the name Eliahu, who is called Iliotke.
Family names of this kind are as follows:

AbramovichChaimovich
IzikovichKhatzkelovich
IserzonTevelson
ItzkovichYoselevich
AbramovskyYedidovich
AhronovichYodelevich
IlutovichYerokhmanov
BerkovichLevinson
BenyaminovichLeibovich
BerlovichLeizerovich
BerkovskyMeirovich
GertzovskyMovshovich
GershovichMatusevich
GertzolinMishkin
DavidovichNachumovsky
HershovskyNishelevich
VolpovichNachmanovich
ZelikovichSenderovsky
PinchasovichKivelevich
Paretz(Akiva)
PeretzkyRubinovich
FeiushevichRafalovich
KalmanovichRubin
KopelovichShmulovich
 Shmerkovich

Sometimes the patronym name was not fixed as an official family name, but passed from father to son for a few generations in addition to the family name which was completely different. At the end of the last century, there was a bar in the marketplace of the city whose owner was called Chaim Pinkes (Pinchus-Pinye-Pinke). By this name, everybody knew him even though his family name was completely different. The elders of the city, some still walking among us, tell about the family of “Chuntzik” whose family name was Pupko. The first of this dynasty of Chuntzik, they probably called Chanan, but he was still very young so they called him “Chuntzik.” In this way, the name was passed to the future generations. When they wanted to know about the origin of a person, they used to say “He comes from the Chuntzikes”. The first Chuntzik was probably an accepted leader in the Jewish leader in the shtetl. One of the elders tells in his memoirs that he heard from his father that at the time when they kidnapped Jewish children for the tsar's army in Lida, he was still young. He left the synagogue late at night to go home. The streets were quite dark and suddenly the kidnappers stopped him. The leader among them put the light to the face of the boy and he immediately said “Leave him alone, he comes from the Chuntzik”.

As we study family names of a certain area, sometimes you cannot avoid reviewing the families themselves, especially when their history reflects the way of life and the change of luck of the last generation of the Jewish people. At the same time, we learn about their contributions to the great treasury of the activity and the spirit of these generations. They are like little streams that bring their contents to the big sea.

A young man from the town of Yanove arrived in Lida in 1850s. His name was Reb Fivel VARSHAVSKY, everybody knew him by the name of the town of origin: the Yanover. This additional name given by the townspeople was passed to his children and his grandchildren. Even his son-in-law, Reb Shlomo YDELEVITS, who came from a shtetl called Zeshtel was also called in the town Reb Shlomo the YANOVER by the name of his father-in-law.

Reb Fievel was an important member of the community in Lida, very charitable and a chassid of the Rebbe of Lubovich. His main business was renting pieces of land from the landowners in the area and leasing them to the owners of cattle and barns. He died in 1905 in old age.

Reb Shlomo YUDELEVITZ was a scholar and as such, he was honored to become the son-in-law of Reb Feivel. He himself was a misnagid and was loyal to his father's will and request that he remain a misnagid but marry a daughter of the Hassidim. He was trained in the Yeshivot of Tez and Volozin, very knowledgeable and usually prayed as a cantor. However, in business he was not successful; and his wife Miriam, mother of nine, carried the heavy duty of supplying the family's necessities.

Their son, Reb Yossel YUDELEVITZ, a member of the second aliyah, made aliyah in 1905. When he was young he learned in a seminar for teachers in Vilna. After that, he worked in a smelter in Warsaw. The tsar's police arrested him for being a Zionist activist. He was a prisoner in Brest-Litovsk fortress. In Israel, he started to work in a profession that he liked and wanted all his life, agriculture and planting. He was very devoted to building up the knowledge of agricultural work for the newly arriving Hebrew workers. He was a hired worker for the different farmers in the Jewish settlements near Zichron Yaakov and Bayit Vegan.

The daughter of Reb Shlomo – Tamima – was an actress in the “Habima” since it was established in Moscow. To this theater, she dedicated her life and saw in it the vision of all. She appeared in the following plays: “The Dybbuk”, “The Treasure”, “The Eternal Jew”, “Ureal Acosta”, etc. She liked to play in the role of Jewish women. She died alone, childless in 1967. She gave all her assets for the benefit of sick, helpless Jewish children.

Another son of Reb Shlomo –Reb Gershon – when he was young he joined the organization “Hachalutz” (Zionist pioneers) in Russia. He was among the founders of a group called the Volga Guard that got land from the Soviet government to establish agricultural settlements. This group made aliyah during the civil was in Russia. Gershon YUDELEVICH was among the first founders of the kibbutz Ganigar.

The son Mordechai was ordained as a rabbi. He was the right hand and most important assistant to Rabbi Reines at the beginning of the movement of Mizrachi and his first secretary. All his life, he studied Jewish history and Jewish life according to Talmudic sources. He published a series of monographs on Jewish life in the days of the Talmud. His books: Nehardaea, Pombedita, Tveria and more. Another son and daughter were left in Russia, suffered through the revolution and the Second World War.

A brother of Reb Shlomo Yudelvich - Reb Zalman – arrived in Lida in 1895. Learned the languages Hebrew, Russian and German when he was a porter for “Hamelitz” in the city. He organized in Lida a Hebrew school which was unique at this time. They did not teach Chumash, Rashi and Talmud but the Hebrew language, grammar, bible, Jewish history and geography of the land of Israel. He was a trailblazer in the form of teaching the children Hebrew and prepared his students for Zionism and aliyah.

Matronym Family Names

An ethnographic uniqueness that can be found very rarely in other people,, Jewish family names often were formed from given names of women. The Jews of Eastern Europe crowned the Jewish woman, who was a role model. She went out and earned a living to support her family and educate her children while her husband sat in shul and studied Torah. As a result, many times the husband and her children were called by her name and sometimes even her son-in-law.

In the book “Bad Kodesh” is mentioned one of the very close chassids of the first rabbi of Lubavich – the “Baal Hatanya” - “Reb Zalman ROIZES, by the name of his mother-in-law Roize from Shklov, the son of the Gaon Rebbe Eliezer Graiever from Slonim”.

This was a very common phenomenon in the generation before the Holocaust. It is very interesting from this point of view to look at the appointment paper of the Rabbi of Lida, Rabbi Yitkak Yaakov REINES as it appears at the end of his book “A Skinbag Full of Tears”. It is quoted in the introduction to this book by Rabbi Y.L. Hacohen FISHMAN that was printed in Jerusalem as follows: “In the city of Karlin in the county of Minsk lived a rabbi, supremely knowledgeable in Torah and a very respected and successful merchant Reb Shlomo Naftali. This rabbi, an honorable merchant, was born in the year 1797, the last year of the life of the Gaon of Vilna, to his father Reb Chaim, one of the “dayanim” of Vilna in the days of the Gaon. The son of the rabbi, the tzadick, Reb Moishe, who was called Reb Moishele REINEW according to the name of his wife, Reina, the daughter of Shlomo Zalman, the chief of the dayanim in Mir, from the children's children of his highness Reb Shaul Vohl, a real descendant from Rashi who carries his genealogy to Reb Yochanan HASANDLER, the fourth generation to the old Rabbi Gamliel, a grandson of old Hillel who comes from the descendants of the family of King David.

The father of Rabbi REINES, Reb Shlomo Naftali was born in 1797, Mrs. Reine was the grandmother of Reb Shlomo Naftali and because of her dedication, her name was given to all her descendants. Maybe also because this happened decades before the government ordered the establishment of family names.

In Lida we find family names of this kind:

BeilinLubetzky
GutelevskyMatelovsky
DobtshanskyElkin
ZeldovichTzipelevich
ZlatkovichTzipkin
KheikinKreinovich
Reines 

In some of the little towns in the area, we also meet the names: Esterkes, Teiveles, Freidkes, Leaheles, and also Yudashke (Judy).

Family Names That Describe Appearance, Personal Character, Economic or Family Status

Sometimes people were called by their physical appearance or by their character. That nickname was given by the people of their immediate environment and sometimes in an involuntary way by a clerk of government. About fifty years ago, there was a melamid in Lida. The elders of the generation remember him only as “Iche di koshe hentele” (Yitchak with the bent hand). Or “Yoshe der miedbiedz” (Joshua the bear), Y. Goren (Goido) in his memoirs speaks about “Beryl der hoicher”, “Avreml der lustiger”, etc. (Beryl the tall, Abraham the jolly one).

The family name Bugatch (rich) is well known or Pasinsky that comes from the Russian word “psinouk” (an adopted child).

The following are similar family names:

AltmanLustik
AlterMudrik
BielobrodaNiebransky
BrodachSopokany
BeizerSviatoy
Gelfer (Helfer)Sedov
GelmanErlik
GlobermanKleika
HofmanKaleka
KelbordRudy
ZiskindShorsky
LaufermanShneler
Charny (Churny)Shvieger
LibkindShtark

The family name “Alter” that appears above is also derived from an individual's given name. When a person was very sick, they added to the given name of the sick person “Alter” (the old one) as an omen for long life. Parents called the children Alter or Alta after mishaps that occurred to their children. Maybe this is the influence of the traditional blessing: “Le alter lechaim”.

Family Names That Designate an Animal or Plant

A family name that designates an animal or a plant usually expressed the item with which the person did business with or his vocation: Ferdman, Klachkovsky. Sometimes also there is a teasing twist in them: Baran, Baranchik, Kozlovsky, Kotok, Kachan, Koren (root), Bloch.

Since many of the family names in the city have a Russian influence, we shortly notice the tendency that appears in Russian family names. In the tenth century immediately after the acceptance of Christianity by the Kieven prince Vladimir Svitoslvitz/ the Byzantine given names were accepted by the Russians and were given to babies at christening. These names also include names that come from old Greek and include Hebrew and Roman names. This means names of those peoples with whom the Romans had business or cultural; relations. This helps us to explain the Russian family names of Abram Abramov, Abramovitz carried by either Russians or Jews. Up to this period, names were given according to physical or spiritual characteristics, or according to positions in life. In that period, they also gave names of animals.

The Russians also have some given names of Jews that did not come through the canonization of the Church. Probably, they adopted these names directly from the Jewish population (very common in the histories of peoples) in the dictionary of Tipikov – ancient Russian given names – the following names appear: Shelom, Sheloma, Shloma ( the transcription is in Yiddish).

It is also possible that in giving Jewish family names in the city of Lida and the environment, they also gave Russian family names, the name of an animal or plant without any connection to the person who carried the name.

The following names:

OrlyokLev
BaumLosh
BernholtzSokolovsky
BorovikFuks
GalovevskyFietochovsky
DubovskyTzibolsky
ZeichikKotok
HaberKozlovsky
TeitelboimKaposchansky
YablonskyKoren
 Kerner

Family Names Whose Root is a Noun

These names signify mostly the item the name carrier dealt with. Sometimes it had no meaning but the tendency of the name carrier to stick to something important and beautiful is recognized. Alternately, sometimes the desire of the clerk gave the person the name was to make him a source of ridicule.

GoldvaserDiamont
GervoskyDom (from the Polish word Dom-home)
GoldbergHonik
Gorelik (from Russian“garilka”-meaning liquor)Veinshtein
ZakPerlman
 Tzimerinsky
ZeidenshnurKule
ChertokKpershtein
LiktenshteinRozenshtein
LeibvolRozenberg
MaslovataShpilkovsky
MilshteinShteinberg
SerebrovskyShternberg
EkshteinShlapok
FeinshteinSheinboim
PerelSharfshtein

Schif – the Jews of Germany went very far and changed the name Kahn (Cohen) to Schif that in German means boat. [Schiff is ship, while Kahn is a boat to pole up & down a river].

Various Other Names

Some family names' identity is not clear like PUPKO. Such a very common name in Lida according to the famous saying: “Where ever you find a Pupko, you look at a Lida man.” The ending of the family name of the “ko” is very common in the Ukrainian non-Jewish family names. This ending also is included in the family name KONOPKO, among the family names given to the Jews by government clerks with the clear intention to put them to shame. The syllables of that name are “kon” means horse and “op” means push to a horse.

In the city neighborhood the well known name “BRODNI” means dirty.

Sometimes, the clerk that was supposed to give family names showed understanding and sometimes irony.

In the town of Vileika close to Lida was a family “BEZAININNI” which in Russian means a person without a name. The descendants of that family used to tell that when one of the fathers of the family arrived in town, he was released from the tsar's army. He was still a baby when he was kidnapped from his Jewish parents. When he came before the Russian clerk to establish his family name, he did not know the name of his parents, his town of origin, and surely did not know his Jewish given name. The clerk called him Bezaininni meaning a person without a name.

By the way, one of the survivors of the Holocaust from this family came to Israel and Hebraized his name – Ben Shem that means a person with a name.

SOLODOCHA was a cooked food that was very popular among the Byelorussian peasants. It is made of flakes of dough left to sour. When you wanted to say about somebody that he was really full, you said in Lida “He filled himself up with solodocha”. In Lida and the towns around, it we find that name very often. It is almost sure that solodocha was nickname that the person carried before it officially became his family name. The residents of the town called him that nickname because he always spent time with the Byelorussian peasants or simply loved that food.

There are some family names that resulted due to misspelling in their official documents or etymological changes that came from using a different language or other reasons: for example, GARTZOLIN that comes from HERTZL with the suffix “in”, or the name Barbara that comes from the name BROIDO, from the name Brod in Hungary or Broda in Marin. Another example is the name GORDON, which is a mistaken writing of the name Jordan, Yordin or Gordin.

Sometimes, we meet family names that are very colorful and evoke associations from Jewish folklore or the bible, for example: KOPSHTEIN which means a stone that you put at the top of a building at its completion. “And he took the headstone” Zaccharia 4:7 or a stone that a person puts under his head when he has nothing else to use. “And he took from the stones of the place and he put his head and he slept in that place” Genesis 28:11.

There is a lot of Hebrew in the family names and in Lida we find:

EmetYomin (Emin)
Bor (Bor, also Bur)Katz (Kohen Tzedek)
Brem (could be from the initials of the son of Reb Moshe)Levin (Levy)
Dogin (from Dog)Luria (Leor yah)
Dach (could be initials of David Chaim)Morgoles (Margolyot)
 Neiman (Namen)
ChadashTzofnet

The desire to stick to names of personalities of the bible or to clerical servants is also present: Efron, Yafuni (Kalev the son of Yefuna “Deuteronomi 1:6), Shofer (Shofar), also the family name Sviatai which means “holy” in Russian.

As much as we can feel the influence of the surrounding languages on Jewish family names on Lida, Yiddish still has the most important and weighty part in the name. Considering the fact that also geographic patronymic and matronymic names are original, we can add that the names are of a Jewish etymological source and structure, even though the suffixes are typical of the languages of Russia, White Russia and Poland.


Footnote

1. Possibly that name is formed from an acronym of the biblical commandmeny "Love thy neighbor as thy love yourself." Return

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