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About Cholent, Cholesterol and an Unknown Father

By Zach Oryan (Oracz)

meat stew



I have known Hanoch Grizitzky for over 15 years and for many years we worked as a team on a widely distributed weekly magazine in Israel, he as a photographer and I as a journalist. Though we have known each other all these years, he never told me the story of his life or about the father he never knew, until recently.

Zack Oryan (left) and Hanoch GrizitzkyZack Oryan (left) and Hanoch Grizitzky

Zack Oryan (left) and Hanoch Grizitzky in Givatayim, Israel

It all began when Hanoch invited me to his home for some tasty cholent (meat stew), my favorite dish. As is common for people our age, the conversation went from the cholent, to the fat, and the fact that it had been prepared without meat, to a conversation about disease, cholesterol, heredity and previous family medical history.

Hanoch told me he didn’t know whether or not he was doomed by heredity because his father passed away when his mother was in the third month of pregnancy with him in the early 1960s, and he has no relatives at all on his father's side. Beyond that, the short period of time that his parents had known each other before he was born, and other reasons, resulted in Hanoch having no information, remembrance or any evidence of his father, Yitzchak. The only thing he knew about his father was that he was born in Poland and that his father’s father was called Ephraim. That's it.

Yad Vashem testimony

Page of Testimony from Yad Vashem

That same night, when I returned home from my visit with Hanoch and his family, I tried to find out the fate of his father’s family. A computer search in the testimony pages of Yad Vashem didn't turn up any results for his family name, Grizitzky. Nothing. The fact that Hanoch didn't know exactly where his father was born in Poland made the task even more difficult. After cross-checking the names of his father and grandfather on the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland website, I came across some interesting results, including the birthplace of his father and a 1939 census report in which I found listings for an uncle, aunt and their three children. Most important, however, was finding the exact family name, a name which Hanoch never knew – Girzycki – and not the other name that he and his wife and children have been living with for years.

With the newly discovered family name, I returned to the Yad Vashem names database and found something that Hanoch had never imagined – a testimony page that his father filled out in 1956 for his entire family who stayed behind in Poland and perished in the Holocaust. In tears, Hanoch received the only tangible evidence he had from his father, in his handwriting. He had never felt closer to his father and his family, whose past he never believed he would know. Many thanks to important enterprises like JRI-Poland, Yad Vashem, and JewishGen.

Now we're continuing to look for more relatives and Hanoch is considering whether to change his family name.

June 2012
Tel Aviv, Israel



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Research Notes and Hints

A chance dinner conversation with an old friend led to computer searches that yielded Zack unexpected success for his friend. By understanding that surnames were often spelled in various ways on old records, and sometimes were changed completely, Zack was successful when he crossed-checked the names on the Jewish Records Indexing - Poland Database, which can be accessed at Using a newly discovered version of the surname, Zack found the previously unknown Page of Testimony on the Yad Vashem Names Database at

Zack Oryan (Oracz) from Tel-Aviv founded the "Davka Now" project with the purpose of assisting and encouraging the finding of lost relatives. He is producing a documentary film about the world of Genealogy, framed around his research that united a brother (from the United States) and sister (from Israel) who had been separated 71 years earlier, neither knowing of the existence of the other.

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Updated on June 27, 2012.

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