As most Jewish genealogists know, there are many interesting places to source a family genealogy.
My father had photo-copied the signature and some handwritten text that was penned by his grandfather.
For 5 long years I have been turning my parents’ house upside down in search of the original book within which I was seeking more information on my great grandfather.
My great grandfather and grandfather were from Zolynia, a small shtetl in Galicia.
My grandfather, Arieh Leib Wilkenfeld Z”L
This morning I was at my parents home getting some items I have stored there for a piece of genealogical based Judaic artwork I am about to produce. I had kept a box of Seforim (books) that belonged to my grandfather in a box at their home. I decided to look through those books yet again.
I am an avid collector of Antique Judaic Seforim. As a consequence, I usually know what I am looking for when seeking a specific book. The set of Seforim I was looking at did not appear to be Seforim at all.
These were cloth covered and crudely bound with a black heart on the cover. The heart on the front was most unusual to have on the front of a holy book.
I had looked in the front of these books before, had seen my grandfathers name and stamps of various location he had lived in.
This morning, though, was different.
Opening the front of one of these books, I realised this was a set of Chumashim (Torah in print) used in the Synagogue to follow the reading of the Torah.
One of these Chumashim however was turned the wrong way around in the box. As I was in the process of pulling it out of the box, my mother was asking me to assist her with something. Somehow, as I was turning to look at her, my grip on the book almost made me drop the book. Fortunately, I held onto the back cover and the last page. The rest of the book opened.
And there it was!
The signature of my great grandfather Eliyakim Getzel Wilkenfeld in the back of the Chumash.
First in English.
Then in Hebrew.
And what a signature it was!
I grabbed my mother as I danced with joy around her garage.
I kissed her many times telling her that at least this was one time I did not mind her interrupting me.
But there was more within that set of 5 Chumashim…
Before I go into that in my next post, something caught my eye on the frontispiece of the Chumashim.
It is well documented that Jewish women have been involved in the production of Hebrew books almost from the outset of Hebrew printing.
This set of Chumashim comes from Lemberg, not too far from Zolynia in Poland. Lemberg (Lvov) and Zolynia, at the time, were under the rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and now within the Ukraine. Lvov is the city in which Jewish women printers came to prominence and flourished during the 19th century.
The most famous of all Jewish woman printers was Pesel Balaban in Lemberg in the second half of the nineteenth century. Her husband was Pinchas Moshe and whilst he was alive, Pesel was known to be very active in the business. However, she expanded the press after his death.
Pesel Balaban produced high-quality editions of halakhic texts such as the Shulchan Aruch or Code of Jewish Law and this set of Chumashim.
I am hoping that one of my readers here at Provenance and a friend from my youthful days, Isaac Balbin may be able to enlighten me on whether or not Pinchas Moshe (the name Pinchas, if I recall correctly, is a name within his immediate family) and Pesel Balaban are related to him.
As with many Jewish names, when written in the Yiddish or Hebrew, they can change once transliterated into the English. I won’t even start on name changes as Jews migrated to various countries.
Isaac, can you enlighten us at all on the well known Pesel Balaban?