Monday, December 12, 2005

Where In Jerusalem Is Asher?

I wrote this posting almost a year ago about using a Page of Testimony from the Yad Vashem database to track down a family member named Asher now living in Jerusalem. Asher belongs to a branch of my family that stayed in Ukraine after the rest of the family immigrated to the United States. While Asher made aliya in 1935, his parents remained behind and were murdered in Rovno during the Holocaust by the Ukrainians and Germans. Asher served as in officer in the Haganah during Israel's War of Independence, and and later worked as a professor for many years before retiring

During our phone conversation last December, Asher proved to be an amazing source of genealogical information. He told me that he even still kept the Yiddish letters from his grandfather Shmelik (my great-grandfather's brother) who immigrated to the United States in 1921. At the end of our half-hour conversation, Asher told me that he would send me a long detailed letter about our family after he and his wife moved to a new apartment in Jerusalem the following week. Given the warm tone of our conversation, I expected that to receive the first letter in a month or two. After twelve months, I still had not received a letter and I wondered whether he lost my contact information in the move to the new apartment.

Last week, with the help of my friend Yitz of Heichal HaNegina in Jerusalem, I was able to find Asher's new address and phone number. I quickly called Asher's new number and we spoke on the phone for a half-hour and caught up. Asher is now 91 years-old and has trouble hearing. At one point in the conversation he needed to call his wife to get on the phone with us to help him understand what I was saying.

In 1920, Asher moved from our family's shtetl to the larger city of Rovno when he was only five years-old, nevertheless, he still has a faint recollection of his birthplace. He remembered that his house was located in the main square in a building where his maternal grandparents ran a small grocery store. Before ending our conversation, I told Asher that I would send him some pictures of what the main square looked like during my visit in 2001 so he could try to identify the location of his house. Since he has difficulty writing, I plan to call him back in a few weeks after he has had a chance to look over the photographs.

Between World War II and a fire in archives building in April 2003, many of the records from my family's shtetl have been destroyed. Along with the photographs, I sent Asher a number of question about our family's history. Asher remains my only hope in breaking through the genealogical brick wall.


At December 12, 2005 at 6:42:00 AM EST, Blogger MC Aryeh said...

Wow, ASJ! How fortunate you were able to connect (and re-connect) with Asher! I am at a bit of a genealogical dead end myself with tracing back parts of my family. I am trying to track down a relative who was, like Asher, listed as a contributor of Pages of Testimony in Yad Vashem. I am always amazed at what turns up in the most unexpected places, so I have not given up hope! Any chance of your taking a trip to Israel to actually meet with Asher?

At December 12, 2005 at 7:23:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

MCAryeh: Although I would REALLY like to go and meet him, unfortunately I do not plan to visit Israel in the near future.

Good luck with your research. Please let me know if there are any questions, I could help you with.

At December 12, 2005 at 7:39:00 AM EST, Blogger Tamara said...

Your relative is truly a living treasure. You are so fortunate to have someone like him still in your family with such detailed genealogical info.

I have been trying to fill in some gaps on both my and my husband's side of the family, but with limited success. Definitely speak to Asher as much as you can. And do keep us posted on your progress -- this stuff is fascinating. BTW, have you checked out yet?

At December 12, 2005 at 7:43:00 AM EST, Blogger A Simple Jew said...

Tamara: You are correct. He is a real treasure. is a fantastic resource for Jewish genealogy. I used their ShtetlShleppers program for my trip back to Ukraine. I highly recommend it!

At December 12, 2005 at 9:21:00 AM EST, Blogger yitz said...

I'm glad to have been a small part in this...

BTW, I think you should take McAryeh up on it & come here & meet him face-to-face. I'll add in another sweetener: I'll personally drive & escort you there, bli neder!!!

see you soon :))


Post a Comment

<< Home