Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Juicy Bits

As promised, from the Zinshtein history...

My grandfather's uncle Israel, born in 1837, is reputed to have had 7 wives. Not sure if they were concurrent; unlikely they all were, since so many women died during childbirth in the old days. But, it is said that he took young wives even when he was quite old. An explanation: the Zinshtein family are "kohens," that is, of the priestly class. We have the privilege of being first to be called to the reading of the Torah and the obligation of conveying the priestly blessing during prayer services ("May the Lord bless you and keep you, etc."). Kohanim (the actual plural) are forbidden from contact with the dead, from entering cemeteries even, and are only permitted to wed virgins. Israel had at least 5 children from 4 of the wives, but little else is known of him.

One of Israel's grandchildren, Boris, was an assistant to Leon Trotsky. He was killed by bandits in his home region of Podolsk.

Another grandchild of Israel's, named Esther, married Alexander Zazulinsky, who was posthumously awarded the Order of Lenin for crashing his plane into a squadron of German tanks during the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942.

The husband of a first cousin of my grandfather was accused by Soviet authorities as being a "kulak," a sort of uppity, bourgeois, farmer who overlorded peasants. Velvel Testzer and his sons were sent to a notorious "gulag" near Archangel, called Solovki. At some point they were returned to a prison camp that was apparently in their home region of Podolsk. Eventually, they were able to return to Staro Zakrevsky Meidan, their village--just in time for more bad luck: they were shot to death by the Nazis & Ukrainians in 1942 along with all the other Jews in their village.

My next segment will be about another dark aspect of my Zinshtein heritage.

Until next time...


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