Wednesday, August 27, 2008

My Jerusalem Connection

I have been spending the last few days transcribing the 1855 census commissioned by Sir Moses Montefiore. I responded to a call for volunteers to help the Israel Genealogical Society digitize the information contained on microfiche in the National Library at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. I received scans of the microfiche and an Excel sheet on which to record the information as I decipher it. It's slow work but I am really excited about doing it.
I requested and was given the records of the Kollel* Volhynia in Jerusalem. The reason is the grave in the photograph on the left.
The grave is located on the Mt. of Olives in Jerusalem and the man buried there is my great-great-great grandfather (I mean my mother's mother's mother's father's father - got it?). His name was Yisrael Avraham Dincin and he was buried in the winter of 1895 in the Kollel Volhynia section of the cemetary.
One day in the spring of 1949 great aunt Chava Dincin Barbash came to visit my mother and her newborn daughter (me). I suppose the conversation revolved around news and family. Meema (aunt in Yiddish) Chava mentioned that she had a childhood memory of going to bid farewell to her grandparents who had married off the last of their children and were off to Eretz Yisroel to live out the rest of their lives and be buried in the holy earth. My mother told me this story when I was a girl and it was always in my thoughts but we never believed we would know anything more about it.
In a completely random conversation about ancestors a neighbor of mine mentioned that her family had known that a grandfather was buried on Mt. of Olives and after seeing a news story about the mapping of the cemetary they were able to find his grave. I took the number of the burial society she had called. They had no one with the surname Dincin (or Keteroff, which was Chava's mother's maiden name and the subjcet of a whole different search - remind me to tell you about that sometime) and I was, of course, disappointed. Then the man on the line asked me where my ancestor was from and when I replied Ukraine he suggested I try the Kollel Volhynia burial society. I called them and a very patient young man (at least he sounded young on the phone) found a listing for Yisrael Avraham Dincin! I was so excited, I cried.
In the summer of 1999 with a map provided by the burial society and a cell phone (borrowed from my daughter because in those 'olden days' most of us still didn't have cell phones) my mother and I took a taxi up to the Mt. of Olives and found and photographed the grave.
Aside from having another leaf on my family tree this particular discovery is even more meaningful for me because it represents the yearning for Jerusalem that was significant long ago in our family. My great-great-great grandfather and his wife felt the same pull to be close to our roots, to our heritage, to the land where the temple stood, the land where Jews belong.
I am not alone.

*in this case kollel means community or congregation and not the modern meaning of paid study group
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Anonymous said...

Nicely written - may all our roads lead us back home as did yours

Anonymous said...

Nicely written - may all our roads lead us back home as did yours

Leora said...

Incredible that you were able to do all that family tracing.

I found my uncle's grave when I was 17 and living on Kibbutz Yavne, but that was only one generation back.

Rafi G. said...

that is an amazing connection! it must have been a lot of work to track down...

Batya said...

What a wonderful story. Please send my love to your mother.

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