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לוין‎ Levine and פלטיאל‎ Paltiel family

By Levi Clancy for לוי on

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Most genealogical studies and family trees start with one family name, but with our family there are two: the לוין‎ Levine (Leh-vin) and פלטיאל‎ Paltiel (Pal-teel) families.

This is because two לוין‎ Levine siblings from דיבנישוק Divenishok married two Paltiel siblings from nearby Iwie. In 1895 in historic Lithuania (then part of Imperial Russia), Malka Levine married Shmuel Lazar Paltiel. Then in 1907 in Leeds, Moshe Levine married Ann Paltiel. Thus the לוין‎ Levine and פלטיאל‎ Paltiel families were doubly intertwined into one.

Across the world today are descendants of the לוין‎ Levine and Paltiel families of Czarist Russia. In the period between 1897 and 1945, those ancestral names were lost. The לוין‎ Levine descendants that migrated to the west and to Palestine became the Levy/Levi families and the Paltiel descendants became the Lazarus families.

דיבנישוק Divenishok

דיבנישוק Divenishok is the שטעטל shtetl of the לוין‎ Levine family.

דיבנישוק Divenishok is the Yiddish name; the village is known in Lithuanian as Dziewieniszki (pronounced Devenishki. There are several unrelated or distantly related לוין‎ Levine families living in דיבנישוק Divenishok. In the late 1800s Lithuania was under the control of the Russian Czar. All the לוין‎ Levine immigrants were born there, as were Benzion Paltiel (Ben Lazarus) and Yosef Paltiel (Joe Lazarus); the former's birth certificate says he was born in Dziewieniszki, District of Osmian, Government of Wilno in 1896. When the 1938-1940 emigrants left town, דיבנישוק Divenishok was under Polish control. When the Family Book was written it was in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Now דיבנישוק Divenishok is within the Republic of Lithuania.

איביה Iwie

איוויע Iwie is the שטעטל shtetl is of the פלטיאל‎ Paltiel family.

איביה Iwie is also spelled איוויע, Iwje, Iwiey or Ev'Ya; it is pronounced Ev-E-Uh. Shmuel Lazar Paltiel (Sam Lazarus) and his sister Annie Paltiel (Annie Lazarus/Levi) and the unidentified brother were from איביה Iwie in what was the Byelorussian Soviety Socialist Republic when the Family Book was written.

שטעטל Shtetl life

Jews from the Baltic area of Lithuania refer to themselves as Litvaks and the whole family is descended from that heritage.

The Jews maintained their own culture and religion in the area whereas the gentiles were mostly Catholics with much Polish influence. There may have also been a smattering of Russian Orthodox too. Our people spoke Yiddish and the learned among them read Hebrew and Yiddish.

They were mainly fluent in Yiddish, though they must have also spoken some local gentile languages.

In addition to their primary language Yiddish, they likely also spoke the local language, whether Polish, Russian or Lithuanian -- or at least enough for business and government.

First Migration

The family left Russia because of religious persecution.

The Czar dominated the Jews and made life miserable. Uncle Simon Forman told a story of how the Russian Cossacks would ride horses through the village and hit Jewish children with a whip, etc. Morris (לוין‎ Levine) Levi had severe respiratory trouble [asthma] and that added to the impetus for him to leave Russia [indeed, his goal was always to reach California]. In Leeds, Morris' asthma acted up again so he decided to go to Canada which also made it easier to go to the USA later on. (Family Book § 4)

They did not immigrate directly to America because they were concerned that physical imperfections -- namely, Anne Paltiel's lazy eye and Moshe Levine's asthma -- would cause them to be sent right back upon arrival at Ellis Island.

The family first started moving from Russia to Leeds, England in the late 1890s, in what Hillel Lazarus termed the First Migration.

We speculate that the older men left first to establish jobs and living quarters in Leeds, England. The first to go might have been Sam Lazarus and Morris Levi in 1897 but we don't know for sure if they were alone or if others came with on that first boat ride. Regardless, within a few years Leeds was home to Sam and Ann Lazarus and their sons Ben and Joe; Mattis and Rivka (Rivel) Levi and their daughter Millie; Rueven Wittenson and Brina; and Eli and Itka Singer; plus the single people Morris Levi, Annie (Paltiel) Lazarus and David Levi. It can be assumed that Annie Paltiel adopted the Lazarus name upon arriving in Leeds to match her brother Sam's surname. Until she married Morris Levi in 1907, there were two ladies in Leeds named Annie Lazarus (even in the same home).

Fannie (לוין‎ Levine) Levi stayed behind in Russia for a while as the youngest of nine siblings. As a teenager to she had gone to Vilna to work for a grocer. She didn't like him and returned to דיבנישוק Divenishok. She probably emigrated around 1910 and joined the others in Leeds. We don't know if she traveled alone or not. By the time she arrive in Leeds, the family was already considering a move to Toronto. She was too young to marry.

Leeds was a clothing manufacturing and that may have been the reason why it was chosen, as some of our ancestors were tailors, stitchers, shoemakers, etc. Sam Lazaurus and Morris Levi set up a small shop in Leeds and did fairly well making button-holes for clothing manufacturers. The family members helped out. Even Ben Lazarus, an adolescent at the time, developed a bit of a hunch-back by leaning over a sewing machine for too many hours when he was only a lad. ... The people worked hard, saved up and dreamed of the new world. They all wanted to stay together as much as possible and did a pretty good job of it. Getting to the U.S.A. was the ultimate goal. ... During the English period of family history, there were two marriages and many children born to relatives between 1900 and 1912 -- more were born later to "Max" Levi's family who did not emigrate.

Second Migration

The Second Migration began around 1910. It may have lasted two or three years. This time, the family moved to Toronto, Canada.

Establishing residence in Canada for a year made one eligible to enter the USA more easily and to set up alien residence that would lead, ultimately, to becoming a citizen. It must have been more difficult to immigrate directly from England. As was the pattern, some of the men went first to blaze an economic trail. Norris Levi and Sam Lazarus again set up a button hole and stitchery business in Toronto and it did well enough to pay for the passage for the family to follow. The Singers were in the tailoring-alteration-cleaning-dying business. Maybe most of the family did the same thing, as only a guess.

In Canada, the whole family automatically became Canadian citizens for a couple of dollars fee. (Your editor isn't convinced of the truth of this statement as on the U.S. naturalization papers of many, is the indication that the former citizenship being given up was Russian, not Canadian. However, this might have been true of those children who were born in England, and therefore British subjects as they could easily transfer their citizenship from English to Canadian. (Family Book § 4)

Only Max Levi's family did not emigrate from Leeds. The story persists that everyone else left because they could not get along with Rivel. Fannie might have been the last to leave but we don't know when.

Ben Lazarus did not emigrate until after completing the 8th grade in July 1910. The ship may have been the Mauritania. Stories have been handed down by Mimi Goldberg (née Lazarus) and Mickey Lazarus that some of the family was supposed to have made the passage from Liverpool to Toronto via the Titanic. However, the story goes that someone confused the tickets and they took the Teutonic instead, thus surviving the disaster. The story may be fictional but, if the dating is correct, that trip would have been around April 14-15 for the Titanic and was probably a close date for the Teutonic. We do know that the group was still in Leeds as of February 1912.

Joseph Lazarus and Mary Levi took the Laurentic in May 1911. We may assume that her son Saul Levi was already born in Leeds and was with her on this journey. Dave Levi may have gone to Toronto before Mary. We simply do not know. Evenutally, six of the seven former לוין‎ Levine immigrants and both Paltiel immigrants left England for Canada.

Morris & Annie1911They were the first to leave Toronto for California
Eli and Itka SingerHarry and Louis Singer were probably Bar Mitzvohed in Toronto.
Sam and Annie LazarusMickey Lazarus was likely Bar Mitzvohed in Toronto. It is said that he was the youngest member of the Canadian National Band, but this lore might really be a tale of his participation in the Russian Juvenile Concert Band.
Rueven Wittenson and BreinaWolf Levy was likely Bar Mitzvohed in Toronto
David and Mary LeviBegot a daughter May. Saul died in Toronto.
Fannie Levi and Simon Foreman1916Fannie Levy married Simon Foreman in 1916. Their son Leona

Third Migration

The Third Migration was from Canada to California and also happened in waves. California remains the home of most of the family, though across the world may be found some of the younger generations and the descendants of those who did not immigrate.

Moshe Levine (Morris Levi) and Ann Paltiel (Ann Levi) and their son Bennie likely started the Third Migration. They left Toronto around 1911 to go to California. They may have first gone to the central valley around Hanford or gone directly to Los Angeles, where they had a little grocery store for a year or two. In 1914, David and Mary Levi moved to California with their daughter May. It is thought that David and Mary lived in Visalia for a while and perhaps Reedley. Just before World War I, Dave, Mary, Morris and Annie and their children moved to Fresno where Morris and David set up the Levi Furniture Company.

Ben Lazarus was the next to move to California. A newspaper interview of Ben states that he immigrated in 1914, but his immigration papers say January 1916. Both could be correct as after he was in California for a while he was recalled to Toronto to help Shmuel Lazar Paltiel (Samuel Lazarus) with his failing business there. We know that Ben Lazarus was in Fresno in 1917 when Joe Lazarus arrived there in February. They lived with Morris and Annie.

The remaining Lazarus family came to California in August 1920 and the rest of the Levy/Levy family was in California by 1921. Without immigration documents, we lack exact dates.

Moshe P Levine (a younger Moshe Levine who may have been a cousin of the לוין‎ Levine siblings) and his wife Pearl Kreczmer immigrated directly from Lithuania (then part of Poland) to Fresno in 1938 and 1940. A story has been handed down that some of the men may have crossed the border both ways in attempts to avoid being drafted into World War I. We think that either or both, Dave and Morris Levi, were drafted but were not taken due to their asthma or bronchitis.

World War II

Chana Levine and her family died on 11 May 1942 -- the Holocaust. Pesach Levine and Raina Levine as well.

May 12, 1942: Four days after the Ghetto at Radun is sealed off, 3,400 Jews are marched to the outskirts of town and shot, row-by-row, into ditches dug by other Jews. 1,500 Jews from Sosnowiec are gassed in Auschwitz. 2,750 Jews from Turobin, joining several other thousands of Jews are crammed into railway box cars and were deported to Sobibor to meet their extermination. In May - In occupied Poland, Sobibor extermination camp becomes operational. The camp is fitted with three gas chambers using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but will later substitute Zyklon-B. Raina Levine, Pesach Levine, Sarah Rivka Levine. Potentially Nosum Itzowitz and Cheyena Levine -- not sure, but Eliezer Itzowitz, Yecheskel Itzowitz also died in 1945.

Eliezer Levine

In the little Lithuanian-Russian-Polish town of Dziewieniszki (Devenichok in Yiddish), there were many people with the last name of Lewin, which is pronounced as Levin, with the accent on the last syllable. Many were related to one another but others were not. In this book, the primary concentration has been on the descendants of Mattis Lewin and his son, Meyer Lewin. One Eliezer Lewin also lived in Dziewieniszki at the same time as Mattis and Meyer and was their relative, according to noted historian Meir-Joseph Itzkowitz who lived in Dziewieniszki until the 1940's. ... We simply do not know the exact connection of Eliezer and Meyer Lewin. They could have been brothers, cousins or uncle and nephew. (FB § 13)

Cheyena Levine and her husband Nosum Itzkowitz begot five known children.

She, her husband and two of their sons, Eliezer and Yecheskel, perished in the Shoah. Eliyo and Bella Itzkowitz immigrated into Palestine before the war. Mier-Joseph Itzkowitz stayed, fought with the partisans and lived through the Holocaust and the war. He made it to Italy and eventually to Israel where he and his sister Bella still reside, and where Eliyo lived until his death in 1989.

Joseph, Mier and Harry immigrated into the United States before World War I.

In turn, they begot descendants who are presumed to still be in the United States. Chaya-Sara is a mystery, and it is unknown if she survived the Holocaust.

Our family today

California remains the home of much, but not all, of the descendants of the original six immigrant families.

The descendants of Mattisyohoo Levine (Max Levi) and Rivka Taylor (Rivel Levi) still live in Leeds. The descendants of the distant relative No-Name Paltiel now live in Israel, Russia and some in New York. The descendants of Eliezer Levine live in Israel and perhaps in the New York area. Information is incomplete about Eliezer Levine descendants who came to the United States before World War II.

Between 1988 and 1990, Hillel Lazarus compiled a monumental family history.

Hillel contacted relatives worldwide and successfully organized a family reunion. Hillel did a great thing. This digital family website is based on his body of work.


Although much of the European-born of the family had Jewish names, they were given Anglicized names on legal papers (except one European-born relative who changed from her European-Jewish name to a Hebrew name upon entering Palestine after World War II).

Relatives usually used the Jewish names but the general public used the Anglicized names. Ann Lazarus thus was still Malka by her family, Sam Lazarus was Lazaru and Ada Singer would always still be Itka. As it is the custom of many Jewish people to name their children in honor of a deceased ancestor, we can only wonder what derivation some of their first and middle names may have had.

Immigration was easier for siblings of the same name. Thus, Reuven Wittenson (spelled three different ways) who married Breina Levine (Rebecca Levy), changed his name to Rubin Levy to match the rest of the Levy/Levi family to ease his immigration to Canada. Also, the maiden name of Raina Levine, wife of Pesach Levine, was also Levine.

In the old days, people simply did not have last names. A person would be the son of someone, such as Bill son of Bob. The problem in tracing lineage is that, with the custom of naming after ancestors, we often see Bill-son-of-Bob-son-of-Bill-son-of-Bob, etc. Not very useful. Since our earliest traced roots stem from Mattis Levine of around 1830, we don't know how much earlier a family name might have existed. In the early 1800's, the various European governments started requiring, by law, that everyone adopt surnames. Some acquired names of relatives, some got names from towns such as Rosenberg, some took their names from house decorations such as a house with a red shield became Rothchild, and some got names from animals such as Roshe Faigel meant red bird, etc. In some locations, local bureaucrats found a way to make money by selling names. The more one "schmeered" (bribed), the better the name that one got. Some of the outrageous names you see might have been the result of insulting a minor official, with too little of a tip, a couple of hundred years ago. (Family Book § 1 Introduction)

דיבנישוק Divenishok
The hometown of the לוין‎ Levine family, pronounced Deh-vin-ish-ki in Russian but in Yiddish known as דיבנישוק Divenishok
IwiePronounced Eee-vee-uh, Iwie is the hometown of the Paltiel family.
LazarusWhen Shmuel Lazar Paltiel was asked by an official what was his name, he simply said Shmuel Lazar (pronounced Lay-zer). The official wrote down Sam Lazarus and a new family name was born.
Levy/LeviWhen the family left the Old Country, starting in 1897, and entered Leeds, England, the immigration officials shortened לוין‎ Levine to Levi or Levy, at their whim. In England, much later, when Abraham Levi joined the British Army, officials typed up his name as Alf Levy, and the name stuck for both he and his descendants.
לוין‎ Levineלוין‎ Levine (also spelled Lewin in the family history) was pronounced as Levin, with the accent on the vin. All the Levine descendants (except for the Eliezer Levine group) derived from Meyer Levine and his father Mattis Levine. When Nochum and Moshe Levine emigrated from Europe in 1938 and came to California, they became Nathan and Morris Levi, respectively, in order to keep consistency with their relatives in the region.
MoshePronounced Moe-shehh, and Anglicized as Morris.

Paltiel was pronounced Pal-teel but might have been Pal-t-el when written in the Old Testament, or when there were Paltiel people in Italy 1000 years ago. Ben-Zion Paltiel of Iwie (born circa 1840s, likely in Iwie) was the common progenitor of all the Paltiel and Lazarus descendants in this book except the Sarah Paltiel group, but those too may be his descendants.

Your editor is now in contact with three other families in the world who carry the Palitel name and who have roots in Eastern Europe, but not from anywhere in close proximity to Iwie. There are probably several other Paltiel families not yet discovered, and if found, an attempt will be made to see if they can be linked up. The link, if any, would probably be found some 125 or more years ago. Besides the Paltiels found in the old testament, mentioned above, the name shows up again in the tenth and eleventh centuries in Italy with a man who became the grand Vizier to the Califs of Egypt and North Africa.