Jerrold Landau
Genealogical and Translation Services

THE INTERCONNECTED JEWISH FAMILES OF OTTAWA, CANADA

 

By Jerrold Landau

 

© 2020 by Jerrold Landau

 

This file contains the introduction to the e-book.  For the full, 2 volume book, please contact me at jerrold@jerroldlandau.com . I will then provide a download link.  It is free for anyone with a connection to the Ottawa Jewish community, as a gift back to my native community. For anyone else interested, a $25 payment is requested. This can be paid through my Paypal account using the above email address.


INTRODUCTION

 

It gives me great pleasure to present the results of my research on the connectedness of Jewish families in Ottawa.

Ever since my childhood, I have known that my family, relative latecomers to Ottawa, had some connections to other Ottawa families, and I was intrigued by these connections.  I was fascinated by my “cousins of cousins” relationships to numerous people.   My own genealogical interests blossomed during the 1980s as I started producing family trees for all branches of my family, the vast majority of which are not centered in Ottawa.  I then became involved professionally in genealogical and historical translations, focusing my interests on the shtetls of Eastern Europe. Throughout these genealogical meanderings, my mindset moved far beyond my hometown of Ottawa.  Recently, a homecoming instinct must have overcome me, as I decided to direct my genealogical interests back to my hometown.

Like most Jewish communities in North America, the Jewish community of Ottawa evolved with the various waves of Eastern European immigration.  As a close-knit and somewhat insular community, interested in preserving its Jewish heritage and traditions, it was inevitable that the Jewish families of Ottawa would begin to marry into each other. As this trend accelerated, a vast network of connections ensued.

Around 2010, I started entering my family trees into a web-based family-tree repository known as Geni. (http://geni.com).  The stated purpose of Geni is to forge interlinkages among disparate family trees, resulting in a single unified worldwide tree. This ambitious goal is unattainable in full, yet the concept of interlinked trees brought my thinking back to my hometown and my early knowledge of interlinkages on the local Jewish scale.  I started to notice other Ottawa-based trees on Geni.  A colleague of mine with an interest in Jewish genealogy of the Maritimes, and whose tree intersects with mine in no less than six ways, began an effort to unify the Jewish family trees of the Maritimes. Frequently I noticed that she was merging her tree with families that I recognized from Ottawa. At this point I realized that I could likely undertake a similar effort for Ottawa. I began to actively search out Ottawa-based trees on Geni, and I used my own knowledge, as well as various online searches of obituaries and other historical sources, to merge these Geni trees.

I then identified about 75 main family “roots” and formed a Geni group called Interlinked Jewish Families of Ottawa, Canada.  Starting at any of these roots, one can scan through the trees and navigate from family to family through the connections. Anyone with a Geni membership, even a free basic membership, can join that Geni group.   At this point, I realized that it might be useful to the community to capture the linkages in a book form. I was faced with a challenge though. The connectedness of trees is a multi-dimensional concept best illustrated by in graphical form. Capturing this information in writing would flatten the concept to a two-dimensional model. I spent many months pondering the idea, creating models in my mind, before I started to write up the information on the families. The result is this book, which describes over one hundred families in separate entries. Many other surnames are mentioned within the individual entries. The 900-plus surnames that are mentioned in the entries are listed in the cross-reference tables at the end of the book.  The book demonstrates that all 107 families form a single cluster of connections.

This book is timely. Due to the population growth of the Ottawa Jewish community in recent decades, increased mobility, as well as greater trends toward assimilation, the original tight-knit web of the Ottawa Jewish community has loosened significantly.  Furthermore, as the previous generations pass on, the repository of information held by earlier generations becomes increasingly unavailable.  Several books have already been written on the history of the Ottawa Jewish community – some about individual families, and others focusing on the history of the community as a whole. It is my hope that this work will be a valuable addition to the existing set of books documenting the Jewish community of Ottawa.

 

Format

Each entry focuses on a single family, but may also describe other related families that do not have their own entry. A family may not have its own entry for any of the following reasons: it had very few connections; it was entirely or almost entirely encompassed by a different entry; the description of a specific entry flowed better by incorporating the descriptions of the other family. In many cases, especially with prominent Ottawa families who do not have their own entry, I included a reference to non-entry families within the body of the text itself.  In all cases, the extensive cross-reference tables at the end of the book will enable the reader to look up any surname mentioned in any entry, and find the entries in which it is mentioned.

The entries resemble family trees, but are not intended to complete family trees for the families they describe.  Rather, they are meant to be skeletal trees that highlight the connections with other families.  A complete family tree for each family would be far beyond the scope of a book such as this.  I did endeavor to include town of origin where known, as well as death dates of deceased individuals where known. For privacy reasons, I did not include birth dates.  I generally included death dates only when the individual is mentioned as a main member of the family that is dealt with in the entry. This reduced the duplication of death dates when the individual is mentioned as a link point in other entries.  Although the presence of a death date is a sure indication that the individual is deceased, the absence of a death date does not necessarily imply that the individual is alive. It means either that the individual is alive or that a death date was not available. Lists of siblings may not necessarily follow a chronological order.   I generally do not include biographical information of the individuals noted (once again, this is beyond the scope of this book), although a brief biographical statement is made in many cases.   I bold highlighted names used as connections. Furthermore, at the bottom of each entry, the reader will find a list of connections to other entries.

Connections are forged by individuals marrying into other families that are represented by entries in the book.  In those cases, I mention the parents’ name, including the maiden name of the mother. Thus, a connection will be formed based on the surname of either the mother or father of the spouse. With few exceptions, I did not highlight connections based on surnames of grandparents, nor on connections based on brother-in-law and sister-in-law relations. (Exceptions to the latter will occur when the surname of the brother-in-law or sister-in-law does not have its own entry).  Had I forged these additional connections, the description of many entries would bog down, much duplication would ensue across entries, and readability would be hampered.  On the other hand, had I called out these additional connections, a much tighter web of connectedness would result.  As the reader will see, even with my defined style of connectedness, the web between all entries is reasonably tight.

A note must be made on how I presented connections between families that were severed by divorce. In most cases, I included such connections. Due to obvious sensitivities, I never mention the divorce specifically, although I may mention more than one spouse of an individual.  I did endeavor to use the past tense when describing a marriage that ended in divorce – as I did when describing a marriage where one or more spouses was known to be deceased.  In cases where progeny exist from the marriage, as is indeed the case in the majority of such situations, the connection between the families is cemented through the progeny and remains valid even if I did not specifically mention the children. I trust that my sensitivity to this issue is sufficient, and apologize for any insult or slights that may have been caused.

Two cross-reference tables appear following the individual entries. The first lists all 107 entries, showing other entries to which that entry is linked as well as other surnames mentioned within that entry. The second lists the 900-plus surnames mentioned in the book, with a reference to the entries in which the surname is mentioned. Anyone who does not find their surname among the entries in the first table should begin their research by consulting the second cross-reference table.

 

Sources

I did not footnote each fact mentioned in the book, as such would have engendered many thousands of individual footnotes.  The key sources for the book are as follows:

  1. Family trees entered on Geni (http://geni.com). It is important to note that Geni is crowdsourced, and therefore its data is only as accurate as the data that has been entered into it.
  2. Photos of tombstones from the Ottawa Jewish Cemeteries, now online at http://jewishmemorialgardens.org. In many cases, I was able to confirm connections from the name of the father mentioned on the Hebrew inscription of the tombstone. Of course, the tombstones also provided death dates.
  3. Information on families posted at Canadian Jewish Heritage Link (http://cjhn.ca), online obituaries, and other online sources.  I did not take out a subscription to old online newspapers, but rather restricted my searches to information accessible by a regular non-subscription web search.  This may have limited the information sources available, but also ensured that all information gleaned was publicly accessible, as I was sensitive to privacy issues in constructing this book.
  4. My own knowledge and information – although in almost all cases, I corroborated my own knowledge with the sources above.  I also consulted with other individuals who provided me information regarding their families.  (See Acknowledgements below).
  5. In a few cases, individual families gave me access to their own family trees. Clearly, I used this source for my own family. I was also given trees by the Bodnoff and Glustein families. An online family tree was available for the Swedlove family.

 

Limitations

 A work of this nature cannot be complete. I make no claim that it covers all Jewish families that have passed through Ottawa at some point. It is likely that even families with significant presence in Ottawa for many generations have been omitted. I hereby apologize for any such omissions.  Furthermore, my sources were quite error-prone. I take responsibility for all errors, and hereby apologize for any unintended misinformation.  Some general notes on limitations are as follows:

  1. My primary source of information was Geni. Thus, families whose trees are included in Geni will have much more detail than those that are not.
  2. Families that were part of my parents’ social circles in Ottawa, as well as those that were active in the Beth Shalom and Machzikei Hadas synagogues, which I frequented during the years I lived in Ottawa (I moved to Toronto in 1980 as a 19-year-old University student, although make visits to my Ottawa family up to this day), will be better represented than families that I did not know personally.
  3. I am a member of the Hillel Academy graduating class of 1975.  I used the members of that class, both from the Central Branch which I attended throughout my elementary school years, and the West-End branch which merged in to our class in grade 7, as initial test cases to prove connectedness.  That being said, there are a few individuals from that class whose families I could not fit into the web.
  4. The entries are heavily biased toward families that lived in Ottawa during the earlier days (1980 or prior).  Given my sources of information, the connections are also heavily biased to those from previous decades rather than those forged during the current years.
  5. I generally tried to avoid obscure, distant connections.  (Those familiar with Geni will recognize the concept of obscure connections – for example, I am able to prove that I am related to both Queen Elizabeth and Donald Trump through a complex set of connections that can be found on Geni, but are relatively meaningless in real life.)  In a few cases, though, most especially with my family and my wife’s family, I allowed myself the luxury of delving a bit farther than basic connections.  For example, I was able to prove that Rabbi Reuven Bulka connects to my wife’s family (described under the Cohen entry) through a series of 2-3 jumps that would normally be considered somewhat obscure.

 

Proof of Connectedness

As noted above, this book consists of 107 entries, each describing a family, each linking to other entries, as well as non-entry surnames, and some encompassing more than one family within the entry. How do we know that these 107 entries consist of a unified cluster, in which every entry is connect to every other entry?  And if the 107 entries form a unified cluster, how tight is the cluster?

 

(I offer a warning at this point, those uncomfortable with statistics, data analysis, and graph theory may wish to skip the remainder of this section of the introduction.)

To answer these questions, I selected five families which have a large number of connections. For each of the 107 entries, I then calculated the number of “jumps’ (i.e., hops from one entry to another) needed to get to each of these five families. I found that the maximum number of jumps needed to get from any family to one of these families was four. Furthermore, four jumps were needed in fewer than 2% of the cases. Given that every one of the more than 900 surnames in all the entries is mentioned in at least one entry, one would add only one jump to get from any of the 900 surnames to one of the five selected families. 

This methodology is not perfect.  In cases where multiple families are dealt with in a single entry, the number of jumps might be underestimated.  However, as noted above, as I generally did not include brother-in-law or sister-in-law connections in the entries, the number of jumps might be overestimated, as listing such relationships would have tightened the web significantly. These two factors balance each other out, and the methodology does provide a relatively good indication of connectedness.

The five highly connected families selected for this exercise were Glustein, Kardish, Shaffer, Shinder, and Torontow.  Each had many connections with other entries. Furthermore, with one exception, none was within one jump of the other, so they themselves do not form a tight cluster. I deliberately did not select my own family entry or my wife’s family entry, where some of the connections are admittedly more obscure. I also avoided the Greenberg and Saslove entries, each of which contains two distinct families with the same surname.  Although I did not select any of these families as one of the five base families, I did use them when counting connections (and it should be noted that in both those families the two disparate branches are no more than two jumps away from each other).

             

A summary of findings is as follows (all numbers in columns 2, 3, and 4 are percentages):

 

 

Jumps needed to get to the five selected families

Maximum number of jumps needed to get to all five families

Minimum number of jumps needed to get to any of the five families

1

16.5

0

52

2

55

27

46

3

27.5

68

2

4

1

5

0

 

The columns can be interpreted as follows:

  1. Jumps needed to get to the five selected families: I considered all 107 entries, multiplied across the 5 selected families, yielding a grand total of 107x5=535 total connections. I subtracted out 5, as each of the five selected families obviously connects to itself with 0 jumps.  The numbers in this column represent the percentage of cases where 1, 2, 3, or 4 jumps were needed to get from an entry to one of the five families. One can readily see that the 2- and 3-jump cases heavily predominate, with a significant number of cases where only one jump was needed (these five selected families did have many connections each), and a very small number where a fourth jump was needed.
  2. Maximum number of jumps needed to get to all the five families:  These numbers represent the percentage across the 107 entries.  The 0% in the 1 row means that there were no cases where an entry could get to all the five families in one jump. This is not unexpected.  However, there were 27% of cases where an entry could get to all the five families with 1 or 2 jumps, and 68% of cases (the vast majority), where a 3 was needed to get to all the five families.  There were only 5 entries (5% out of the 107 entries), were a fourth jump was needed. 
  3. Minimum number of jumps to get to any of the five families.  These numbers also represent the percentage across the 107 entries. The 52% in the first row means that in over half the entries, at least one of the five families could be reached with just one jump.   In 46% of cases, at least one entry could be reached with two jumps. In only 2% of cases none of the five families could be reached with two jumps.  There were no cases where four jumps were required to get to at least one of the five families – this is also not an unexpected result.

It is interesting to compare the b) and c) statistic.  Considering the second case in b), there are 27% of entries where the ‘jump map’ to all the five families consisted solely of 1s and 2s.  In other words, 27% of entries were relatively close to all five families.  Let us compare this with the third case in c), which indicates that in 2% of cases, the ‘jump map’ to all the five families consisted solely of 3s and 4s.  These are the outlying entries, which are relatively distant from all five of the selected families.

A few more interesting facts were noted. In all the entries which had at least one 4 (6%) there was also at least one 2. This means that for any entry that was distant from at least one of the five families, there was another one of the five families to which it was relatively close.  A corollary of this is that for the 2% of entries that could not reach any of the family with less than 3 jumps, there were no 4s.

I did not run a full analysis to determine the longest path from any entry to any other entry.   In theory, the largest path would be no more than eight (four jumps to get to one of the five families, and four jumps to get back to another entry). However, since there were no cases where four jumps were needed to get to all the five families, the theoretical maximum can be reduced to seven jumps.  I then studied the eight outlying entries (six where four jumps were needed to get to one of the five families, and two where one could not get to any of the families with less than three jumps).  I calculated the maximum distance of any of these eight families to any other of them – and I found that it was four jumps.  Obviously, these paths did not go through any of the five selected families -- they generally would have gone through other highly connected entries such as Dover, Feller, Greenberg, Lithwick, Saslove, or Viner.  This does not offer definitive proof, but it does offer a strong indication that four is also the maximum number of jumps needed to get from any entry to any other entry (perhaps there are a few outlying cases were five jumps may be needed were a full analysis to be done).

In conclusion, this analysis of the connectedness of the 107 entries does paint a strong picture of a tightly connected web of Ottawa Jewish families.

 

Dedication

I hope that my readers, people connected to the Jewish community of Ottawa, and genealogists in general, find my research meaningful. Perhaps it will help some individuals discover long-lost cousins and relatives.  I conducted this research with a strong sense of love and appreciation to my forebears and to the community into which I was born, raised, and nurtured.  I dedicate this research to the memories of all members of the Ottawa Jewish community who have passed on to their eternal rest, whether they left their mark on the community, or simply lived out their lives as members of the community.

 I would be interested in any feedback, comments, and corrections; as noted, a work like this will have numerous omissions.  This is the first edition, and it is anticipated that a second edition will eventually be produced, incorporating any feedback. I repeat my sincere apologies to anyone who feels left out and neglected. I can be contacted at jerrold@jerroldlandau.com.

 

Jerrold Landau

Toronto, Canada

24 Kislev 5780   /  December 22, 2019

 

 

PREFACE FROM TEIGAN GOLDSMITH, OTTAWA JEWISH ARCHIVES

One of the most common questions I hear is:

“What can you tell me about my family history?”

Despite the short length of the sentence, it’s quite a big question. Discovering your family history isn’t always easy. Answering that question can take you down a long and winding road full of surprises and unexpected answers. In the last couple decades, with the help of websites like Ancestry.ca, My Heritage, and Geni.com it has become easier to access our history and people have become fascinated with finding out where they come from.

When Jerrold first approached me about writing an introduction I wasn’t sure what to write. This project has seen three different archivists over the past couple years and, being the newest, I hadn’t been as involved. However, my attitude changed once I read Jerrold’s work. He talks a lot about connectedness, the concept of “cousins of cousins,” and people you’re related to through others. This resonated with me. When I moved to Ottawa a couple of years I was amazed at how connected it was. I was suddenly meeting “cousins of cousins” everywhere and realized, despite the size of the city, just how close Ottawa and its Jewish community are.

He also touches on a dwindling repository of information as older generations pass on. As an archivist, this is something I understand. As previously mentioned, the question of family history can be a big one. Our knowledge of our past is only as strong as the information saved. This means that keeping family records isn’t just helpful, it’s necessary! How many stories get lost in the generations? It’s our job to make sure that our family history stays alive. Jerrold’s book helps bridge that gap. His years of research into the families of Ottawa Jewish community have created a strong foundation for further research to be done. He has given us the branches, it’s now our job to find the stories.

The Ottawa Jewish Archives is proud to be a part of this collection. We hope it bridges gaps, answers questions, and sparks the interest of researchers everywhere.

Teigan Goldsmith, Archivist

Ottawa Jewish Archives

 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

I wish to acknowledge the following individuals who provided information on their families, and/or reviewed entries relevant to their families:  Carolyn Appotive, Sharlene Cantor Bagola, Sheila Baslaw, Robert Bodnoff, Sharon Cohen, John Diener, Barbara Erlandson, Bernie Farber, Israel Gencher, Michael Gennis, Samuel Glass, Ada Glustein, Josh Gordon, Phillip Gosewich, Harry Greenblatt, Elliot Greenberg, David Kimmel,  Elissa Krupski, Jonathan Landis, Cayla Lichtenstein, Barry Lithwick , Douglas Macy, Daniel Mann, Michael Moskovic, Michael Polowin, Hymie Reichstein, Barbara Samuel, Rabbi Idan Scher, Rhoda Shabinsky, Randi Goldstein Sherman, Paula Smith, Valerie Taller, Brent Taylor, Jeffrey Taylor, Ingrid Thompson, Lisa Vexler, Jacquie Rivers Vital, Vicky Weiss, Norman Zagerman.  Several others were asked to review entries relevant to their families, but did not get back to me.

I acknowledge the support and encouragement of the Ottawa Jewish Archives, and the archivists Saara Mortensen, Zoe Thrumston, and Teigan Goldsmith. The vast majority of the photos which supplement my otherwise dry genealogical charts were culled from the Facebook Page of the Ottawa Jewish Archives. In many cases, I have used the photo captions directly from the Facebook Page of the Ottawa Jewish Archives.  Saara Mortensen designed the fine cover illustration while this project was in its earliest stages.

Photos not from the Ottawa Jewish Archives were culled from publicly available websites. I have done my best to annotate sources of photos.