JewishGen Discussion Group #JewishGen Kohanim #general

Haim Fridman <fridman@...>

Candice Bradley wrote:

In response to Stan Goodman's comment, "If a man is a Kohen, his sons, all
of them are also Kohanim. There are no other rules for the transmission.
moves in the paternal line only, never in the maternal."
I also believed this, but I'm not so sure any more. A Galicia researcher
on this list and I have a common family name (Nebenzahl) which supposedly
is a single family. Although the male Nebenzahls of my family
"daughtered out," the Nebenzahl men in my line were Kohanim. However,
this researcher told me that the Nebenzahls in Galicia were not Kohanim,
and explained that he found in his research evidence of some matrilineal
transmission which might explain why my Nebenzahls are Kohanim. His
argument is interesting food for thought.
In the technical Halakhic sense no person can be a Kohen unless his father
was a Kohen.
There are several explanations for the situation where a supposedly Kohanic
family name is carried by non-Kohanim.

1) People who were not related in any way to a certain family simply
adopted their surname. There was even litigation in Tsarist Russian brought
by the noble Gunzburg family against those who had borrowed their name.

2) There was an actual relationship between the Kohanic and non- kohanic
families which arose when a son-in-law adopted the surname of his wife's
family. This took place for several reasons, most frequently to avoid cruel
military service in Tsarist Russia, or for taxation purposes.
Some classic cases are Rapoports who are not Kohanim like the ancient
family that bears the name, Landaus and Epsteins who should be expected to
be Leviim and are not.

In the absence of documents or tombstones (which may also suffer from
omissions) it is difficult to suggest a means of verifying Kohen or Levi
descent. There may be no relationship at all, ot there may be an in-law

Chaim Freedman
Petah Tikvah, Israel
email: fridman@...

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