Topics

Origin of Latvian Jews #latvia


Jeff Canin <jeffcanin07@...>
 

Dear Latvia Group,

I'm trying to determine if my family in Latvia could have originally
come >from Spain or Portugal after the Jewish populations there were
expelled in the 1500s. My grandfather, Joseph Chanin (Hebrew spelling
would be chet nun yud nun) was born in Varaklani around 1872. The
English spelling for his name could be Hanin, Kanin, Khanin or Canin.
Joe always said he was Sephardic and the family originally came >from
Portugal, but I can't find any evidence that Jews >from Portugal made
it to Latvia. His father was Mendel Chanin and grandfather, born
around 1828 was Shmul Ber (Samuel) Chanin.

Are the Latvian Jews generally considered to be Sephardic?

Thank you very much in advance for any help you can give me.

Warm regards,

Jeff Canin


Stephen Weinstein
 

Latvia was part of Russia until about 100 years ago. My guess would
be that most Jews in what is now Latvia were Ashkenazi.

Stephen Weinstein
Camarillo, CA, USA
stephenweinstein@yahoo.com

On Thursday, September 26, 2019, 3:01:21 PM PDT, Jeff Canin
jeffcanin07@gmail.com <latvia@lyris.jewishgen.org> wrote:

...
Are the Latvian Jews generally considered to be Sephardic?
...


Alex Shapiro <alex@...>
 

Dear Jeff,

Many Jews in Latvia, like part of my family, are of Portuguese origin.
Regardless of the fact that Latvia was at one stage under Russian
control, there are many Jews, including Russian Jews, that have Spanish
- Portuguese roots. At one time the basement prayer hall in the Riga
synagogue was allocated for Sephardic and Hasiddic style prayers. If
you're really curious about the background of your family I'd suggest
making the DNA test that will show where your family roots came from.

Shana Tova - have a good and blessed New Year,
Alexander David Shapiro
Member of the Sephardic congregation Torah Va Chessed in Houston

^^^
From: Jeff Canin <jeffcanin07@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 26 Sep 2019 16:29:10 +0200

...I'm trying to determine if my
family in Latvia could have originally come >from Spain or Portugal
after the Jewish populations there were expelled in the 1500s. My
grandfather, Joseph Chanin (Hebrew spelling would be chet nun yud nun)
was born in Varaklani around 1872. The English spelling for his name
could be Hanin, Kanin, Khanin or Canin. Joe always said he was
Sephardic and the family originally came >from Portugal, but I can't
find any evidence that Jews >from Portugal made it to Latvia. His
father was Mendel Chanin and grandfather, born around 1828 was Shmul
Ber (Samuel) Chanin. Are the Latvian Jews generally considered to be
Sephardic?...


E. Randol Schoenberg
 

My understanding is that the legends of Sephardic roots for Latvian and
Lithuanian Jews are of recent origin, likely late 19th century, as part
of the fad of inventing claims of Sephardic origin around that time. I
have not seen a single case with evidence before that time.

See also John M. Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic
(2015).

Randy Schoenberg
Los Angeles, CA


Alex Shapiro <alex@...>
 

There's no need to believe in legends. These days it's just enough to
make a DNA test which will clearly show your roots.
You might also want to contact the Jewish Museum in Riga, on 6 Skolas
Street. They have plenty of information on the origins of Latvian Jews,
without resorting to any legends.

Regarding the source of Lithuanian Jews, >from me conversations with the
expert on this issue, Rabbi Josef Radinsky of blessed memory, it seems
that Lithuanian Jews mostly came >from Poland, Russia, Latvia, Belarus
and... Persia (Iran).

Shana Tova,
Alexander David Shapiro
Houston, TX

My understanding is that the legends of Sephardic roots for Latvian
and Lithuanian Jews are of recent origin, likely late 19th century, as
part of the fad of inventing claims of Sephardic origin around that
time. I have not seen a single case with evidence before that time.
See also John M. Efron, German Jewry and the Allure of the Sephardic
(2015). Randy Schoenberg Los Angeles, CA


E. Randol Schoenberg
 

Alex, what evidence (DNA or otherwise) do you have of your Sephardic
origins (or for any Latvian Jews)? I haven't seen a single case
that pans out.

Shana Tova,

Randy Schoenberg
Los Angeles, CA


Alex Shapiro <alex@...>
 

Evidence? I'm your evidence: born and raised in Latvia, my father was
born in Latvia, my grandparents were born in Latvia. My father is buried
there, along with my mother. They spoke fluent Yiddish, but my father
was always telling me that the roots of his family are >from Spain. Many
of the Jews in Latvia have darker complexion, the older generation often
used the Sephardic siddurim. At that time I did not know how to pray,
the result of the Soviet education. But the older generation often
prayed at one time in the basement hall of the Riga synagogue that was
allocated the Sepharadim. Many of my friends used to say that their
grand-grand-grand.... parents came >from Portugal. True, there were also
many Ashkenazi Jews in Latvia. There were also some descendants of
Moroccan and Persian Jews, whose ancestors were the traders who came to
Riga that used to be an important port connecting with the Scandinavian
countries and north Europe. But truth to be said, nobody gave any
importance to that. We all were Jews whose parents spoke Yiddish, the
Jewish language of that place and the language of the Jewish schools
before the Soviet invasion in 1940. Some of the older generation knew
basic Ladino, usually songs. During the Holocaust time many Latvian Jews
were killed and put in the mass graves in the Bikernieku Forest, some
were burned alive in the Riga synagogue in the Maskavas district. Their
remains are still buried there, Ashkenazim and Sepharadim together and
nobody gives any importance about their origin. There were just Jews who
were killed for being Jewish.

I attend the services in the Sephardic synagogue in Houston because I
feel more comfortable there, even though my mother was of
Russian/Lithuanian background. I don't feel myself better or worse than
other Jews, because of my mixed Sephardic / Ashkenazi background. I'm
just an Israeli-Latvian Jew who lives at this time in America.

When I traveled to Riga, some years ago, I visited the Jewish museum on
6 Skolas Street. I spoke with the museum curator there who said that
they have documented evidence about the Sephardic Jews who used to live
in the Ventspils Municipality in West Latvia, as well as in Latgalia
area where is my father from.

Shana Tova,

Alex Shapiro
Houston, Texas

Alex, what evidence (dan or otherwise) do you have of your Sephardic
origins (or for any Latvian Jews)? I haven't seen a single case that
pans out. Shana Tova, Randy Schoenberg Los Angeles, CA


E. Randol Schoenberg
 

Sorry, Alex, but your story is very consistent with the ones that
were made up in the late 19th century. It may be true, but you need
more than a recent (last 100 years) family story, because the legend
of Sephardic origin was the "fake news" of the late 1800s. People
loved the story so much they shared it over and over again until
everyone believed it.

Maybe you can be the one to prove it is true? But you'll need more
than the family story. I'd like to see what the folks in Riga based
their opinion on. There is a whole Facebook group devoted to
Sephardic, especially European Sephardic, genealogy and documentation.
See https://www.facebook.com/groups/TheSepardicDiaspora/. With only a
couple of of rare, documented exceptions, there is no evidence of any
documented Sephardic Jews in north-eastern Europe.

Randy Schoenberg
Los Angeles, CA


Lisa Newman <lisa.newman.a@...>
 

In the family tree which the Latvian Historical archives in Riga
prepared for my Samuel family 20 years ago, it is clear that our
family was in Latvia as early as 1750 and continued to be there over
many many generations. At the IAJGS conference in London at that time
I met with the very helpful archivist who did the research; she was
one of the very few Jews employed then in the state historical
archives in Riga and took a particular interest in documenting
histories of Jewish families in Latvia.

Interestingly, the name "Samuel Samuel" recurs very often over many
generations in our tree and was even the name of my great grandfather
(born in Latvia) and of my first cousin (born in the U.S. in 1936). I
have been told that this name is particularly characteristic of
sephardic families.

As well, the shidduch of my own grandfather (doubtless arranged by his
father, Samuel Samuel, a very wealthy industrialist in Libau (now
Liepaja)) was with Golda, a daughter of a Pines family >from Ruzhany,
now in Belarus. They married around 1890. While the families
certainly had wealth in common, I believe they likely also had
sephardic ancestry in common.

Would love to hear >from others who could more light on this.

thanks,

Lisa Newman, Toronto, Canada
lisanewmantoronto@gmail.com
researching. SAMUEL, PINES, ROTENBERG


Alan Kolnik
 

I have been told that my paternal grandfather's siddur (prayer book) was
"Nusach Spharad" -i.e. - in the Sphardi tradition. Many of my cousins have
quite dark complexions, and could easily pass for Sephardi Jews. Our family
on that side was >from Khozangorodok, a shtetl near Pinsk, though we have no
idea how we landed up there.

Alan Kolnik
Bethesda, MD


Rachel
 

Hi

I've been reading the trail of this post with interest and wonder whether it
may start to unravel a mystery in my DNA which shows some Iberian decadency.
There are no family stories to shed insight into this but I do know that
this is >from my Paternal tree as my father's DNA shared this. I know very
little of his paternal grandmother apart >from that her marriage
authorisation said she was from'Courland'. Unfortunately, try as I might I
have a brick wall about her life before coming to England.

Rachel Poole
England


Lisa Liel
 

Hi Alan,

Actually, that's a common mistake.  Nusach Sfard is actually the
Hassidic tradition.  Actually Sfardim don't accept it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nusach_Sefard

My paternal line was >from Belarus, but a persistant family tradition
says that they got there >from Spain.  Yet that side of the family is
extremely pale.  My maternal line (or half of it) came >from Latvia
(Mitau, Courland), and there's a lot of pretty dark skin there.  One of
my sisters and one of my nieces have been mistaken for Yemenite because
of it.

Lisa Liel

On 10/2/2019 9:04 AM, Latvia SIG digest wrote:
From: "Alan Kolnik"<alan.kolnik@gmail.com>
Date: Tue, 1 Oct 2019 06:50:27 -0400

I have been told that my paternal grandfather's siddur (prayer book) was
"Nusach Spharad" -i.e. - in the Sphardi tradition. Many of my cousins have
quite dark complexions, and could easily pass for Sephardi Jews. Our family
on that side was >from Khozangorodok, a shtetl near Pinsk, though we have no
idea how we landed up there.
MODERATOR NOTE: Please keep any further discussion of this question related
to genealogy. Discussions of religious practices are ontopic in this group
only to the extent that they relate to genealogical research.


Kevin Brook
 

I have two pieces of good evidence for this.

1. A member of the Sephardic-turned-Ashkenazic family Abugov (the Russified form of Abohab) studied in Dvinsk, a city which is now in Latvia under the name Daugavpils.

2. Autosomal DNA matching established Sephardic links to an Ashkenazic family from Rēzekne, another Latvian city, as I wrote in my article "Sephardic Jews in Lithuania and Latvia" in the August 2016 issue of ZichronNote, Journal of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society, after I received written permission from the living named participant:

"Judith Simon, a co-administrator of the two Iberian Ashkenaz projects at Family Tree DNA, grew up fascinated by the oral history related by her culturally Ashkenazic maternal grandfather, Shaya Brozgol (who changed his name to Sam Gold), that his ancestors on his father’s side included Sephardic Conversos who left Spain during the Inquisition. Brozgol was born in 1892 in Re_zekne, a city in eastern Latvia where his ancestors had also lived during the 1700s and 1800s, and married another Ashkenazic Jew from there. The family’s story of Sephardic heritage led some of Shaya’s cousins to move to Spain."

"Judith and several members of her family had their autosomal DNA tested, and two male paternal descendants of her Brozgol line had their Y chromosomal DNA tested. Family Tree DNA and GEDmatch provided matches that confirm the story. Judith, her brother, and her maternal aunt Pearl Freed share a triangulating identical-by-descent autosomal segment with seven Latin American Hispanics, and Pearl has several additional segments that match multiple Hispanics including Mexican-Americans with deep roots in northeastern Mexico and a Puerto Rican."

"The Brozgol Y-DNA lineage is also suggestive of Sephardic ancestry since not only does one of their closest matches (Belarusian Jewish) have an oral history that their paternal line came from the Ottoman Empire, but they also match Hispanics from Mexico and Texas whose most distantly known paternal-line ancestors centuries ago had Spanish first and last names. However, estimates vary widely on when the common Y-DNA ancestors of the Brozgol men and the Hispanics lived, making the autosomal results more definitive."

The total amount of Sephardic DNA in Litvaks is small - often no more than the average Mexican Catholic has - but finding them matching each other autosomally is powerful evidence supporting the genetic study Jan Meisels Allen posted to this group on 1/14/2019 in her message titled "(Latin America) Genetic Study of Latin Americans Reveals History of Converso Migration" that included some Mexican samples.

Kevin Alan Brook


Jill Whitehead
 

Although all my ancestors came from the borders of NE Poland and SW Lithuania, my DNA shows I am seven eighths Ashkenazi and one eighth Sephardic.  One of my family's male lines has a rare sub clade of the J2 haplogroup that could be considered either Ashkenazi or Sephardic, but the ancestry may not come from that direction. Another male line has the classic Levite signature of a rabbinical family which is said to originate in medieval Spain.

I match on my DNA autosomal results with a number of people of known Spanish and Portuguese origin, and with Spanish or Portuguese names. Last year I had an in depth K16 test done by a European provider that showed my DNA had significant Spanish and Portuguese influences, especially a close resemblance to the DNA of the Belmonte converso people of Portugal.

The overall Sephardic proportion may be small in comparison to the Ashkenazi, but it is still there as a signal from the past.  


Jill Whitehead, Surrey, UK


Adam Cherson
 

I have found it helpful to map the migration patterns discovered in the course of a
250 member family project at FTDNA.As shown here, there are ample opportunities
for mixing of Sephardic and Ashkenazic as well as pre-Sephardic and pre-Ashkenaic
genetics-- and this pattern is derived from only one lineage (yDNA) of one modern
individual (who happens to be my great-grandfather). One can imagine what this map
would like if it attempted to include all possible Hebraic migration/mixing patterns!




--
Adam Cherson


Michael Sharp
 

Sephardi Jews reached the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth by two routes:

1) flight from Spain to the Ottoman Empire and then migration through the Balkans to Poland
2) converso settlement in the Netherlands and then trading to the Baltic ports

The printing industry in Poland was to a large extent established by Sephardi Jews and some towns such as Zamosc, were when established as shtetls by the local noble, largely settled by Sephardim, valued for their commercial expertise and trading contacts
--
Michael Sharp
Manchester UK
michael.sharp@...


Louis Macovsky
 

This discussion is interesting.  I have recently identified a very early 19th century ancestor with the surname Dondes.  On the surface and at least to me this suggests Portuguese or Spanish origin.  These ancestors were in Lithuania, probably not in but near Vilnius.  Interestingly, during my research of that name, I found Dondes in 16 and 17th century Scotland.

Louis Macovsky


Kevin Brook
 

Louis,

Alexander Beider hasn't listed Dondes as a surname of Sephardic origin.

A Scottish origin for any Ashkenazic surname would be impossible but that's an interesting coincidence you've found.

A Spanish or Portuguese surname similar to Dondes doesn't come to my mind.  There's an Italian surname Dondero but no connection of the Ashkenazic surname to that one would be expected.

Kevin Alan Brook