About Yishayahu Shapiro
http://www.davidicdynasty.org/chapter26.phpChana was the daughter of Baruch Don Yechiya, son of Yeshayahu Shapiro, who lived in Nikelsburg, Germany. Prior to that, Yeshayahu most likely lived in the Bavarian city of Speyer. Fearful of persecution he assumed the name of the town. Jews in German city-states and in Prussia generally assumed family names earlier than their co-religionists further east. Many families bearing the names Shapiro, Spira, Speier, et al originate in the region of Speyer. In 1750, or thereabouts, Yeshayahu settled in Uschatz, Vitebsk Guberniya. There he became wealthy and devoted much of his later life to Torah scholarship. In 1804 Baruch restored the Don Yechiya name when authorities forced Jews to assume surnames. Baruch, one of the greatest Torah scholars of his age, became a rabbi in Disna after studying with his father-in-law Rabbi Yosef Shlomo of Hozenfot, Kurland. R' Yosef Shlomo was also a descendant of the Ibn Yahya family, his father being Menachem Don Yahya.
Several references state that Yeshayahu was the son of Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap. A manuscript fragment from Jack Chodoroff of Toronto was said to originate with his father. It closely resembles some of the wording in L'Toledot Yishivat Ha-Yehudim V'Kurland.
R' Baruch, before he came to his father-in-law R' Shlomo was known as Shapiro and through his father-in-law received the nick-name Don Yahya. This was about the time of his marriage. R' Baruch was the son of the great and wealthy R' Yeshayahu who was born in Ninsburg, but left for the city of Uschatz in Russia. There, he was to study with the great Gaon Rabbi Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap. In the book Hod Tehilah, R' E. Z. H. Charlap showed the pedigree of generation after generation from himself to King David.
Jack Chodoroff had a version of the Charlap family tree which differed a little from the one that was published in Hod Tehila. These differences have been discussed in Chapter XXV. What is of interest here is that he also had a later connection between the Charlaps and Don Yahyas. The above fragment does not claim that Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap was related to Yeshayahu Shapiro. However, combining it with the other sources mentioned and noting the future repetition of the name in both Charlap and Don Yahya lines, there is a high probability that Yeshayahu was descended from Charlaps.
But whom? We have two prominent Charlaps whose names match reasonably well. They have already been mentioned. One was Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh ben Zev who lived circa 1785 to 1849. The other was Ephraim Zvi ben Yosef Shlomo, the renowned Zionist who was in his nineties when he died in Israel in 1949. Neither of these men could possibly have been the father of Yeshayahu. As we have pointed out, the name Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh, or similar combinations, shows up repeatedly in both the Charlap and Don Yahya families. For a person with that name to be Yeshayahu's father he would have been born circa 1700. We have no record of such a person. However when we get back to the generation of Abraham Charlap, father of our modern tree, we have only the patrilineal descent. For example our Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh is the son of Zev who is the son of Abraham. We know of Zev's siblings, but have none for his father. From Abraham back, we have only a line of fathers until we get to the Ibn Yahyas of Spain. Between Eliezer Ibn Yahya, who became Eliezer Charlap, and Abraham Charlap we have no lateral relationships. I hypothesize that our Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh ben Zev, Gaon of Mezritch (Miedzyrzec) was named for a great uncle, an older brother of Abraham Charlap. It is this person who would then be the father of Yeshayahu. That is the only logical explanation if we accept the authenticity of the sources which name Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap as the father of Yeshayahu Shapiro. This hypothesis is substantiated by the discovery that Yeshayahu had a brother David ben Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap who was married to a Yente bat Natan Matityahu. Like his father, David does not appear on any of the modern family charts. He comes from the lateral extension of the generation of Abraham Charlap. The older Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh, like his later namesake, was a rabbi in Miedzyrzec.
Considering the above, it is interesting that in 1804 Baruch assumed the Don Yechiya name, rather than Charlap. As a distinguished scholar and rabbi, he knew well that the Charlaps descended from the Ibn Yahya family. Furthermore his father-in-law was a Don Yahya. It would be a hearkening back to the traditional roots and a joining of his children's two ancestries by restoring the name to Don Yechiya. Baruch's four known children were the aforementioned Chana, and Menachem Mendel, David, and Freida. Menachem Mendel ben Baruch was acclaimed as one of the great Talmudic scholars of his time. He was affectionately known as Menke Vidzer as he was rabbi in the shtetl of Vidzizh. Of his three sons, we know that Avraham was rabbi in Deneburg. Chaim Rafael ben Menachem Mendel was the author of the letter to Leib Donchin which was quoted earlier. Moshe ben Chaim Rafael became rabbi in Cholma, Peskov district. Menachem Mendel's brother David was a rabbi in Disna. His grandson Shabtai ben Chaim was a rabbi in Drissa for sixty years. He had married Malka bat Naftali, the Gaon Rabbi of Ludza. Shabtai was congenial with the Chabad movement and was considered a Hasid. He was the author of many responsa and was known as the "Ancient Sage." Shabtai was not the only Don Yechiya to become a follower of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. His cousin Eliyahu Zvi Hersh, son of Yitzhak and Chana, was also a member of Chabad. Hence the great-grandson of the Wilna Gaon, a hero of the Mitnagdim, became a Hasid.
Shabtai's brother Zev also joined the rabbinate and became head of the Bet Din in Uschatz. Their brother Shlomo held a similar position in Ullah and another brother, David, was Rosh Yeshiva in Polotzk. Their sister Dina married Avraham Kudritzin, from a family which has many interconnections with the Don Yahyas.
Top Yehuda Leib Don Yahya was one of the notable descendants of Baruch ben Yeshayahu. He was born in Drissa in 1869 and in 1902 began his service as a rabbi to a variety of Russian communities. While still a yeshiva student he was attracted to Zionism and was disturbed that many traditional rabbis did not share his views. Yehuda Leib recognized that it was the Jewish religion itself which was the most important basis for political Zionism. Without the religious tradition Jews would have no claim on Eretz Yisrael. He tried to spread the views of his proto-Zionist predecessors, Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai and Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Kalischer. He became a follower of the great Rabbi Shmuel Mohilewer and saw Zionism as the natural culmination of the history of the Jewish people. Though there were many secularists among modern Jewish Zionists, Yehuda Leib believed that the underlying emotions were religious in nature. What was needed was "not mere traditional piety about the Holy Land but a conscious blending of orthodoxy in religion with modern Jewish nationalism." In 1901 Yehuda Leib published Ha-Ziyyonut mi-Nekuddat Hashkafat ha-Dat (Zionism From the Religious Point of View). In this work, which was widely distributed and read, he preached to the religious community that political Zionism and settlement in Eretz Yisrael were religious duties. In 1893 Rabbi Mohilewer had established a new center to spread the budding Zionist message in the Orthodox community. In 1901 this effort was expanded into the Mizrahi movement by four rabbis including Yehuda Leib and Jacob Reines. Yehuda Leib was a religious Zionist throughout his life, even during the Stalin era in Russia. He made aliyah in 1936 and settled in Tel Aviv. Yehuda Leib Don Yahya was extremely conscious of his debt to preceding generations.
I wish to record memories of that which I heard from my father, the Gaon Rabbi Chaim Don Yahya, son of the venerable Gaon Rabbi Shabtai Don Yahya. The father of R' Shabtai was R' Chaim and the name of his father was R' David. Both were righteous men and worked day and night over the Torah. Neighbors held them in awe and would ask, "When does R' Chaim sleep? We see him studying day and night." R' David, father of R' Chaim, lived in the city of Disna. When he died the entire town mourned and the people cried for they had lost more than a Torah scholar. R' David was a true hasid who performed mitzvot in a special way. The way he showed compassion for the sick would have to be seen to be believed. R' David's father was the Gaon Rabbi Baruch Don Yahya, rabbi in Disna and the Galil The father of R' Baruch was Yeshayahu, a man wealthy and schooled in Torah He came from Nikelsberg in Ashkenaz and settled in Uschatz in Vitebsk Guberniya. The father-in-law of R' Baruch was Rabbi Shlomo of Hozenfot, Kurland. A very popular and respected sage, he left behind a written manuscript of [religious interpretations]. His grandson, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Don Yahya, attempted to publish it but the manuscript was stolen. Menachem Mendel, the son of R' Baruch, was a genius and a beloved rabbi known as the Menke Vidzer. All of this I heard from my father, the Gaon Rabbi. I also learned from my father that we are descended from the Don Yahya family of Spain and, as we know, they are from the House of David.
The Don Yahyas spread out from Suwalk and Lomza Guberniyas, the area that traditionally was home to our family during our sojourn in eastern Europe. They had moved into Latvia via the eastern Hanseatic cities and from there moved east into Byelorussia and south to the area of Miedzyrzec. Ludza in eastern Latvia had a Don Yahya presence for several generations. In 1847 this town, part of Vitebsk Guberniya, was home to 2,299 Jews, a majority of the population. Most were shopkeepers and artisans but there were a substantial number of famous scholars and rabbis. Among the latter group were Don Yahyas and the closely associated Zioni and Kudritzin families.
Eliezer ben Shabtai Don Yahya, author of responsa on the Shulhan Arukh, Even Shetiyyah (1893), was a disciple and son-in-law of Aaron Zelig Zioni and his successor in the rabbinate of Ludza (1870-1926). Eliezer's son, Ben Zion, was the son-in-law of Isaac Zioni, and for twenty-six years officiated as rabbi in Vilaci; after the death of his father he succeeded him in the rabbinate in Ludza (1926-1941), Ben Zion, who perished in the Holocaust, was the author of halachic books and historical articles. Because of the high standard of Jewish learning the community was known as the "Jerusalem of Latvia."
Ben Zion not only married a Zioni, his mother was Elka Zioni. Moreover, his sister Malka married Yisrael Zioni. Ben Zion's family was decimated in the Holocaust but three of his six children survived. Yitzhak, Moshe Gershon, and Baruch Rafael were martyred, but son Aharon escaped east to Russia and after the war became a railway engineer. The other brothers, David and Shabtai, made it to Israel where they prospered and produced accomplished families. David studied in the Merkaz Ha-Rav Yeshiva and was a teacher in Kfar Hasidim and Kiryat Yam. Shabtai, studied under the leading rabbis of Israel and received ordination. He was active in Hapoel Hamizrachi and became a writer and journalist. In 1948 Shabtai was appointed editor of the newspaper Hatzofeh and served in that position for thirty-two years. His books include Be'ohlei Torah Va'avodah [In the Tents of Torah and Labor], Anshei Torah Vemalchut [Community of Torah Kingdom], Hamered Hakadosh [The Holy Revolution], and Be'ol Ha'asiya [In the Yoke of Action]. Shabtai's children are Ben Zion (Benny) Don Yechiya and Ruth Charif, developers of the Don Yechiya family tree.
Let us return now to the family of Yitzhak Donchin, grandson of the Wilna Gaon, who married Chana bat Baruch Don Yechiya. Their son Eliyahu Zvi Hersh had three known children: Shmuel, Lifsche, and Meir. Lifsche married David Shlomo Kosovsky (Shacor). We will talk about the Kosovsky connection shortly. Shmuel, a merchant, married Rachel, whose family name remains in doubt, and had two known sons. His son Eliyahu Zvi earned his living as a merchant in Warsaw, but his genetic disposition toward scholarly pursuits is evidenced by many published articles on Judaism. Eliyahu Zvi took as wife Minda, daughter of Shaul Kosovsky. They had many children, one of whom was named Lifsche and like her predecessor for whom she was named, married a Kosovsky - the attorney David Shlomo. This family has produced many Sabra progeny.
Meir, grandson of Yitzhak and Chana Donchin, married Zisle Mera Fein. Two of their daughters married into the Kudritzin family. Their two sons, David and Nathan (Nuchim), also married and gave rise to large families. Some of David's children dropped the final letter of the Russified name and were called Donchi. Among Nuchim's eight children was Baruch. Baruch is the grandfather of Trudy Donchin Chityat.
From what I can gather from my uncle Mayer (Meir) Donchin, the family lived in the small Lithuanian shtetl of Pikalen. There was terrible anti-semitism and pogroms finally convinced them to leave. My great-grandfather, Nuchim, was the first to go. He settled in New York and some of his children followed him. My grandfather was not so adventurous. Sweden seemed a much closer haven. He settled in Lund, near the southwestern tip of Sweden. It was a pretty town just outside of Malmo and across a narrow strait from Copenhagen. There was an active Jewish community in town. I was told that a few streets were almost totally Jewish. There was no feeling of isolation. The Jews had very good relationships with their Swedish neighbors but they could also pursue the Jewish religion, follow their traditions, and live in peace. In 1909 Grandpa Baruch received word that Nuchim had died in New York. My great-grandmother Dvora Matl, then known as Matilda, had survived her husband. I guess Nuchim's death prompted my grandfather to join his relatives in New York. He came in 1911. I knew that there were some families that were very close to the Donchins: the Kudritzins, Kosovskys, and Zionis. There was one example where three successive generations of Donchins, really Don Yahya, married Zioni relatives. Shabtai Don Yahya married Malka; then their son Eliezer married Elka Zioni; and then two of Eliezer's children married Zioni's. Ben Zion Don Yahya married Chaya Zioni and Malka Don Yahya married Yisrael Zioni. A few years ago, I met the daughter of Yisrael and Malka in Brooklyn. Her name was Tzipora, or Faiga in Yiddish. I learned that Ben Zion had perished in 1941 at the age of seventy. There is an extensive family in Israel and though the original community in Ludza was destroyed by the Nazis, the best answer is to lead fruitful lives and that means having Jewish families.
Trudy Donchin Chityat has sought out Don Yahya relatives around the world. Her correspondence with Yaacov Kosovsky-Shacor of Bnai Brak, Israel has pertinence to our investigation. Yaacov is a direct descendant of the Don Yahya family that stems from Elijah, Gaon of Wilna. His grandmother was Lifsche Donchin who married David Shlomo Kosovsky, an advocate. David Shlomo and Lifsche had two sons and a daughter. Minda Kosovsky married Rabbi Naftali Bar-Ilan. Her brother Emanuel, also a rabbi, married into the Yisraeli family. The third sibling, Shaul, was a rabbi and lawyer. He married Varda Cohen and had four children before dying at a young age. One of Shaul's children is Yaacov Kosovsky-Shacor.
The Kosovsky-Shacor family values traditional Judaism. This is reflected in Yaacov's interest in his roots. He has been researching the Donchin/Don Yahya family and was planning a book about his family tree. That tree conforms closely with other Donchin genealogies but Yaacov also had difficulty with the Don Yahya-Charlap connection.
I have made a deep investigation into the background of our ancestor R' Baruch Don Yahya. I could find no connection with Gedaliah Ibn Yahya, author of Shalshelet ha-Kabbalah. Baruch is apparently from another chain of the Don Yahya family. A while back I sent a long list of generations from Baruch Don Yahya, the head of my family, dating back to King David. That listing was a mistake based on a misinterpretation of several books. It is true that R' Ephraim Eliezer Zvi Hersh Charlap can be traced back to King David through the Ibn Yahya family. But for R' Baruch ben R' Yeshayahu, I have only the Don Yahya/Donchin tree. It is possible that Baruch stems from the same Charlap branch but I don't know how. There is no clear indication as to how he fits into the main trunk.
Yishayahu Shapiro's Timeline
Speyer, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
Settled in Ušačy, Vitebsk province, Belarus
Ushachi, Vitebsk, Lithuania
Ušačy, Vitebsk province, Belarus