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Perlzweig Family of Kamentz- Podolskiy, Ukraine

Updated July 7, 2012

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Raphael Perlzweig was born in Ukraine sometime around 1830. He followed in the footsteps of his father, who was a cantor. By 1870 he was a cantor in Kamenetz-Podolskiy, Ukraine. We know that Raphael and his family moved to Dukla in Galicia (Austrian poland), where his was appointed cantor of the principal synagogue. From there the family moved to Jaroslaw, where he was appointed cantor of the principal synagogue.

Raphael's son Asher trained as a cantor at the famous Conservatoire in Vienna. He was able to secure a post at the Vine Court Synagogue in London. Under his direction it became a center of musical activity. Later he was appointed cantor of the Finsbury Park Synagogue, which was then on the outskirts of Metropolitan London. Asher's eldest son Maurice became a Rabbi at the West Central Liberal Synagogue in London and later lived in New York City where he worked for the World Jewish Congress. There are no offspring from this line who are still using the PERLZWEIG surname. Some male offspring have changed their name to LIVERSIDGE, STERN, PEEL and PERL.

Raphael also had a son Isaac who was probably a year younger than Asher. He came to the United States around 1906, settling first in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and later moving to New York City where he worked as a jeweler and watchmaker at a New York Hotel. His older daughter Rose was a the movie critic for the New York Journal American for many years and his younger daughter Anne lived in Toledo, Ohio where she died of a strep infection when she was 36. Isaac went by the surname "PELZWEIG" and his daughter Rose changed her name to "PELSWICK". Ann's birth certificate gives her birthplace as Locsei, Slovakia and some pictures exist from Löcsei. In Anne's son's birth record her birthplace is given as Cologne, Germany. Isaac may have worked for the Railroads before coming to America.

According to Isaac's death certificate, his mother was "Lila". Asher's biography also mentions that prior to taking the post in London, another brother was already in London. It is unknown who this brother was. However, I have found a death record and ship record for a Hersch PEARLSWEIG who reports that his parents were Rayphel and Sarah COHEN. He came to the US via London in 1900 and gave Abraham Schechter as the name of his friend in the US. Abraham Schechter was the name of Isaac Perlzweig's brother in law. Hersch and his wife Sarah had four children and they changed their name to PEARL.

There is also some evidence that Raphael had a brother named Aaron Perlzweig. Descendents of this line were both aware of Asher Perlzweig and his son Maurice, and oral history confirms a relationship. Aaron was probably born in Kharkov, Ukraine and later moved to Kiev. So, it is possible that Asher also lived in Kharkov before moving to Kamenetz-Podolskiy either to train or work as a cantor.

According to one Perlzweig relative, our surname was originally the Slavic name "SPIVAK". In Ukrainian, SPIVAK means wandering minstral. At the beginning of the 19th Century, Jews were forced to pay for a Russian/Slavic name. A nice name would be expensive, and you might be given an insulting name if you did not pay. The meaning of PERLZWEIG is pearl twig. Many Jewish families would use the two names as a way to confuse the Tsar's army who attempted to draft Jews in order to convert them to Christianity. So, if the Slavic name SPIVAK came first, a change to the name PERLZWEIG was very likely an attempt to avoid the draft.

To view the Perlzweig family tree, click on the "Perlzweig Family Tree" located under the family photo section below. This is a graphic of a tree that was created using the genealogy software Reunion of macintosh.

I have also typed all portions of the biography for Asher that relate to his family. Maybe at some point I will type the rest, but for now this is a very chopped up excerpt, so please bear with me.

Family Photos
Related Files
  • Excerpts from Cantor in Anglo Jewry (23 KB)
    This text was written by Rabbi Maurice Perlzweig as a part of an edited collection called "Studies in the Cultural Life of the Jews in England", vol 5., pg. 227-243. .  Professor Dov Noy of  the Folklore Research Center at  Hebrew University in Jerusalem.  
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