Where We Came From

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Where We Came From

by Shlomo Gurevich

  • The following is the internet version of the introduction to the book written and published by Shlomo Gurevich which is now available in English as well as in Russian language: "Gurevich, Gurovich, Gurvich, Gorvich, Gurvitz, Horowitz and others. History of A Great Family" (Haifa, 1999, ISBN 965-222-971-7)

  • According to all available sources of information on the subject, the Horowitz family - a family of rabbies, scholars, Jewish communitiy leaders - originated in Medieval Spain and can be traced to Rabbi Zerakhyah Ha-Levi, the author of "Ha-Maor". At the end of the 15th century the family lived in the small town of Horovice (Horowitz, according to its German spelling) in Bohemia, by which it acquired its name: "Horowitz", or "Ish Horowitz" (the man Horowitz, or the man from Horowitz) or Ish Ha-Levi Horowitz ( The Levite Horowitz). This surname has been spelled in a variety of ways: Horowitz, Hurwitz, Horvich, and under influence of Russian pronunciation, Gurevich, Gurvich, Gurwitz, etc. Often the surname of the same person had a number of spellings.

  • The great majority of the bearers of this surname are Levites (except those who acquired it through marriage or for money, in order to escape being conscripted to the Russian Czar's army). The founder of the family is considered to be R. Yishayahu ben Moshe Asher Ha-Levi Horowitz who lived in Horovice and later in Prague at the beginning of the 16th century (he died in 1514). R. Yishayahu was a prominent and respected member of Prague Jewish community. He had 7 sons, of whom Aharon Meshulam and Shabtai Sheftel were the best known. Aharon Meshulam built the famous Pinkas Schul, synagogue in Prague called so in the name of his brother Pinchas who completed its construction.

  • R. Aharon Mesulam's grandson, R. Pinkhas ben Israel and nephew, R. Avraham ben Shabtai, a son of R. Shabtai Sheftel, both of whom moved to Poland, marked the beginning of the family's expansion outside Prague. Within a few decades the name Horowitz became widespread all over the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The members of the family became rabbis in Prague, Cracow, Vienna, Hamburg, Nikolsburg. The most famous of them in 16-17th centuries were R. Yishayahu ben Avraham Ha-Levi known as SheLaH Ha-Kadosh (the Holy SheLaH), and his son, Shabtai Sheftel.

  • This same period saw the family's penetration into the territory under Russian rule and, consequently, the Russification of the surname's spelling. Thus, for example, the first Jew who settled in 1560 in a township of Svenzian (Lithuania) was Rachmiel Gurvits.

  • In 17th - 19th and in the beginning of the 20th century the members of the family served as rabbis of numerous Jewish communities in the cities and towns of Poland, Lithuania, Russia, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary and Germany. The most prominent of them were R. Yakov Yokel Horowitz, the famous brothers R. Pinchas ben Zvi Hirsh Ha-Levi of Frankfurt, the author of "Sefer Hafla'a", and R. Shmuel (Shmelke) ben Zvi Hirsh Ha-Leviof Nikolsburg, and others.

  • The descendants of R. Shmuel emigrated to USA in the 80-s of the 19th century. After intermarriage of the Horowitz family with the Margareten family, they founded a Matzos bakery which was called Horowitz-Margareten Bakery. The descendants of these families founded The Horowitz-Maragareten Family Association which has been involved in social, philanthropic and cultural activity in the American Jewish community.

  • Major changes occured in the Horowitz family in the middle of the 19th century. The processes characteristic of that period related to the Haskalah (Enlightenment)movement, specifically, the assimilation and emancipation of the Jewish population, swept the Jews beyond their traditional fields of Jewish learning into the great world of non-Jews, the world of universal ideas, philosophy, natural science, technology, European literature, art, etc. As in earlier periods the descendants of the Horowitz family assume prominent places in all these fields.

  • Along with the mainstream of European Jewry, the members of the family played an important role in the political and revolutionary struggle in many countries. Some of them were deported or imprisoned. B. Gurevich spent his last days in the infamous Vladimir prison , A. Gorvitz fell at the hands of Ukrainian nationalist.

  • A number of prominent family members have had different surnames, among them - Karl Marx. Herman Bernard, Fyodor Dan, Nathan Zarkhi, R. Israel Meir Lau, et. al. belong to this group. The popular Georgian and Russian literary critic and actor-narrator, Irakly Andronnikov and his brother, research scientist in physics and member of the Georgian Academy of Sciences were grandsons of the famous pedagogue, Yakov Gurevich.

  • The two destructive world wars of the 20th century, the Nazi's regime in Germany and the Bolsheviks in Russia dealt a heavy against the Jewish people, and the members of the Horowitz family did not escape the common destiny: the fire of the Holocaust wiped out thousands, among them the descendants of R. Yitzhak "the Hamburger" - son of R. Chaim Arye, A.B.D. (Av Beit Din - Head of Rabbinical Court) of Cracow, R. Eleazar Moshe, the author of 'Tov Ain", and his son, as well as the members of Ropshitz chassidic dynasty R. Elimelech of Malitsh; R. Eliazar of Borovy, R. Chaim Yechiel of Roznov and his brother, R. Avraham Simcha; R. Avraham, R. Naftali, R. Benzion, R. Chaim Yakov and R. Asher Lemel - the sons of R. Tuvia of Shendeshov; R. Benzion - AdMor of Maden; R. Alter Yehezkel - AdMor of Dzikov; R. Alter - AdMor of Pokshavnitz; R. Moshe Eliezer - the last AdMor of Rimanov; R. Reuven - a grandson of R. Chaim Yakov - AdMor of Ulanov; R. Naftali - AdMor of Dembitz, his nephew R. Zvi Elimelech - the last AdMor of Dembitz, and his brother, R. Chaim Yakov; R. Moshe of Rozvadov and his brother, R. Naftali - the last AdMor of Rozvadov; R. Menashe of Lvov and his brother, R. Simcha Chaim; R. Yakov and his brother, R. Menachem Mendel - the last AdMor of Linsk. The victims of Stalin's terror were A. I. Gurevich, A. I. Gurvich, Y. Z. Gurevich. The Almighty will avenge their blood.

  • The remnants of the family who survived these calamities and who prior to the beginning of the 20th century had lived en masse in Eastern European townsh, left them forever, finding refuge in Eretz Israel and other countries, mostly USA. Some Chassidic and Mitnagdim "clans" settled permanently on American soil, giving rise to such new categories in Jewish life as as "Bostoner rebbe", etc.

  • The birth of the State of Israel in 1948, to which such family members as R. Yosef Gorvits, Dov Gurvitz, Yakov Gurvitz, David Horowitz and others made important contributions, as well as political and demographic processes in the Diaspora, have led to the fact that to-day a major part of Horowitz - related surname bearers reside in Israel (the second in total numbers after USA). Chapter 6 provides a brief statistical analysis of the current demographic situation.

The pages herein were created by the worldwide Horowitz Family Association in Israel. They are mirrored here with their permission to allow for better viewing by more people.  The purpose of this site is to share family information. No commercial use without permission.
Last updated: 06/11/07.