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
English as well as in
"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
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.
- 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
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
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.