This family history begins with Dov Berel and Elka Ajzenberg.  They are the earliest common denominator.  Little is known of Dov Berel's origin and even less of Elka’s.

Dov Berel[1]

Dov Berel, born circa 1848, is buried in Hadera, Israel, the town where the Telechan Ajzenbergs settled when they arrived in Palestine between World War I and World War II.

Dov Berel's gravestone states that his father’s name was Mordechai Yitzhak.  The ship manifest recording Dov Berel's arrival in the United States in 1921 shows that he had a brother in Telechan, one I.L.W.J. Ajzenberg.  The four initials are clearly typed but are a mystery to me.  Libby (Eisenberg) Medrich, eldest grandchild of Dov Berel, told me that he also had two sisters who immigrated to the United States.  One, Chasha/Kashe or Basha Elka, settled in Whiting, Indiana, and married a man named Bernstein.[2]  Another was Chia Esther.  Her marriage name may have been Rubin.  She settled in Chicago. 

In August 1996 I acquired a list of “Ajzenbergs in the townlet of Telekhany (Pinsk district)” whose names appear on the 1912 voters register.  There were 9 Ajzenbergs on the roster.  Three of them appear to be brothers as they are each listed as a “son of Mordechai.” 
Berko Mordukhovich………...(Ber,     son of Mordechai)
Yankel      “               …………(Jacob,  son of Mordechai)
Khaim      “                …………(Chaim, son of Mordechai)  
Berko is Dov Berel. Mordechai is in all probability Mordechai Yitzhak.   So unless I.L.W.J. somehow refers to one of the other two brothers, it appears that Dov Berel had at least two other brothers.  Ad the names of the two identified sisters, and there is a minimum of 5 siblings.   There probably were others.

Dov Berel, Dov Ben Mordechai Yitzhak, died at the age of 83, on the first day of Heshvan, 5698 according to the Hebrew calendar, October 6, 1937. 


Elka, born circa 1858, is buried on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, not in Hadera with her husband.  Her father was Joseph Laib, also from Telechan.  Her mother’s name is not known and there is no information about siblings.  It is doubtful that she was an only child.  Her gravestone will tell us her date of death.  I had hoped that an Eisenberg would some day visit the site and retrieve that information for the family.  However, in December 1997 I learned[3] that Elka was buried in that section of Jerusalem mandated to Jordan in 1948 when the State of Israel was created.  While under Jordanian jurisdiction the headstones were removed and used for other purposes.  Therefore the grave is unmarked and probably not recoverable for identification.  We may never find where Elka is buried.   

Elka's family name was also Ajzenberg.  She is believed to be a cousin to Dov Berel.  They were married in Telechan on a Thursday, the 6th day of Shevat 5639 or January 30, 1879.  If my information is accurate, Dov Berel was approximately 31 years and Elka around 21 years old at the time of their marriage.  These were not ‘typical’ ages for marriage at the time.  Generally, men married in their late teens or early 20s and women often were in their mid teens or somewhat older.  Marriage among relatives, even first cousins, was not uncommon in the 19th century and early 20th century.[4] 

Elka came to the U.S. with Dov Berel in 1921 and they left together for Palestine by 1924.  Granddaughter Sara (Marder) Plen remembers that her grandmother, Elka did not want to leave the United States.  Rose (Eizenberg) Barr, another granddaughter, confirms Sara’s memory.  Rose indicated that she “did not believe Elka had any say what so ever” about leaving the U.S.  Dov Berel was “the Boss.”  They left behind in the US four of their six children, who had settled in the Hartford, Conn. area.  They included eldest son Herschel/Harry and three daughters: Sara, (who had died in 1924), Ryfka, and Leja.  Elka was very close to her daughters.  It must have been a wrenching experience to leave them shortly after Sara’s death.  Elka’s other three sons never came to the United States.  Azriel was dead and both Motol and Shmuel Chiam were in Palestine at the time of their parents arrival.  Motol left for Australia a year later (1925).

In Telechan, Dov Berel and Elka had operated a small grocery store.  As was often the custom, Elka worked in the store while ‘Rev Dov’[5], studied Talmud in Shul.  They had seven children.  There may have been others who did not survive.[6]  The eldest child Herschel, was born in 1881, Leja, the youngest, was born in 1903; a span of 22 years. If these birth dates are accurate, especially those of Dov Berel and Elka, it means that they were age 33 and 23 when Herschel was born and ages 55 and 45 when Leja was born.  In due course, Dov Berel and Elka had 27 grandchildren.

Herschel was the first in the family to immigrate to the United States.  Sara and Ryfka followed him.  In 1921, Dov Berel and Elka, their youngest daughter Leja and grandson Mowsza, came and settled in Hartford, where the others resided.  Dov Berel and Elka remained in the United States for only two-three years.  Exact information regarding their departure is not available.  By 1924[7] they were living in Hadera, Palestine, making them early Jewish settlers in what would become the State of Israel. 

The preceding information conveys some basic facts and information about Dov Berel and Elka, but tells little of them as people.  It has been difficult to flesh out their character and personalities.  Only their oldest grandchildren Libby (Eisenberg) Medrich, Rose (Eizenberg) Barr, Alice (Marder) Mileikowsky, and Sara (Marder) Plen have memories of their grandparents.  Unfortunately their remembrances are very limited and not always positive.

Libby describes Dov Berel as a 'not too happy' person who attended Shul regularly.  Libby was 12 years old when she first met her grandparents.  Dov Berel was age 73, and Elka 63.  Libby's contact with them spanned two-three years, up to the time they immigrated to Palestine.  Rose Barr, told me that ‘ to live with Dov Berel was not an easy task.’  She did not elaborate.  During a 1999 visit to Hadera, my Aunt Chaviva volunteered that he was a “bad” man.  Unfortunately the consensus on Dov Berel, from the perspective of two grandchildren and the wife of another grandson, was negative.

Alice (Marder) Mileikowsky remembers Dov Berel in the following material from her Palestine experience.

"As a ten-year-old in 1934, it's hard to pinpoint character traits of an old man in his eighties.  Grandfather Berel had very little to do with my sister Sara and me.  I do remember that he had almost nothing to do with our cousins, Shmuel Chiam's kids.’  Sara (Marder)Plen also remembers him being cruel to Chiam and Liba's children. ‘He was very tight-fisted and inconsistent in his reaction to his grandchildren.  We were poor and he had little, but he would give me a mil and give nothing to my cousin, Chia, though we were always together.  I resented him for that, and once I gave him back his mil.  Today I can think about that and I realize that my Uncle Chiam was angry at him for asking my mother (Leha) to come to Palestine to take care of him.  Dov Berel knew he was going to die.  Mother told me he asked her to invite his son Shmuel Chiam, his wife Libby/Liba and the kids over to our house for tea.  Dad was there, as well as Dov Berel and Mom.  He told them that he wouldn't wake up on the morrow.  He didn't."

[1] In Hebrew Dov means Bear, the animal.  In Yiddish a bear is Ber.  In Ashkenazi name giving tradition the combination of Dov Ber is very common, almost always together.  Berel is an English equivalent.

[2]My Aunt Ziporah who was murdered in 1941 along with her two children was married to a man from Telechan whose name was Israel Bernstein.  Is this simply a coincidence of a common Jewish name or is there a family relationship??

[3] Sara and Rueven Plen.  Sara is Elka’s granddaughter.

[4] Recent research shows that there is no biological reason for first cousins not to marry.  The taboo is much more related to the issue of incest than to hereditary concerns.

[5] Rev/Reb is an honorific, implying respect; somewhat akin to Mr. It is usually applied to older men.  It is not equivalent to rabbi or rebbe.

[6] It was common to have children every couple of years.  The juvenile mortality rate was very high in the 19th century.

[7] A picture of them, with one of their grandchildren standing in front of their house in Hadera is dated August 2, 1924