Category Archives: Ancestry

Zookeeper’s wife

Zookeeper’s wife

Wasn’t planning on blogging tonight but I was hit with so much emotion after watching “The Zookeeper’s Wife” tonight.  In 2012 my mom and I went to Warsaw to start our Roots Tour. The first day when we arrived our guide Graznya took us on a brief tour of Warsaw before we went on the train to Krakow. Tonight the places we saw became so incredibly real on screen. The scenes of the Warsaw ghetto and the bombed out Old Town became so real.  I thought of this picture that I took in the area that was the Ghetto where they posted photos of people who lived there before they killed the Jews. The wall is just a symbol of tiles of mosaic in the street.  There are pictures all over Warsaw of what it looked like after the war. It was nearly destroyed.  The movie was based on a true story and I found myself unable to move sobbing in my seat at the end.  What a horrible situation. Fucking Nazi’s!

Part of what remains from the Ghetto, memories of families and people who lived there


I believe this was the building where people came in/out of into the ghetto (similar to the movie)



Location of where the wall was built


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Springform pans- reloaded

Apple Cinnamon spring-form pan cake. Good for break-fast or just breakfast!

Tonight I made my friend Liz’s apple cinnamon cake in a “spring-form pan” for break-fast or just for breakfast.  I was thinking about my blog entry from April 2012 when I thought I was hysterical writing about….”springform pans in 1800’s Europe” and “Do they have 5k’s in Warsaw?”.  Back then I thought I was the only one going to read my blog.  It amazing that even after the trip, I am still getting followers and my blog has hit over 4,300 hits.  Since the trip, I have a visual on the house where my great great grandparents lived.  Like me tonight, they prepared special food and deserts for the holy holiday of Yom Kippur.  I wonder if we share the same recipes? Did my great great grandmother use a spring-form pan? LOL. Wishing everyone an easy fast.


Posted by on September 12, 2013 in Ancestry, Family Tree, Food, Jewish, Lithuania, Uncategorized


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What up cuz?

what up cuzIt’s been a long time since I have blogged. Got a little burned out and hadn’t had a major break through in a while. I decided to cyperstalk at the bottom of the tree to see if I could find some “live” family and make a connection.  What I found was a gem!  Have had some wonderful emails with cousins on my dad’s side. One of the cousins lived next door to him growing up on Tilbury St in Pittsburgh. How wonderful. I hope we can continue the dialog and meet someday.

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Posted by on August 21, 2013 in Ancestry, Family Tree, Jewish, Uncategorized


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Is cyberstalking so bad?


I think everyone close to me (and now public in the Phoenix Jewish News article from last week) knows that I am pretty passionate about doing genealogy research on my Family Tree.  In the article, I admit to being a Facebook stalker.  I may be incorrect but I feel like if you had someone who is doing research on documenting your family tree and you were in that family, wouldn’t you want to know? It is not like I am looking to become best friends; just friendly.   I usually message , “hi, I just wanted to let you know I have done a lot of research on our family and if you are interested, I can send you an invite to our tree”   I usually include how we are related with names.  It is funny…of the family that I have stalked (easy with the “I’m related to” section of Facebook) about 20% have responded. The rest have ignored my message.  My picture is rather normal…I don’t have crazy cat pictures on my wall… wondering why they don’t respond?  It’s ok because the ones I do communicate with have been gems.

I think it is amazing to know I have found family members that are/have been incredible things like….optometrists, butchers, 2  in NFL personnel, Rabbis, writers, the  founder of IHOP, a Holocaust survivor living 3 years in the woods, embroiders, Doctors, actors, flax dealer,  bartenders, Cantors, painters, and a tattoo artist.  Still connecting the dots on Al Jolson…  It is written that he was born in my great great grandmother’s house, she was supposedly his Aunt.


Posted by on January 15, 2013 in Ancestry, Family Tree, Jewish, Uncategorized


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Crossing the River

crossing the riverI just finished reading “Crossing the River” by Shalom Eilati. It was recommended to me by a Temple Chai Member who is related to the author and thought I would be interested as I had just spoke at Yiskor about our trip to Lithuania. He said he wanted to go with his cousin who had an incredible escape from the Kaunas Ghetto, lived in hiding with Lithuanians, traveled to Germany then finally to Israel.  I feel like I now have names and stories to the places I visited. The IX fort which was the mass murder site for more than 30,000 Jews has names attached.  When we were there; we walked the grounds, traced the path of the escapees, saw the areas of execution, but…it didn’t feel personal until now.  The pictures I took in the museum (oops I wasn’t supposed to, sorry Chaim!) now have new meaning.  Anyway, Bennett has now taken the book and is likely going to read it in 2 days being the speed reader that he is. I am sure that he will write about it in his “bennettsbookblog” when he finishes it. I will be curious to see his reaction as a child the same age as the author while under Nazi captivity. What would he have done? Would he have been so brave?

Execution site

Execution site

Horrible Soviet monument dedicated to the "Soviets" who lost their lives

Horrible Soviet monument dedicated to the “Soviets” who lost their lives

IX Fort, Kaunas

IX Fort, Kaunas

Simon, our guide, by the memorial at the Kaunas Ghetto.It was burned down during the war.

Simon, our guide, by the memorial at the Kaunas Ghetto.It was burned down during the war.

Anti-semitism still strong where there are so few Jews

Anti-semitism still strong where there are so few Jews

Destroyed Kaunas Ghetto

Destroyed Kaunas Ghetto

Kaunas Ghetto

Kaunas Ghetto

Jews marching to their demise at the IX fort

Jews marching to their demise at the IX fort



Posted by on December 18, 2012 in Ancestry, Holocaust, Jewish, Lithuania, Travel, Uncategorized


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When I got back from “the” trip, I printed a Shutterfly album. I made an appointment to have coffee with Rabbi Mari Chernow as I was so excited and proud to share the book with her. She asked me if I would say a few words about it at the memorial Yizkor services.   This is what I have planned so far…

This summer, my mother and I had the honor of visiting my great-great grandmother’s grave.  There were no stones placed on her gravestone as no one has visited her since 1942.  It was a beautiful cemetery that has been slowly restored by a non-Jewish local woman named Riva Vaivos. We met RiVa at the cemetery and I asked her why she is spending countless hours by herself in the Jewish cemetery restoring and hand painting each headstone… her response was, “because there are no Jews left to do this.”   The cemetery is illuminated with color.  Riva hand paints the Hebrew letters on each headstone in a rainbow of colors telling me that she is fulfilling OUR tradition.  While restoring, she sometimes she scrapes off 7-8 layers of paint.  Risa Gittel Freyman’s stone is in a cemetery in Jurbarkas, Lithuania adjacent to the town’s mass murder site where the remainder of her family is buried in the mass grave.

My mother and I had brought our blue Temple Chai Yizkor book and said Kaddish for her and for everyone around us who haven’t had Kaddish read for them in 70 years.

We also said Kaddish in the Jewish cemeteries of Vysokie Mazalowieki and Chee-cha-novitz, Poland where my grandfather’s family are likely buried.  I say likely because Jewish headstones were frequently taken and used for building materials such as foundation walls and wheels after the Jews were gone.  There are no caretakers there and the headstones are going back to becoming field stones.

I need to take a step back and tell you how I got here.  My family was watching the NBC show “who do you think you are?” which follows some of today’s iconic celebrities as they embark on personal journeys of self-discovery to trace their family trees.  Bennett asked me if I would make our family tree.  I thought…how hard could it be when you have those little shaky leaves giving you all your hints?  After a few months of tracing the Freeman family to 1750 Lithuania, I got hooked.  I now have 2200 people in the Weitz/Katz tree and it has transformed from just being about “my” family to something much bigger. I have new connections with new family around the globe from sharing my tree with relatives who also were wondering “who they were and where did they come from.” 

There are less than 5,000 Jews in the entire country of Lithuania. Over 96% were liquidated during WWII.  One thing that struck me while in Poland and Lithuania was that the majority of people we met at Jewish sites caring for our cemeteries and synagogues were not Jews.  Similar to angel in the Jurbarkas cemetery, our guide at Auschwitz was not Jewish, nor was our guide on the Jewish Quarter/Schindler Factory tour, nor the head of Matzevah in Lithuania, nor was our researcher in Poland, nor the man who cares for the only wooden synagogue standing in Lithuania.  They all said that there are no Jews to do this.  I hope ‘out of sight out of mind” will not become our American Jewish “norm”.  It was an honor to visit Lithuania and Poland. I hope I can pass on the family legacy and to continue the Yizkor tradition of remembering so our family will be able to visit a grave and know others were there to visit and honor them too. Let’s also remember those generations cut short with no one left to leave a stone for them.


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Just met an angel


caretaker of the synagogue

We just met an angel. Mr. Lludvikas was only 5 when the Nazis came to Ziezmariai. He and his mother would disguise themselves as beggars and smuggle food to the Jews hiding in the forest. Fast forward to today, by himself, he takes care of the only remaining wooden synagogue in Lithuania dating back to 1780. He defines the Yad Vashem title “righteous gentile”. I have video of him as well as pictures. There is one of where the mezuzah was located. Wooden synagogues were banned after a certain date because they would catch fire.


exterior of synagogue


where the light hung over where they read torah


the women’s gallery above


former location of the mezzuzh


last wooden sysnogogue in Lithuania



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