Dr. Allen E. Goldenthal is the author of the Kahana Chronicles series of books available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions
It is often claimed that with modern investigative skills, DNA analysis, and better access to historical records, the days of the Family Tales and Folklore will be coming to an end. All those amazing and sometimes implausible stories you heard regarding your ancestors as you sat upon your grandfather’s knee or at the feet of some long forgotten great uncle will finally be exposed as having no greater worth than Santa Claus or the tooth fairy. The ‘Yichus’ or family bragging rights will finally be buried and along with it the magic we felt when we heard these stories for the very first time. Yichus is one of those Jewish words that is actually hard to define. In the strict sense it is about pedigree, lineage and having a heritage, but at the same time, even the poorest of families had their yichus. Tales of life back in the ‘old world’ when they were a somebody, even if nobody knew who they were. But now, in our ‘cancel’ everything world, it seems like there’s a determination by pseudo-scientists, upwardly mobile status seeking individuals, and those with wealth but no character, to steal the joy that many of us felt in generations past by whatever means possible. They publish false narratives, fake histories and even adopt heritages that aren’t theirs to honour, in an effort to elevate their own status while diminishing those that the yichus rightfully belonged to. Even yichus will become a victim of ‘Cancel Culture’ if they have their way. This effort to make those that have pride in their past feel guilty by labeling it undeserved privilege, because they have yichus but no birth certificate to prove their claim, no passport to show their ancestral roots. If it is only a piece of paper that permits one to brag about their ancestors, then it will not be long before those family stories that are part of our inherited treasures will disappear, and once gone, they can never be replaced or recovered. Those responsible will say, “It is better to face the truth,” but who’s truth are they protecting. Is the claim of authenticity to rely solely on records found in a dusty drawer or a birth certificate that is still not torn and tattered beyond recognition. Those insisting on ‘Show me the proof’ have no understanding that yichus was the proof and it existed from time immemorial because when the stories first originated, everyone knew them to be true and they did not need a piece of paper to say that it was so. In case you haven’t noticed, genealogy has very much become a game over the last decade, with many using it as a device to claim status they are not entitled to, while denying it to those that have a legitimate claim but the proof has not survived the ravages of time. Many will build a false claim on what they call a volume of evidence, yet that evidence can often be circumstantial and in the end proven to be false. Furthermore, as we know from the Folklore, the boy that repeatedly cried wolf became a victim of his own volume of unsubstantiated evidence. The more times that a false tale is repeated by more and more people does not make it the truth, even if it should appear in some memorial book. Just because it is the written word does not make it any more truthful than the oral traditions that survived from the past.
It is this belief that the written word far outweighs the oral tradition or yichus that has led to the publishing of this article. For years I have heard multiple denials regarding a certain claim in my family tree that took place during the 17th Century. Those supposedly in the know, repeatedly said that the published documentation does not agree with the verbal lineage provided to me by one of my relatives thirty years ago. And they are correct. What is written in the Encyclopaedia Judaica does not agree with my family’s pedigree chart. What someone wrote in another book regarding the history of the Rabbis of Brody does not agree with my lineage either. But not only are the references being provided written long after the passing of those involved, two centuries later in most cases, these reference texts cannot even agree with each other, which only made me more determined to prove that the family Yichus was correct. Folk Lore and Folk Tales are more often than not based on facts. Yes, names and places and even times can often be twisted, events exaggerated, but in most part they are records of actual people that lived and occurrences that took place. We only need to learn how to decipher and interpret them properly in order to extract the precise narrative. So thirty years ago, when talking to my distant relative living in Israel, one Isaac Goldenthal, who was ninety years old at the time but his mind was as sharp as a tack, I knew that the treasure trove of family history that he was passing down to me would eventually prove to be true. All these years I never had any doubt, I just didn’t have any hard evidence. As the nay sayers and cancel culture addicts would accuse, I had no substantiating paperwork. But as a historian, and I think I can use that label with over a dozen books to my credit, I recognized that family legacy is irreplaceable. Once forgotten, it is lost forever. So I have been writing my family histories and stories ever since, ensuring they will not be lost and they will be preserved for future generations to reflect upon, discuss and enjoy. Those stories already published are available at Amazon Books, Eloquent Books, Val d’Or Publishing, and Finger Press, but I still have a long way to go and a lot more stories to tell.
Like many Middle Easterners, Isaac had memorized the passage of father to son for what seemed like countless centuries, able to prattle them off with ease as their names rolled off his tongue. As for their siblings, wives or other children, that was left for me to fill in if I accepted the challenge and for over the past three decades, that has been exactly what I have been doing. Whereas Isaac provided a single line from father to son, I have been busy adding the branches and leaves to flesh out that tree until it blossomed with the thousand of lives that were all interconnected to my own. It’s been a challenge, but relying on the accuracy of that initial long list of succession that Isaac provided, it only served to convince me of everything he had told me as being true. He even warned me there would be those that will constantly be arguing that he was incorrect, pointing at specific names and saying they belong to someone else’s family or that entire sections were fabricated, and we had no supportive documentation to prove otherwise. It was as if he new in advance that today’s fascination with genealogies on a global scale would attempt to eradicate many of the ancient family histories that did not meet their newly established criteria of acceptability. But people seem to forget just how powerful the memory of Middle Easterners truly is, as they memorized entire sections if not books of a religious and historical nature. Once Isaac passed away back in the 1990s, it was up to me to bear the mantle and defend the lines of descent that were now entrusted to me and in my possession.
THE SHALOM SHAKHNA CONTROVERSY
It is understandable that families, especially those linked to some degree of power such as fame or money, like to include great men in their ancestral charts. There is no telling how many people in America now have an ancestor that sailed on the Mayflower. If each one of those ancestors truly existed then the ship would have capsized under the weight of too many passengers before every reaching Plymouth Rock. So it’s not surprising that many Jewish families had already laid claim to the two rabbinical sages known as the Shalom Shakhna Kahanas. Yet, when they try to write about the deeds and accomplishments of these two men that bore this particular name, they tend to write about their sons instead and the deeds of other members of the family, suggesting an extreme lack of knowledge regarding the Shakhna Kahanas to begin with. The fact that they both bore the same name also created a mass of confusion when it came to describing their familial relationships. One can find written in many of the online references regarding these men, the following: Note: Abraham Kahana (died 1741) should not be confused with Abraham Areyh Lieb ben Shalom Shakhna Kahana (Loeb Scheines) who died in 1788. Abraham Areyh Lieb Kahana (Loeb Scheines)(d.1788) is the grand nephew of Abraham Kahana (d 1741). But even this does not appear to be accurate because this Abraham is said to be the son of Shalom Shakhna Kahana II. The confusion then arises as to who is the actual father of Shalom Shakhna. Some reports claim that Abraham Kahana was the great uncle of Abraham Aryeh Lieb, and the son of Samuel, who in turn was the son of Shalom Shakhna I while also suggesting that Shalom Shakhna Kahana II was the son of one of Abraham’s sisters, either Bluma or Esther, or perhaps even his brother Aryeh Leib. This certainly would make Abraham Aryeh Leib the son of Shakhna II and the great nephew of the prior Abraham, but now that would mean that the reports of Abraham Kahana, Rabbi of Berdichev in South Russia and son of Shakhna I would most likely be a third Abraham who has been unaccounted for in the pedigrees but is also a great-great uncle of Abraham Aryeh Kahana. This being so, then that meant these men were two generations apart and this does not and cannot support the so-called, “Proven and Historical” genealogy. So much for the contention that if it is in ‘print’ then it must be true.
The genealogies in Geni.com and Ancestry.com, which were sourced from Rabbi Meir Wunder’s Elef Margaliot, published 1993, actually claim that Rabbi Shakhna Kahana I was a son of Aharon Menachem HaKohen, but for some strange reason, the father of this Aharon Menachem remains unknown, yet it is stated with a degree of certainty that his grandfather must be Moses Aharon Katz, born in 1552. This material is repeated in A World Apart: Memoir of Jewish life in nineteenth century Galicia by Joseph Margoshes & Ira Robinson, p. 184 & Zeitschrift für hebraeische bibliographie by Heinrich Brody, vol. 4, p. 166. One inaccuracy repeated over and over again until people begin to think it must be true. So not only is there confusion, but also these gaps and assumed associations without any known or proven direct linkages. The promoters of these genealogies, which in this article will be shown do not make any sense and do not have corroborative evidence, yet for over a hundred years they have been regarded as true because they were in 'print'. One only has to look at all the conflicting statements in print such as the Toldot Yehudi Brody, in which Abraham Kahana's father is identified as Shalom Shachna Kahana but as mentioned, in the Jewish Encylcopedia (1906) this Abraham Kahana's father is identified as Samuel Kahana, to know that they are likely mistaken. The only truth is that they don't know! In Sefer Mazkeret li-gedole Ostraha, Menachem Mendel Biber page 84 the author tries to clarify this conflict by stating that there are in fact two alternative genealogies for Abraham Kahana. A pronouncement that there are alternative genealogies is not a clarification, it is a deflection, a further confusion, and a deliberate avoidance of the fact that the information available does not make sense and that it has been fabricated. From these genealogies it certainly is not clear if Abraham Kahana's father is Shalom Shachna Kahana or Samuel Kahana or even someone else. Simply put, they don’t know and what has not been given due and proper consideration is the fact that they might just be simply wrong all together. Even the dates for Abraham Kahana’s death are in dispute with various dates given. In Sefer Mazkeret li-gedole Ostraha the date of death is 1735. In the Jewish Encyclopedia the date of death is 1741. In the Unbroken Chain the date of death is 1749. Three different dates with a wide gap extending over fourteen years. More conflicting evidence, which suggests that consideration should be given to that other possibility of there being a third Abraham Kahana in the correct family tree.
In the Meorei Galicia (Encyclopedia of Galacian Sages) By Rabbi Meir Wunder: Volume 3, Page 321, it is evident that what is described as the information regarding Abraham Kahana had been mistakenly placed under a heading for Abraham Aryeh Lieb Kahana (1725 - 1788). The complete failure to perform the research and proper due diligence before publishing anything as a final statement of fact is notoriously inappropriate and not worthy of anyone doing genealogical research but it is clear the motivation of Rabbinical scholars is to tie themselves and others to more famous rabbinical scholars from antiquity, even at the cost o truth and accuracy. What has been provided as evidence of a direct lineage is not evidence at all. They are postulations, proposition and perhaps even suggestions but that is all they amount to. Based on this information that has been provided by these ‘so-called references’, then the ancestry tree for Shalom Shakhna I and II would look like what I have produced and displayed below in Table I. But the first point that I need to emphasize is that there was excellent work by the early rabbinical genealogical investigators between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries regarding the descendants of Rabbi Akiva HaCohen Katz of Salonica. This early work was meticulous, scrupulously investigated and thorough. I will give it credit for that! Not only did these early investigators provide accurate dating, historical documentation, biographical information, but they included the names of wives, daughters, and the marital information of the offspring in this lineage. Details which have often been overlooked in the genealogies by later biographers proclaiming their own rabbinical standing and knowledge, which often is exhibited through records of individuals labeled as daughter 1 and daughter 2, either because their research failed to go to the depth required or they intended to fabricate links to other families and did so through the obscurity of unknown identities, which provided them with the opportunity to be creative, if not intentionally deceptive. But certainly, that is not the case with the original historical biographers of the HaCohen Katz family recording the first three centuries. Bht the early biographer’s determination of correctness and providing details as far as parentage even for some of the wives that married into the HaCohen Katz family is suddenly erased as it all stumbles to a halt when someone new attempts to cover the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Their attempt is abysmal in comparison to the original biographer, creating a list where individuals go missing, wives become unknowns and names entered have no bearing or resemblance to those that preceded them.
TRADITIONAL NAMING CUSTOMS
But it is not just the sudden jolt of amnesia in the HaCohen Katz historical record that suggests immediately that something is not right here, but also the fact that the tradition of naming completely changes from what was a clear pattern for over two hundred years to what can only be described as chaotic and unfamiliar. Naming customs in families, especially those with an element of fame and power, is something that practically never changes, carrying on into family traditions that are present even today. It is customary in Jewish families to honour their ancestors by naming children after those significant family member that have passed away. A grandchild named after a deceased grandparent, or an honored family member from a past generation. This was especially true for Rabbinical families, where often the name that would be given to the eldest child was exactly as it had been written in the past, or repeated as a middle name for all of one’s children. In this particular Katz family tree, we can see such an occurrence with names such as Akiva, Isaac, Nachum (Nehemiah), Chaim, Gershon, or even a Mordecai, also expressed repeatedly as a Moses or a Menachem scattered here or there. But what we don’t see is a wholesale change in names that doesn’t even use the starting initials from past family members.
As for family titles, these would never change. Once a HaCohen Katz, always a HaCohen Katz. The family titles were cherished, practically held sacred, as the title is passed down from generation to generation as a badge of pride and honour. It would take misdeeds by a father or close relative before a Jewish family would ever wish to abandon its family title. In this particular family, ‘HaCohen Katz’ is such a title. It is more than simply a surname. It identified a dynasty and the rabbinical families respected these dynastic titles enough that no one ever tried to purloin or adopt such a title from another family if they were not entitled to it. It would be considered sacrilege to do so. There were other such Dynastic Titles, and one of these happened to be Kahana. In fact it might be the oldest of the Dynastic names, having roots that trace back to the fourth century in Babylonia, and although shared between both the Exilarchate and a priestly family there, the latter being my family, these two families were so intertwined that at times the Resh Gelutha may not have been the direct male descendant of David at all. These naming and title rules were practically engraved in stone, much like the Ten Commandments were. They were immutable, and yet suddenly, abruptly, this tradition comes to a crashing halt at a time when traceability should actually have been getting easier, not harder as families entered the modern era. A member of the HaCohen Katz family suddenly calling himself Kahana, just wouldn’t happen, yet here are the biographers, the genealogists wanting you to believe this is exactly what did happen.
ORIGINS OF THE DYNASTIC FAMILIES
It is with grateful thanks and appreciation to the phenomenal work by Debra Katz, that the separation of these dynasties into distinct genetic lines can be identified not only through their paternal DNA but by the actual epochs during which they may have originated. We can view her excellent work in Figure 1, where if we accept that the Goldenthal separation is identical to that of the Kahana, they being one and the same family, which will be demonstrated later, then we can view its origins as a distinct separation taking place sometime during the tenth century of the common era . I have taken the liberty of utilizing her Cluster Phylogeny Diagram as a potential model of demonstrating the rise of Family Dynasties and subsequently family titles or names within the hereditary priestly families. As is evident in the centre of Figure 1, both the HaCohen Katz and Kahana families may have shared a common ancestry through the FT69390 parentage, which separated around the fifth century CE into the distinct FGC4977 cluster or grouping to which the majority of Katz descendants appear to belong, and into the FGC30681 cluster or grouping where the Goldenthal/Kahana family can be found. A further division occurs in which the Goldenthal/Kahana family appears to break away into its own subdivision of BY189731, which likely arose from the high rate of intermarriage within the dynastic line, resulting in a shared set of mutations between all family members. But as a close knit unit, the exclusiveness of utilizing the title of Kahana as a distinct surname remained in tact until the 1830s, when certain incidents and German laws made it necessary for some members of the family to adopt a more Germanic name, at which time Goldenthal came into being. But prior to this time, that exclusivity meant that it was very unlikely for any other family, especially a rabbinic family to usurp the title of Kahana, for it would have been considered no less a crime than cultural misappropriation is viewed today. That being the historical and traditional case, then it calls into question how the title suddenly appeared, without any predication within the genealogical line of the HaCohen Katz family.
Not only was such an event unlikely, as there would have been objections within the dynastic communities regarding the entitlement to use a ‘cognomen’, but it would have been a direct insult to the immediate family that had retained the pride and honour of being called HaCohen Katz for three hundred years. This slap in the face to the ancestral practice of using the dynastic names would not have been tolerated by other family members. So not only would their have been external pressures not to call oneself Kahana, unless so born, there also would have been internal pressure as well, which only further intimates that there clearly is something wrong with the proposed lineage as it is recorded in Table 1, even though what is recorded is considered to exist from approved references.
THE ORIGINAL SHALOM SHAKHNA
So it would be ridiculous to assume that either Shalom Shakna Kahana or his parent picked both his first names and title out of thin air, as it is being presented to have been the case for the son of Aharon Menachem HaCohen Katz. Not even a hint or a trace to whatever name his grandfather had, or his great-grandfather, as then surely Aharon would have been incorporated as a middle name at minimum, and HaCohen Katz would immediately tell everyone to whose family or dynasty he belonged to. It would have been practically madness on the part of his father to have taken such a radical change in naming for his baby son in defiance of family traditions. But according to what the later biographer wants us to believe, that is exactly the case but also exactly why it should not be accepted as being accurate.
This selection of a personal name that has nothing to do with earlier ancestors in the HaCohen Katz family seems highly unlikely to have been random either. In fact, the usage of the name Shalom Shakhna would be viewed as paying honour and tribute to the original Shalom Shakhna, who had no apparent connection to the HaCohen Katz family at all. So why would Shalom Shakhna Kahana I be heaping honors on a rival family. Whereas the HaCohen Katz tended to be predominantly a Central European Dynasty, the original Shalom Shakhna, as well as the Kahana family tended to be a more Eastern European and South Russian Dynasty. Therefore, any influences that the original Shalom Shakhna may have had through contacts with the HaCohen Katz family would have been perhaps minimal to non-existent. As the genealogy of the original Shalom Shakhna is well known, then it can be said with some certainty that the use off the name by Shalom Shakhna Kahana I and Shalom Shakhna Kahana II also appears to be inappropriate, much as in the same way that their adoption of the title Kahana was. Examination of the lineages in Table II clearly demonstrates that the for-bearers of the original Shalom Shakhna were not directly related to the HaCohen Katz dynasty. Heralding from the Schorr family, the last name could be an indication along with Charif or Sharif of the priestly function of preparing and presenting the burnt offering in the Temple. As a high priestly family, the denotation of their purpose was not unusual, in the same way that other priestly families were denoted for their musical and singing abilities or their capacity to serve in the Temple as scribes. Perhaps though not as strong in its identification to a particular dynasty as was Kahana or HaCohen Katz, Schorr still likely held a level of exclusivity that rendered if free from being misappropriated.
As evidenced from Table II regarding the original Shalom Shakhna, there does not appear to have been any crossover with the HaCohen Katz family, all the way prior to the birth of Akiva HaCohen Katz of Salonica at the beginning of the thirteenth century. Therefore, the adoption of the personal names of Shalom Shakhna a hundred years later after his death and into the original HaCohen Katz pedigree does not have any justification, nor does it appear to have any supportive reasoning for its occurrence. It would actually make far more sense if both Shalom Shakhna Kahana I and Shalom Shakhna Kahana II had some linkage to the original Shalom Shakhna but this has never been expressed or acknowledged. But the reason for this may be hidden within the genealogical chart of the Shorrs itself, which as presented below in Table II should be self explanatory.
SHADOWS OF TRINITY
The secret to finding the key that might unlock the mystery behind confusing and compounding genealogies of the later Shalom Shakhnas, might actually be underscored in the story line of the relationship between Shalom Shakhna Schorr’s son, Israel, and that of Israel’s son-in-law, Yaakov Kahana. One might describe their relationship as lukewarm, somewhat frosty, perhaps even stormy, but as I emphasize in my book Shadows of Trinity, it was probably simple intolerance, bordering on genuine dislike. A relationship probably not much unlike that of Israel and his father, Shalom Shakhna, because it is clearly evident that the bond between father and son-in-law was far stronger than father and son. In fact, the communications between Shalom Shakhna, and the writings of Moses Isserles regarding his father-in-law, demonstrate an extremely close relationship that Isaac never had and clearly didn’t share in. Historically, practically all mention of Shalom Shakhna Schorr is tied to his son-in-law, as if they were two peas in a pod. So it is no wonder Isaac may have resented his own son-in-law, as it was an expression of his personal grief for how he felt he had been treated by a father that was distant and detached. Even now when one searches Shalom Shakhna Schorr, the associated references are not to his son but to Moses Isserles. His son was an overlooked and forgotten entity, given little credit for his own abilities. So little in fact that when his father died, he forbid his son from publishing his papers on law and religious matters. Afterwards, it was said he did so because he was such a modest man, not wanting his memory and his greatness to overshadow rabbinical scholars in the future. This was not the case at all, because when one examines the autocratic character by which he ruled his court, with an iron fist, there was nothing modest about Shalom Shakhna Schorr at all. He forbid it because he knew his son Israel would most likely claim the writings as his own rulings on religious matters and publish them under his own name. Which he did, and for which he got caught, not only by the Jewish Council of Poland but also by the Roman Catholic Church. The fact is, Shalom Shakhna Schorr had been so strict in his interpretation of the law, basing his rulings on religious precepts, that even in Rome they had been paying close attention, adopting many of the same rulings made by this Rabbi from Lublin. What is even more interesting is that forty years ago, one could read about this shameful attempt by his son to claim some of his father’s fame in numerous Jewish articles but now much of that has been whitewashed from Jewish history in a deliberate attempt to remove anything negative regarding rabbis from the past. One recent article now attributes the release of articles to a medical practitioner that was a close friend of the family, as if this person had access to any of those documents.
But before any counter arguments arise that attempt to defend Shalom Shakhna Schorr a saint, it needs to be said that he owed his public standing to the most part based on the connections he and his family maintained with the government authorities, including the court of King Sigismund I. In 1541, Shakhna was officially appointed chief rabbi of Poland by the king as a reward for his collaboration. In this capacity, he mediated between the authorities and the Jewish community, and his appointment was meant to ensure the collection of taxes by any means, even by the power of excommunication that he wielded. But he also wielded the authority to impose the death penalty, which was far more reason for anyone to pay their taxes than the threat of excommunication. The acceptance of his role meant following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, both of whom were the tax collectors for the Polish monarchy, ensuring that they shook the pockets of the Jewish community for every kopec owed, for which they were richly rewarded. His father Yosef also operated a money lending business from which they wielded a tremendous amount of power over the Jewish community due to the personal indebtedness of certain families.
In the literature of the period, Shakhna’s court in Lublin is described several times as “the great court” or even “the true great court,” expressions that clearly reflect its senior status among the Jewish communities of Poland. Considering it was the only court appointed by the King of Poland, it should be no surprise that it was designated as the senior court. In a description of one of the more severe punishments meted out by its singular judge and jury, being Shalom Shakhna, “a wicked man of evil deeds,” who’s crime appears to be that he was reporting secretly to the Polish government about the Jewish community and its leader, was to have his eyes plucked from his skull and his tongue torn out. A punishment that would come to haunt the Jewish community for it is written, “great misfortune came to the Jews because of this deed by Shakhna.” Apparently the wicked man who was punished converted to Christianity, and subsequently he and his sons were permitted by both Church and King to wreak havoc on the Jewish community. As a result, Shakhna, was stripped of much of his power and authority, his role being replaced by the regional councils. Diminished and held responsible for the fate that befell the Jewish citizenry, a series of confrontations took place in the 1540s between Shakhna and the leaders of the Polish Jewish communities, signaling the decline in both the prestige and recognition of the chief rabbi. This continued until he held very little status, as evidenced by his son’s condition as described in my book, Shadows of Trinity. Considering his death was in 1558, Shalom Shakhna Schorr went to an early grave as a somewhat broken and bitter man.
Considering the loss of status and respect once held by this first Shalom Shakhna, it was unlikely that any other family would actually name their child after him so soon after his death, unless they were directly related? Shakhna retained the support and admiration of his son-in-law, Moses Isserles, but few others held him in such great esteem any longer. Most of his writings, other than those usurped by his son, Israel, and released in his own name, are only known because of their being quoted by other rabbis that were opposed to his interpretations. It is Ḥayim ben Betsal’el who noted and commented on Shakhna’s resolute opposition to putting his halakhic decisions into writing, unlike the quote being attributed to his son that his father did so because of modesty and not wishing to impose his will on future rabbis. The Schorr family becoming contentious, it is not realistic to think that an entirely different dynasty, that being the HaCohen Katz would suddenly want to name their child in honor of this man. What is evident at the time is that others who were connected to Shalom Shakha Schorr were busy trying to disconnect and distance themselves. This may be true of his own grandson, Moses Charif Margolis that preferred to have himself called by his father-in-law’s name from the Margolis family. His grandson’s disdain for the family name may not only be the result of his grandfather’s demise but also a result of his relationship with his own father, Israel ben Shakhna. Once his father was accused of purloining Shakhna’s documents and rulings and passing them off as his own, the reputation of the family decreased even further. Add to all of this the fact that Israel’s daughter from a second wife, Reisa Rivka Schorr married Yaakov Kahana, the recognized leader of the Karaite community in Brody. Relationships between the Rabbanite and Karite Jewish communities were lukewarm and it was not unusual for the Rabbis at that time to distance themselves from any Karaite connections. So it may be understandable why Moses Charif wanted no part of inheriting his family’s surname considering the position of his brother-in-law..
As for Yaakov Kahana and Reisa Rivka Schorr, their story is told in Shadows of Trinity. Brody in 1640 was said to have 400 Jewish families. In the 1840 census of Brody, thirty of the houses were inhabited by either Kahanas or Goldenthals, so it would be fair to assume two hundred years earlier that Karaites easily could have been half of the Jewish community or approximately 200 families. Therefore, the marriage between Yaakov and Reisa needs to be viewed in the context of its political overtones as well. Possibly an attempt by Israel ben Shakhna to reclaim some of that power and authority lost by his father by bridging the two communities. But as the story of Shadows of Trinity unfolds, one sees quickly how any intentions by Israel ben Shakhna quickly evaporated. Anyone that wasn’t part of the Schorr or Kahana family would be unlikely to overtly demonstrate an affinity. So how can we explain the appearance of two members of the HaCohen Katz family suddenly bearing the name of this individual? So as indicated earlier, the answer might actually be quite simple as evidenced by Moses Charif, who no longer wanted to be a Schorr and showed everyone the way to do so. Simply put, the formula is to claim your father-in-law as your legal parent.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME
In Table III, the line of descent as described by my distant relative in Israel demonstrates clearly, that the Shalom Shakhna Kahanas were in fact direct descendants of Yaakov Kahana and his wife Reisa Rivka Schorr. The fact that names such as Shalom Shakhna, Aryeh Leib, Jacob, Samuel, Abraham appear suddenly in the proposed HaCohen Katz genealogy make perfect sense because they were names very common to the Kahana pedigree. But whereas those of us born to the Kahana family feel no shame in the acts of our ancestors, in fact black-sheep is taken almost with praise, those families to whom they may have married in to, may have had a differing opinion. So when the first Shalom Shakhna Kahana marries the daughter of the HaCohen Katz family, the patriarch of that family may have thought it far more astute, as in Moses Charif’s case, to add their own family surname to the son-in-law and claim him as one of their own, thus concealing what they may have considered a somewhat seedy past and an embarrassing union. Of course Shalom Shakhna Kahana already had a family surname or dynastic title, so he wouldn’t be called Katz but they simply added that inconsistency to their family tree. But simply adding Shalom Shakhna Kahana I to the tree created several other notable issues, since he really wasn’t a direct family member and therefore his descendants weren’t being closely followed by the HaCohen Katz family biographers. And suddenly a few generations later, when Shalom Shakhna II appears, it’s evident that they haven’t been recording the Kahana line of descent and don’t really know the family lines. Some think his father may have been Abraham Kahana, but which Abraham Kahana because there are so many of them in the Kahana family. Others have said he is the son of Eliezer Lipmann and one of the sisters of Abraham Kahana. Perhaps Blume, maybe Esther. They don’t know this either and instead they create a jumbled account filled with missing identities and multiple possibilities. A case of choose whichever you think is best, even though none of the alternatives make any sense from a HaCohen Katz perspective. What is shown in Table III is the most plausible account for tracing the later Shaknas and one which adheres to the Kahana family traditions, even if a true and verified record was never kept. But once again, this is only another postulated alternative without any more evidence than the other suggestions that were in existence. There must be a way to lend it more credence, a means by which to provide supportive evidence that dispels the HaCohen Katz narrative and legitimizes the direct Kahana descent proposal. Fortunately, such is the case and it is science which provides us the evidence. This is one time where it can be said, ‘follow the science and not the facts!’ Whereas, the so-called facts were based on a false narrative created with an intended purpose, the science cannot be dismissed.
IT’S IN THE GENES
Of course, if I simply presented Table III as fact, that would be no different from what these biographers and historiographers of the past that generated the HaCohen Katz pedigree chart did. It would be nothing more than opinion and clearly I would not have begun this long dissertation if I was only intending to thow another opinion into the midst of the confusion. Merely presenting disjointed information, lacking plausible connections and saying don’t worry about the gaps just accept it as it is, may be sufficient for those rabbinical scholars but it no longer suffices in a world demanding proof and scientific integrity. Even though the argument thus far on the Kahana lineage and origins for the Shalom Shakhnas makes far more sense, it is still nothing more than my opinion and should not be accepted without the provision of more supporting data. Fortunately we live in an age where anyone can have their DNA analyzed and from these bits of nucleic acid, family connections both past and present can be determined.
As evident from the research performed by Debra Katz on the priestly paternal DNA presented in Figure I, genotyping is a great tool for determining ancient origins, and it will identify close relatives that share a closely related male line. But that is only a small portion of our genetic profile and barely scratches the surface of our recent past. Not to mention that direct connections to an ancestor in the past can only be confirmed if the identity, along with a DNA sample of that ancestor is available. The chromosomes on the male Y gene are passed down generation to generation, practically unchanged over time except for the mutations that occur after several generations automatically. But other than supporting the claim that all these various families have preserved a history of being descendants of a priestly family for over two thousand years, the actual ancestor cannot be identified without a sample of his DNA as the comparative starting point. We can all claim to be descendants of the first Hebrew High Priest, Aaron, but without a sample of his DNA we can’t prove it.
But that is where autosomal DNA enters the picture, containing all the other genes we’ve inherited from all our other ancestors that weren’t on our paternal line. To prove that the Kahanas always were part of a particular line of descent, not crossing over to some other line, then proving the exclusion of that ‘foreign’ DNA from those other postulated lines becomes much easier to demonstrate. Furthermore, one of the properties of autosomal DNA is that it follows the law of diminishing returns. As we pass from generation to generation, approximately 75% of our original DNA is being replaced by the addition of new ancestors, resulting from each new marriage that produces offspring. This ability to quantify the common elements of DNA remaining permits us to trace back approximately the number of generations in the past when two families actually had this marital connection. How this distancing works and how we can determine roughly the separation of generations by the percentage of DNA shared in common can be seen below in Table IV.
Since some DNA companies do not provide the percentage relationship but express it instead is expressed as centiMorgans Table IV also includes these values for that determination as well but it is evident that the actual quantity of shared DNA can vary tremendously in each succeeding generation. And even though the centiMorgan is a quantification of the exact amount of DNA that two individuals share in common, two people from the same generation can have quite different values as a result of a process referred to as chromosomal exchange. A process by which bit of genetic material actually break off a chromatid and either exchange with another broken bit from another chromatid, or simply fuse as an additional piece in another chromosome. But still, this exchange process has limitations and the total quantity of shared DNA will diminish over subsequent generations by at least fifty percent. Therefore, as with the direct percentage calculation that a genetic testing company may provide, the more shared centiMorgans, then the closer the relationship and the converse being the less shared centiMorgans, then the further the separation of generations.
On this basis, if I wanted to prove I was a direct descendant of the Schorr family, then it should correspond to the five generations from Yaakov Kahana’s wife Reisa Rivka Schorr, to my family ancestor Zeev Wolf Kahana, highlighted in Table III, and another five or so generations from Zeev Wolf Kahana to myself, or approximately ten generations in total. That is assuming that other than that one time, there were no other marriages between the Schorr and Kahana families following that one union.Because many of the Jewish dynastic families did practice intra-familial marriages, ie. marriage of first and second cousins, the reduction of DNA percentages becomes somewhat skewed and does not diminish as rapidly as if these marriages did not occur. As a result, the Schorr/Charif/Sherrif to my own generation distancing may give the appearance of being a few generations closer than ten generations. But more importantly, what can be determined from Figure II, is that such a direct relationship does exist between myself and the Schorr family. From the table, the cM values range from 53 units to 159 with the average being 98cM, suggesting that the last union between families was approximately seven or eight generations ago.
When a 7 or 8 generation separation is examined in light of the family tradition of cousin to cousin marriages, then an approximately ten generation origin is not only feasible but the expectation because Reisa Rivka Schorr is the direct original ancestor.
Others might argue that this nothing more than coincidence and I can appreciate their hesitancy since DNA determinations is a relatively new science to the lay person. Perhaps it was another Schorr ancestor that may have been involved with a Kahana, thus rendering this evidence to be circumstantial at best. That is definitely a distinct possibility, making it is necessary to look at other families in the Schorr pedigree that would have inserted their genes into the equation as well. Fortunately, we know the family name of Shakhna Shalom Schorr’s wife and therefore, Pollack, an name which has carried on through the centuries should be present in practically equivalent numbers as Schorr. The combination of these two families at the same genetic distance would provide even more evidence that it was Reisa Rivaka Schorr’s genes that were being passed down to me. In Figure III, the possibility of that inheritance of Pollack genes is examined.
Once again, the average cM quanitity between myself and the Pollacks is 96 cM with the range extending from 50 to 124 units. These numbers are almost identical to those of my Schorr ancestors, suggesting that their introduction into the Kahana family was at the same time point. The fact that neither Schorr nor Pollack had recent introduction of genetic material into the Kahana/Goldenthal pool except for perhaps a single marriage perhaps three or four generations ago is a good indication that the pedigree of the Kahana family is correct and therefore Table III is correct.
NO CATS: PERHAPS A FEW DOGS
But to ensure that this is not the result of some cross connection with the HaCohen Katz family at approximately the same time, then any sharing of genetic material between myself and the Katz family must either be non-existent as the work by Debra Katz in Figure I shows that the separation occurred almost 1500 years ago, or else far more recent than what is reported for either Schorr or Pollack because of inter-family relationships that happened long after Yaakov Kahana married Reisa Rivka Schorr. A cM measurement more in line with the time period when possibly Shalom Shakhna Kahana I married a daughter of the Katz family as has been proposed. In this scenario, the confusion created that he was a son of Aharon Menachem Katz rather than the son-in-law, could be justified.
Furthermore, the geographical differences of Kahana in Eastern Europe and Russia, while Katz were more central European also would suggest that any contact would have had to have been more recent. Since I’m already aware of Katz relatives on both my maternal and paternal sides of the family, the only question that needs to be answered is if any of those relationships are as old as the Schorr and Pollack ones. A later origin of the DNA material would suggest the case of Shakhna I being a son-in-law and not a Katz descendant. As can be seen in Figure IV, it is the latter scenario which appears to be definitely true, with the relationship with the Katz family being far more recent with the oldest connection and therefore more suggestive of the timeframe when Shalom Shakhna Kahana I married a HaCohen Katz daughter.
The list of Katz relatives is actually greater than what is shown here but those additional relatives do not differ from this grouping as far as their later introduction to the Kahana-Goldenthal family. The cM average of 123.75 from this group is far higher than that recorded for Schorr or Pollack. In fact the difference represents three or four generations later, clearly indicating that the relationship with the Katz family came much later and well over a century later than the time of Sholom Shakhna Schorr. Although one might argue that calculations of this nature are still crude and cannot be considered definitive, which is admittedly factual, thereby suggesting that there is a degree of unreliability, that standard deviation can be calculated of 16.95 indicating that 95% of all Katz (HaCohen Katz) relationships will still fall in a band indicating no inter-family relations occurred more than a second cousin once removed distance, thereby excluding the possibility of any sixteenth or seventeenth century marriages with the Katz family. Based on these simple statistical calculations, it is a fact that the narrative of placing all of the Shalom Shakhnas into a Schorr-Kahana family tree has far more support than what has been a weak, error-prone, data deficient attempt to link them to the HaCohen Katz family. Not only do the traditions, naming principles, legends and history suggest that this is their proper placement, but now alos the autosomal DNA does the same, somewhat conclusively, presenting a good argument to support all those other details and the appropriate timelines.
As much as every family would like to say that the oral traditions or Yichus are true, they must still obtain some substantial findings that give what amounts to undeniable credence to their stories. As far as the Kahana/Goldenthal family is concerned, those key indicators can be identified in two key relationships that were contentious, not in that they didn’t exist, but because the parties involved probably wished they never existed. This occurred in two successive generations at the latter half of the sixteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth century. Some of the members of my family adopted Kahana-Heller or Heller-Kahana as their surname as a result of one of these events, which can be seen in the right hand column of some of the individuals below in Figure VII which is a list of surnames they were aware their ancestors had used. The reasons why I say this was a contentious event that historically some have tried to erase is beyond the scope of this article but for those interested, some details are revealed in my book Blood of Trinity. Considering the only known union of the Heller and Kahana families was when Yusef (Josef) Kahana married Reisa Heller, then adoption of the hyphenated surname really wasn’t justified but some family members did so anyway. The animosity that existed between the families practically assured that there wouldn’t be any other blessed unions between the families afterwards. That being the case, then based on the presence of that single union of the two families as shown in Table III, then there should only be a minimal trace of Heller genes in my autosomal DNA, a remnant from that one marriage ten or eleven generations ago. As indicated, the relationship between the two families was stormy at best, much of it resulting from extreme political differences, as my ancestors had closely aligned themselves with the royal Habsburg family, while the Hellers spent a lot of time in prison being anti-monarchy. As a result, the finding that the cM in certain of the Heller family lines is as low as 32 cM, with an average of 85cm as seen in Figure V, confirms that there was very little interaction between our two families after that initial union. At a cM level that low, the union would have been beyond nine generations ago, most likely around ten or eleven, which is exactly the timeframe expected for Yosef Kahana and Reisa Heller. If the Yichus or family stories can be that precise in regards to such a union taking place, precisely at the time suggested, despite Heller genealogists never acknowledging the true origins of Yusef Kahana, then by now it should be evident to most that to attempt to deny any further aspects of the Kahana family’s oral traditions would be unsuccessful. The Heller connection is merely one key indicator of the veracity of these stories.
Furthermore, at the same time that the Kahana-Heller lines were being wed, so too as revealed in Blood of Trinity, were the Kahana and Oettingen-Wallerstein families. Originally of Bavarian nobility, the Oettingen-Wallerstein family converted to Judaism and was eventually stripped of its German nobility titles in the 1840s precisely because of its adherence to the Jewish faith. Not long afterwards, the family itself separated into two distinct lines, that being Oettinger ad Wallerstein, thereby redividing the houses that became unified long ago in German history. Just as with the relationship between Kahana and Heller, the oral tradition or Yichus also suggests that this marriage of families was a one-time event. That being the case, then the association of Kahana with either Oettinger or Wallerstein should show similar evidence of originating around ten or eleven generations ago, with little indication of subsequent marriages afterwards. Assuming that the stories passed down to me by Isaac Goldenthal were accurate, and thus far they have proven to be so, then this should be one more line of evidence that the reliability of oral traditions in Jewish families should be given far more credence than has been exhibited thus far. It is true that the nature of Jewish parenting skills has been to be dismissive and practically negative when it came to giving credit or acknowledging family achievements. It is one of the reasons we have so many Yiddish words to describe the family braggart. My mother would often explain that she would play down, in other words denigrate any of her children’s or family’ accomplishments because she didn’t want anyone to give us the evil eye. Anyone that hasn’t experienced this hasn’t lived in a traditional Jewish family. It is probably the number one reason so many Jewish children end up on a psychiatrist’s couch suffering from massive inferiority complexes, never having been good enough to satisfy their own mothers. But once again, an examination of the autosomal DNA connections as seen in Figure VI below would suggest that the Yichus is historically accurate, and the dismissive attitudes of so many regarding family stories and traditions are nothing more than programmed denial of the Jewish community.
As anticipated, the limited number of Oettingen-Wallerstein connections to the present Goldenthal family clearly suggests that the union with the Kahana family was perhaps only that one time union as shown on the genealogy chart Table III. The extremely low cM, averaging 28 cM, also clearly indicates a single union with a ten or eleven generation gap between the time of marriage and the present. The correlations between Kahana-Heller and Kahana-Oettingen-Wallerstein are so similar that they point towards the practically undeniable historical accuracy of the described marriages as written about in Blood of Trinity. Though the book may incorporate some fanciful tales that have become the mythos surrounding those marriages, the fact that the genetic material connection exists is proof that the marriages did occur and must be accepted as undeniable truth of the matter.
CARRY ON KAHANA
Of course, if the DNA results are able to confirm two separate marriages from over four hundred years ago, then there is every reason to believe that the family oral traditions for more recent events are also more than likely to be confirmed. The Goldenthal-Kahana family connection has been spoken of repeatedly in this article, but autosoma DNA results should be able to do even more by confirming that this name differentiation within a single family occurred in the late 1830s. From Table III above, the lineage from Yaakov Kahana to Zeev Wolf Kahana can be easily traced, Zeev Wolf being the founding father of my particular line of the family and the one that ultimately became known as the Goldenthals. The direct descendants of Zeev Wolf Kahana, as a continuation of Table III, can be found in Table IV below. For those members of the family that are connected on my social media platforms, they will now realize that the genealogical tables that I provided to them in the past, indicating how all of today’s Goldenthals are interconnected will now continue on directly from Table IV. Making this connection will now permit them to be able to trace all of their family roots back to the fifteenth century.
But the question remains, how to ensure that all the connections on those latter tables are true. That the various Goldenthal families are truly all one family and closely interconnected. With autosomal DNA, the quest for those answers becomes very easy. The names of those other families that married into the Goldenthal family, become the proof of the accuracy of the Goldenthals all being from one family, as well as their direct relationships with those families that have held on to some derivation of Kahana as a last name. An autosomal DNA search, pointing to unions that took place around four or five generations ago, when the various lines of the family split, heading to New York, Connecticut, Canada, France, etc., will provide the necessary proof of the singular nature of the family.
Based on the division of families as seen in Table IV, then the autosomal DNA results should definitively indicate the separation of the Goldenthal line from that of the Kahana, Kahn, Kohn, Kahane families about five generations ago, while at the same time demonstrating that there are Kahana connections that easily extend back more than eight generations as well, to the very limits of the DNA testing. The demonstration of these events, which can be identified through the analysis of the DNA results, is verification that the everything discussed thus far, has been an accurate account of the family history. The only way that all of the events related to me from Isaac Goldenthal could be true, is if all of Isaac’s sources had preserved the family legacy with as few errors as was humanly possible through an oral tradition that extended back over a thousand years. This one family is an incredible display of the role of oral traditions in preserving family memories in Middle Eastern communities and culture. Reviewing the the total number of accurate findings outlined in this article thus far is testimony to the ability of Yichus to retain essential elements.
In the early 1800s when Europe was officially adopting surnames, for a variety of reasons, it was decided that Kahana was not suitable as a surname, except for those families still living in Galicia and Moldova, and as a result, variations of a dynastic title that had been used for a thousand years began to appear, such as Kohn, Kahn, Kahan, Kagan, and Kohen, to name a few Since intermarriage within the family was quite common, the Kahana-Goldenthal relationships, which included first and second cousins, was practiced long into the past as can be seen by cM values that vary as low as 47 and as high as 133, This would suggest that the genetic material was being recycled and strengthened as much as 10 or more generations ago. There is a story in the family that the cousin marriage policy was established in the fifteenth century by the family living in Latvia and Lithuania. As ten generations would appear to be the approximate limit of quantification and the limit of detection by the DNA analyzing laboratory, then it becomes impossible to extend the connections based on the cM further into the ancient past until such time that the test becomes more sensitive. Yet, from the extent of the Kahana connections indicated by the numbers of relatives below, which only represents that small percentage that actually performed the DNA testing, then it can be assumed that the family roots do extend well into ancient times beyond the ten generation limit.
As can be seen in the right hand column on places of origin, the regions of Belarus, Ukraine, Latvia, etc, are a clear indication of the family’s eastern European-Russian origins prior to their relocation to Romania, Galicia and Austria in the nineteenth century. Several X-matches in the Kahana lineage are indicators of the intra-familial marriages that took place, usually involving cousin to cousin relationships, which as a result give the impression of the generational gap being closer to the present but this as explained is due to the doubling of similar genetic material in the offspring from such relationships, thereby elevating the cM number. Cousin to cousin marriages can easily result in an error of several generations, and with several such marriages in the same family lineages, they would therefore create multiple generational misinterpretations. These errors conceal the actual splitting off of family units by hundreds of years. Nevertheless, it is evident that the Goldenthal families are simply extensions that have sprouted from the Kahana family tree in the first half of the nineteenth century, even though there are numerous modifications to the once important dynastic title of Kahana, through a variety of ways in which to shorten it.
THE MODERN DAY GOLDENTHALS
This article would not be complete if it did not demonstrate how autosomal DNA can demonstrate how the various family lines in the Goldenthal family have all descended from a common ancestor as was suggested in the previous paragraph. The best way to do so is by showing how all the names of those families that married Goldenthals now all share a portion of the Goldenthal DNA, extending back about five generations to the 1830s when the name originated. As they have inherited a portion of our Goldenthal DNA, then this cM quantity will be identified as the common link. To do so requires demonstrating connections in the past with such families as Segal, Bank, Goldner, Halperin or Halpern, Klarsfeld, Moss, Newman, Reiss, Rosenfeld, Siegel, Sonnenschein, Weinstock, Wittels, Wechsler, and Zipper families, just to name a few of the families that cover the last two hundred years of marriages. With cM values in the low 100s, the timing of approximately five or six generations for all the major family divisions is confirmed. Just as in the case of our current understanding of the family genealogy, the autosomal DNA proves that we are all part of one singular family that had a common ancestor.
It should be clear to everyone reading this article that even autosomal DNA is a useful and valuable tool for determining family connections and establishing timelines for events within one’s family history. The length of this article may have been a deterrent to some to read and study it in its entirety but even if partially read, it should be evident that Yichus does have a place in our history books and should not be easily dismissed as some would have us do. To those that have made it to this last paragraph, I congratulate you and I hope you have found the article to be enlightening and a reassurance to that your cherished family stories are actual treasures, even though this media frenzied and incorrectly thought of as a fact based and scientifically principled society would like to erase our family folk tales from existence. The reason is quite simple, they need you to believe and not challenge their false claim to have superior insights and knowledge, and should you need to know anything, then they will provide you with the answers. You don’t need to look anywhere else and you certainly don’t need to search for yourself. Google will provide you all the answers, even if it means Google will lie to you continuously. Your ‘Yichus’ from prior generations should not be discarded so easily on their say so. As I indicate in my book, From The Beginning, crazy Uncle Larry with his fantastic family fables may not be so crazy after all. Fortunately we live in a time where we can still do our own investigation, even though those long days in my past of sitting in libraries and searching through archived tomes will probably not return. We merely have to make the effort and stop thinking our smart phones are really smart. But in means actually doing some leg-work, getting out of the house and accessing information that has been locked away in government records. And as this article has hopefully instilled in you, the need to examine and understand your own genetic code by doing the researching for yourself. Until all the evidence is in to prove us either right or wrong, we should not cast off a single belief that we hold in our possession. Our pasts will decide our futures and we must never allow ourselves to lose a single strand of precious memories.
Dr. Allen Goldenthal
Avrom Aryeh-Zuk Kahana