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Berdichev Jewish Hospital c 1913

Many bloggers write to the theme “Ancestral Town Tuesday.” So this post is for my maternal grandfather Benjamin Chernorudsky’s ancestral town. Berdichev was in the Russian Empire when my grandpa lived there, but it’s in Ukraine today.

This image was sent to to me by my DNA cousin, Morris Chernorudsky, a pianist from Berdichev who now lives in Tel Aviv. It shows a postcard with a picture of the Jewish Hospital in Berdichev, circa 1913. The building is imposing, with a triangular pediment over the front entrance supported by 6 columns. For all its grandeur, the street next to it is unpaved and muddy.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, Jews made up 80% of the population of Berdichev in 1897, two years after my grandfather was born. Grandpa Ben likely was born at home – perhaps his older sister Clara was even in training as a midwife by then, and helped to deliver him. But it’s possible that Ben was born at the Jewish Hospital, which existed at least as early as 1869.

There is a book by Alexander Zederbaum (also spelled Cedarbaum) called Di geheymnise fun Berdit?shuv : eyne k?arak?t?er shilderung der dort?igen Yudishen gemaynde. In English, the first part of the title translates to “The Secrets of Berdichev.” The book itself has apparently not been translated from Yiddish into English, but the chapter titles have been, and one is entitled “The Jewish Hospital.” My mother reads Yiddish, and I would love to get a copy of this chapter and ask her to translate it for me. Unfortunately, the only place that has the book itself is the Jewish Theological Seminar in New York City. Some closer places (like the Stanford University Library) have microfilm copies, but I doubt my mother will want to read it badly enough to crank through microfilm at a local library as I stand by her side, even if it is available on inter-library loan. I’m going to email other Berdichever researchers and see if we can obtain this microfilm and find someone to translate it.

The Jewish Hospital was apparently replaced by a 4-story Soviet era box of a building. Luckily, my grandpa never got to see this monstrosity, because he had already been in American by the time the picture shown on this page was taken.

2 Responses to “Family History Writing Challenge (Day 5) Ancestral Town Tuesday”

  1. You are so fortunate to have a family member who still speaks Yiddish. That is one of my life-goals! My great grandmother came to the USA from Vilna Province, Russia (now Lithuania) when she was about 16. She lived in NYC in the basement of the Kosher Butcher shop where she worked as a cleaning woman. Later in life, her son who supported her would not allow Yiddish to be spoken in the household because he said, “We’re American now. We speak English.” My mother never learned…she never learned Hebrew either because their family was poor and could not afford to send her to Hebrew School. There is so much I would love to learn about my ancestry, but I know nothing, really, of the old country. My Jewish surnames are Silverman and Weisfeld. I’d love to know about your search for records. I have had no success, and was told at Yivo that I would need to read Yiddish in order to access documents.

    • Jane Neff Rollins says:

      Hi Debra,

      Mom is the only who speaks Yiddish — that’s what she and my late father spoke when they didn’t want the 4 kids to understand. As for researching your ancestry, before you can even think of looking at records from abroad, you need to do research on the US side. If you havent been to http://www.Jewishgen.org, that should definitely be your first stop. There are InfoFiles to help you learn some basics, Special Interest Groups, the Jewishgen discussion board, the Family Finder (where you look for people researching the same family names as yours and post your family names and locations and hope long-lost relatives contact you), and much, much more. There is also an amazing amount of material at http://www.familysearch.org. YIVO materials are mostly in Yiddish, but there are other foreign sources in other languages, depending on where your Silvermans and Weisfelds were from. Good luck!


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