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The family as we know it has its roots in Kalusz (known among the Jews as Kalish) in the Ukraine, where they were farmers and grew tobacco. Moshe Yehuda, son of Yaakov Mordecai and Henia Elkis (grandfather of the creators of this website), left Kalusz towards the end of the 19th Century and moved to Novoselitz. Many years later, his brother Ben Zion also moved to Novoselitz. In Novoselitz, Moshe Yehuda married Zipporah, daughter of Avigdor and Sarah Deborah Polikman.
Novoselitz is a town in northern Bessarabia, on the banks of the River Prut. Bessarabia which lies between the Prut and Dniester rivers, with Romania to the west and Russia to the east. This area frequently changed hands, and the town was transferred from one country to the other another.
The family of Moshe Yehuda and Zipporah Elkis were religious Zionist hassidim, followers of the Boyaner Rebbe. Moshe Yehuda traded in flour, with Zipporah contributing to the family finances by opening a small grocery store. They were prominent members of the community. Moshe Yehuda was a volunteer fireman and Zipporah was well known for her acts of kindness. Moshe Yehuda was commonly known as Moshe Rabeinu among the local townsfolk, as his wife was called Zipporah.
The couple had five sons and five daughters: Baruch, Chava, Meir, Leah, Rachel, Chaim, Feige, Avigdor, Avraham, Sassya. All the children knew Hebrew and received a Zionist education, and were encouraged to make aliya.
In 1941 the Russians deported Moshe Yehuda and Zipporah Elkis with their children Chaim, Feige, Avigdor and Sassya to Berozovo in northern Siberia, where the River Ob enters the Arctic Ocean. Conditions there were extremely harsh and the couple died there. Moshe Yehuda died in 1949 and Zipporah passed away in 1954, and both were buried in the local cemetery. In 1959 the family was allowed to leave Berozovo and in 1989 they left the USSR.
Brief summary of the Elkis children :
Baruch – as a youngster, Baruch emigrated to Peru but returned to Novoselitz after becoming ill in South America. In Novoselitz he married Batya Shechter and they had two sons (Shlomo and Meir) and a daughter (Rivkele). During the exile to Transnistria in 1941 their baby daughter died. They reached the village of Krushinovka where they survived terrible conditions and then returned to Romania. In 1946 they emigrated to Eretz Israel where their younger son Zvi was born. Following their aliya they lived mostly at Moshav Hemed, earning a livelihood from agriculture, poultry farming and bees. Baruch Elkis died in 1983.
Chava married a relative, Mordecai Elkis who was killed in Yedinitz in 1941 (Tammuz 13, 5701. Chava Elkis died in Krushinovka on Kislev 1, 5702 (end of 1941).
Meir – was the first member of the family to move to Eretz Israel, in 1933. He served as guard in the north of Israel and was a founder member of Sarona, a moshav in the Lower Gailiee. He married Dina Skriton and they lived in Holon for many years where Meir worked first as a builder, later earning a living from beekeeping, which he had learnt from his sister Rachel. Meir died childless in 1994.
Leah (mother of the creators of this website) – married Israel Gershtein in Novoselitz in 1934. The couple moved to Eretz Israel the day after their marriage. At first they lived at Kvutzat Shachal near Rehovot where their elder daughter Sarah was born. Together with their friends they established Kibbutz Tirat Zvi where they lived for the rest of their lives. Leah and Israel had six children and numerous descendants. Israel passed away in 1999, Leah died in 2006. (See also the section on the Gershtein family).
Rachel - married Anschell Goldberg in Novoselitz in 1938 and immediately moved to Eretz Israel. The couple were members of a Hashomer Hatzair group that founded Kibbutz Ruchama. They had two sons (Yoav and Moshe) and then left the kibbutz, moving to Kiryah Haim where they grew bees. Rachel died in 1999.
Chaim was deported with the family to Siberia. He married and lived in Tyuman, Siberia where his children were born. Chaim died in 1997 and was buried in Tyuman.
Feige was also deported with the family to Siberia in 1941. She married Yosef Shifnaidel and they had a son and a daughter (Lonia-Eliezer and Luba). In 1959 they left Berozovo and made aliya in 1989, settling in Kiryat Yam. Yosef died in 2004.
Avigdor was deported with the family to Siberia in 1941. There he married Sarah Schiller and they had two children, Moshe Michael and Feivel-Pavel. They left Berozovo in 1959. Avigdor died in 1981 in Ivano-Frankovsk in the USSR. His wife Sarah and sons emigrated to the US in 1989.
Avraham died as a child.
Sassya was deported to Siberia with the family in 1941 where she married Israel Schiller and they had one son, Boris. The Schiller's left Berozovo in 1959 and in 1989 emigrated to the US.
Relatives of the Elkis family
Israel-Avraham Elkis – was a cousin of Moshe Yehuda Elkis. He was born in the town of Securan in Bessarabia. He was a businessman and married Itta-Gittel (Mezuman). He was murdered by the Romanians in Yedinitz together with two of his sons (one of whom was Mordecai, husband of Chava Elkis). May God avenge them.
His son, Rabbi Yeshayahu-Isser Elkis and his wife Elka, survived the deportation to Transnistria. They returned to Yedinitz where Rabbi Yeshayahu attempted to organize Jewish community life among the returnees and bring the bodies of those who died to their final burial place. He continued to perform marriages, circumcisions and bake matzot in secret for 30 years. In 1972 the family made aliya with their two daughters. They lived in Tivon and were privileged to see the birth of their grandchildren. Rabbi Yeshayahu died in the year 2000.
|Translated from the Hebrew by Michal Koor|
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