This article is an abridged and updated version of “The History of LoebTree.Com” by Daniel E. Loeb, which appeared in the Winter 2005 issue of The Stammbaum. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice is grateful to The Leo Baeck Institute and The Stammbaum’s editor Werner L. Frank for the permission to reuse this material.
Wherever we travel, we play Jewish Geography and find kinship with Jews around the world. The flourishing study of Jewish Genealogy takes this form of Jewish networking to the logical extreme. We present here a brief overview of LoebTree.com which is one of the larger family trees available on the Web. It has over 28,000 names listed in it, mostly descendants of one of the ancestors of my wife Helen and myself, including several branches purportedly going back to biblical times. In this article, I will discuss the origins of my family tree and describe how it has grown over the years. I will highlight some of the better known people listed in the family tree, and describe some interesting stories about how the family tree has helped people find long lost relatives.
My father’s cousin Al Oppenheimer, shortly before his death in 1985, introduced me to the family tree prepared by Samuel Dokow of Hemsbach in 1900 which shows how this branch of the Oppenheimer family descended from Rabbi Simeon Oppenheimer (d. 1753), son of Juda Loeb Oppenheimer and Chawa Bachrach. At this juncture, the ancestry splits in two important directions: the paternal branch passes up through the famous banking Oppenheimer family, while the maternal branch reaches back to the Chavas Yoir and The Maharal of Prague (1525-1609).
The Maharal of Prague
The Maharal was the Chief Rabbi of Prague, Talmudist, moralist, theologian, mathematician, and mystic. According to legend, the Maharal created the Golem at the Altneuschul Synagogue in Prague to serve the Jewish community. This creature was brought to life from out of the dust by the insertion of God’s name under its tongue, obeying Rabbi Judah’s commands to help Jews survive anti-Jewish measures and blood libel accusations, and serving as a shabbos goi. Eventually it had to be destroyed and returned to dust because it ran amok on a Friday afternoon during Kabbalat Shabbat when Rabbi Judah forgot to remove the divine name from the mouth of the Golem. The remains of the Golem were sealed in the attic of the Altneu Synagogue in Prague. (This legend had been associated with Rabbi Elijah of Prague until the late 18th century.)
The Berdugo tree
My wife’s great uncle Rabbi Raphael Berdugo prepared in 1977 a series of three hand-drawn family trees as the culmination of decades of research. These trees detail all of the male descendants of the Berdugo family in Morocco starting from Rabbi Moshe Berdugo shortly after the Inquisition and the resulting exile from Spain and Portugal.
Organizing my Family Data
With the development of the Internet in the early 1990s, I decided to put all of this data online. I completed entry of the extensive Dokow and Berdugo family trees by 1994. Recently, I acquired the LoebTree.com domain name, so that the www.LoebTree.com address should be permanently valid.
In 1994, the tree only included a few hundred names from the Dokow and Berdugo family trees together with interviews of family members. Since then the tree has grown exponentially in size. Interestingly, the growth has not come as a result of traditional genealogical research techniques, but rather from the Internet itself. Once my tree was online, people found the Website either by following a link from another site, or more commonly by using a search engine to look up their name, or the names of other members of their family. I am indebted to these countless individuals many with large family trees of their own who have contacted me and contributed information to my Website.
One of the most gratifying results in maintaining the family tree is to learn the surprising ways in which the tree has had a positive impact in other people’s lives. Here are two such amazing stories:
Loeb-Williams Family: The mother of David Mark (Loeb) Williams died in a car wreck in 1952. Her doctor arranged David’s adoption at birth. He discovered the identity of his natural family through LoebTree.com.
Dentai-Gomperz Family: Oskar Dentai-Gomperz had children before and after immigrating to the US. His children and grandchildren were living near each other but did not know of each other’s existence until recently. They plan to get together soon!
Krause Family: This story involves Noah Kleiman a Jewish boy and his apparently non-Jewish girlfriend Nicole Edson. Nicole discovered the death certificate of her grandmother Manon Krause. At the suggestion of Noah’s mother Shawna Klieman (who is an avid genealogist) she entered into Google the name of her great-grandmother Margarethe Von Gutmann which appeared on Manon’s death certificate. Google directed her to my website where she was surprised to discover her ancestry and that her maternal grandmother was Jewish which of course made her Jewish. Nicole’s mother and grandmother died when Nicole was 13 and 12. While she knew that her grandmother had fled Austria during World War II, she never guessed that she was Jewish.
Nicole’s great-grandmother Margarethe Von Gutmann prepared a birthday celebration for Nicole’s great-grandfather Otto Krause featuring the famous opera singer Lotte Lehman. Otto fell in love with Lotte Lehman, and divorced Margarethe so that he could marry Lotte and follow her around the world while his children remained in Vienna with Margarethe. The children were barely able to escape the Nazis with help from Lotte Lehman. Otto Kraus died soon after they escaped.
The story ends happily as Nicole has reclaimed her Jewish heritage, and married Noah Kleiman on August 14, 2004.
According to Raphael Berdugo, the name Berdugo is a variation of Verge di Oro, the golden scepter or sharbit hazahav, in Portuguese. According to family tradition the family descends from Rabbi Boustani Gaon, descendant of King David and the High Priests. (One of his books was entitled The Golden Scepter). According to David Kelley, Boustani means sprout in Persian, just as does the name Berdugo in Portuguese, for Boustani was believed to be the last surviving branch of the royal family of Judah.
This claim is supported by an official document.
Other Famous People
In addition to the famous rabbis and biblical figures alluded to above, my family tree mentions many famous people such as the physicists Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, Moroccan cabinet minister Shlomo Berdugo, Royal Jeweler Samuel Cohen-Scali, Israeli President Zalman Shazar, Minister of Religious Affairs Jacob Moses Toledano, Moroccan Senator Maitre Salomon Sebbag, General Secretary of Histadrut Uri Sebbag, Court Jew Samuel Oppenheimer, baseball player and owner Bill Starr, Financiers Joseph Sebbag-Montefiore and his uncle Sir Moses Montefiore, violinist Yehuda Menuhin, fashion designer Ralph Lauren, film producer Raphael Berdugo, and Anne Frank, author of The Diary of a Young Girl.
For more details on topics discussed, please visit the LoebTree.com website, or contact the author. I hope that you will enjoy perusing my family tree and perhaps find your place within it. If you do, please tell me, so that I can update the tree accordingly. It is thanks to my visitors that I have been able to expand my tree.
If you agree how helpful it is to put your tree on the web, I encourage you to do so with your own website or on the Jewishgen’s Family Tree of the Jewish People or some other site. Good luck!