By Maraji Gwynallen
Descendants of GERSHOM LEV
Father of Mattes
Grandfather of Fanny
Great Grandfather of Rosalie
Great Great Grandfather of Maraji
Great Great Great Grandfather of Fawn
GERSHOM Lev is the farthest we are currently able to trace this branch of the family tree, where the family patriarch sits shrouded in the undefined mists of history, most likely passionately studying Torah and Talmud, if his appearance in this early photo is any indication. He lived in Grodna Gobernia, Russia, as far as we know, all his life.
Mattes Leff, 1859-?
OUR PRIMARY source of information on Mattes is a rich anecdotal oral history transmitted from his granddaughter and Fawn’s grandmother, Rosalie Mann Levin o”bm. We have also direct documentary evidence from the ship’s manifest in which Mattes and his family arrived in the U.S. in 1904, as well as his last surviving internal Russian passport, and his ketubah (marriage contract) from his marriage to Yudas (elsewhere on the board).
MATTES Lev married Yuddis Freeman on 7 November 1888 in Zelva, Russia. They ultimately had 8 children. They immigrated to the U.S. with their first six and one who was born en route on the SS Haverford. The youngest of the eight siblings was born in the U.S. Along the way Mattes and his family sojourned in Liverpool, England for 6 months, departing on March 2, 1904 and arriving in Philadelphia 2 weeks later on March 14, 1904, bound for Norristown, PA with just $2.00 in his pocket. This information comes from the below manifest of the SS Haverford, where the family name is now listed as Leff.
MATTES and Yudas ultimately operated a dry goods store in South Philadelphia, on the 900 block of South Street.
Mattes Lev Immigration to U.S.
Fawn’s maternal GGGF (Great Great Grandfather), Mattes Lev (Leff), was the son of Gershom Lev, the most distant ancestor we are able to trace in this branch of the family tree at present. In 1888 Mattes married GGGM Yudis Freeman, daughter of Shaul Freeman, in Pesok, Russia. One of their eight children was Fannye, Fawn’s GGM, who was the last of her generation born in the “old country”. A younger brother was born during the voyage, and the youngest child was born in the U.S.
In late 1903 the family set out for America to escape the pogroms in Russia. After a 6-month or so stay in Liverpool, they set sail on March 3, 1904 for the U.S. aboard the SS Haverford, which docked at Port of Philadelphia on March 14, 1904, and the family name was changed to LEFF upon reaching American shores. See the following Ship’s Manifest for further detail.
The original of this passport, if still extant, is not in our family’s possession.
INSURED BY THE CITY ADMINISTRATION OF THE TOWN OF PESOK
1. Religion: Jewish
2. Time of Birth or age: 44
3. Kind of occupation:
4. Is or was married: Married
5. Living with him are: ——
6. Military service status:
2nd Class Reservist,
Certificate No. 110
7. Signature of Passport holder:
In case of illiteracy of the holder, the following distinctive marks are shown:
Height: 2 arshin 7 vershok
Special marks: none.
(Prolongation blank not filled in.)
This Passport is valid only in those places within the territory of the Jewish Pale where the owner of it has been granted permission for a temporary stay or for a permanent residence.
(STAMP): Free of charge. For the period not to exceed one year.
The Bearer of this:
MATTES, son of Gershon LEV, of Grodno Gubernia (Province), of Volkovya District, resident of the town of Pesok, Jewish, has been permitted to leave for various towns and settlements of the Russian Empire beginning from the date indicated below until May twenty-one of the following year 1904.
ISSUED AND CORROBORATED with the Seal on May twenty-one, in the year Nineteen Hundred and Three.
No. 204 (two hundred and four)
No. 537 (Signature:) E. Goldberg, Mayor
(Seal of Pesok Town Administration)
Of Mattes Lev (Leff) and Yudis Freeman
Translation of the Original Aramaic Document
7 November 1888
On Wednesday (day of the week), on the 3rd of the month of Kislev in the year 5649 after the Creation of the World, the era according to which we are accustomed to reckon, in the city oy of Zelva, the esteemed R. MATITYAHU, son of R. Zvi Hirsh [Gershom] Halevy spoke to the maiden Miss Yehudit, daughter of esteemed R. Shaul (Saul) as follows:
“Be my wife according to the law of Moses and Israel, and I will work for you, honor you, and maintain you, according to the manner of Jewish men, who work for their wives, honor them, nourish them and provide for them in truth. I will also give you the morning gift of your virginity, 200 denarii in silver coins, which belong to you according to the Torah, as well as your food, your clothing, and all your needs, and will live with you in conjugal relations, and the maiden Miss Yehudit has consented to be his wife.
The dowry that accompanies her from the house of her father, whether it be in silver, gold, ornaments, clothing, household utensils, or bedding amounts to 100 silver coins. And the bridegroom esteemed R. Matityahu, has consented to add another 100 silver coins so that the total amounts to 200 silver coins.
And the esteemed bridegroom R. Matityahu said further: “I will take over the responsibility for this ketubah, dowry, and additional sum, both for myself and my heirs after me; they shall be paid out of the best and finest of my property, whether real estate or personal property which I now possess or which I may later acquire. All my property ever the cloak upon my shoulders, shall be security and pledge that you ketubah, dowry, and additional portion shall be paid to you during my life and after my death, from this day forth to all eternity.”
The esteemed bridegroom R. Matityahu has taken over the responsibility for the morning-gift, dowry, and additional sum, in accordance with the strict regulations in the ketubah and the supplementary documents, as they are customary with the daughters of Israel, and in accordance with the ordinances of our sages, and not as a mere illusory obligation or formula in a document.
All this declaration has been made on the part of the esteemed bridegroom R. Matityahu on behalf of Miss Yehudit, daughter of esteemed R. Shaul in reference to all that has been written and declared above, in order to obtain it according to the law.
All is valid and established.
Signed by: Avraham Dov Bar-Yisrael Shamesh
Signed by: Chaim Shlomo …….
Fanny Leff, 1897-1984
FANNY (sometimes spelled Fannye), was born on December 11, 1897 and was therefore 6 years old when she immigrated to the U.S. with her family. She attended the Campbell School in Philadelphia, from
second through fifth grade, at which time she left school to help out in the family dry goods and clothing store. She attended a millinery school thereafter, and made ladies’ hats which were sold in the store.
ON JUNE 27, 1920, Fanny married Jacob (Jack) Mann, who was a first-generation American, born in Chicago at the time of the World’s Fair in 1893. Together they operated a number of dry goods/clothing stores and pioneered ready-to-wear ladies’ clothing, all in various industrial areas of Pennsylvania: Palmerton, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne, Plymouth.
Of Jack Mann and Fannye Leff
Partial Translation of Original Aramaic Document
27 June 1920
“Every Gladness, Every Joy, to Every Bride and Every Groom”
May HaShem give your house the woman who approaches,
as both Rachel and Leah to the House of Israel.
On Sunday (day of the week), on the 11th of the month of Tammuz in the year 5647 after the Creation of the World, the era according to which we are accustomed to reckon, in Philadelphia, PA, the bridegroom Ya’akov son of the esteemed Moshe Yehudah says to the ___ maiden Feygl daughter of R. Matityahu HaLevy (Leff):
“I consecrate you to me to be my wife according to the law of Moses and Israel …..
Rosalie Mann, 1921-2012
FAWN’S Grandmom Rosalie was the only child of Fanny and Jack Mann. Because her parents’ store had to “follow the floods” of the Pennsylvania coal regions where they operated, Rosalie moved around frequently in her childhood. She usually found herself in a small community of professional and merchant families on the one hand, like her own, and blue-collar families of the miners and industrial workers on the other, who constituted the primary clientele of her parents’ business, and whose difficult living conditions during the Depression made a deep impression on her, which stories she passed on to her own children many years later.
ROSALIE returned to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied at the Wharton School for her degree in economics. While at Penn she met and fell for that dashing young attorney in military uniform, Russell Levin, whom she married on April 11, 1943, on a weekend furlough from the Army. ROSALIE AND RUSS had three children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. The youngest of their grandchildren, Fawn Willow Gwynallen, was born on May 7, 1989 in Medford, Oregon to Maraji and Rick Gwynallen.
STORY TO BE CONTINUED . . .