Margotís Essay on the Simons and Feinsteins


            Our grandmother, Mary Simon Wellikoff had 7 brothers and sisters just like our mothers did.  Mary and and her brother James were the youngest children; her parents were Leyma and Faigele Pollack Simon. The dates for Mary Simon Wellikoffís parents and siblings are listed in the genealogical chart that Cathy and Artie created

Mary had an older sister named Ethel.  Ethel married Chaim Feinstein;

(Ethel's family tree)

Chaim came briefly to the U.S.  and had a pushcart on the Lower East Side, as Mary notes in her autobiography, but he returned to what is now Belarus (Baranavichy), to Ethel and his children. Chaimís cousin was the noted and revered Torah Authority, Rabbi Moishe Feinstein who ultimately led a congregation on the Lower East Side   (you can google him).

            Two of Ethel Simon Feinsteinís four daughters, Tillie and Dora, came to the U.S - Tillie around 1910 and Dora slightly later.   Both of them initially stayed with our grandparents when they came to NY, so all our Wellikoff aunts and uncles knew them quite well.  Tillie married a Simon (no relation); Dora married Max Lerman who ran the cafeteria in the Bronx;  Mary, Michael, Gabby and I all remember going there.  Tillie and Dora, and their offspring, who were unknown to our generation,  attended Aunt Franís wedding; they are all in Merylís photos and video.   We eventually identified them during my first visit to Tillieís granddaughter Terry.


       When I began doing genealogy, with inspiration and help from Cathy, I contacted Terry Sidell whose mother, Muriel, was Tillieís daughter and in my motherís address book.  Terry grew up in California and now lives here on the upper east side.  Through her, I met one of Dora Lermanís granddaughters, Pat Lerman, a lawyer for the teachers union who lives in California.  I now see Pat when I go to San Francisco.  It was Pat who asked me to try to find her long-lost cousins Yael and Sarah, the daughters of Leyma Levin whose mother was one of Ethel Simon Feinsteinís children.   And I did!  

       When World War II broke out, Leyma Levin was a young student at Mir Yeshiva in Lithuania.  The students and their rabbis were able to get transit visas via Russia to Japan through the incredible efforts of the heroic and righteous Japanese Consul in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania, Consul Sugihara, contrary to the wishes of the Nazis.

      Leyma ended up in Shanghai with the Mir group during WWII.   He apparently never talked much about it -- like so many people who experienced the Holocaust.   (You can read about the Shanghai Ghetto, Mir Yeshiva and Sugihara on Wiki).   Leyma came to NY after the war, married Beatty and had two daughters, Yael and Sarah, whom Terry and Pat and another Lerman cousin, Pamela, spent time with as children.  Leyma Levin was only 42 when he died.  Beatty, still alive, has Alzheimers.


        When I first made telephone contact with Yael in 2009, I told her that that I had found her with the help of Rabbi Feinsteinís son and daughter-in-law, Reuven and Sheila Feinstein, and that her great, great grandfather, Leyma Simon was buried in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.   Yael was astounded.   I explained that Leyma Simon had died in 1909, that I thought our Uncle Lou was named for him and that I would bet that her father, Leyma Levin, a great grandson born around 1920 in Europe, had also been named for him.  Yael said she and her sister Sarah would go immediately to the cemetery to pray at our great grandfatherís grave.  All of these Feinstein relatives are amazed that their great, great (our great) grandfather had come to the U.S, since neither Tillie nor Dora ever mentioned it.


 (We know that Leyma Simon, who was born in 1830, sailed into NY harbor with his wife and our grandmother Mary around 1892 and settled here).

     In 2009, Artie, Cathy, Michaelís son, Terry Sidell and I went to Borough Park and spent the evening with Yael, her husband Gershon Neumann and her sister Sarah Levin Ginsburg who are Orthodox Jews.  Yael had not understood her familial connection to Rabbi Moishe Feinstein, the leader of their orthodox community, so our discovery of the Feinstein connection, (thanks to Terry), became all the more poignant when Yael explained that when her son Leyma was born (or about to be) she and her husband Gershon had spoken with Rabbi Moishe about what additional name to give their son, besides her late father's name Leyma.  Yael said that he pointed to a photo of Chaim Feinstein in his room, whom he described as his cousin, and said Ďname him Chaimí.  It is an odd twist of fate Yael did not suspect that he was pointing to her great grandfather.

     In another nice coincidence, this time for our grandmotherís descendents, Yael and Gershon started a Yeshiva in Linden, New Jersey called Yeshiva Gedola Zichron Leyma; it is named in honor of Leyma, her father, which means, by extension,  it is also in memory of our great grandfather, Leyma Simon.

    Last Sunday, December 4, 2011, Terry, Pat, Pamela and I went to Yaelís (organized by Pamela) and to the cemetery where I saw both our great grandparentsí graves for the first time -- which is what has prompted this current round of emails.

      Thatís all for now.
       Love, Margot