Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Tombstone Tuesday ~ Hersh Handler, d. 1863

In early 2016, Radovan Sremac, a researcher from Serbia contacted me through JewishGen's family finder and provided me with some images from the local archives showing the 1882 marriage record for Aron Handler and Szali Handler, my husband's great-grandparents, and the 1900 death record for Aron Handler.

He also let me know that there is a Jewish cemetery in Ilok, Croatia, and he shared several photographs of gravestones from that cemetery. Just about all of the text on the gravestones is in Hebrew, but with the assistance of resources like JewishGen's Reading Hebrew Tombstones, Steve Morse's Deciphering Hebrew Tombstone Dates and people on Facebook groups: Tracing the Tribe and Jewish Genealogy Portal, that isn't too much of a problem. I thank these kind volunteers for their translation assistance!

I have combined the various interpretations of the Hebrew to give you the idea of what is on this stone:

Here lies 
the honest/upright man
Hersh Handler
Son of the rabbi Rav Hillel Leib
Died and was buried on 17 Elul 5623

17 Elul 5623 is 31 August to 1 September 1863, which is slightly different from the death date of 9 July 1863 that Radovan provided me. I don't have the original image of the death record, so I can't explore the writing to analyze it fully.

There was also disagreement in the Facebook groups about whether Hersh Handler's father was a rabbi. The honorific "Reb" or "Rav" found on many Hebrew tombstones means he was an honored man, not a rabbi, but many believed that the Hay - Resh - Resh in the line below his name is an acronym for "HaRav Reb" meaning that his father was a rabbi.

The last line is a ligature, "the combination of two or more characters, in this case, lamed and kuf, for "lifrat katan," by the small count, meaning that the year was written without the number 5000, which is understood." (Thank you Robin Meltzer, for your explanation.) See JewishGen's Reading Hebrew Tombstones for more about counting years with Hebrew letters.

The information I do have from Radovan Sremac suggests that this is likely the gravestone of my husband's second great-grandfather, whose father was also known as Leopold. My husband's paternal line is therefore:

Rabbi [Leopold] Hillel Leib Handler
[Herman Tzvi] Hersh Handler (1820-1863)
Sali Handler (1854-1932)
Josef Handler (1884-1947)
Harry Handler (1922-2016)
My husband


  1. Could it be that the death records used the Julian calendar? Then he could have died on July 19 (a small typo from the 9th) and 17 Elul as well.

    1. I shared the blog post with Radovan with a request for some of the record images and he sent me the image showing the death date for "Herman" Handler as 9 July 1863. I will have to read up on the different calendars and when this locale used which calendar.

      Of course, I need to translate the headings, which at first glance, appear to be in German. Thanks for the suggestion!