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The Descendants of Rabbi Judah Leyb HaKohen of Budvitch

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The Descendants of Rabbi Judah Leyb HaKohen of Budvitch

Surnames: Cohen, Kagan, Kaganski, Kahan, Kahanski

First a presupposition. According to several descendants of Rabbi Judah Leyb, it appears that he and Judah HaKohen (Kahanski) were cousins, probably first cousins, living in the village of Budvitch, Lithuania, where the original families had settled in the middle of the 1870s. There are recollections by the descendants of both families of red beards, farming, the villages of Budvitch, Budovanie, of the towns of Vilkavishk, Kalvaria, Lubova and other places familiar to both lines. We may therefore safely assume that both Judahs had a common ancestor.

As far as we know, Judah Leyb had the following children: Elli, Dov (Beryl), Reizl, Liebe, Mary, Lazar, Reuben, David and Moshe Meyer. From the history of Elli and Dov Kagan/Kahan we learn that love of land, pursuit of scholarship and industriousness were characteristic of this line.

Elli's poor eyesight prevented him from becoming a scholar in the family tradition, but he manifested a deep love of land. He owned a farm in Lubova where he raised beef and was a butcher. Elli married twice (his wives were sisters)[1] and had children by both. His passion for land was passed on to his children. Two of his sons, Tom and Izzie, came to the United States in the early 1900s and were immediately drawn to farming. At first they were partners of a farm in Lebanon, Connecticut. Later Izzie left for New York where he became the owner of a prosperous butcher shop; but Tom remained on the farm where he raised chickens and beef cattle. He slaughtered the cattle himself and prepared two wagons, one for kosher and one for non-kosher meat, which he sold in the countryside. It was a difficult struggle financially and culturally, but he refused to leave the farm. At the same time, he maintained strong interest in Jewish education and in Yiddish and Hebrew literature. Tom's Connecticut descendants found that his struggle paid off well as the farm later became a prosperous venture.

Tom's son, Martin Cohen of West Hartford, Connecticut, is a retired Lt. Colonel in the U.S. Air Force, having flown ninety missions as a fighter pilot over Italy in World War II. He later became a trainer of pilots.

An interesting story is told of Glicke (Gertie), one of the daughters of Elli and his second wife. Glicke was blond, blue eyed and beautiful. At the tender age of 12 she was taken to the Lithuanian border by her father, who sought to save her from a pogrom that was raging in Lubova. She crossed the border chain and had gone a short distance when she discovered that her father had not followed her. She looked back across the chain and saw him standing there, tall and red bearded, waving her on to safety, and entrusting her to Providence. He waited until she appeared as a dot on the horizon, and then turned back to the troubles in Lubova trying to hold his family together. Glicke, terrified and alone, managed to get to Rotterdam and was put on a ship to America. The young girl found the voyage in steerage very difficult, but she dared not show her discomfort for fear of being sent back. After what seemed an endless journey, she reached the United States where she was met by one of her half sisters and shortly thereafter proceeded to make a life for herself in this new land.

Dov Kahan (Beryl), Judah Leyb’s second son, married Hodes Fried, the daughter of a wealthy land owner in Lithuania. Among other enterprises, the Frieds raised horses on a farm near Sperna. The raising of horses apparently was a fascination passed on down the Beryl line to the present day. His great-grandson, Boris Leavitt, made it a hobby in which he indulged himself to a high degree, financing it from his mail order business. Today, Boris's son, Alan, and his son in law Jack Rosenfeld (married to Boris's daughter, Lana) own and manage three successful horse breeding farms, known as Lana Lobell Farms, one in New York, one in New Jersey and one in Pennsylvania.

Dov (Beryl) had several children: Yudel (Judah) Cohen, grandfather of Boris; Sissel Beylah Kahan who married Aryeh Leyb Kahanski [son of Abraham ben Judah HaKohen]; Meyer Kahan; Shifra Kahan Steinberg; and Sheina Malka Kahan Frenzel. Their descendants live in the United States, Israel and Mexico.

Those in Mexico (Aida Romberg Zaslow and family) came first to that country from Europe because of the difficulty to emigrate to the United States in view of quota restrictions at the time. Some members of the family remain in Mexico to this day.

We are greatly indebted to Dora Frenzel Kahn of Savyon, Israel, a descendant on the Beryl line. Dora has a deep interest in her family history and is well informed on the line of Judah Leyb. She has supplied valuable data and has also confirmed the common origin of both Budvitch lines.


  1. Eli m1 Chaia Rappaport; m2 Pesza Dobryznski. Regarding them being sisters: see Research Notes in profile for Pesza Dobryznski.



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