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Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz

[Family surname was Kahana for centuries and they were known that way in private writings;
apparently they chose Surawicz when forced to adopt surnames, and they appear that way
in official documents in Radzilow, Tykocin and other towns in the region]

Please contact me if you're from the Surawicz/Kahana family from anywhere in Poland. I have more details.

Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz [Born around 1796; Died 1879]

Snuff box belonging to
Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz




In three separate documents, from 1856, 1862 and 1865, Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz [Rabbi Shimon Aryeh Surawicz] is listed as the Assistant Rabbi of Radzilow. In fact, the 1865 marriage was of his own daughter Cziza Surawicz (pictured below), who married Moszk Dawid Zimnowicz. It is not known how many years earlier he became Assistant Rabbi. At some point after 1865, he became the official Rabbi of Radzilow, Head of the Congregation. He is listed with that title in documents up to 1878. [As more and more Radzilow documents are translated, I will be able to determine with greater accuracy when his tenure finished. It is known that a new Rabbi presided in 1897.] During his tenure, Rabbi Surawicz made a trip to Berlin, Germany. In order to commemorate the occasion, the Congregation in Radzilow gave him a snuff box, as a gift, with his name imprinted on top. The box is small, measuring 3 3/4 x 1 1/2 x 1 inch, made of fine wood and beautifully decorated. It is not known where it was made or how it was obtained by the citizens of Radzilow. The spelling of Surawitz with a "tz" indicates it was made elsewhere and brought to Radzilow, since the family name in Polish was clearly spelled Surawicz with a "cz" and the Rabbi's own signature in many official documents verifies it that way. In 1873, Rabbi Surawicz wrote and published a Mishnah Commentary on Gemarah, Rashi and Tosafot. In it he states that his own father, Rabbi Szewel Surawicz [Rabbi Shaul Hassid Surawicz], who was born in Tykocin [Tiktin - 21 miles SE of Radzilow], also served as Head of the Radzilow Congregation. Rabbi Szewel Surawicz was known for his piety and saintliness. There were therefore two generations of Surawicz Rabbi's who served in Radzilow. Rabbi Szewel had three other sons, all known for their scholarship. It is not known exactly when Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz passed away, but it had to have been shortly after late 1878, when he last appeared in an official document, and before a new Rabbi was in place.


Cziza Surawicz (daughter of
Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz)
and her husband
Moszk Dawid Zimnowicz
Cziza died in Poland, 19xx;
Moszk died in Szczuczyn, 1913


Shortly after Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881, one of Rabbi Surawicz's sons, Yitzhak, born in 1826, emigrated to Palestine, along with his wife and children, where he took on the surname of Kahana (Cohen), because of the family being Cohanim. Yitzhak took the snuff box with him, as well as several copies of his father's Mishnah Commentary. Reportedly, Yitzhak sold some of those copies along the way, to make some money for his new life in Palestine.

Sora Ena Surawicz (daughter of
Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz)
and her husband Yitzhak Bergsztejn
Sora Ena died in Suwalki, 1924;
Yitzhak died in Grajewo, 1917


Note: Yitzhak's descendants now live in Israel and America. Were it not for the snuff box detailing the original family surname of Surawicz, the Cohen family would never have known what it was. Indeed, they would still have known about the town of Radzilow because it  mentioned in the Mishnah Commentary, but it was the surname that allowed me to connect them to descendants of Yitzhak's sibling Cziza, who today number over 225. Cziza is not even mentioned in the Preface to the Mishnah Commentary, written by Rabbi Surawicz's grandson in Jerusalem in 1912, wherein the Rabbi's family tree is described. He would have had little reason to know of her existence, since his own father Yitzhak left Radzilow in 1881, leaving all his siblings behind, then dying in Jerusalem in 1895. There existed yet another sister, Szejna Fejga, who also married in Radzilow. Both Cziza and her sister are documented in marriage records, signed by their father, the Rabbi, and mentioning his own father too, Rabbi Szewel Surawicz. Another sister, Sora Ena, has recently been identified in a document, the marriage of her 22-year-old son in Szczuczyn in 1895. He is listed as having been born in Radzilow, and his grandfather's name is listed as Szemen Surawicz. Given the great span of years in the births of Yitzhak (1826) to Cziza (1843) to Sora Ena (estimated 1850's) to Szejna Fejga (1856), there were surely other children along the way, and they will continue to be found as more documents are translated (as Sora Ena was found) and/or descendants find the web page.

Mishnah Commentary - Title Page
Originally Written in 1873 in Radzilow, by Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz
Republished in 1912 in Jerusalem, by his grandson Shaul Moshe Kahana

Rabbi Szemen Aryeh Surawicz
Mishnah Commentary
Title Page

"This is the gate of the Lord, the righteous shall enter it."  Ps. 118:20

The Book of New Insights from the Scholar
Shimon Aryeh Kahana
[Szemen Aryeh Surawicz]

on Gemarah, Rashi, and Tosafot.

This is the notebook of my hand, with most
of my force and my strength.
With the aid of my rock and my planner,
he has humbled people such as myself.


Son of the pious scholar, my Father, my master, my teacher, my Rabbi, Shaul Kahana [Szewel Surawicz], may the memory of the righteous be Blessed. From Tiktin [Tykocin], Head of the Rabbinical Court of the Holy Congregation of Radzilow, may God shield it.

Anticipating (by the road) to see
"When will our move be to reside with honor in our land."

It was brought to the publishing house by his learned grandson, the leader and benefactor, God-fearing, Crown of the Torah, our teacher, and our Rabbi, Rabbi Shaul Moshe Kahana, may his candle grow, and revised by his grandson, the scholar Avraham Eliyahu, may his candle grow, son of the scholar, the genius, our teacher and Rabbi, Rabbi Yehiel Mikhel, the memory of the righteous be Blessed.

From here, the Holy City, may it be rebuilt and reestablished
soon in our time.

PUBLISHED In the Holy City, Jerusalem, may it be rebuilt
and reestablished soon in our time
 at the publisher "Moriah" Schoenbaum-Weiss.

Translation of Mishnah Commentary
Title Page

Material courtesy of Michael Wolff.

Additional Material:
Photo of Rabbi Surawicz's granddaughter Sima Liba (nee Zimnowicz) Rajchenberg in Israel
Photo of Rabbi Surawicz's gr-grandson Ishayahu (Izzy) Rajchenberg in Radzilow
Letter he wrote about Joel Guthwert's character
   Return to Shtetl Life; Return to Photos; Radzilovers, Part 1; Part 15