Jewish Sightseeing HomePage Jewish Sightseeing

Harrison Weblog

2004 blog


Families separated by Holocaust

find each other through Yad Vashem,

Google and
,  Dec. 28, 2004

Two branches of a family whose members had been murdered or separated in the Holocaust have found each other thanks to Yad Vashem, Google, and a little detective work. 

Now excitedly planning a family get-together are two cousins who previously had never met each other—Mike Zaks of San Diego and Nchemia “Nick” Lipiner of Plainview, N.Y.

The saga began after Tal Singer, an Israeli, told her new American husband, Michael Lipiner of Stewart Manor, N.Y, that she read in an Israeli newspaper that Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust memorial site, was putting its Holocaust rolls on line.

Lipiner got on the internet and checked Yad Vashem’s rolls for the name Zaks—the maiden name of his father’s mother. He found a long list of towns in which Zakses had lived. He read the list of towns to his father, Nick, who recognized one in Poland called Klobuck.

So Michael Lipiner entered the keywords Zaks and Klobuck on the Google search engine, and up came a story on jewishsightseeing that had been written in 2002 about how Passover had been celebrated around the world.  In that story, Gussie Zaks told of the seders she remembered in her hometown of Klobuck. (see story)

Lipiner promptly wrote to, asking if he possibly could be put in touch with Gussie Zaks. I called Gussie—a longtime friend—and read to her the message in which Lipiner gave his phone number. She promptly called him and together they soon established that Nick and her husband, Mike Zaks, were in genealogical parlance, "first cousins once removed."

Both Gussie and Mike remembered Nick’s mother, Gittel Zaks, who also had lived in Klobuck. Her father, Groynim, and Mike’s father, Szyja "Sam" Zaks, were brothers. 

Over the last several weeks, Mike Zaks and Nick Lipiner have exchanged many phone calls, with Mike filling in the younger Nick on much of the family’s history.  Zaks invited the Lipiner clan to visit him this coming summer in San Diego, where Mike is a former president of Tifereth Israel Synagogue and Gussie is a well-known lecturer on the Holocaust. Both are active in the New Life Club of Holocaust Survivors.

“I think it is amazing,” commented Michael Lipiner. “Both my father and I are ecstatic—to think, at this day and age a family can be reunited more than 50 years later, simply through the Internet.”

Mike Zaks similarly was enthusiastic. “We just mailed them some pictures—so they can know what their family in San Diego looks like,” he said
  Donald H. Harrison