Sunday, August 29, 2010

The bar mitzvah of the child soldier grandson of Rabbi Shmuel Salant; also how R. Salant's photograph is mistaken for the Mezeritcher Maggid.

In the thick of World War I this notice appeared in the Jewish Chronicle (March 3, 1916) regarding the bar mitzvah of Reuben Ginsberg. Ginsberg was born in Wales, but moved to Montreal with his family. His father had been a soldier before, and joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force. When his father was sent to England, Reuben stowed away. When he was discovered he was allowed to join his father's company and was given a job as trumpeter. Sadly, he was wounded. In the period of recovery he turned bar mitzvah, which is what the article is about. At the end of the article it is stated that he is the grandson of the late Rav Shmuel Salant!

This was no imaginary story. Here is his discharge certificate:

Reuben Ginsberg died in Montreal in 1960:

Here is more information about Ginsberg, and underage Jewish soldiers in the Great War.

Here is a photo of his grandfather, Rabbi Samuel Salant (1816-1909) from the Memorial Book of Rowno (1956):

I included this one because the caption amazingly says that this is Rabbi Dovber, Maggid of Mezeric who died in 1772. This is a photograph. According to an article on rabbinic portraiture by Aviad Hacohen this portrait of R. Salant was reproduced and captioned as the Maggid many times. Go figure.


  1. The chronology is shver. Rav Shmuel Salant was born in 1816. His grandson was born in 1903, when he was 87? Hmmm. That's not impossible -- after all, Rav Yosef Qaro had a son at age 84. But perhaps more surprising is that Rav Sh. Salant had an army-aged son when he was 100.

  2. Although I thought of that too, and wondered if it wasn't a great-grandson, it's really not at all impossible or necessarily even that uncommon. I don't know offhand enough of R. Shmuel's personal biography (second marriage? childen in middle age?) to know, but it's not so difficult. Also, Reuben's father is depicted as a seasoned soldier. He could have been in his 40s. Apparently initially Britain conscripted up to age 41. Later that age was raised to 55.

    Of course someone who knows his biography will know if his daughter or grand daughter married a Ginsberg.

  3. Canada entered WW1 "automatically" when Britain declared war on Germany in 1914 -- this is the pre-Statute of Westminster era when Britain effectively still controlled the foreign policy of its self-governing former colonies.

    The makeup and structure of the Canadian Army were still under the control of the local government, though, which didn't introduce conscription until 1917.

    The father could easily have been a veteran of the Boer War right around the turn of the century, with the son born while we has overseas.

  4. Also notice how the caption implies that the Dubno and Mezeric were the same person!?

  5. That would be a great mistake, but it says Ruvno, not Dubno. :-) And, indeed, he was a Maggid in Ruvno (and that's why he is included in the Sefer Zikaron for Rowno).



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