Anatolij Iljich Chayesh


Biographical and genealogical data  

Chapter 1. Etymology and Prehistory [i]

The translation from Russian was done by Olga Muranova


Family legends about the family name.


My father Ilja Chayesh:

“About our family name “Chayesh”. This is a Hebraic word. I am not very sure about its meaning as I know that language only a little: it didn’t have practical meaning for me. On the one hand this word means “life”. Besides, somebody says that this surname can be translated into Russian as “Zverev” [ii] . There are some similar or even the same family names: Chaes, Chais, in the Hebraic variant – Chajojs” [1] .

“Probably, the surname “Chayesh” with the ending “sh” was invented by my father Lejzer. He liked to swank: “Chayesh’!” [2] .


My second cousin Daniel Chajuss [iii] :

“At the times of Vilenskij Gaon or a little bit earlier 4 brothers lived: Zeev-Vulf, Arje-Lejb, Dov-Ber and Tsvi-Girsh, who were fighting against Hasidism together with Gaon. As these proper names are the names of the certain beasts – wolf, lion, bear and deer, the representatives of Hasidism gave the brothers their common nickname “beasts” – “hajot” in Hebrew [3] .


Spelling of the Family Name


      For many years I had known only the Russian spelling of our family name:        Хаеш

as my father never wrote it in Hebrew, my mother had another family name, and I’ve never seen my father’s parents.

At the end of the 1970-ies, when I started researching my family history, I found an earlier Russian variant in the reference book “Vsja Rossija” by the year 1895:


Хаешъ [4]

There are some earlier variants:

Хаiесъ и Хайесъ

In 1992 I found them in Vilnius – in Lietuvos valstybės istorijos archivas (LVIA) [5]

in the registers of births of the borough Zheimel. The authentic signature of my great-grandfather “Матис Хаiесъ” of the year 1889 and the notation about the marriage Мера Хаимовна Хайесъ of the year 1890 have been preserved in them [6] . In the 15th volume of the “Evrejskaja Entsiklopedija” published in Saint-Petersburg in 1908-1913 there are 4 articles about some famous people bearing the same surname as I – Хаiecъ.

In 1997 Daniel Chajuss showed me a published copy of the letter written in 1897 by Mates himself – our common great-grandfather – in his personal post form:

Матусъ Хаюсъ

Жеймель [7]

Finally, in 1997 and in 1998 I received census lists compiled at the beginning of the previous century from the same archive. There my ancestors are registered in the following way:

Хайсъ (1816), Хесъ (1818), Хаесъ и Хаисъ (1834).

Having learned German at school I certainly tried to write my family name in that language:


Later my son Sergey did the same when he was learning English:


Besides, when he became adult he used this variant of spelling for the English variant of his visit cards.

On page 149 of the 8th volume of the “Evrejskaja Entsiklopedija” I read that a person bearing the same surname, who in 1900 published the book “Beiträge zur nordsemitische Onomatologie” in Vienna, displayed his family name in the following way:


This surname is spelled in the same way in the 7th volume of the “Encyclopaedia Judaica”, published in English in Jerusalem in 1972.

In 1993 I sent my first article to the American magazine “Avotaynu”. There it was translated into English. The author’s name was written there in the following way:


I liked this variant because of the following reasons. First of all, in the only extant document with the personal signature of my grandfather Lejzer, dated the 8th of February, 1941 he signed his name in the following way:


That is his surname begins with “Ch”. It’s difficult for me to perceive this “unpronounceable” combination of letters “Kh”. Therefore when I write my family name with the Latin letters I always resort to the variant “Chayesh”.

Some of my American acquaintance pointed out that this variant of spelling was wrong. My son Sergey doesn’t accept this variant either. Their arguments seemed to be quite cogent. However, my second cousin living in Israel – Doctor of Science Daniel Chajuss – and his cousin Tsilja write their family name in this way:


Dr. P. Jacobi who was occupied with researching genealogy of the old Ashkenazi family names in 1994 spells it in the following way:

Chayuth (-Chajes)

Professor from Harvard Tsvi Grilihes with whom I have been corresponding during several years before the moment of his untimely death sent me an article from the magazine “Science”, Vol. 279, 27 February 1998. On page 1294 there is a photo displaying Jennifer Chayes from the USA, who is one of the leading experts of the company Microsoft. In June 1998 I received the scientific translation of the Jewish document of 1924 [9] , in which the surname of my grandfather is written in this way:


All this makes quite doubtful the fact that the combination of letters “Kh” can be equal to the Russian letter “Х” in our family name.

The compatriot of my grandfather Lejzer Fajvl Josifovich Zagorsky was the first who showed me in 1983 how to spell this surname in Hebrew. He represented it in the following way:


However, only ten years later I could understand what he had depicted – when I began to learn Yiddish and when I learned the Jewish letters.

In the LVIA some documents have been preserved. There our family name is presented in a number of different variants:



(1860) [10]


(1874) [11] ,


(1877) [12] ,


(1879) [13]


(1890) [14] ,


Scientific data

One of the experts in the etymology of the Jewish surnames Alexander Bejder considers that such surnames as Khaes (Khaesh) and other similar family names come from the name Khaya (“khaye” in Yiddish). Its original Old Hebrew form sounds as “hajoh’” that means “life”. Sometimes this name was given as a means of protection to the sickly children or to those of them who were seriously ill. He uses the following transliteration of the surname Chayes (Chayesh): Khaes (Khaesh) [15] .

In the “Meorei Galicia: Encyclopedia of Galician Rabbis and Scholars” [16] , published by Prof. Meir Wunder in Jerusalem in 1981 we can read the following:

“The Chajes family traces to Rashi and Shefatje, the son of Tsar David [17] . One brunch of that family was expatriated from Portugal to Italy, the other one came to be among the “representatives of Hasidism of Provence”. After the proscription of the Jews from France in 1306 one of the outcast families settled in Prague. Rabbi Avraam – the ancestor of the Chajes family in Central and Eastern Europe – lived there. His son rabbi Itshak was born in 1538 in Poznan [18] , and his sister was the wife of Maharal [19] . Since 1568 rabbi Itshak was the rabbi of Busk [20] . Since 1584 he was the head of the rabbinic court. After that he became the rabbi of Prosnitsa – Prustitsa in Meharin – till the moment of his death approximately on Tammuz 11, 1610”.

M. Wunder enumerates the sons of Itshak Chajes: Avraam, Eliezer-Chaim, Menahem-Manes and Shmuel-Shinna. Besides, he points out four most important books written by Itshak including the book “Penej Itshak”, containing the laws of the slaughter of cattle. It was published in Krakov in 1591. Among Itshak’s sons Menahem-Manes is especially interesting for us. M. Wunder gives the following data about him:

“The son of rabbi Itshak rabbi Menahem-Manes was born in Prague in 1560. He served as the rabbi of Turbin-Chebinya, and then – of Shidlov [21] . Since 1617 he became one the first rabbis in Vilna – till the moment of his death, on Monday, Ijar 8, 1636… His elegy about the fire in Poznan [22] and the death of his brother Shmuel was published along with the book written by his father – “Penej Itshak” – in Prague in 1590… The manuscript of his work “Dereh Temimim” which presents his commentary on the story about Balak is kept in the library in Bodlean. His commentary on the puzzles of Avraam Ibn Ezra with mathematical exercises is kept there too” [23] .

Thus the ancestors of the Chajes family removed from France to Czechia and then – to Poland. It’s important to emphasize that Menahem-Manes Chajes died in Lithuania.


 Figure 1. The tombstone of Menachem-Mansh Hayes


In the book about the Jewish residents of Vilnius “Lithuanian Jerusalem” [24] an old city cemetery in Piromont [25] is described. Besides, in this book there is published a photo: “The oldest tombstone: the grave of the Rabbi of Vilna Menachem-Mansh, the son of Itzhak Hayes. 1636” [26] . The text says: “The gaon is buried here. Today waters have covered us because we sinned. The crown has fallen from our head because we sinned. His pure soul disappeared after the angel’s kiss. It happened on the 25th of Ijar, by the end of the day when the sun had already set”. In April 1919 the monument was destroyed by the Polish legionary who had captured Vilnius.

M. Wunder mentions three sons of Menachem-Mensh in his book: Jacob, Shimshon who died in Belgrade in 1655 on the way to Palestine and Pinhas. He also gives some data about their best-known offspring. None of them lived in Lithuania. Thus the time lag between Menachem-Mansh Hayes who died in Vilna in 1636 and Jankel Chajes (Chajs) whose belonging to our family was considered to be authentic earlier and who was born not later than in 1755 is equal to 120 years. Therefore we don’t know if he was a descendant of Menachem-Mansh or just a person with the same family name.

Dr. P. Jacobi ascribes the origin of our family name to the period between 1515-1590. So it was 16 generations ago if we consider our generation to be the last [27] .

I managed to find some documents which contain information about our ancestors, beginning from the 8th generation if we consider our generation to be the last. The data about our most distant ancestors are scant, monotonous and not very reliable as they are taken from the archival documents written according to the set pattern. As it will be shown below when such documents were being filled different distortions and inexactitudes were often made there. Therefore different interpretations of these data are possible. As a rule they are given in the footnotes.

All the next chapters are dedicated to the reproduction of the data about the preceding generations of our family, which I have collected. These data are presented in the form of so called genealogical chronicle. At first it’s quite boring to read it. However, such chronicle is necessary for the serious researches. For those readers who are less interested in it we recommend not to read its monotonous details very attentively at the very beginning because gradually the material presented here will become more vivid and richer in interesting biographical facts.  

[i] The author expresses his deepest gratitude to Carlene Blumberg and Olga Muranova for organizing and accomplishing the translation of the presented text from Russian into English.

[ii] The family name “Zverev” is derived from the word “zver” which means “beast” in Russian (the translator’s comment).

[iii] Here and further we preserve the original variant of spelling the names and surnames which were borrowed by the author of the work from the sources written in foreign languages (the translator’s comment).

[1] Chayesh Ilja Lazarevich. Memories. P. 1.

[2] See in the same source, P. 135. My father expressed this opinion on the 10th of March, 1987 when I finished reading him my finds about the family name “Хаiесъ” from the 15th volume of the Evrejskaja Entsyklopedija (Jewish Encyclopedia). Saint Petersburg, 1908 – 1913.

[3] Chajuss Daniel. Story 21.10.1997.

There is quite extensive literature on the fight of Vilenskij Gaon against Hasidism. We shouldn’t not except that it’s possible to find some data there which would confirm this legend and which would extend our knowledge about the four brothers. However, as this literature is written mostly in Hebrew it’s not available for me.

[4] Vsja Rossija. Russkaja kniga promyshlennosti, torgovli, sel’skogo hosjajstva i administratsii. Adres-kalendar’ Rossijckoj imperii (The Whole Russia. The Russian book of industry, trade, agriculture and management. The Address-Calendar of the Russian Empire). – Edition of A. S. Suvorin – Saint-Petersburg, 1895 – The second section. – Column 461.

[5] The State Historical Archive of Lithuania.

[6] LVIA. F. 1226. Ap. 1. B. 1990. L. 64 v., 111 v. Its Xerox copies are in the author’s archive, the first of them is presented in Chapter 2, figure 8.

[7] אהרן חיות. ששים ושלש שנה בירושלים. דפוס סלומון

(Chajuss Aaron. 63 years in Jerusalem. Printing-house “Solomon”) – P. 36. The year and the place of its publication are not indicated.

[8] Jacobi Paul J.. The 486 “Chapters” on Jewish (mostly Ashkenasic) Families. Prepared by Jerusalem, April 1994. ‑ “Chapter” #148. Chayuth (-Chajes) // Materials of the Fourth International Seminar on Jewish Genealogy. Jerusalem 29.04.1994 ‑ 5.05.1994.

[9] Zeimelis, Posvol Uezd: “List of Jewish Taxpayers, 1920 ‑1924”. Source: YIVO Lithuanian Jewish Communities Collection, 1844-1940, Folder 433. Obtained by: Barry Mann. Translated by: Prof. G.L. Esterson.

[10] LVIA. F. 728. Ap. 1. B. 593. L. 1 v., recorded by rabbi Ajzik Spektor.

[11] LVIA. F. 1226. Ap. 1. B. 465. L. 9, recorded by rabbi Beniamin Grin.

[12] In the same source. B. 1225. L. 2.

[13] In the same source. B. 1227. L. 2.

[14] In the same source. B. 1990. L. 75, sign manual of headman М. Хаiесъ, my great-grandfather.

[15] Beider Alexander. Dictionary of Jewish Surnames from the Russian Empire. Avotaynu, Inc. Teaneck NY, 1993. P. 299. Below there is presented a copy of the article “Khain” which is taken from this book; the article contains commentaries on the family name Khaes (Khaesh).



[16] Rabbi Meir Wunder. Meorei Galicia: Encyclopedia of Galician Rabbis and Scholars. Vol. II. Jerusalem 5742 (1981). P.1031 ‑ 1053. Here it is quoted according to the translation from Hebrew, done by M. Nosonovsky by request of A. I. Chayesh. The translation is kept in my family archive.

[17] The maternal descent is described in the article by Tauber Laurence The (Maternal) Descent of Rashi published in the American magazine Avotaynu, Vol. IX, 1993, Nb. 2 pp. 32-33. In the same issue of the magazine the critical essay by David Einsiedler (Descent From King David – Part II pp. 34 ‑ 36) is published. It says about insufficient scientific validity of all the attempts of different people to ascribe their origin to King David. In the article there are numerous references to the sources which are written mainly in Hebrew that is not available for me. However, some of them were written in German. In the article Shefatje who according to the Talmud was the son of Abital is mentioned. 16 generations of his descendants had the title “nasi”.

[18] Poznan is one of the oldest Polish cities with rich history. Since the beginning of the XVI century the Jewish community of Poznan played a leading role in Great Poland. The position of rabbi in that century was occupied by the prominent rabbis: Samuil Margaliot, Liva ben Betsalel and Mordehaj Jaffe (for more details, see Evrejskaja Entsyklopedija. Vol. XII. Column 655 – 662).

[19] Maharal – Liva (Leve) ben Betsalel – a famous Talmudist and scientist who was the son of rabbi Betsalel ben Haiim, the brother of the chief rabbi of the German communities – rabbi Jacob Worms. He was born in Worms (?) approximately in 1512, he died in Prague in 1609. For a long time he had been the chief rabbi of Prague. Voluminous scientific literature and many folk legends are available. The Czech writer Aloiz Irasek cited one of them in his story Prazhskoe Getto (Prague Getto) // Irasek Aloiz. Sochinenija (Selected Works). Vol. 1. M. 1955. P. 211 – 216). The grave of Maharal has been preserved in the Old Jewish Cemetery in Prague. Its photo is presented in the book by Volavkova Hana. Schicksal des Jüdischen Museums in Prag. 1965 “Artia” Praha. P. 275. For more details, see Evrejskaja Entsyklopedija. Vol. X. Column 194-195 (all the books named above are in my library).

          [20] Busk – a town (since 1411) and a district center in Lvov region (the Ukraine). In the XVI – XVIII centuries it was included into the province of Belz as a part of Rech Pospolitaya. The town is located somewhere in the middle of the way between Lvov and Brod’y. In Galicia the best-known representatives of the gender were born: Isaak ben Jacob Chajes (in 1726 in Skala), Tsebi-Girsh ben Meir Chajes (in 1805 in Brod’y), Tsevi Perets Chajes (in 1876). The articles about them are presented in Evrejskaja Entsyklopedija. Vol. XV. Columns 500-502 and investigation of Meir Wunder (see below).

[21] At the time of Rech Pospolitaya Shidlov was a small town on the territory of Sandomirsky povet (an administrative unit in Poland practically equal to the province (“uyezd”) in Russia – the translator’s comment) of Visla district. Jews could be found there as early as in the XVI century.

[22] On June 11, 1590 in Poznan 75 Jewish houses, the synagogue and about 80 Torah manuscripts were burnt to the ground (Evrejskaja Entsyklopedia. Vol. XII. Column 657).

[23] Rabbi Meir Wunder, in the same source.

[24] Ran Leyzer. Jerusalem of Lithuania. New-York, 1974.

[25] “According to the legend the cemetery was founded in 1487. The first authentic finds date from 1592. The cemetery was closed by the governor in 1830; it remained the historic monument of the sages and eminent figures of Lithuanian Jerusalem. The cemetery was destroyed by instructions of the Soviet authorities in 1955”. The same source. P. 100.

[26] In the same source. P. 101. The cognation of our family name with Menachem-Mansh Hayes hasn’t been officially established, but the chances of it are good as this surname is rare and it has been mentioned in the documents of Vilenskaya province at least since 1811.

[27] The 125 oldest Ashkenazi families and their progenitors from generation No. 43 (705 ‑ 780) to generation No. 15 (1545 ‑ 1620). Supplement to Jacobi Paul J. The 486 “Chapters”… In 1994 the research of our family name carried out by Dr. Jacobi hasn’t been finished yet. Up to the present I am not familiar with it.