28 November 2009

DNA: Loeb family, MaHaRal of Prague

Tracing the Tribe first met Herb Huebscher of New York in connection with his WIRTH DNA project at FamilyTreeDNA.com, which is a story in itself.

You may remember that project as the one that genetically matched Litvaks and Galizianers, and then matched them to a Sephardic family in Puerto Rico. Talk about an identity crisis!

He is now involved in another fascinating DNA project, that of the Loeb family and the MaHaRal of Prague.

Herb recently started a research project to identify paternal line descendants of the rabbinical Loeb family - which includes the renowned MaHaRaL of Prague, his brother Rabbi Sinai and Rav Gabriel Eskeles.

(NOTE: As soon as Tracing the Tribe saw the name ESKELES, I knew I had seen it before. Checking my copy of Pere Bonnin's Sangre Judia, I found ESCALES listed as a name on a 1490 document from Mallorca, Balearic Islands. Stranger things have happened. Tracing the Tribe loves DNA!)

A known descendant of the family - Zeev Eshkolot - was Y-DNA tested by FamilyTreeDNA.com. Then, persons already in the company's database - who are close matches to Eshkolot - were identified. They appear to be descendants of the Loeb ancestral line. The newly formed MaHaRal Group now has some 27 persons.

According to Herb, the group has now dsicovered the ancestral Y-DNA of the Loeb family and are beginning to form a DNA-based family tree of the family.

The group is now asking others to participate. If you (or someone you know) is in one of the following categories, you may want to learn more about the project:

-- You know or believe you're a MaHaRal or Loeb family descendant, or

-- You don't know, but would like to find out if you may be such a descendant.
The second category includes persons with the Loeb surname or any of its many variations used historically by family members, such as Loeb, Loew, Loewe, Loewy, Löw, Löwe, Lowy, Lavi, Levai and Eskeles.

Remember that most modern surnames in Europe were not adopted until around 1800, so you may still be a descendant even if your surname doesn't resemble those listed. So far, reports Herb, most participants have seemingly unrelated surnames.

To learn more about the MaHaRaL Group or participate in the project, contact Herb. He looks forward to hearing from all interested parties.

Who was the Maharal of Prague? Rabbi Judah ben Bezalel Lowe (5285-5369; 1525-1609) was likely born in Posen and became famous as a Talmudic scholar very early. He took the position of Rabbi in Nikolsburg (Mikulov), Moravia, in his late 20s and remained there for some 20 years. He was most famous as the head of the Prague Jewish community, then the center of Central European Jewry. He established the Talmudic academy known as the Klaus. Burned some 80 years after Lowe died, it was rebuilt as the Klaus Synagogue.

His secular knowledge of science made him famous among non-Jews, and he was a friend of astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler, who introduced him to Emperor Rudolph II. Legend says that the emperor visited the rabbi at night to discuss politics and science.

The most famous story, however, about the MaHaRal was the creation of the Golem from clay, which protected the Prague community. Read more about him here.

Wikipedia states that there is a tradition that the MaHaRal's family descends from the Babylonian Exilarchs and that they are a Davidic Dynasty family.

For more information on the Loeb family tree, compiled by Dr. Daniel Loeb, visit LoebTree.com, and see an article about the family here.

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