My mom gave us kids a great Christmas present this year: a Family Tree written in her own hand. My parents have always talked about our roots and even shown me documents, memoirs, etc., but I have to confess that I’ve not really put the tree together for myself. SO… this year, a goal: to recount stories about my roots here on my blog, so that I am prepared to pass these stories on to my children, when the time comes. Each of my ancestors have had an impact on who I am and how I view the world. It’s quite time that I learn a little bit about who they were, what they did, and appreciate the legacy they left me.
My sister Jennifer started this process last year as part of an assignment she did for school. The following is her description of the Weiss line.
The Weiss’ came from a small southwest part of Russia in modern-day Belarus. Although there are many speculations, it is unclear how the German name of Weiss befell these Russians. This part of Russia was constantly being conquered and re-conquered by the neighboring Germans, Russians and Poles and the frequent change of rule left the people in a shifting, unsettled lifestyle. Max Weiss was born 5 June 1868 in Yanev, Russia. He married Anna Wahrhaftig in 1891 and had two children. They were devout Jews and Anna particularly loved the synagogue and went often to worship. In 1896 Max decided to seek a better life for his family and left his two children and pregnant wife to sail for the Americas. He lived in New York for a year before moving to Utah among the friendly “Mormons” to seek refuge from antisemitism. He continued to save money for six years before sending for his family. When they arrived in Salt Lake it was the first time he had see his seven year-old-son, Simon Solomon Weiss.
They lived in Roosevelt, Utah for some time where Simon became a successful trapper. However, Anna could not stand the country and wanted to be closer to the synagogue. She demanded Max build her a house in the city. He agreed, building her a house downtown Salt Lake City close to the synagogue. After only a short while in the city Max moved back out to Roosevelt with three of their four sons. Simon, who was quite the “mother’s boy,” stayed in the city with Anna. It was there that Simon met and married Clarissa Dean Chase.
Living in a largely Mormon community, the Weiss’ struggled to maintain their Jewish heritage. While Max seemed to adapt to his new surroundings, Anna refused to changed and strove to preserve her Russian roots. She never really came to love America. Their religious roots began to defuse when Max and Anna’s oldest son, Abraham, married into the Young family. Then Simon and Clarissa married. Clarissa was a devout Mormon and Simon had been raised by his devout Jewish mother. As a result, their three children, including my grandfather David Simon Chase Weiss, grew up in a mixed Mormon and Jewish home. David was baptized a Mormon when he was 14 but I am not sure he ever really understood what it meant to be a member of the Latter-Day Saint (LDS) church. David Simon married Marrilyn Ballegooie 12 January 1951 and had five children, my father David Mark Weiss being the oldest.
My father remembers his father, David Simon, practicing some Jewish traditions in the home in an effort to maintain their heritage but nothing really stuck. After marrying into the Weiss family, my mother began to search out our roots and understand the Weiss heritage. We even participated in a few Passover Seder meals and lit the menorah in our home in an effort to remember our past. Grandpa David Simon was completely homogenized into American culture by then and was shocked and please to find we were trying to appreciate our ancestral roots.
My grandfather, David Simon Chase was the second of Simon and Clarissa’s three children. Their youngest, Max Leslie Chase Weiss, was the first to get a college education. Since then education has become an important value of the Weiss family.