Taking exception of many Steinhardt’s that have adopted our surname for practical reasons (avoiding incorporation in the army in Russia or Poland, immigration into the United States, etc.) there is a possible connection between the several large clans some of them are represented in genealogical databases.
This part of my personal site is an attempt to put together all the information that I have collected in small steps for over 30 years. This is not really a research work, but rather an effort to know better about my ancestors. It is my hope that, by publishing it here and making it available to others, this might encourage others to communicate with me and add information.
Let’s see some preliminary points:
In my family we are Jews, and such are most of the Steinhardt’s in my database.
Definitively there is a large Steinhardt family (or eventually Von Steinhardt) who are of German origin and non-Jews. Some have even resented the fact that Jews were permitted to use their noble surname. I shall publish here some of such stories that came to my knowledge.
There is a least one case of a Jew Steinhardt that converted to Christianity and became famous. I shall refer to him too.
Steinhardt is a German word, sometimes used as an adjective, and it means “hard as a stone”. “Stone heart” is a common mistake, because in German the word for heart is Herz. (The German writer Wolfgang O. Steinhardt, in his book “My father / a German citizen of Jewish Faith” recalls that his colleagues at school used to make fun of him, by calling him Butterweich (soft as butter) instead of Steinhardt (hard as a stone)
Different spellings have been used for our surname. I am told that in German there is no difference of meaning between Steinhardt and Steinhart or Steinhard, all three being different spellings of the same adjective.
In Hebrew, there is a spelling problem. I spell my name with dalet tet at the end, but most people I know spell it wit either a dalet or a tet. I am told that one should not use a letter combination that was not used in the Bible. I have checked – there is no combination of dalet and tet in the whole Tanach. But it exists in other sacred books. And the possible combination dalet-tav does exist many times. So, if you know the real explanation, please let me know. The fact is that I met people who spell in Hebrew only with dalet or tet and in their original language with dt.
Then in Russian they don’t have the “h” and they use a “g” instead (“Gercules”, “Goland”, “Gorovitz”, etc. ) This is why you find many Steingardt, Steingart and even Steingarter.
Here we come to Poland, where they used “sz” for “sh” (of course you know that our surname is pronounced Shtainhardt in German) so, in Poland they used to write Sztajnhardt and all possible variations around that.
Finally, the most important point to start from is a famous rabbi and “possek” by the name of Yossef ben Menahem Mendel, who lived in Baviera, from ca. 1700 to 1776, when he died in Fuerth, where he was Chief Rabbi. Rabbi Yossef used to sign his responsa books in Hebrew by the name of Yossef ben Menahem Mendel me-Steinhart, which means in Hebrew from Steinhart. In “Encyclopedia Judaica”, volume 15, page 368, we find him listed as STEINHARDT. His nephew, Menahem Mendel ben Shimeon, son of Yossef’s sister, Yitala, also a famous rabbi also “adopted” the surname STEINHARDT, in honor of his famous uncle. Actually we see that he received the first names of his grandfather, Menahem Mendel, and we see that his father’s first name was Shimeon, but we don’t know his father’s surname, if he had any at the time…
I am led to believe that rabbi Yossef signed me-Steinhart, because he was from a place called Steinhart. From there on, with the new laws that forced all the Jews to use surnames, the family adopted this name.
This leads me finally to the existence of two villages in Germany, by the name of Steinhardt. Today both belong to bigger cities, of which they are suburbs. One is STEINHART, today part of Hainsfart, and the second is STEINHARDT, today part of Sobernheim. STEINHARDT has a legend, which offers a curious explanation about the origin of its name. (click on the blue word legend to read it), but there are no records of Jews living there. STEINHART, on the other hand, of which I don’t know yet the origins, had a small active Jewish community from the 16th. century to 1883. And it is not far from Fuerth, where rabbi Joseph Steinhar(d)t wrote his works.