Introduction 

By ©Inacio Steinhardt

Friday, March 07, 2003


I am writing this book in the intention of my grandchildren, and your grandchildren, and the grandchildren of their grandchildren, so that one day, when they will reach the age at which almost everybody becomes interested in his roots, they will find here at least the information that I have been able to collect, in small steps, for more than 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.

So my first request from you, dear reader, is that, after going through those pages, if you find information concerning your branch of our surname family, if you have more information, if you would like to write a chapter and have it posted here, please send me a note to Inacio@steinhardts.com . Credits will be given to the respective authors.

I am not sure if we all belong to the same family tree. As a matter of fact I know we don't.

There are 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. One curious example that I have encountered in my research, is a gentleman that, when I wrote to him, told me that he had changed his surname to Steinhardt only since August of the previous year. His original surname was Stein and he married with a lady by the name of Hardt. So they decided both to change their surnames to a unified one. A very thoughtful idea, I must say.

The second point that I want to make here is that we should not be confused by the different spellings. First of all there are branches that spell it Steinhardt, others Steinhart, and more rarely Steinhart. Then, in Russia, because the Russian language doesn't have the hard "h" sound, they spell it Steinhar(d)t. On the other hand in Poland the "Sht" sound (for the German St) is spelt "Sz". And the "ei" (in English "I") is spelt aj. So we find relatives with such spellings as Sztajnhar(d)t and similar.

From an onomastic (the study of the origin and forms of names for people and places) our surname is a German toponymic (a place-name) and it means in the German language "hard as a stone" or "strong as a stone", not "a hard stone" as some people think.

It is used as an adjective, but not so often. I found it in a piece of poetry, in the site of Jerry Valentin, under the title "Steinmeditation". Here is the example:

"So wird er ein Teill von dir:                                      "So it becomes part of you

denso bist du oft selber – Steinhart                         because so you are often hard as a stone

undkalt,                                                                        and cold,

undaalglatt,                                                                 and slippery,

undgefühllos,                                                              and feelingless,

undkantig,                                                                    and sharp-edged,

scharfund verletzend"                                                Sharply and hurting"

As for the controversial German spellings of the word, I have received the testimony of several linguists that all the three forms are equivalent. As a matter of fact it is entered in "Duden:Familliennamen – Herkunf und Bedeutung", by Rosa Kohlheim and Vorlker Kohlheim, as "Steinhard, Steinhar(d)t" . So, all three spellings are acceptable and equivalent.

According to the same book, Steinhardt was once a given name, that later became a surname. As a surname it was given probably to a person whose character was "hard as a stone".

It is also a toponymic (a place-name), as I have mentioned above. There are two places in Germany with our name. One is Steinhardt, in Rheinland-Pfalz, the other is Steinhart, in Bayern (Bavaria). Today both have been absorbed into bigger cities.

STEINHARDT is part of : Sobernheim (GKZ : 07 1 33 501, County : | | * Bad Kreuznach {KH}, RegBez : | * Koblenz, Land : * Rheinland-Pfalz, ZIP : 55566, Locat : (Sobernheim) 49d47m N 7d39m E, 6211 Sobernheim)

STEINHART is part of : Hainsfarth, GKZ : 09 7 79 154, County : | | * Donau-Ries, RegBez : | * Schwaben, Land : * Bayern, ZIP : 86744, Locat : (Hainsfarth) 48d58m N 10d38m E, 7029 Oettingen.

Let's elaborate now on how far back can we hope to track down our family history.

The first European surnames seem to have arisen in northern Italy around 1000 CE, gradually spreading northward into the Germanic lands and the rest of Europe. By 1500 the use of family names such as Schmidt (smith), Petersen (son of Peter), and Bäcker (baker) was common in the German-speaking regions and all across Europe. (German Language, with Hyde Flippo)

In 1563, the Council of Trent decreed that all Catholic parishes had to keep full records of baptisms. The Protestants soon joined in this practice, furthering the use of family names thoughtout Europe.

European Jews began the use of surnames relatively late, around the end of the 18th century. Officially, Jews in what is today Germany had to have a surname after 1808. Until then they used the Hebrew patronymics as it was customary since the times of the Bible and is still the usage in the Synagogue services. Yossef Ben-Menahem was Joseph, son of Menahem. In Yiddish the patronymic could also get an "s" added instead of "Ben".

For instance, in 1977, while attending a meeting in Tel Aviv, of people from Rozwadow I was surprised to be told by elderly people that the surname did not exist in the town. I was sure that my grandfather Hersz Steinhardt lived there with his family until 1915. And my great-grandfather, Kopel Steinhardt, lived there too. Finally I found an old lady that remembered my grandfather as the hose painter who had painted her aunt's restaurant "and painted some pretty birds on the walls too". But his name was not Steinhardt! He was Hersz Kopels!

The surname Steinhardt was used by German nobles long before the first Jew adopted it. There are several Von Steinhardt in the chronicles. I shall refer later to some of them.

I take from a document issued by "The Historical Research Center" that "Early records of the surname Steinhardt date back to the twelfth century. One Steinhardus was living in Wadgassen in 1184, and in 1373 Heinz Steinhart was a citizen of Weilderstadt. (Please pay attention to the spelling variants).

According to the same source a blazon of Arms has been granted to Alexander Ludwig Steinhardt, an economist at Radebeul in 1923!

"BLAZON OF ARMS: Chequy gules and argent; a lion rampant sable, on a chief sable a balance or.

CREST: Between a vol argent and gules a spear couped, arrow point upwards or."

I have not found any evidence of a Jewish community in Steinhardt (Sobernheim), but probably the first Von Steinhardt and the Steinhardt, were from there and they were not Jews. There are several families with this surname that are not Jews, probably more than there are Jews.

There are also several branches of Steinhardt that were Jews and converted to other religions. A typical such case is the famous Romanian Orthodox Priest and philosopher Father Nicolai Steinhardt, about whom I will also write later. The late Father Steinhardt has relatives in Israel.

A quite different story is Steinhart (Hainsfarth) which had a Jewish Community as early as the 16th century. In 1560, count Georg Daniel of Gundolzheim has expelled the six Jewish families that lived in Steinhart, under his protection. In 1625 there were already in Steinhart 23 Jewish homes (98 individuals). This number had fallen in 1660 to 12 families.  Jews from Steinhart are mentioned among those who took part in the Nördlingen market until 1754.

In 1883, the Jewish community of Steinhart was liquidated and its members joined the community of Oetttingen.

The first Jewish person that used the surname STEINHARDT (later simplified to Steinhart) was Joseph Ben Menahem-Mendel, a famous rabbi, born in Steinhart, about 1700 (this information is indicated by Eliane Ross-Schuhl, in her article "De Joseph Steinhart, grand rabbin d'Alsace, aux Levy, père et fils, Banquiers", in "Cercle de Généalogie Juiveª N.º 52 –Tome 13 – Winter 1997). I shall return to the biography of rabbi Joseph Ben Menahem Steinhart, in a later article. Here I would like to explain how he acquired his surname.

In 1773, while serving as chief-rabbi of Fürth, rabbi Joseph Steinhart published a collection of his Responsa (questions and answers type of rabbinical literature) and signed his name as author with the name "Yossef Ben Menahem me-Steinhart. "Me" means "from" in Hebrew. So he called himself Joseph son of Menahem, from Steinhart. This toponymic was adopted by his children and also by his nephew, rabbi Menahem Mendel Ben Shimeon, as the family surname.

They both spelled the surname in Hebrew with the ending "t" and not "dt". However their names have been spelt in books and encyclopedias, in Latin characters, with the "dt" ending. One possible explanation is that, according to what I have been told once, it is forbidden to use in Hebrew letter combinations that are not found in the Biblical text.

I have found this other explanation in "Commentaries on Sefer Commentary Yetzirah , by Saadia ben Joseph al-Fayyumi (Saadia Gaon))[931 C.E.]:"Two letters which belong to the same letter grouping are very rarely combined with one another. Thus Zayin and Shin never appear next to each other in the Hebraic tongue; nor do Samech and Shin; nor Kaf and Gimel; nor are Dalet and Tet coupled in the same word. I have already explained this in the first of the grammatical books. ..."

There was a chocolate factory in Tel Aviv owned by a very nice Steinhardt family, from Germany. They spelt their surname with "dt", but in Hebrew they wrote only a "dalet". When I asked them for the reason, they gave me also the above explanation.

Just as a curiosity, before closing this introductory part, I would mention a web game, by the name of "The Chronicler of Ostermark" – which I found at http://tjpearce.com/thelastgriffon/MordheimRules.doc , which has an hero by the name of Count Steinhardt. Here is a short quote from their site:

"The City of the Damned

During the year of madness before Mordheim's destruction, Ostermark fell

into ever greater ruin as all matters of governance were neglected.

Farmlands were abandoned as people flocked to the city, smiths deserted

their forges, and even merchants and money lenders gave up all attempt at

commerce. Thus even before the devastation, the landof Ostermarkhad

fallen into anarchy and its ruler, Count Steinhardt, had long since

embraced the unhealthy pleasures so prevalent in those final days. He,

together with most of the nobility of the land, perished in the cleansing

fires of Sigmar and sorrowfully there were few who mourned the passing of

the ancient and honourable line of Steinhardt "

Inácio Steinhardt - © 2003


 

 

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