Belchen Betti Rothschild Kaiser is the first person in Generation 3. She was the daughter of Selig Salomo Rothschild and Ranchen Regine Rubino, and the granddaughter of Salomon Abraham Rothschild. Hers is one of the headstones that was restored to the Jewish Cemetery in Vöhl following WWII, and I remember when I saw it, it was like seeing an old friend.
Like most of my relatives from this time frame, Belchen went by many names. Belchen, Betti, Betty, and Berta, to name a few. She was born in Vohl in 1798. We don’t know much about her life from birth until her marriage. She married Feist Kaiser of nearby Basdorf sometime before 1832. The two villages are only about 3 km apart, so an easy distance for visiting and courting. Feist was born before 1798 in Basdorf, and was the son of Feitel Kaiser. The couple lived in Basdorf after their marriage.
According to the information on the Synagogue Vöhl website, the Kaiser family wasn’t very wealthy. But the sons of Belchen and Feist were, so it stands to reason the marriage definitely improved the fortunes of the Kaiser family!
Their first son, Levi Kaiser, was born 9 June 1832 in Basdorf. Lev married Selka Elias of Gutenberg sometime before 1864. They were the parents of Minna (1864 – 1945), Ferdinand (1866 – 1943), and Rosa (1867 – ?). Levi passed away in 1883.
Their second son, Salomon Keiser, was born 16 March 1834, also in Basdorf. He never married, and died in Vöhl on 18 October 1908.
Feist and Belchen, with their sons, lived at House #24 in Basdorf with Feist’s father, Feitel. Aside from Feist, Feitel had one other known child, Abraham.
In November of 1827, Feitel Kaiser refused to pay any additional contributions to the Jewish school, stating “as an old man [he] doesn’t need the school”. Two years later, when the building was dedicated as a synagogue, Feitel indicated he didn’t want to have anything to do with the construction of the synagogue or to participate financially. There’s an odd note to the comment from 1827 which states “he had never made an acceptance.” Stick with me on this, because I think I might be onto something.
Remember when I posted about Selig Salomo Rothschild and Ascher Rothschild having to deal with “The Basdorfer” over a dispute about the fees for the school/synagogue? Well, I just a few minutes ago read something that answers the question: Who is The Basdorfer? The answer is: Feist Kaiser. In 1831, Feist filed a complaint with the District Office against the Jewish Community due to excessive payment of the synagogue fees. It seems he pledged 50 guilders as his portion of the loan from Ascher Rothschild to build it. When he made this pledge, he thought everyone would be paying the same amount. He later found out others were only paying 25 guilders. So, after paying that amount, he quit making payments. The Jewish Community Board took him to court for non-payment. In the end, it was decided he didn’t have to pay more than the 25 guilders, but he did have to pay school fees. In his letter, he refers to “when he accepted the Jewry two years earlier.”
This was initially interpreted as meaning he’d converted to the Jewish faith, but that didn’t make any sense, since his family was Jewish. But when combined with his father’s statement about not having made his acceptance, I began to wonder if it meant something else. What if it meant accepting of or acceptance by the Jewish Community of Vöhl? That, to me, makes the most sense. Ironically, by 1834, Feist was a member of the Jewish Community board, and, in that capacity, signed a letter talking about payment for the stalls (seats) in the synagogue. Talk about irony!
In 1825, there’s mention of a women’s bath (mikveh) in the cellar of the Kaiser’s home, and that it’s no longer used for it’s original purpose but as a fountain. In 1835, Dr. Nuss is in the area, inspecting Mikvaot. He inspected the one in Ascher Rothschild’s house at the same time. Of the one located in the cellar of the Kaiser’s house, he described it as “small in a dull cellar”, and it’s continued use was prohibited.
In 1837, Feist again complained to the District Office about excessive payments for the synagogue. This time, though, things didn’t go his way. He was reminded that he had paid a voluntary contribution to the synagogue, but not school fees, which he was obliged to do.
The Kaiser family was poor. Yet by 1836, 3+ years after marrying a Rothschild, Feist had 12.3 acres of farmland. And by 1853 he’s in the highest taxed half of the population. Throughout the tax records, he’s listed as being a fruit and cattle peddler/merchant. If I had to guess, I’d say Belchen came with a healthy dowry.
A little more info on Feist. His brother, Abraham, married Jettchen Löwenstern, and they had 4 children before his death in 1853. I’m assuming Jettchen fell under Feist’s care, because in 1856 she wanted to marry Selig Frankenthal, and Feist initially wouldn’t let her, said he wanted time to think it over. Eventually he gave in, and the happy couple were married 18 March 1856 in Vöhl, then the entire family — Selig, Jettchen, and her 4 children — move into the house she shared with first husband Abraham, where they added 5 more children to the family. Their first son, Hermann, arrived in October 1856. Perhaps he’s the reason Feist relented!
Feist passed away in 1860, presumably in Basdorf, though I’ve yet to find any official documents supporting this. Belchen moved in with her unmarried son, Salomon Kaiser, and lived with him until she passed on 22 April 1882. She lived a long life, raised two sons, and at the time of her death had three grandchildren. Three g-grandchildren were born after her passing, all of whom emigrated to the States and survived the Holocaust, guaranteeing the continuation of this family line.
Unless otherwise noted, all the information cited here comes from the Synagogue Vöhl website. The photo of the headstone was taken by me.
Join me next time when I write the first of a two-part series on “What’s in a Name? Isaak Rothschild vs Isaac Rothschild.” It might not be called that, and part 2 is going to be several posts further down the line, but I promise the two are related and it took me forever to separate out all the facts between Isaak and Isaac.