most pictures on this site can be enlarged with a click.
To learn about the Kusinitz family, follow the many links on this page. On the left is a group picture from the 2001 reunion in Newport, RI (90 people were there). Read more about our subsequent gatherings on our reunion page. We also have a fun page about our family celebrities. Did I say Hollywood?
Our family descends from Avrom Kusinitz, who was probably born in the 1780s or 90s. Kusinitz is a very common surname in Dokshitsy (Dokshitz in Yiddish), now in Belarus and the surrounding area.
The Kusinitz name is also found scattered through the Jewish area of Poland and Russia, including the Ukraine. "Kusinitz is probably derived from a location, There is also a Russian name Kuznetsov. This is proably derived from Kuznyets which means Smith. This is a different last name, and does not have a vowel between the "z" and the "n." In the Waterbury branch the middle syllable has been dropped.
Our family consists of several interconnected branches. There is a Newport branch which consists of four of the children of Abram Kusinitz and Roche Dreshe Levine who immigrated to Newport RI and their descendants. There are three Waterbury branches. Two of the Waterbury Kusinitzes were married to Shapiros, so it is best the think of these as Shapiro branches. There is a Cleveland branch, and there is a branch that went to either Memphis, Eastern Connecticut or Brooklyn, NY. Many people mention Uskrime, a small village 3 KM east of Begoml which is 29 KM east of Dokshitsy, as a place of origin. Our links to Dokshitsy and relationship to other Kusinitz families in both Begoml and Dokshitsy are unclear. So although we may think of ourselves as a Dokshitsy family, so far, there is limited proof. Uskrime and Begoml are both currently in the Dokshitsy District, Vitebsk Province in the country of Belarus.
In 2008 I was able to go to Dokshitsy with 13 other descendants and their families, including Mark Izeman and his family. Mark's grandmother was a Kusinitz family member. You can read about this at jewishdokshitsy.org. Where is Dokshitsy? After the Kingdom of Poland was partitioned in the 18th century, it became part of Russia. Most of our ancestors who immigrated to the United States left after the abortive Russian Revolution of 1905. This era featured widespread pogroms (anti-Jewish riots) that included the area of Dokshitsy. The anti-semitic Russian government abetted the pogroms partly to distract the population from other issues. It was inevitable that our ancestors would leave the small town in which they lived as people moved toward larger cities, and many chose to move an ocean's breadth away from the turbulent and inhospitable early twentieth-century Russia. During WWI, Germany occupied Dokshitsy. In 1921 after the Russo-Polish it becoming part of The Republic of Poland. At least one family left in 1921, after calm was reestablished. The border with the Soviet Union was only about 10 miles from Dokshitsy, and Begoml and Uskrimie were on the Russian side of that line. Dokshitsy became part of the Soviet Union after the Hitler-Stalin Pact in September, 1939. Businesses were nationalized, some of the population were exiled of killed, and organized Jewish life was suppressed by Stalin's regime After the invasion of the Soviet Union by Nazi Germany on June 22, 1941, Dokshitsy was soon occupied by Nazi Germany. After the Germans retreated in 1944, it again became part of the Soviet Union. Since the demise of the USSR, it is now in Belarus. . Jewishgen.org hosts the Dokshitz Shetlink Page. Visit it to learn more.
Of course not all members of the family left Eastern Europe. A horrible fate awaited most of those who remained. After the Germans invaded, the Jews were terrorized. They were herded into densely-populated Ghettos, and when the Einsatzgroup(killing units) got around to it, they were marched to a pit at the edge of town, and shot. This happened in Dokshitz in May, 1941. About 95% of the Jewish residents were killed. There may have been one survivor from our family, however contact has been lost. You may read about the holocaust in Dokshitsy and about life between the world wars in the Dokshitz-Parafianov Yizkor Book. Be prepared to weep. Look at the list of names of the victims at the end of the book. If you are a Kusinitz family member, many of them are your relatives. (note: this is what I thought three years ago.)
But wait!. Four of the siblings in the Newport branch did not immigrate to the United States. One of them died in WWI. We know (July, 2010) that one of the siblings, Berke and his wife Raichel died in the holocaust, their children survived. Their descedants are now living in Minsk, Israel and Chicato. They are very excited to learn that they are part of a much larger family. In addition another of the siblings married a woman from nearby Dolinov. They settled there, and the husband, wife, daughter and granddaughter were all murdered during the Holocaust. The only survivor was son-in-law Moshe Furnan.
The Kusinitz family followed landsmen ( people from the same town) and family members to various destinations in the United States. These included Waterbury, Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut, Brooklyn,NY, Newport, Rhode Island, Cleveland, Ohio, and Memphis, Tennessee. An entire branch of the family moved from Waterbury to Los Angeles starting in the 1920s, and finishing in the 1940s. Other branches remained in Waterbury. The largest concentrations of family members are scattered in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, Greater Cleveland, Greater Los Angeles, Virgina Beach, and Southern Florida.
The family name is variously spelled as Kusinitz or Kusnitz. It has also been changed to Katz or Kaye. Several branches in the United States have the family name Shapiro, thanks to marriages before leaving Dokshitsy. Many family members, of course, have other surnames acquired as they marry and remarry through the generations.
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©aaron ginsburg 2009