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Al Jolson's Birth Record

T R A N S L A T I O N   O F   B I R T H   R E C O R D
GenderWho performed
the ritual of
Date and Month of
birth and circumcision
Place of BirthFather's status,
father and mother names
Who was born and
what name was given
FemaleMale ChristianJewish
 Ber Libshitz
Movsha Kanstan
Kresper and
Natel Kagen
Sivan 6
in Sredniki SettlementKeidan Community
Movsha Ruvin Meerovich Zaelson
wife Rachane Eizerovna
(Rachane daughter of Eizer)
In the previous month of May there were males born - one, and females - none. This book is correct and accurate, I certify that 1st June 1886.
Assistant Rabbi
M Geller

Above translated from the Russian version of the birth certificate by Dr Natalia Gogolitsyna Bristol University Russian Department UK communicated by Jack Martin.
Additional translations to verify and complete the text based on the Hebrew and Yiddish record obtained from several Rabbinic sources by Marc Leavey.

Some comments on the above from the webmaster. While the left panel is Russian, and the translation is as above, the right panel is in Hebrew and Yiddish, and a translation is underway. There are several points which are clear, however. According to this information. Al Jolson was born on May 28, 1886, which is said to correspond to Sivan 6, 5646, in the Jewish calendar. The dates given for his brit milah, circumcision, are eight days after the secular and religious dates, which would be correct. But, before 1918, the Russian calendar was the Julian calendar, which differed from the Western, Gregorian, calendar by 12 days. May 28, 1886, in Russia corresponded to June 9, 1886, in the West. A check of a Luach will confirm that Sivan 6, 5646, fell on June 9, 1886. And that would be the correct date of birth in our modern calendar.

It should be noted that Sivan 6 marks the Festival of Shavuot, also called the Feast of Weeks or Pentacost in English, and that it is one of the three major, Biblically commanded, Jewish Holy Days. Al Jolson was born on a Jewish Holy Day!

So, what was his original name? The name given on this sheet is "Eizer," spelled Alef-Yud-Yud-Zayin-Ayin-Raysh, which is a Yiddish, not a Hebrew, name. What is the difference? Just as in this country, Jews in Europe often had a Yiddish name and a Hebrew Name. Mendel in Yiddish, Menachem in Hebrew; the tailor Motle in Fiddler on the Roof carries a Yiddish name, that is the Yiddish diminutive for the Hebrew Mordechai. Al's brother Hirsch has a Yiddish name, it would be Tzvi in Hebrew. And so our man Al Jolson also had a Yiddish name, Eizer, and a Hebrew name, Asa. According to Harry Jolson's book, he was named for Naomi's father, and, allowing for another first name change that is still being worked on, his mother's last name is given as "Eizerovna," meaning "daughter of Eizer" in Russian. There are many examples of such dual names, Hebrew and Yiddish, or Yiddish and Hebrew, and it appears that Al Jolson had just such a name.

A profound thank you to Bruce Wexler, who located these records, and assisted in the first efforts of translation, as well as Jack Martin, who engaged Dr Gogolitsyna to assist with the Russian translation.

The story is not yet over...

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This listing and material Copyright © 1995-2010 Marc I. Leavey, M.D. Baltimore, Maryland
Updated 09 May 10
Updated 22 Aug 10