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Rabbi Tobias Lewenstein Paramaribo Leiden Amsterdam part 1

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Rabbi Tobias
Lewenstein
Part I

(26.11.1863-18.10.1952)

Rabbi Tobias Lewenstein

Part I: Paramaribo,
Leiden
& Amsterdam

Published: 1st of July ’24

Paramaribo, Surinam

Rabbi Dr. Tobias “Tuvia” Lewenstein (הרב טוביה בן מוהר״ר משה לעווענשטיין)
was born in the Paramaribo, (then) Colony of Surinam unto Chief-Rabbi 
Jacob Heyman Mozes Lewenstein & Rebbetzin Francisca (Koetser) Lewenstein. The brothers Lewenstein, Tuvia and Daniel we’re just one and three years old when their father Rabbi Jacob Heyman Mozes Lewenstein passed away. 

Rabbi M Lewenstein House Paramaribo Surinam
House of Rabbi J.H.M. Lewenstein in Paramaribo /
Elderly house of Rabbi Dr. Tobias Lewenstein is the 1st on the left.

In March 1865, just 41/2 months after the passing of her husband, Rebbetzin Francisca “Fransje” gave birth to a baby girl she named Regina Roosje. Surinam wasn’t an easy place to live, even more so for the young widow and the family boarded a ship back to the Netherlands three months later in October 1865.

Leiden, The Netherlands

The family fist settled in Leiden, to Rebbetzin Francisca’s maiden home where her mother Roosje Koetser still lived as a widow since her husband Tuvia (Hebrew name) also named “Daniel” had passed away in 1855 (which was four years before Rebbetzin Lewenstein arrived in Surinam in August 1859).

Her father had long before passed away but her uncle, Rabbi Jacob de Leeuw, who lived in by his sister Roosje, became a father-figure for the young children, educating and taking care of young Tuvia and Daniel as if they we’re his own children. During the day Tuvia (and Daniel most likely as well) studied in a general elementary school in Leiden (as Rabbi Tovia Lewenstein recorded about himself in the Biography noted in the end of his Doctorate in Philosophy in 1863).

Rebbetzin Lewenstein faced yet another tragedy when her youngest daughter Roosje Regina died (Paramaribo 8.3.1865-Leiden 8.6.1866) whilst being just 15 months old as result of a fall from her maiden’s arms at home.

Rabbi Tobias Lewenstein Paramaribo
Herengracht, Leiden
Rabbi Tuvia Lewenstein Paramaribo
Leiden City Hall, Breestraat, Leiden
by C.H. Behr in 1860

The family is believed to have been in a dire financial state because the books of Chief-Rabbi J.H.M. Lewenstein we’re auctioned off in Amsterdam on the 3rd of November 1868 together with items that had once belonged to the Rabbi Jacob Emden, the Ya’avetz (Ya’avetz stands for Jacob Ben Tzvi) who was the son Rabbi Tzvi Ashkenazi (author of Chochem Tzvi) and  Joseph “Guiseppe” Almanzi of Padua, Italy (Source: “Catalog der Reichhaltigen Sammlungen Hebraischer und Jusischer Bucher, Etc. Etc.” M. Roest, Amsterdam, 1868). This was something Rabbi Tuvia Lewenstein always regretted and he would buy books from the collection whenever the opportunity would arise. 

Rabbi de Leeuw who had always learned Torah full time now needed a fulltime job to sustain his sister’s daughter and children and found one as a Maggid Shiur, (Talmudic studies teacher) in the Beis Midrash Eitz Chaim that was situated in the same building as the Nederlands Israëlitisch Seminarium which trained Rabbis in Amsterdam, where he was received with open arms by it’s dean Rabbi Josef Hirsch (Zvi) HaLevi Dünner (1833-1911), who gave away his entire income to hire Rabbi De Leeuw as a teacher.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In 1874 the family together with grandmother Roosje Koetser and uncle Rabbi De Leeuw moved from Leiden to Amsterdam, where the family enjoyed the comfort of a bigger community and Torah schooling for young Tovia (11) and Daniel (14). Young Tuvia excelled in Torah studies at the Beis Midrash and on 15 Aug. 1882 at age 18 he received the title of “Nederlands Israelitisch Godsdienst-Onderwijzer” (in English “Dutch-Israelite Religious-Educator” and on 1 September 1884 at age 20, he received the title of “Maggid” (“Advanced Talmudic Lecturer”).

Besides the main part of his education which he got from Rabbi De Leeuw, he was also educated at the Nederlands Israëlitisch Seminarium by Rabbi Josef Hirsch (Zvi) HaLevi Dünner and Rabbi Jesayes Isaac Kleerekoper (1810-1880).

rabbi jesayes kleerekoper amsterdam
Rabbi J.I.Kleerekoper
Rabbi Joseph Hirsch Dunner
Rabbi J.H. Dünner

Whilst achieving all this he also studied Greek & Latin Literature, Roman History, Philosophy, (Ancient) Greek History & (Ancient) Greek Art History from 1882 till 1886 at a Universiteit in Amsterdam where he was only officially enlisted from 1884 till 1886.

Click here to
read part II:
Germany, Belarus &
The Netherlands
(Coming Soon)

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