Wolkin World

Artists, Entrepreneurs and Ten Centuries of Rabbis

Shifra "Sophie" Wolkin


Deb's great-grandma Shifra, born in Kobrin, moved to Brest-Litovsk with her dad, who then remarried*. Shifra bravely migrated all by herself to Philadelphia at age 19 and there she met and married a man who'd also migrated alone-- Abram Gobler. Shifra gave birth to 14 children in 17 years while also earning money as a seamstress. Her first cousins Israel "Izzy" and Simon started Wolkin's Radio & Hardware, a flourishing biz for decades on Germantown Ave.

Shifra's youngest son, Deb's grandpa Joe Gobler, inherited some of his Uncle Harry's talent, as his Venice painting above shows!

NOTE (*): Shifra's mother Pesel was likely in the Soloveichik rabbinical family. She had 3 known children; it is unknown when, where or how she died.

Gershko "Harry" Wolkin


Shifra's half-brother, Harry became a portrait artist of some renown. Migrating with the family from Brest-Litovsk, he went to art school in Philly but then opened a studio in Pittsburgh. His dozens of works include paintings of his father Reb Yakov Wolkin, Robert Morton Hughes (in the Smithsonian!), Francis Glidden and socialite Eugenia Griffin Burnett. Harry was beloved by his sister Shifra whose children all named sons after him, including our uncle Harry Wolkin Gobler.

Shifra to Rabbi Shlomo Itzhaki, aka RASHI


Deb had traced back from Shifra's father Yakov to his father Rabbi Yisrael Wolkin to his dad Rabbi Hirsch Wolkin. Then, through the miracle of DNA matching, she discovered Hirsch had a brother Leiba and from his descendants she learned about Hirsch's wife Nechama Priel, the daughter of Sora Feyga Kukla (no connection to Fran or Ollie!). From Sora our family can climb back up our Wolkin tree for ~1,000 years!

We descend from two of Rashi's daughters:

The FAMILY TREE shows:

While we trace back to RASHI along several paths, on the way there is an awesome direct male lineage that starts with Deb's 6th great-grandpa Abram Lev Kukla. Among the illustrious men on this lineage are Rabbi Mordechai Joffee ("HaLevush") and Rabbi Eliezer Jaffe of Bologna. Our oldest known male ancestor on this line is Rabbi Shmuel de Vitry, born ca 990 CE! Thanks to a Kukla cousin who tested, we now know the Y-DNA branch for this rabbinical lineage is: