According to family tradition, the name Horowitz is associated with Horovice, a small town near Prague in the Czech Republic, where Jews who fled from Spain were allowed to settle. In the beginning, they lived in and around Prague, then scattered in Eastern and Central Europe. The founders of the dynasty were Levites but later non-Levites also entered the family through marriage.
One of the most remarkable personalities in the whole history of the Horowitz families is the Rabbi and Philosopher Yeshayahu Halevi Ish-Horowitz (the revered "Shlah", author of the work "Shnei Luchot Habrit"), who emigrated from Prague to Jerusalem in 1621 and is buried on the same site as the Rambam in Tiberias.
We have documentation of the activities of Horowitz Rabbis, authors and people who were active in their communities in Europe (Austria, Bohemia, Hungary, Germany, Lithuania, Romania, Russia) for hundreds of years, and in the last century also in America, South Africa and Australia. Many members of Horowitz families lost their lives in the Holocaust.
Horowitzes played an important role in the Zionist Movement and development of the State of Israel. They were among the pioneers of various settlements, kibbutzim and moshavim. For example, Zvi Hurvitz, a member of the "Bilu" group, was one of the founders of Gedera; Nachum Horowitz of Kfar Giladi was one of the founders of the "HaShomer" Movement; David Horowitz, a member of Kibbutz Beit Alfa, was the first Governor of the Bank of Israel, and Yigal Horowitz, a member of the moshav Nahalal, became Minister of Finance. Many Horowitzes distinguished themselves in the wars of Israel.
Nowadays, Horowitzes are active in all areas of life: in culture, art, science, economics and communications, all over the world. Some Gurevitches exerted important functions in former Soviet Union, and have suffered from antisemitic persecutions of the regime. In recent years, many Gurevitch families have immigrated to Israel where they play an increasingly important role in the cultural life and the economy of the country.
The family's history can be divided into four periods:
Family tradition has it, that according to scripts from previous centuries, the Halevi family originated in the region of Cataluņa, Spain. From among the many family members, most famous is Rabbi Zarchiya Halevi from Gerona, known as "Baal Hamaor", and we have knowledge of 11 generations of this family in Spain.
Yishayahu Ben Asher Moshe Halevi Ish-Horowitz (1460 - 1515, Prague) was one of the leaders of the Prague Jewish community, a wealthy man who was very influential in that city. There were at least three generations of Halevi-Horowitz prior to Yishayahu in Bohemia. The family first arrived at the settlement of Horowitz (a village and castle bearing this name were located 55 km southwest of Prague, but today this is a town: in 1999 its population was 6,500 residents), later moved to Prague. The Levite family became known in Prague as "Ish-Horowitz" (the man of Horowitz). A synagogue called "Pinkas Schul" (named after Pinchas Horowitz), is located in the Jewish quarter of Prague, and currently constitutes part of the Jewish Museum in Prague.
Its beginnings were a prayer room in the Horowitz family house, first mentioned in writing in 1492, which was later enlarged into a family-community synagogue. A "mikve-tohora" (a Jewish ritual bath) from the 15th century at the very least has recently been discovered in the synagogue's floor. Adjacent to the synagogue is a burial plot belonging to the Horowitz family, situated at the edge of the Jewish cemetery of Prague, bordering on the synagogue lot.
C. Dispersal of the family in Europe and America
Expulsions led to the dispersal of the family throughout eastern, central and western Europe. Rabbi Nathan Zvi Friedman cites over 300 rabbis named Horowitz. In Frankfurt alone there were four rabbis and community leaders named Horowitz. The rabbis and the ghetto conditions supported and safeguarded the Jewish people up to the advent of the return to Zion in our times and the establishment of the State of Israel. From among the many Jewish immigrants to America there arose the Horowitz-Margareten family, owners of a bakery for "matzot", who over 60 years ago had already established an active family association including the publication of a family book and newsletter. Pianist Vladimir Horowitz, who emigrated from Russia to America, won world renown as one of the greatest pianists of his times.
D. Horowitz and Zionism
The first immigrant to Israel was Rabbi Yishayahu Halevi Ish-Horowitz, author of the work "Shney Luchot Habrit" (The Two Tablets), a book of Jewish conduct and precepts, who left Prague for Jerusalem in 1621. He was imprisoned by the Governor of Jerusalem who held him far ransom, milking taxes and money from him and the community. Following his release, he moved to Zefat, died in Tiberias, and was buried near the Rambam's grave. His descendants followed in his footsteps, immigrating to the holy land and contributing to the continuity of the Jewish settlement in the Galilee throughout ten generations.
The 19th century witnessed a steady stream of immigrants from the established communities in Palestine to Jerusalem: Shimshon Horowitz, a resident of the Meah-Shearim neighborhood in Jerusalem and researcher of the ten tribes in the East; Arieh Leib Horowitz, cited among the founders of the Nachlat Shiva neighborhood in Jerusalem and the settlement of Petah Tikva. In addition there were many members of the First Aliyah and of Bilu, who numbered among the founders of Rishon LeZion, Mazkeret Batya and Gedera, and the ancestors of the late Yigal Horowitz, former Minister of Finance of Israel.
Settlers carrying the Horowitz surname were also to be found in the Second Aliyah such as Nachum Horowitz - founder of the Hashomer movement and of Kfar-Giladi, and in the Third Aliyah: for example, David Horowitz, who became Director of the Bank of Israel. They also took part in the struggle for the establishment of the state and included Zerubavel Horowitz, who lead the convoy to Gush Etzion and fell in the battle of Nebi-Daniel, and who is one of the War of Independence 12 heroes of Israel.
For more details on the Horowitz family history at Shlomo Gurevich's website click here