MyHeritage Uncovers the Family History of Three Judokas

MyHeritage Uncovers the Family History of Three Judokas

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We are excited to announce our sponsorship of the Tel Aviv Judo Grand Slam 2021 tournament taking place this weekend in Tel Aviv. Judokas from all over the world have flown into Tel Aviv to compete for the chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic games later this year. 

We had the opportunity to speak with some of Israel’s biggest Judoka stars, Ori Sasson, Gili Cohen, and Timna Nelson-Levy. We came prepared with some incredible discoveries about their family histories, and gave them the chance to guess whose discovery belonged to whom!

Watch as they encounter never-before-seen photos and facts about their family history!

Here’s what we discovered on each of the Judokas.

Ori Sasson

We were able to locate the home of Ori’s maternal great-grandfather, Aharon Lazarovich, who was born in the 1880s and lived in the Galați province in Eastern Romania.

 Photo of home of Ori's maternal great-grandfather, Aharon Lazarovich in Romania
Photo of home of Ori’s maternal great-grandfather, Aharon Lazarovich in Romania

Aharon and his brother, Smil, finished their education in a local elementary school. Aharon went on to become a merchant.

Ori responds: “I’ve been to Bucharest but I haven’t been to the village where my mother was born. I’d like to go, sure. Maybe now I have a reason to look into it more, to go and visit.”

Ori also has roots in Târgu Frumos, a town in Iași County, Romania.

The Jews of the town suffered from anti-Semitism throughout the years, and in 1930 students from Iași tried starting riots against them. The Jews defended themselves, fought back and fended off the rioters.

Ori was moved by this story. 

“Yes, first of all, it is a moving subject considering everything that occurred during that 

time period with the Holocaust. Knowing that there’s a history of fighting in our family is interesting because it’s what I do every day — my brother as well. So perhaps we are a family of warriors.”

Gili Cohen

One side of Gili’s family is from Yemen, and the other side is from Lithuania, eventually migrating to South Africa.

Our Research team was able to find this precious family photo:

Family photo of Gili Cohen's great-grandfather and family
Family photo of Gili Cohen’s great-grandfather and family

The boy on the right, holding the oar, is Leib Louis Mazinter, Gili’s great-grandfather. He was born in Lithuania and moved to Cape Town, South Africa.

This photo was taken at the beginning of the 20th century. Thanks to MyHeritage’s photo tools, MyHeritage In Color™ and the Photo Enhancer, the photo is clear and sharp. 

Gili’s paternal grandfather, Louis Mazinter, was born in the town of Seredžius in Lithuania. Today, the town’s population numbers 500 people. We showed Gili a picture of what the town looks like now:

The town of Seredžius in Lithuania, the town where Gili's paternal grandfather, Louis Mazinter, was born
The town of Seredžius in Lithuania, the town where Gili’s paternal grandfather, Louis Mazinter, was born

“This is my grandmother’s side,” says Gili. “Some made it to South Africa before the Holocaust, so they survived. It’s interesting, when you get to see this in a photo then suddenly it becomes 

real and doesn’t seem so far, and to be honest, it looks nice so it’s worth looking into.”

Timna Nelson-Levy

Timna made some interesting discoveries about her American roots.

The first is that her great-great grandfather Louis, who lived in the U.S., was licensed to sell weapons.

“It’s always fun to learn about my family,” says Timna. “I know they came from Poland, some from Russia, but the fact that he had a license to sell weapons… I’ll talk to my family about it, see if they know about it.”

We also found a photo of Timna’s great-great grandmother, Sarah Levkovitz:

Photo of Sarah Levkovitz, Timna's great-great grandmother holding Timna's great-grandfather, Louis on her lap
Photo of Sarah Levkovitz, Timna’s great-great grandmother holding Timna’s great-grandfather, Louis on her lap

The photo was taken in 1916, and it is most likely Timna’s great-grandfather, Louis, sitting on his mother’s lap.

“Wow,” Timna responds. “It’s insane. We have some family photos but I’ve never seen this one.”

‘It does something to you’

After they heard the stories and tallied the scores (Timna won!), the Judokas reflected on the opportunity to learn more about their family history.

“I think it’s a topic worth exploring, getting to know our past and where we come from,” says Timna.

“When you see a photo or a place, it looks different, like puzzle pieces you want to track down, solve the mystery, discover more information and see how far back you can go,” says Gili.

“To suddenly see that you found things like this it does something to you,” says Ori. “It gives you the sense that it’s something real. I really, really want to know about my roots because I think ultimately there is a connection to our character or even our physical appearance.”

The Tel Aviv Judo Grand Slam 2021 begins!

The tournament kicks off its first matches today and we can’t wait to watch these Judo stars as they make their way to the mat to compete.

MyHeritage sponsors the Tel Aviv Judo Grand Slam 2021 Tournament [Credit; MyHeritage]
MyHeritage sponsors the Tel Aviv Judo Grand Slam 2021 Tournament [Credit; MyHeritage]

We’re sure the ancestors they learned about would be proud. What might you discover about your own ancestors? Start building your family tree on MyHeritage today!

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