Horowitz, Hurwitz, Horovitz, Gurwicz, Gurevitch—the many contemporary iterations of this name abound. But they all trace their way back to a single town, Hořovice, in what is now the Czech republic.

Many, but not all people with this name, including many great Ashkenazi rabbis, tend to be Levites, tracing their lineage back to Levi, son of Jacob. It appears that the progenitors of this family, then using the family name Benveniste, came to the town following the 1391 massacre of the Jews of their hometown of Gerona, Spain.

It appears that many of today’s Horowitzes are descendants of Rabbi Isaiah Halevi Horowitz. Born in Prague, he was chief rabbi of several European cities. He lived his last days in the Holy Land, passed away in 1630, and is buried in Tiberias, right near Maimonides.

He is known as the Shaloh, an acronym of Shnei Luchot Haberit (“Two Tablets of the Covenant”), the title of his magnum opus. The book weaves together biblical exegesis, philosophy, Kabbalah and theology, forming what has become a foundational work of Jewish belief.

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An interesting fact: Many members of this family are particular not to eat turkey, even though it has been almost universally accepted as a kosher bird, apparently because the Shaloh doubted its kosher status.

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Some chassidic stars from the Levite Horowitz constellation:

R. Pinchas (the “Haflaah”) and R. Shmelka of Nikolsburg. These two brothers, prominent rabbis and teachers of Torah, were among the preeminent students of the Maggid of Mezeritch. Their descendants include the Bostoner chassidic dynasty, which extends from Boston to Brooklyn to Jerusalem and was founded by R’ Pinchas Dovid Halevi Horowitz.

R. Aharon Halevi Horowitz of Strashele (d. 1828) was a prominent and inspiring senior student of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad. He was known for his passionate prayers.

R. Yitchok Halevi Horowitz (d. 1941). Known as Reb Itche Der Masmid (“the Studious”), he was a legendary Talmudist and chassid who traveled Europe and America to raise funds for Jewish education and inspire people to increase their Jewish observance. He was burned to death by the Nazis in a synagogue in Riga, Latvia. His descendants use the name Gurevitch.

 R. Yitchok Halevi Horowitz (d. 1941), known as Reb Itche der Masmid (“the Studious”).
R. Yitchok Halevi Horowitz (d. 1941), known as Reb Itche der Masmid (“the Studious”).