The Shapiro Family
The Shapiro Family The Shapiro family name is among the most common among
Ashkenazi Jews. The reason is that it is one of the oldest Ashkenazi names. Most
Ashkenazi family names were adopted in the 19th century, but the Shapiro name (or its
variations - Spira, Shapira, Spero etc.) have been in use for many centuries. The origin of
the name is from the city of Speyer in the Rheinland (Speyer was known by the name
quot;Spiraquot; as early as the fifth century. Previously it had been known by the Latin names
Noviomagus and Nemetum.), but not all former residents of Speyer took the Shapiro
name, and least not on a permanent basis. In fact permanent family names were not
widely used by European Jews until their governments required them to adopt them about
the time of Napolean. The exception was in rabbinical families, among them the Shapiros.
In Jewish sources Speyer is best known as one of the three Jewish communities on the
Rhein (the other two being Worms and Mainz) which were destroyed during the first
Crusade. These three communities are also remembered for their set of civil regulations
known as Takanot quot;Shumquot;. Shum is an acronym for Shapiro (Speyer), Vermaiza
(Worms), and Magentza (Mainz). Many of these takanot still guide Ashkenazi Jews,
particularly in monetary relations within families. Even Sefardic authorities refer to them,
see Tshuvot Maraham Alashkar 114 and Tshuvot Rav Eliyahu Mizrachi 14. Rishonim like
the Or Zarua and Rabiah often quote quot;Chachmei Shapiroquot;. The mekubal Rav Yehuda
Hechosid of Regensburg was born in Speyer, the home of his father Rav Shmuel
Hechosid (Hanovi) of the Klonymus family as recorded in Tshuvot Maharshal #29. In fact
some sources suggest that the entire Shapiro family is descended from Rav Yehuda
In spite of the destruction of the community in 1096, it seems that it was later restored,
since we find references to rabbinical scholars from Speyer in later periods. The most
famous of these was Rav Shmuel of Shapiro, whose son Rav Shlomo Shapiro, rabbi of
Heilbronn and Landau is traditionally the first to use Shapiro as a family name, and is
assumed to be the progenitor of all subsequent Shapiros, as we shall discuss later.
Rav Shmuel and Rav Shlomo are quoted by some of the greatest halachic authorities of
their era.Rav Shmuel Shapiro is mentioned in Tshuvot Maharil (#15). Rav Shlomo
Shapiro is mentioned several times in Tshuvot Maharam Mintz, Maharil, and Maharik as
well as in Leket Yosher. Furthermore, R. Yaakov Freiman, in his preface to Leket Yosher,
Yoreh Deah, identifies Rav Shlomo Shapiro as the Rav Shlomo who is addressed
numerous times in Tshuvot Mahari Weil and mentioned several times in Trumot
Hadeshen (Psakim uktavim).
Rav Yochanan Luria's lineage (told to R. Yosef of Rosheim) is printed as a note to
Tshuvot Maharshal #29 (and also can be found in Chachamim Bedoram by Y.Y. Yuval).
There he traces his descendence to Rav Shimshon of Erfurt, who was married to Miriam
the daughter of Rav Shlomo Shapiro and sister of Rav Peretz of Konstanz. He adds that
Torah never ceased from the ancestors of Rav Shlomo Shapiro back to Rashi. Thus we see
that the lineage of the Luria family to Rashi is also dependant upon the Shapiro Lineage.
We see that the Maharshal himself confirms this lineage in his Yam Shel Shlomo on
Yavamot chapt. 4 sect. 33 where he mentions that his father's family is descended from
Rashi. The Katzenellenbogen family also trace their lineage through this route since the
mother of their progenitor, the Maharam Padua, was a sister of the Maharshal's
grandfather, Rav Aharon Luria.
The actual connection between Rav Shlomo Shapiro and Rashi is through his mother, who
was a daughter of Rav Matityahu Treves of Paris. The Treves family has a strong tradition
of descent from Rashi, although there are slightly different versions of some of the details.
The name Treves (or its variations) comes from the city of Troyes, Rashi's residence. E.E.
Urbach in Baalei Tosafot quotes Rav Asher beRav David, grandson of the Raavad who
met quot;a young scholar by the name of Rav Shmuel ben Rav Yaakov from the land of
Troyes, of whom many great men testified that he was a descendant of Rashiquot;. Urbach
suggests that this Rav Yaakov may have been Rabbenu Tam, however this is pure
conjecture on his part. It seems more likely that this may be the origin of the Treves
family and if so we have an early source for their tradition of descent from Rashi.
We don't have precise dates for Rav Shmuel or Rav Shlomo, but we know that Rav
Matityahu Treves died in 5145 (1385). Furthermore, from Rav Shlomo's correspondence
with Rav Yaakov Weil and other contemporaries we can determine that Rav Shlomo
Shapiro was active during the middle of the 15th century.
In fact, to find a common ancestor of the present Shapiro family we don't need to go back
that far. All traditional Shapiro lineages in eastern Europe go through one progenitor,
namely Rav Noson Notte ben Rav Shimshon SHAPIRO of Grodna, author of quot;Mevo
Shearimquot; on the laws of Kashruth and quot;Imrei Shefer, a supercommentary on Rashi's
commentary on the Torah.. He died in 5337 . Rav David Ganz in his history
Tzemach David refers to Rav Noson Notte as quot;my unclequot;, but the exact connection is not
According to traditonal genealogy, the yichus continues: Rav Noson Notte's father was
Rav Shimshon SHAPIRO of Posen, son of Rav Noson Notte SHAPIRO of Posen, son of
Rav Peretz SHAPIRO av beth din of Konstanz in the state of Baden, son of Rabbi Shlomo
SHAPIRO av beth din of Heilbron and Landau in Bavaria.
Rav Noson Notte of Grodna had three sons, Rav Yitzchok, Rav Shlomo, and Rav
Yissachar. The famous mekubal, Rav Noson Notte Shapiro of Krakau, author of Megale
Amukot, was the son of Rav Shlomo. In Megale Amukot Al Hatorah, Parshat Chayei
Sara, we find the Rav Noson Notte eulogized his uncle, Rav Yitzchok in the year 5383
Many prominent rabbinical families trace their lineage to the Megale Amukot Among
them are Rav Yonatan Eibshutz, Rav Shmuel Koeln (author of Machtzit Hashekel), Rav
Pinchas of Koretz, the chassidic dynasty of Neskhiz, and many more.
Many Lithuanian rabbonim (as well as the wife of Rav Nachum of Tshernobl) are
descended from Rav Yitzchok (uncle of the Megale Amukot). Among them Rav Shmuel
quot;Druyerquot; Shapiro, rav of Druya and Telz and author of Me'il Shmuel, Rav Shaul Shapiro,
rav of Panevezys and Seduva and author of Chemdat Shaul (his descendants include Rav
Pinchas Teitz of Elizabeth, N.J. and Rav Yitzchok Silber, rav of the Russian community
in Jerusalem), and Rav Aryeh Leib Shapiro of Kovna, known as quot;Reb Leibele Kovnerquot;.
This last was a Shapiro through his mother. His family is one of the best known Shapiro
families in rabbinical circles today and includes the wives of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik,