Spilka Family
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Spilka, Shelly. Rescuing Haya: Confessions of an Eight Generation Israeli Emigrant. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2001.

Reviewed by Melissa Faulkner, Cedarville University, Ohio.

In this emotionally moving memoir, author Shelly Spilka, an eighth generation sabra, provides readers with important insight into the human struggle to construct an identity that balances religion, culture, and gender with human desire and personal experience. As an academic, Spilka is equipped with the critical consciousness and self awareness necessary to analyze such struggle. As a bilingual who has moved between Israel and America, she has the authority necessary to speak to the difficulties inherent to reconciling a conflicted and divided identity.

Chapter one sets up the reality of split identity as readers are introduced to Haya, Spilka's childhood self who was left for an uncertain amount of time at an Israeli orphanage. Whether the reason for this separation from her parents at an early age is because of her father's desire for her religious training or because of her mother's need for employment remains somewhat unclear (although as told in the final chapter, it is probably the former). But what is clear is that this early experience left Spilka with a feeling of disbelonging and homelessness that has followed her well into her adult life and certainly contributed to her later decisions to study a new language and seek a new home abroad. Chapter one also introduces readers to an important character in Spilka's story, her stepfather, Reuven, who serves as Haya's initial "rescuer" when he, according to the story Spilka pieces together, insisted she be brought home from the orphanage to live with himself and her mother. Although this relationship, too, is at times conflicted, he remains a touchstone in Spilka's life.

In the second chapter, Spilka makes her first attempt to wipe out the "unruly, helpless, mute" Haya by changing her given name to Shelly; a woman she decides will be "articulate, strong, independent" (45). The change from a Hebrew name to an English one foreshadows more life changes as Spilka makes her first trans-continental move from Israel to England to immerse herself in graduate study of a new language. Although, with the absence of her ultra-conservative birth father, Spilka's religious practice had not been a major priority in her life, she moves even further away from it in her new home and culture as she gives up her kosher diet and celebrates Christmas. The position of woman moves to the foreground as Spilka recounts a serious of sexual encounters that would later require the aid of a therapist to understand. This chapter sets up the series of divisions - Haya/Shelly, Hebrew/English, Zionist/non-Zionist, woman/object – that the rest of the book attempts to reconcile.

By the end of the third chapter, Spilka begins to realize her need to gain power over the clash of forces confusing her identity when the death of her first "rescuer," her stepfather Reuven, leaves her without the sole source of steadfastness she had ever known.

The fourth chapter is a story within itself as the author meets, marries, and loses to cancer her first husband and second "rescuer," Kenneth. By telling the story of how she cared for her young children while simultaneously nursing her ailing husband, Spilka shows how she slowly developed the strength and resolve to deal with the inconsistencies and feelings of displacement that infiltrated her life. By sharing her process of mourning Kenneth's death, she shows how human experiences, particularly as they compound, impact identity and action.

As a middle-aged single mother, the urgency to settle the issues impeding on Spilka's ability to achieve peace in her life climaxes in the fifth chapter. Necessity sends her to America and jump starts her academic career. American citizenship helps to soothe the desire for a permanent home, and her professional role aids in her negotiation as a woman in society. Reconciliation with her birth father and a reunion with traditional Judaism bring a certain amount of balance and harmony, but the reader is aware that Haya, Spilka's childhood self, has not yet been dealt with.

The final chapter brings closure as Spilka and her second husband travel back to Israel to satisfy her longing for her birth country and her need for answers. A journey back to the orphanage allows the woman, Shelly, and the little girl, Haya, to dialogue for the first time, and questions regarding the identity and worth of each are laid to rest. Spilka's lifelong journey and compilation of human experiences have finally equipped her with the strength, courage, intellect, and skill necessary to rescue herself from the bondage inflicted on Haya.

Shelly Spilka's memoir compels the reader to keep turning pages as she unfolds her struggles and triumphs chronologically. During a time when the idea of woman is still being examined, Spilka complicates her story by considering "woman" along side such complex issues as religion, family, language and citizenship. She questions the construction of her own identity, and the result is permission, perhaps even urging, for readers to question their own. Spilka's work helps to safeguard memoir from critics who question the genre's usefulness as academic endeavor.


Karen E. Spilka is a Massachusetts State Senator of the Democratic Party. She represents the Second Middlesex and Norfolk District. That includes Ashland, Framingham, Holliston, Hopkinton and Natick, precincts 1 to 5, inclusive, and 8, in the county of Middlesex; Franklin, precincts 1 and 5 to 8, inclusive, and Medway, in the county of Norfolk. She has served the Massachusetts State Senate since 2003. She also served the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 2001-2002 to fill a vacancy.

Karen Spilka attended Cornell University and Northeastern University of Law. She is also an attorney.

Public offices

The Senator has served as Ashland School Committee (chair, vice-chair), Ashland Democratic Town Committee, Ashland Fiscal Affairs Committee, Charter Review Committee, and the Massachusetts Personnel Board.

She is also associated with the following organizations:

Boston Bar Association, Labor Guild, South Middlesex Association for Retarded Citizens, Tyler Hamilton Foundation for Multiple Sclerosis, MetroWest YMCA, MetroWest Chamber of Commerce, MetroWest Workforce Development Steering Committee, MetroWest Economic Research Center at Framingham State College, MetroWest ESL Fund, Framingham League of Women Voters, Ashland Education Foundation

She also serves as Chairwomen on the Children and Family Committee, the Vice-chair on the Election Laws Committee, the Economic Development & Emerging Technologies Committee, the Education Committee, and the Health Care Financing Committee

Searching Ellis Island Database in One Step
Name Residence Arrived Age
1 Spilka,Abraham Basalja, Poland 1921 62
2 Spilka,Adolf Horaxdovtce, Bohemia 1912 27
3 Spilka,Anna New York, NY 1910 10
4 Spilka,Anna   1906 5
5 Spilka,Antonin Lipany, Bohemia 1913 22
6 Spilka,Armand Paris 1905 11
7 Spilka,Bassia Reshitza, Russia 1913 59
8 Spilka,Benzion Reshitza, Russia 1913 23
9 Spilka,C New York City 1906 35
10 Spilka,Chaim Welvenyck, Russia 1913 7
11 Spilka,Charles   1911 40  
12 Spilka,Charles   1904    
13 Spilka,Charles   1905 34  
14 Spilka,Charles   1909 39  
15 Spilka,Chas.   1895 25  
16 Spilka,Chas.   1907 37  
17 Spilka,Chas.   1907    
18 Spilka,Chas.   1908 37  
19 Spilka,Fedor Wolicsa 1900 25  
20 Spilka,Ferencz Hosszumszo 1905 45
21 Spilka,Ferenez ..., Hungary 1907 46  
22 Spilka,Fiodor Jelonka, Russia. 1913 22
23 Spilka,Gyorgy Ujveidek 1903 23
24 Spilka,Helena Ziniaca 1906 20  
25 Spilka,Henriette Montevideo, Uruguay 1921 35
26 Spilka,Hillel London 1904 16
27 SPILKA,IDA BRONX, NY, USA 1922 24  
28 Spilka,Ida Paris 1905 9
29 Spilka,Ioszel Kobrim 1903 18
30 Spilka,Isckok Wococzysko, Poland 1921 20
31 Spilka,Ivan Szeleslonka 1907 23
32 Spilka,Janos Felsonye Resznyicze, Hungary 1906 18
33 Spilka,Josef Rudenka, Austria 1912 17  
34 Spilka,Josef Bedsiwilow, Russia 1907 28
35 Spilka,Josef Stelcoves, Czechosl. 1921 23  
36 Spilka,Joseph Gastova, Bohemia 1910 26  
37 Spilka,Jozsef Kelyivagas, Hungary 1910 26  
38 Spilka,Jsak Wydra, Austria 1910 18
39 Spilka,Kallmann   1895 33  
40 Spilka,Kalmen Makow 1904 35
41 Spilka,Kathie New York, NY 1910 45
42 Spilka,Marie Paris, France 1909 30  
43 Spilka,Marie   1893 31
44 Spilka,Marie   1906 32  
45 Spilka,Markens   1894 25  
46 Spilka,Marko Kormancze, Austria 1912 38
47 Spilka,Marton Palauka 1906 29  
48 Spilka,Mathias U. S. A. 1908 34  
49 Spilka,Meier Welvenyck, Russia 1913 9
50 Spilka,Meihaly Kovesliget, Hungary 1910 30
51 Spilka,Mr Charles New York 1906 35
52 Spilka,Mrs. Charles   1904
53 Spilka,Nikolej Uniontown Pa USA 1909 42
54 Spilka,Otto Prag 1906 8
55 Spilka,Pavel Ilowka, Russ. 1912 29
56 Spilka,Pawel Rotterdam 1901 28
57 Spilka,Rebeha Basalja, Poland 1921 62
58 Spilka,Rochel Welvenyck, Russia 1913 32
59 Spilka,Rozalia Zolynia, Austria 1909 25
60 Spilka,Salomon Brody, E. Galicia 1922 40
61 Spilka,Salomon Kosmin 1898 29
62 Spilka,Samuel Paris 1892 41
63 Spilka,Samuel Paris 1906 54
64 Spilka,Sara Waldink 1893 22
65 Spilka,Sergoi Simioelli, Russia 1910 25
66 Spilka,Sophie Paris 1905 56
67 Spilka,Sophie Paris, France 1912 52
68 Spilka,Sucher Zegnowicz, Russia 1913 17
69 Spilka,Tanchel Waldink 1893 26
70 Spilka,Wasyl Sebeslonko, Hungary 1913 44
71 Spilka,Welwel Welvenyck, Russia 1913 11
72 Spilka,Yanos Techol, Hungary 1913 32
73 Spilka,Yohanna Folyna 1898 20
74 Spilka,Yosef Ludlow, Pa. 1910 28
75 Spilka,Ywan Clowki, Russia 1913 23
Spilca,Michel Bucarest 1902 35
2 Spilke,Beile Warschau, Russia 1906 25
3 Spilke,Beile   1906 18
Spilke,Benjamin Wercholiage 1905 11
5 Spilke,Benjamin Kozmon 1902 18
Spilkar,C... Ells Ils 1902 36
1 Schpilka,Danil Jelowka, Russia 1912 18
2 Schpilka,Eisig Strikow 1906 6
3 Schpilka,Ilja Jelowka, Russia 1912 29
4 Schpilka,Schabse Strikow 1906 0
5 Schpilka,Schloime Lipkany, Russia 1911 21
Dear Eilat,
Thank you so much for the amazing amount of information you have sent us on the SPILKA Family.  It looks as if, at least, some of them arrived as early as 1893.  
We really appreciate your taking the time to send us these excerpts from the 1930 Census.
Best wishes,
Norm and Jean Fuhrer
On Florida's Spacecoast (Kennedy Space Center) Florida ----- Original Message -----
From: EilatGordn@aol.com
To: fuhrer@bellsouth.net
Sent: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 10:06 PM
Subject: Re: [belarus] Re: SPILKA - RechitsaIn a message dated 1/20/03 12:19:38 PM Pacific Standard Time, rer@bellsouth.net writes:Thank you for any light you may shed on this branch of our tree.Some of the information I found 1930;
Spilka, Daniel Yiddish speaking came to the U.S in 1893 a clerck in a store
  Age: 64 Year: 1930   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T626_2470   Race: White Page: 19B   State: Virginia ED: 18   County: Norfolk (Independent City) Image: 0088
  Township: Norfolk   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Sarah  Yiddish speaking   Age: 60 Year: 1930   Birthplace:   Roll: 626_2470   Race:   Page: 19B   State: Virginia ED: 18   County: Norfolk (Independent City) Image: 0088   Township: Norfolk   Relationship: Wife
Spilka, Gertrude  her parenets are from Russia   Age: 14 Year: 1930   Birthplace:  Virginia Roll: T626_2470   Race:   Page: 19B   State: Virginia ED: 18   County: Norfolk (Independent City) Image: 0088   Township: Norfolk   Relationship: Grandaughter
Spilka, Harry  in the original parenets are Russian Hebrew  Age: 25 Year: 1920
  Birthplace: New York Roll: T625_1901   Race: White Page: 7A   State: Virginia ED: 47   County: Norfolk (Indpendent City) Image: 1171   Township: Norfolk 
Spilka, Jacob  Age: 46 Year: 1920   Birthplace: Russia;Poland Roll: T625_1965
  Race: White Page: 23A   State: West Virginia ED: 100   County: Nicholas Image: 595   Township: Richwood
Spilka, Rosa  Age: 12 Year:1930   Birthplace:   Roll: T626_815   Race:   Page: 3B   State: Louisiana ED: 1   County: St Bernard Image: 1046   Township: Police Jury Ward 1   Relationship: Daughter
Spilka, Anthony   Age: 38 Year: 1930   Birthplace: Lithuania Roll: T626_268
  Race: White Page: 12B   State: Connecticut ED: 210   County: Hartford Image: 0497   Township: South Windsor
Spilka, Antonette   Age: 21 Year: 1930   Birthplace: Poland Roll: T626_266   Race: White Page: 13A   State: Connecticut ED: 185   County: Hartford Image: 0930   Township: New Britain
Spilka, Max 
  Age: 39 Year: 1930   Birthplace: Lithuania Roll: T626_688   Race: White Page: 15A   State: Iowa ED: 38   County: Webster Image: 0031  Township: Fort Dodge   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Frank  Age: 41 Year:1930   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T626_2035   Race: White Page: 7A   State: Pennsylvania ED: 17   County: Erie Image: 0563
  Township: Erie  Relationship: Head
Spilka, John   Age: 50 Year:1930   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T626_815   Race: White Page: 3B   State: Louisiana ED: 1   County: St Bernard Image: 1046
  Township: Police Jury Ward 1   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Charles   Age: 47 Year:1930   Birthplace: Czechoslovakia Roll:
T626_2044   Race: White Page: 1A   State: Pennsylvania ED: 19   County: Greene Image: 0161   Township: Morgan   Relationship: Boarder
Spilka, Dan   Age: 30 Year:1930   Birthplace: Poland Roll: T626_2050   Race: White Page: 13A   State: Pennsylvania ED: 164   County: Lackawanna Image: 0057   Township: Mayfield   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Thomas  Age: 46 Year:1930   Birthplace: Poland Roll: T626_2068   Race: White Page: 20A   State: Pennsylvania ED: 73   County: Luzerne Image: 0348   Township: Hazleton   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Joseph   Age: 63 Year:1930   Birthplace: Budapert Roll: T626_1375
  Race: White Page: 1A   State: New Jersey ED: 28   County: Ocean Image: 0527   Township: Ocean
Spilka, Max
  Age: 42 Year:1930   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T626_1471   Race: White Page: 8B   State: New York ED: 274   County: Bronx Image: 0927   Township: Bronx   Relationship: Head
Spilka, Daniel   Age: 64 Year:1930   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T626_2470   Race: White Page: 19B   State: Virginia ED: 18   County: Norfolk (Independent City) Image: 088   Township: Norfolk  
Spilka, Anthony   Age: 28 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia Roll: T625_184   Race: White Page: 10A   State: Connecticut ED: 178   County: Hatford Image: 626   Township: Newington
Spilka, Katherine   Age: 60 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia Roll: T625_354
  Race: White Page: 8B   State: Illinois ED: 2153   County: Cook Image: 308
  Township: Chicago
Spilka, Mike   Age: 47 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia Roll: T625_359   Race: White Page: 7 A   State: Illinois ED: 50   County: Cook Image: 551   Township: Cicero
Spilka, Max   Age: 29 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_518   Race: White Page: 2A   State: Iowa ED: 239   County: Webster Image: 183   Township: Fort Dodge
Spilka, John   Age: 40 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_628   Race: White Page: 11A   State: Louisiana ED: 26   County: St. Bernard Image: 1068
  Township: Police Jury Ward 1
  Age: 29 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: 625_518   Race: White Page: 2A
  State: Iowa ED: 239  County: Webster Image: 183   Township: Fort Dodge 
Spilka, John   Age: 40 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_28   Race: White Page: 11A   State: Louisiana ED: 26   County: St. Bernard Image: 1068
  Township: Police Jury Ward 1
Spilka, Luther   Age: 42 Year:1920   Birthplace: Maine Roll: T625_638   Race: White Page: 1B   State: Maine ED: 37   County: Androscoggin Image: 110
  Township: Mechanic Falls 
Spilka, Arnold   Age: 71 Year:1920   Birthplace: Rhode Island Roll: T625_683
  Race: White Page: 4A   State: Massachusetts ED: 83   County: Bristol Image: 1095   Township: Fall River
Spilka, Joseph   Age: 38 Year:1920   Birthplace: Ukraine Roll: T625_759   Race: White Page: 12A   State: Michigan ED: 36   County: Calhoun Image: 243
  Township: Battle Creek
Spilka, Andrew   Age: 48 Year:1920   Birthplace: Galicia / Galizien / Halychyna Roll: T625_764   Race: White Page: 19A   State: Michigan ED: 21   County: Genesee Image: 1091   Township: Flint
Spilka, Margaret
  Age: 54 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia Roll: T625_767
  Race: White Page: 8A   State: Michigan ED: 18   County: Grand Traverse Image: 794   Township: Grant 
Spilka, Abraham
  Age: 46 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: t625_1135
  Race: White Page: B   State: New York ED: 225   County: Bronx Image: 640
  Township: Bronx 
Spilka, Arthur   Age: 27 Year:1920   Birthplace: New York Roll: t625_1135
  Race: White Page: 18B   State: New York ED: 227   County: Bronx Image: 742
  Township: Bronx
Spilka, Mary   Age: 58 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1098   Race: White Page: 9A   State: New York ED: 45   County: Dutchess Image: 319
  Township: Poughkeepsie
Spilka, Morris   Age: 34 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_1150
  Race: White Page: 7A   State: New York ED: 240   County: Kings Image:
895   Township: Brooklyn
Spilka, Isadore   Age: 28 Year:1920   Birthplace: GAI;AUT;POL Roll: T625_1166
  Race: White Page: 17B   State: New York ED: 846   County: Kings Image: 482
  Township: Brooklyn
Spilka, Joseph   Age: 39 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1218
  Race: White Page: 14A   State: New York ED: 1245   County: New York Image: 755   Township: Manhattan
Spilka, Fannie  Age: 52 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1223
  Race: White Page: 15B   State: New York ED: 1400   County: New York Image: 395   Township: Manhattan
Spilka, Charles  Age: 48 Year:1920   Birthplace: Deutschland Roll:T625_1226
  Race: White Page: 18A   State: New York ED: 1489   County: New York Image: 709   Township: Manhattan
Spilka, Jacob  Age: 26 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: 625_1195   Race: White Page: 18A   State: New York ED: 473   Conty: New York Image: 384  Township: Manhattan 
Spilka, Fannie   Age: 50 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_1199   Race: White Page: 8A   State: New York ED: 594   County: New York Image:
89   Township: Manhattan
Spilka, Peter   Age: 42 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1245   Race: White Page: 14B   State: New York ED: 156   County: Oneida Image: 534
  Township: Utica City
Spilka, Peter   Age: 38 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria;Poland Roll: T625_1255
  Race: White Page: 6A   State: New York ED: 179   County: Orleans Image: 416   Township: Ridgeway Town
Spilka, Benjamin   Age: 36 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia Roll: T625_1236  race: White Page: 27A   State: New York ED: 383   County: Queens Image: 366
  Township: Queens
Spilka, Martin   Age: 30 Year:1920   Birthplace: Galicia / Galizien / Halychyna;Galicia / Galizien / Halychyna Roll: T625_1362   Race: White Page: 4A   State: Ohio ED: 105   County: Cuyahoga Image: 512   Township: Cleveland 
Spilka, John   Age: 35 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1363   Race: White Page: 6A   State: Ohio ED: 167   County: Cuyahoga Image: 1059
  Township: Cleveland
Spilka, Joseph   Age: 33 Year:1920   Birthplace: Austria Roll: T625_1363  Race: White Page: 6A   State: Ohio ED: 167   County: Cuyahoga Image: 1059
  Township: Cleveland
Spilka, John   Age: 57 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia Roll: T625_1360   Race: White Page: 7B   State: Ohio ED: 24   County: Cuyahoga Image: 423   Township: Cleveland
Spilka, Joseph   Age: 35 Year:1920   Birthplace: Bohemia;Samota Roll: T625_1360   Race: White Page: 11B   State: Ohio ED: 24   County: Cuyahoga Image: 431   Township: Cleveland 
Spilka, Aaron   Age: 40 Year:1920   Birthplace: Russia;Poland Roll: T625_1372
  Race: White Page: 10B   State: Ohio ED: 477   County: Cuyahoga Image:856
  Township: Cleveland
Spilka, Haney   Age: 25 Year:1920   Birthplace: Ohio Roll: T625_1372   Race: White Page: 11A   State: Ohio ED: 478   County: Cuyahoga Image: 901
  Township: Cleveland