06/12/2013 07:13 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Family Tree Unearthed

"Family is not an important thing. It's everything." So when Rabbi Shull, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, reached out to me, explaining that he has been retracing his family history for 20 years, I was only too eager to help.

After more than 20 years of trying to research and discover his family's roots, Rabbi Shull stumbled on a complete family tree, dating back 400 years to his European Jewish roots. No, he didn't spend hours searching through trying to find where he came from. Instead, an even more amazing thing happened. In the spine of an ancient family book was an old, yellowing letter that explained the Rabbi's heritage. It turns out that his great-great grandmother, Sheina, had been the daughter of the renowned European Rabbi, Rav Hillel Mliokofsky.

So how did he eventually find his way to me, a Judaica Dealer based out of Long Island, New York? During his search, a remarkable turn of events came to be. As it turns out, Google images brought Rabbi Shull into my gallery, J. Greenstein & Co. Amazingly enough, there it was for Rabbi Shull to see; a swirling family tree that dates back to the 1600's in Riga, the capital and largest city in Latvia; a family tree that details the heritage of Rabbi Shull.

The tree, which took 10 years to complete, was painted by Joseph Judey, a 5th cousin of Rabbi Shull, features a dedication, in German, to Judey's son. As a Judaica collector, and a person, one of my greatest joys is bringing owners back together with lost articles and collectables. So when Rabbi Shull put in a request to purchase the painting, I was only too happy to comply.

And like most people, I too, enjoy a happy ending. Through the family tree, Rabbi Shull has been able to connect with his family, here, in the United States, whom he had no prior knowledge of. In every imaginable way, our families are our links to our past and the bridge to our futures. They help shape who we are and I am glad that Rabbi Shull has been fortunate enough to reconnect with his past, to bridge the gap between his past, his present, and his future.