Select Stein Miscellany

Here are some Stein stories and accounts over the years:

The von Steins in Germany and America

The von Steins were an old Franconian family which had been in Nassau in the Lahn river valley in northern Bavaria since the 12th century.  Baron Friedrich von Stein, who was born on the family estate there, was an important player in the modernization of Prussia, introducing reforms which were to pave the way for the later unification of Germany. 

A later von Stein, Christian von Stein, emigrated to America.

Family legend has it that when Christian was a young boy, he walked into the woods and, hearing a cuckoo bird, counted the bird's cuckoo call.  He counted to 110.   If you can count the time a bird says "cuckoo" (according to the belief at the time), that is how long you will live. 

Christian later renounced his title and inheritance and came to America to begin a new life.  He built a flour mill in Missouri which has recently been restored and is still working. 

He died in America at the age of 104, sound of mind and wit.  He ate his noon meal, drank his glass of Schnapps, smoked his cigar, and went for his afternoon walk, twirling his cane.  He returned home, retired to his bedroom for an afternoon nap, and died in his sleep.

Leopold Stein and Judenmatrikel

Leopold Stein's life, just like that of his father Abraham, had been severely restricted as to where they were allowed to live and how they could earn a living.  In Bavaria, no Jew could stay in a locality unless he had obtained a special permit to live there, the so-called Judenmatrikel.  The Judenmatrikel, begun in 1813, would list the members of each Jewish family.  No name could be added to the list until someone on the list died.  In addition, only the head of the household and the eldest son were entitled to work.

Because of the Judenmatrikel, Leopold Stein - when he was made Rabbi in Frankfurt in the 1840's and preached to his congregation - would encourage them to emigrate to the United States.

Stein and Company

The Stein name appears either by itself or with a prefix.  The table below shows the eight most common Jewish Stein names in America, ranked according to their frequency.

A Notable
Joseph Stein, writer of Fiddler on the Roof
gold + stone
Vida Goldstein, Australian suffragette
amber + stone
Leonard Bernstein, American composer
boar + stone
Jacob Epstein, British sculptor
silver + stone
Abe Silverstein, American pioneer in the space program
carbuncle + stone
Norman Finkelstein, American Holocaust expert
fine + stone
Moshe Feinstein, American Orthodox rabbi
ruby + stone
Arthur Rubinstein, famous pianist

Other famous -steins are Einstein, Eisenstein, and Hammerstein.  Stein also appears as a prefix in surnames, such as Steiner, Steinitz, Steinbeck, and Steinway.  

Steins may have increased in numbers as some sons or grandsons of -stein immigrants shortened their names.  Thus in New York politics the son of Jerry Finkelstein has been Andrew Stein.

Joseph Stein and Fiddler on the Roof

Joseph Stein was born in New York in 1912, the son of Polish immigrants.  Growing up in the Bronx, Stein’s father read him the stories of Sholom Aleichem, a Yiddish author of Jewish folk tales.  Stein would remember these stories when he came later to develop the musical that became Fiddler on the RoofFiddler was in fact originally titled Tevye as it was based on Aleichem's story Tevye and His Daughters.

In Stein's version, the story begins outside Tevye's house, with a fiddler seated on the roof.  Tevye addresses the audience, explaining that they are all as precarious as a fiddler on the roof, trying to stay up without breaking their necks.  Why do they stay?  It is because this small village is their home, and they keep their balance through tradition.  They have traditions for every piece of their lives, such as always covering their heads and wearing a prayer shawl, which shows their constant devotion to God.  Tevye tells the audience that he has no idea how the traditions began, but because of those traditions, everyone knows what part they play in life.

Fiddler opened on Broadway in 1964.  Although its backers were originally reluctant to produce the musical because they feared it might have limited appeal, Fiddler went on to become a smash hit.  Stein won three major awards for his effort, including the Tony award for best musical.

The Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics

When Lou Stein ended his business career, his role as a leading legal philanthropist was just beginning.  Lou had been a supporter of Fordham Law School in New York for many years.  He took that dedication to a new level in the mid-1970s.  Lou decided that, in the wake of Watergate, it was critical that the legal profession rededicate to service and ethics. 

He therefore established the Fordham-Stein Prize, which has annually honored lawyers whose careers have embodied the highest ideals of the profession.  He then created the Louis Stein Center for Law and Ethics -  which has become known worldwide as a powerful force in educating the public about the importance of the rule of law and in educating lawyers about the awesome responsibility that their profession casts on their shoulders.

The Stein Center is possibly without peer in legal academia.  It has helped establish Fordham as a leader in the field of legal ethics and it has helped educate a generation of lawyers that are dedicated to advancing the public interest.

A Portrait of the Steyn Family in South Africa

The Steyn family selection in the 2003 book Group Portrait South Africa examines the journey of a prominent Afrikaner family that traces its roots to Martinus Steyn, the last president of the so-called Orange Free State.  The life stories revolve around a farm that has remained in the family since the 19th century and has become something of a museum of Afrikaner nationalism. 

The Steyns have been the only family in the collection that have managed to keep their land through the 20th century.  In the Steyn stories recounted in the book, there is family lore about their beloved farm and the time that they were visited by a member of the English royal family; but no discussion of their role in apartheid nor on their position on the current government.  Instead, the family projects images and stories of war, domination and privilege.

The dominant picture presented is a two-page spread by border war veteran Colin Steyn and his son Colin in Boer uniforms dating from the Boer War.  The spread includes President Martinus Steyn in an official portrait taken at his inauguration in 1897 and Yvonne Steyn sitting under a gigantic tree that she planted herself. The war veteran Colin Steyn then relates how participating in wars with South Africa's neighbors in the 1980s has traumatized him. He returned from the border wars of the 1980s with terrible stories and souvenirs from the bodies of dead Africans.

Some of the Steyn women have seemed uneasy about the exalted status of their family.  Eliza Steyn, for instance, complained that she was being "swallowed up" by the reputation of the Steyns.

"They were worshipped as heroes and sometimes it bothered me.  I could not accept that the Steyns were everything and other people were nothing."

She didn't want her children growing up "with the notion that being a Steyn was the alpha and the omega."

Indiana's Stein Family

Robert Kriebel's 1990 biography of the prominent 19th century Stein family in Lafayette, Poets, Painters, Paupers, Fools, weaves the story of four fascinating individuals within the web of state and national history and culture at the time. 

The family members included John A. Stein, the state politician who devoted years to the founding of Purdue University; the indomitable mother Virginia who pursued a career in the local library when left widowed and penniless; the talented albeit disreputable Orth Stein who was prominent as a journalist and illustrator but was also tried for murder; and the sheltered Evaleen Stein who achieved some local fame as a poet and author of children's books.

The Stein Family Farm in California

Charles Stein had been born in Germany and had immigrated to California in the 1880s.  He had met his wife Bertha in National City, they had married in 1891 and then had moved to Charles's farm close to the Mexican border. 

Charles, a successful farmer, was angered when his property was flooded by the construction of the Otay Dam.  Offered what he thought was a paltry amount for the loss of his property, he took the builders of the dam to court and sued for a better settlement.  Charles Stein won his suit.  With $1,000 of this money, the Steins purchased property in National City in 1900 which was to become the Stein Family Farm.  

In 1992, Charles's descendants were approached by a purchaser who wanted to tear down the structures on the Farm and build apartments there.  Public awareness of this resulted in a campaign to “Save the Farm.”  The purchaser generously sold the property back to the town of National City. 

To the credit of National City's government, the farmstead was purchased with the intent to turn it into a living history museum.  Stein's house, barn, and buildings, along with over two acres of property - the Stein Family Farm - is now this museum.

The Life and Death of Linda Stein

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