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More on Esther and Leon’s London Wedding

9 Apr

There are times I truly love Facebook.   When I posted my last article about my husband’s grandparents, I tagged all his many cousins to see if someone knew something I could not find.  And yes, they did.  I am especially thankful to the two Esther/Ester who are namesakes of their grandmother.

One Esther let me know why Leon came to the United States. Leon came to the USA through Canada to be the town doctor in Lone Star, Kansas, near Leavenworth.

Why there, I do not know. But that is where my husband’s Kansas roots began.  I have researched the town and now know that it was located south of Lawrence.   Which is really not close to Leavenworth, about 47 miles.     It looks like it was quite a small community, which had a post office from 1875 until 1953.

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Thank you to my husband’s cousin for sending me this!

But then the second Ester commented that she had their English or civil marriage license!  It states that they were actually married in the Register Office on July 17, 1903.  Esther’s father Abraham and a man named, Is. Zaidner, were the witnesses. They had a civil marriage several weeks before their Jewish wedding ceremony, which was held in August.

While Leon is listed the correct age and as a medical student on the document; Esther is listed as an 18-year-old spinster.  WAIT! 18!  The misinformation she provided is even larger.  That is even older than the family legend states.  We were told she said she was 16 when she got married. But we know in fact she was not quite 14.

I am beginning to wonder if Leon knew exactly how old the girl he fell in love with was when he first met her.  They met when she hurt her arm, and Leon stitched it. The healing touch won her heart!  And the stories I have heard is that he was immediately smitten.

From the marriage license we also learn that Leon’s father, Aron, was a solicitor.  That makes sense, the family legend says that Leon had both a law degree and a medical degree!  Quite an educated man for the beginning of the 20 Century.  (Cousin update: Leon’s father, Benjamin Aharon Matassaru was a lawyer and a mayor in Romania. In fact, he was the first Jewish mayor of the city of Dorohoi). Esther’s father, Abraham, was a greengrocer.

I now also know the address of their first home in Whitechapel, London.

As for Aunt Jean and her birthday, it seems she continued to make herself three years younger throughout her life.  Although born in 1907, she told everyone that she was born in 1910.  When she passed away, her birth year was noted at 1908, making her 100 years old when she passed.  But we now know in reality she was 101!  Several cousins commented on this, included one of her grandchildren. (Another update, Jean’s daughter is happily still alive. She said that her mom wanted her dad to think she was younger perhaps because they were the same age. Thanks to Jean’s granddaughter for finding out!)

Thank you all for your help in making this history as complete as possible.  If there is anything else out there about Esther and Leon’s marriage, I am glad to continue to update so that we have a full and factual history.

 

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

 

More Family Legends Confirmed

6 Apr
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Esther and Leon wedding photo.

Now that I found my husband’s grandparents’ ketubah (Jewish marriage license), I can be definite about another family legend.

The rumor was that his Grandmother Esther was anywhere from 12 to 15 years old when she married her husband Leon, who was 25. My mother-in-law told me that her mother was 12 when she married.  My husband’s first cousin, also named Esther, told me that her grandmother was 15.  All agreed she lied and said she was 16 when she married in 1903.

I now have facts.  She was born October 4, 1889.  That means when she married on August 9, 1903, she was not quite 14.  I have to be honest, this shocked me.  I cannot imagine letting my 13-year-old daughter marry a man who was 12 years older, 25, even if he was a well-educated and kind physician.  I guess times were different.  However, it was London, England, and not the wild west. All that went through my brain, was: “What were her parents, Abraham and Rachel, thinking!!!”  But the marriage occurred, so they must have approved.  (See blog below.)

They lived in England, where their first three children were born.  The oldest was born when Esther was 15 years old. The next when she was 17, and so on until she had 10 living children.  She died in childbirth in 1933, when she was 44.  She is buried with an infant.  (See blog below.)

Leon immigrated to the United States in February of 1908.  And another legend is correct, they came through Canada.  It makes sense as she was a citizen of England, coming to Canada was not a problem.   Leon was born in Romania, but he had lived in England for a while.  But actually only he entered the USA at Vanceboro, Maine, which is located across the St. Croix River from St. Croix, New Brunswick, Canada.  There is a railroad that connects the two cities, which was opened in 1871.  I assume he came by rail.

Interesting there is an E Matassarin that took a boat to Canada around the same time.  But Esther and her three children actually moved to the USA on August 7, 1920, on the ship, Carmania. The three children were Malvenia (Molly), Joseph and Jeanne.  (I have to add one comment here.  Their third child, Jeanne, was born in England, supposedly in July 1908.  Either she was born a year earlier, making her 101 when she died, or they came a year later.  I think she was a year older!  A family member has confirmed the 1907 birthdate.)

When they arrived they stayed with family members from Esther’s side before they took the journey to Kansas.

Over the years, Esther’s age moved back and forth in the census.  In a 1925 census of the city in Kansas where she lived, she is listed as 35 years old and her husband is 47.  Their true ages.  She had six children living with them ranging from age 4-18.  Her oldest daughter had already died as a young adult.  (Her grave was moved from Wichita to Leavenworth so she could be buried with her parents.)

But in the 1930 census, just five years later, she lists herself as being 42, adding two years to her life, and now just ten years younger than her husband.  She has an additional two living children, including my husband’s mother. One more live birth would occur soon after the census.

They originally lived in Brooklyn in New York City after they immigrated to the USA. Then they moved to Kansas, living at times in both Wichita and Leavenworth.  I know that Leon became a naturalized citizen of the USA in September 1915 in Wichita.

My husband’s grandfather served as a doctor for the USA Army during World War 1.  He was shipped overseas on August 23, 1919 on a ship called, Chicago. He was stationed at the US Army Base Hospital #58, which was located in Rimaucourt, France.  The Army Hospital in Rimaucourt was the last US military hospital created in WW 1 and only existed until February 1919.  I am not sure where he went after this base closed.

He left the USA as a captain.  When he returned he held the rank of major. He left Brest, France, the main port the USA used during the war, on September 10, 1919, serving just over a year in Europe.  He arrived home on the ship, Mount Vernon, docking in Hoboken, New Jersey on September 19,1919.

One more item about Leon and his time during World War 1. He found a way, through the JDC, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, to send $10.00 to his mother, and his sister, Anna, in Romania on October 17, 1917.  (I found this in the JDC Archives.)

He ended up in Leavenworth, Kansas, where he continued to work on the military base.  He was discharged from military duty in 1930 with the rank of Major. I believe he then went into private practice.  Unfortunately, his wife died just a few years later.  The memory my mother-in-law told me was that he went every day to visit his wife’s grave until he died.  Years ago, when I went to the cemetery, there was a stone bench next to her grave.  I believe her memory to be true.

My husband’s mother was about eight when her mother died and 17 when her father died in the middle of World War 2.  She was the third youngest child.  Some of her older siblings served during the war and were dispersed throughout the world.

I am so glad that JewishGen.org, the Archives.jdc.org  and Ancestry.com had records that helped me piece together this history.  I also used Wikipedia for info about towns in France and Canada.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/04/the-great-alie-street-synagogue-my-husbands-family-london-ties/

 

 

The Great Alie Street Synagogue: My husband’s Family London Ties

4 Apr

My husband’s grandparents were married on the 16 day of Ab/Av in the year 5663, which corresponds to August 9, 1903.  We knew that they were married in London.  His grandmother Esther was English.  His grandfather, Leon, was from eastern Europe. He had studied medicine and moved to England to practice.  He met his wife in an emergency room, when she needed medical assistance for an injured hand.

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The copy of their Ketubah.  I found out that the ketubah survived a fire, which left the smudge.

But that was all that I knew.   Recently I found a copy of the front page of their marriage license or Ketubah in both English and Hebrew.

Esther, the daughter of Avraham Moshe, married Yehuda Leb, the son of Aaron Benjamin in the Great Alie Street Synagogue in Aldgate, London.  In Hebrew letters above the English words naming the shul were the words, the Bayt Kenesset DaKalish, which stands for the Kalisher Synagogue.

Once I found this document, I had to do my research, which led to more questions!  I knew that my husband’s grandmother was known as Esther.  She has several descendants named for her.  Her husband did not use Yehudah or Leb, he was known as Leon.   And he also has grandchildren named for him.  I assume he could not find an English name that he liked for his first name, so went with his second name?

My biggest question relates to the date of their marriage. From the JCR-UK records I found on Jewish Gen, I learned that the Great Alie Street Synagogue was also known as the Kalischer Synagogue, named after a previous congregation.  In fact, the Kalischer merged with the Great Alie Street Synagogue, and the same rabbi served the new congregation, Rabbi Israel Dainow.   I wish I had the back page with the witnesses to see if he had officiated at their marriage.  Our ancestors were married in the congregation just eight years after it was established.

My main question deals with the date of their marriage.  The document states they were married on August 9, 1903. However, in the information I found, it says that the synagogue was closed for repairs, only reopening and being re-consecrated on September 18, 1903.  Did it close after they were married?  Were they married elsewhere by the Rabbi and so given a ketubah from that synagogue?  I guess I will never know.

This was not a big congregation, not having much more than 110-120 members from the 1896 to 1915 time period.  It was formed when two congregations merged: the Kalischer Synagogue, named for the town of Kalisz, Poland; and the Windsor Street Chevra/Windsor Street Synagogue.

This orthodox synagogue closed in 1969 and the building was demolished.  That always makes me sad.  I will never get to see it.  However, the congregation membership continued on for several decades merging along with others into the Fieldgate Street Great Synagogue. But eventually, in 2014, services ended  and the building was sold.

My husband’s grandparents came to the USA in the early 1900s.  They ended up in Kansas. The parents of ten children, they have great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren,  throughout the USA and Israel.

See blogs below.

 

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2017/01/05/the-antique-european-hannukiah/

 

 

 

https://www.jewishgen.org/jcr-uk/London/EE_alie/index.htm

 

Monument Valley Invokes Images Of My Dad

16 Mar

Monument Valley straddles Utah and Arizona, but for me it straddles my childhood and adulthood. I often watched old John Ford movies with my Dad, who was a major John Wayne fan. My job was to iron on the weekends, exactly when these old movies were on television. It gave me something to watch as I suffered through this chore and created a bonding time with my Dad.

Dad loved any John Wayne movie, military, westerns, Irish themed. I was more picky. There were three I loved. “The Quiet Man,” “The Searchers” and my favorite of all, “She Wore A Yellow Ribbon.” The last was filmed in Monument Valley, so I knew that one day I would make the trek to see this spectacular site. Finally I made it. It was more than I anticipated.

The visit came on the last touring day of a weeklong Roads Scholar program learning about the Hopi and Navajo Peoples and visiting their reservations. Monument Valley is located in the Navajo Reservation. It was worth the wait. Usually I write about my trips in order. But the emotional impact forced my mind to focus on this experience.

We arrived soon before lunch at the Goulding’s Trading Post, where we had time to visit some of the sites before we had lunch and continued into the valley. The movie crew used some of the outside of the buildings for the movie, including a storage building that became the office of Captain Nathan Brittles. Of course that was my first stop. John Wayne played this character in the movie. And although it is a small space lined with movie memorabilia, it touched a nerve in me. I started to cry as I exited the building, just missing my Dad.

The after lunch experience created moments of awe. As we toured the valley, stopping at many vistas along the way, including John Ford Point, and seeing sites that were visible in the movie, I kept thinking about my Dad. He would have LOVED seeing Monument Valley! He would have told me about every scene with a bit of Goulding’s or the Valley were in.

Dad would have relished the beauty of the valley. The bright red sand stone and majestic buttes would have inspired him as they inspired me. There are no words. Majestic is too small! Unbelievable is too trite! Incredible is ridiculous! Photos do not do it justice. Traveling along the 17 mile loop and listening to the young Navajo guide tell you the names given to the buttes and why they were named is a little surreal.

John Ford’s Point.

These buttes do not need names. They need appreciation! Each one still a work in process as the cold and water still invade the sandstone and split through the crevices causes giant portions of stone to fall and then crumble at the base.

I really felt Dad was with me in Monument Valley. Another woman on my trip was also on a pilgrimage in tribute of her husband who had passed away. He also loved old John Wayne movies. We decided that they were up there together watching us as we toured this site. And at the final stop on our tour of the Valley, she played her flute for the group. Her haunting melody swept across the silence, its lament echoed the sadness in my heart that my Dad never made it here. But at the same time the echoes of the music, the unbelievable, majestic and fantastic vistas brought me joy. Because I was there and in remembering my Dad I keep him alive.

I am so fortunate to have found the perfect educational program, great guides and wonderful experience to remember my Dad.

Our Daughter: Not An Astronaut

7 Mar

We always thought our daughter would become an astronaut.  It was not a crazy dream.  Our house was filled with books and videos focusing on the idea of space exploration.  My husband actually started filling out the application to join NASA, but an undetected medical issue ended his dream.  However, that did not stop him from always speaking about space. (See blog below.)

Because he could not be an astronaut, for his 40th birthday, I gave him a week of Adult Space Academy at the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama in 1994, just four years after the program began. He had a wonderful time and came home with his own blue NASA jumpsuit, which became his Halloween costume for years.  As a pediatrician, it was important for him to have a great costume.  Each time he put it on, he glowed.

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My husband and daughter in Space Camp.

His constant discussions of the joys of space camp excited our daughter, who also wanted to go.  So in June 1995, my husband  took his NASA jumpsuit with him when he took our then nine-year old daughter to Huntsville for a weekend of Family Space Camp.  They had a wonderful time.

Our daughter was hooked. She also came home with a desire to learn everything she could about space and becoming an astronaut.  So the summer between sixth and seventh grade she went to Space Camp at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas.

There is a wonderful museum there that contains many space relics.   We had been members of the Cosmosphere for several years, after a tour there once on our way to Wichita.  It was a bit out of our way, but well worth the journey.

When our daughter went to Space Camp in Hutchinson, there was only one overnight Space Camp available.  But she lucked out.  The following year, the Cosmosphere added a second level to Space Camp.  In this new program, the campers had an overnight trip to Houston, Texas, to visit NASA. That was so exciting for her.

While they were in Mission Control, the Space Shuttle mission STS-93 was orbiting the earth commanded by the Astronaut Eileen Collins, July 1999.  Our daughter was able to speak to Astronaut Collins.  And they were there when the Space Shuttle actually returned to earth and touched down in Houston.  That was the highlight for her.  A woman in control  epitomized our daughter’s dreams.

Her next stop was Huntsville, Alabama, on her own for Space Academy.  She was in her happy place.  At 15 years old, the world was hers.  As a scuba diver, she had her happiest moment in the giant tank, while others were learning to scuba dive, she somersaulted and enjoyed moving around the mock-up of the space vehicles.   We flew in to attend her graduation, where we were told what an excellent student she had been that week.

We didn’t fly in just for her.  Since her program ended on a Friday, my husband and son were signed up for Family Space Camp that weekend. While they enjoyed camp, my daughter and I explored Huntsville.  And she told me all about her experience.  She came home with her own  NASA jumpsuit and joined my husband in dressing up each Halloween.

Thus, we were surprised when she did not go into science and pursue her space exploration adventures.  In fact, when she wrote her college essay, she focused on the strengths of Pippi Longstocking, and not the excitement of space camp.

Why asked why, she said that an astronaut had come to speak to them at camp. He told them that the astronauts currently in the program were like penguins, who would never fly. To our daughter that was the end of her NASA dreams.  She found another dream and earned two masters’ degrees.  But never joined NASA.

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Our daughter never became an astronaut, but her American Girl doll did!  Last year, 2018,  the American Girl Company came out with Luciana.  Our daughter and her husband were at the mall when she stopped into the American Girl store because she saw all the clothes and items available for Luciana.  She purchased a NASA like jumpsuit for her doll.  She dressed her Rebecca doll as an astronaut and joined her in her own NASA jumpsuit! (It still fit as it had when she was a teenager!)

Recently I was at the mall and saw all the space accoutrements.  I sent photos to our daughter to see what she thought, as it was close to her birthday.  And even though she is in her 30s, her American Girl dolls and space are still important to her.  She reminded me that she had purchased the jump suit, but her husband said she did not need anything else.  But what is need to a mom.  I got the space suit, the book and a few other items. Once again I state, my daughter might never have been an astronaut, but I could be sure that her doll reached the stars.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/06/29/spaceastronomy-and-the-first-walk-on-the-moon/

Locking Up Candy Saves the Day!

2 Mar
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The locked candy was kept on the bottom left side.

My Dad loved to eat candy.  He absolutely had a sweet tooth.  And he could not stop once he got started!  The only way my mother could stop him was to keep the candy locked up in the breakfront/curio cabinet in the dining room.  The key, which was beautiful and ornate, was kept it hidden from him.

To be honest, I think my brother and I knew where the key was from an early age. But we also knew not to take it or to eat the candy.  Mom had a strong knowledge of what was in the cabinet.  She had been keeping a strict eye on Dad and the candy ever since she had a mah jong game at our home, inviting four friends over to play, and when she went to put out the treats, almost all the candy was gone. She was so annoyed that she started locking up the candy in the bottom part of the breakfront, where you could not see what was inside.

Baked goods were not a problem. Our grandfather was a baker, so there was often cakes and bread in the house.  It was delicious and kept us filled with delights.  But I guess for my Dad it was not enough.  Candy was his downfall.  Thus, my Mom rarely purchased any and when she did, she locked it away.

The locked candy worked for us as well, especially when our home was robbed.  There was a rash of robberies in North Bergen that year along the Boulevard East corridor. The police had even put notices on the front doors of homes in the area.  We had been fine.  We really thought no one would enter our house, because our elderly landlady, who lived on the second floor, was often home.   But eventually the thieves came to our home.

My brother and I were students at North Bergen High School at the time.  Luckily, he arrived home before me and found the giant mess.  The police thought he interrupted the thieves as our stereo and television were left hanging, actually hanging from their wires.. The police also thought the thieves went out one door while my brother came in the other.  My parents  were less concerned about the burglary because the police were so happy that my brother was safe.  They felt we were lucky that my brother was not injured!  This left quite an impression on us.  We were  careful about opening the door and entering the house for years!

But the burglary was intense!  The thieves trampled through our home.  Searching through everything. Emptying out the closets and the drawers.  It was a disaster and took quite awhile to put back into order!  For me the idea that someone had rummaged through my clothes, my underwear,  horrified me.  I had to wash everything before I would wear it again.  What bothered me the most however, is that they stole my moon landing necklace.  I had a lovely round silver disc that showed Tranquility Base and spot where the lunar lander had settled, which my Dad bought me in 1969.  It was one of my prized possessions.  I only wish I had worn it to school that day in 1970, the spring of my sophomore year of high school.

My parents’ closet and dressers were totally emptied.   It was an enlightening moment for my younger sister.  In 1963, at the World’s Fair, my parents had purchased a 45 record of “It’s A Small World After All” for her.  My sister listened to it constantly.  Finally, my Mom could not take it anymore.  She hid the record in the closet and told my sister she accidentally broke it when she was cleaning.  Imagine my sister’s surprise when she spied the record, totally intact, on the floor.  That, at least, gave us all a moment of delight in the middle of cleaning and anguish.  Well maybe my sister was not delighted.  And perhaps my Mom felt a bit guilty.  But my father, brother and I had a great laugh.

However, the best of all was the locked candy, which actually saved the day.  The breakfront had two locked doors.  On one side was the candy.  On the other side was our Mom’s jewelry and some other important items.

The thieves did their best.  They pried open one door. Destroying the locks and damaging the door.  All they found were bags of candy that they emptied out on the floor.  I wish I could be there when they searched and found nothing but candy.  They must have thought we were crazy people locking up candy.

The good news is that they did not even attempt to open the other door. They left it locked.  Leaving all my mom’s valuables behind.  From that point on, locking up candy took on new meaning as it had saved us from losing many more important items.

It took a while to get the breakfront fixed.  No more locked candy.   My parents also found another place to keep the jewelry.   But we never forgot how that the locked up candy saved the day.  To be honest, whenever I go to visit my sister in New Jersey, I look at the breakfront and remember its importance in saving our valuables during a burglary.

 

 

A Memorable Day My Senior Year at Drew

10 Feb

As I try to sort through old photos we found when cleaning out my parents’ and my grandparents’ homes, I find some that trigger strong memories.   Recently a few appeared that brought me back to college at Drew University in Madison, NJ.

It is my senior year.  I will only be there for one more semester, as I completed college in three and a half years.  It is the fall 1976, and my parents decided they were going to take advantage of the lovely weather and spend a day with me, along with my paternal grandparents.

Although both born in the United States, neither of my grandparents went to college. Grandpa finished eighth grade, I believe.  Grandma finished high school, she might have also gone to a secretary school, as she worked as an executive secretary until she was 77.

On this Sunday, since I was only an hour away from my parent’s home in New Jersey, they all came out to see me and take me out to lunch.  It was a wonderful planned surprise.

I took my parents and grandparents all around the college campus.  They met my friends. Saw my dorm room.  They finally could visualize where I was going to college.  This was a treat for all of us.

My grandfather, who was usually a solemn and taciturn person, was happy. He enjoyed the entire day.   I was almost surprised that he came because he was never outgoing with us.  But he and I shared a bond because I sewed and he was a tailor.

You will notice in one photo I stand with my grandparents and mother in front of a window.  They had a good laugh because that window led to my dorm room.

I was living in the first floor of what was then New Dorm.  It had recently opened. And I was so excited to have a room to myself!!!  Each ‘suite’ had four little rooms surrounding a common bathroom.  I thought it was the biggest and the best.  I never ever had my own room before. In fact, it was the only time in my life I had my own room.

Across the bathroom from me lived one of my best college friends. We are still friends to this day.  Another room was filled with a girl who lived with me my junior year in a real suite, where we even had a living room.  The fourth girl I did not know.  She spent most of her time in her room.

New Dorm was built into a hill, so on one side the rooms were below ground level.  That window was high up in my bedroom. But I did not care.  I told my parents that it kept me warmer and allowed me more shelf space!! They still could not understand why I would give up a suite with a living room for this arrangement.  But I loved it.

My daughter went to Drew 30 years after I did.  She lived in this dorm as a senior as well, after spending her junior year in a real suite.  It was just great to have your own space.  When she graduated, I was there to help her clean out her room after four years of college.  And when I entered Riker Dorm, once New Dorm, the rooms and the bathroom seemed so small!  I was mildly shocked because my memories made everything so much bigger.  But it was still a great place to live!

But back to my grandparents and parents.  They were laughing because I thought living in the basement was a great improvement over sharing a room.  My grandparents told me that in their day, living in the basement apartment was not considered a treat.  Rather it had lower rent because there were no good windows and no light.  They could laugh all they wanted, for me it was the best ever.

I had a wonderful senior semester at Drew. These two pictures bring back memories of college and delightful memories of my parents and grandparents.