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A Quest Completed! Thanks to My Cousin!

19 Aug

In my quest to discover more about my ancestors and my family’s immigration to the USA, I have enlisted the help of my family.  My sister, an attorney, was given the job of research. When I could not find something, I often sent her an email and said ‘try to find this’.  And she did. Sometimes we argued about whether we really found who we thought we found. But in the end, we would determine the truth.  She is named for my paternal great grandmother, Raisha.

My cousin’s son, when he graduated college, and before he got a job, became interested in family as well, and created a marvelous family tree of my paternal side. I still send him updates when I get more information. He keeps it current as cousins marry and babies are born. Other cousins have sent me photos as they search through their parent’s albums. We have had great discoveries through these albums, including the only known photo of my other paternal great grandmother. (See blog below.)

For years I have wanted to find the graves of my paternal great grandparents.  I knew they were buried in New York somewhere. I actually remember my great grandmother.  Before COVID, I found what I thought was my great grandfather’s grave, and sent it out to my cousins, asking what they thought.  It was not the grave. Two of my cousins remember going to visit the grave with my grandmother, to see her parents.

My Great Grandfather Louis and Great Grandmother Rae in 1894 around the time of their wedding.
My Great Grandparent’s grave!

They said, it is in Washington Cemetery in Brooklyn.  OY, I really wanted to have pictures of the graves.  But I live in Kansas. I just needed this photo, to complete a desire in my quest to answer questions. Where were they?  Were they with other family?  No one wanted to make the journey out to the cemetery. They were all busy.

But, I have a fantastic cousin.  I call him the king of the cemeteries.  He does not like that title. But I give it to him out of love.  He is the one who makes sure the family plot where all my grandparents, my parents, his parents, my uncle and others rest, is always cared for by the cemetery.   When we have gone and seen something not right, we have emailed him. And he makes sure it is fixed. He is named after this great grandfather.  And they are both Baruch Lev, blessed hearts.

This week, when I got a call from him, I was worried.  He doesn’t call me that often.  And with me in Kansas, and most of my family in New Jersey and New York, I wondered did anything happen.  “Do you have Facetime?” he asked.  The next thing I know he was calling me back, and I was walking with him in Washington Cemetery seeing the graves of my great grandparents.  I have tears in my eyes now, but at that moment, I was elated.  “Take pictures.”    Of course, he was taking pictures.  He said, with nothing to do right now, he thought he would take a ride out and find the graves.

He could not find the grave of their child who died as an infant.  He did not see the graves of any of our great grandparents’ siblings.  And although my cousins thought that my grandparents were not buried together, the memory was wrong. They share a grave site.  

My cousin took pictures of the grave and the entrance to the section where they are buried, in the Bialystoker area.

Above the gate it says: Bialystoker. And under it UNT VEREIN SOMACH NOFLIM.  My grandfather was the president of the Bialystoker Free Loan Society, the Somach Noflim. This is the area where he was buried.  He was also a vice president of the once famed Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which he helped establish.  The blog below explains the goodness of my great grandfather

Above the Gate: Bialystoker Unt Verein Somach Noflim

Baruch Lev ben Yaacov Zev, died July 24, 1941, just a few months before my father’s bar mitzvah. He was 71 years old. And Rushka, or Raisha or Rae, or Rachel, she has all those names: Rushka the daughter of Avigdor, who died on November 29, 1956, on my brother’s third birthday. I was not quite two. I actually have a memory of her.

I once told my Dad, that my memory was Grandma Ray sitting in a chair in my grandparents’ Bronx apartment. She was not moving very much and she had lace on her head.  Later I told Dad it must have been a doily on her head.  And my Dad laughed. He said she had very little hair, and her scalp showed through, making it look like lace.

I consider myself so fortunate to have a family who appreciates my desire to have the history of our family written down for the next generations.   I appreciate my sister who does research; my cousins who send me photos, especially the ones with inscriptions on the back; my cousin’s son who does the family tree; and my cousin, Baruch Lev,  who took a day to go to the cemetery for me and give me this gift of our great grandparents’ graves.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/11/23/the-gift-of-a-photo-becomes-a-gift-of-genealogy/

Loving My Mother’s Wedding Memory Book

28 Jul

Spring and summer are usually wedding time. Although COVID-19 has altered many wedding plans, I believe we should still celebrate weddings.  About once a week I see photos on Facebook of an outdoor wedding in a backyard or a park, where a small group of people gather for a family wedding.  Other weddings, I know, have been put on hold.  But with all that going on, weddings are on my mind.

In June I wrote about finding my in-laws wedding album during our move.  Among the other items I discovered in my move, was a wedding memory book that my Mother filled out after she and Dad were engaged.  Funny how you grow up hearing family stories, but some important facts were left out. Those facts are chronicled in this memory book.

For example, I knew my parents met on a blind date set up by my Dad’s Aunt Hady and Uncle Lenny.  They shopped at my grandparent’s bakery and liked my Mom.  So they arranged for their nephew, my Dad, to meet Mom.  I guess she liked him, because she loaned him the book, Animal Farm, and he had to come for a second date to return it.

What I now know is that first date was held on July 4, 1949.  Dad always said how difficult it was to go from the Bronx to West New York, New Jersey.  Now I truly believe him. It was a holiday. It must have been nuts using mass transit to go on a date.

But Mom must have liked the date. She remembered: “We went to the Roxy and then to Roth’s for supper.  I wore my black silk print and Don wore a tan sport jacket with dark brown pants.”  Can you imagine a blind date now on the Fourth of July with the man wearing a sport jacket and the woman wearing silk?  It would be perhaps a summer dress and the guy would wear nice slacks or shorts and a polo shirt. I think.

Mom was still in college.  They were both 20 years old on their first date.

They announced their engagement 19 months later on March 23, 1951, in Santa Barbara, California.  Amazingly they married just three months later.  I knew it was a quickly planned wedding. But I did not realize how quickly!

I never knew the exact date of their engagement. But it answers a question I always had.  I got married on March 22, a Saturday night. But my Mom pushed for a while for a Sunday afternoon wedding on March 23, which would have been the anniversary of their engagement! I am sorry I did not ask her why that date was so important.  I will just believe that March 22 still counts!

The story of their engagement I had heard many times. Mom and my Grandma Esther, my Dad’s mom, flew to California where my Dad was in basic training before going to Korea.  My Mom’s parents were extremely upset and worried that they would get married there. In fact, there is a photo of my parents by the courthouse in Santa Barbara that created a stir.  But no, they did not get married then.  They waited till Mom graduated college and Dad had a two-week furlough before going off to war.

They even got a few engagement gifts, mainly from close family.

My Mom even had a surprise shower on May 27, 1951.  I have photos and even a movie of the shower.  Dad was still in California.  I assume my uncle recorded the shower. My Dad’s sister, Leona, and sister-in-law, Mickey, hosted the shower at my paternal grandparent’s apartment, for 50 guests!  My Great Aunt Minnie, who was part of my childhood and even came to my wedding, gave my Mom the bridal book, I am looking at now.

My Mom, Aunt Leona, Grandma Esther and Great Grandma Ray at the surprise shower.

But the memory book had another surprise that was important in my genealogy research. I knew almost all the people at the shower.  A few I know basically who they are, but do not remember them.  And a few were a bit of a surprise, they are my grandmother’s first cousins and aunts for the Lew family. (See blog below.) These women have shown up in my genealogy research before.  It was actually these names in reference to my great grandmother that confirmed that my great grandmother was in fact from the same family in Russia as other members of the Tracing the Tribe Group I belong to.  And connected me with distant relatives here in Kansas.   This wedding memory book makes the relationship very clear.  It states, “Aunt Rose, Grandma’s sister”.  With this shower list, I am able to realize how closely in contact the family was in the 1950s.  

Of the 50 people at that shower, I only know of three still alive today. My Aunt Mickey, who hosted it; and my Mom’s two best friends Wini and Judy.

My parents married on June 17, 1951 at Talmud Torah in West New York.  My Dad’s sister was the maid of honor. My Mom’s brother was the best man. My Mom wore my Aunt’s wedding dress. As this was a quickly planned wedding, there was no time to order a wedding dress.  And my aunt, the maid of honor, wore the gown my Mom wore when she was in the bridal party of her brother’s wedding!  Sixty-seven years later, my niece married her husband on the same day.

I even have the list of everyone who attended the wedding.  Sadly, as was the time, everyone is listed as Mr. and Mrs., so I do not have many names of the women who were there, unless they were single and came by themselves.  But many of the names I know.  Many are family members. Many are people I knew throughout my life. 

The Lew/Wolf Family members who came to the wedding.

Those first cousins of my grandmother, who came to the shower, were also at the wedding with their spouses.  I met them a few times as a child and quickly forgot, as children will do. But I know I met them, as my grandmother’s family had a Cousins’ Club for many years. And I remember going and running around with lots of children in a big room. But like many children, my memory of the adults has slipped away.

After the wedding, my parents went on their honeymoon to New York City, spending two nights at the Waldorf Astoria!  They then went to the Catskills and spent five nights at Grossingers!  A true destination spot for honeymoons.

My grandparents owned a small bungalow colony in the Catskills. My Dad always joked that his in laws came to be with him on his honeymoon.  And they did. They had dinner with them one night.  And with that dinner, my Dad had a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

This tradition continued when my daughter and her husband got married. She wanted to show her husband our Catskills’ home. So they spent three nights of their honeymoon at our home in Kauneonga Lake. My sister went with them, as my daughter had never been there alone as an adult and did not really know her way around. But I like to tease my sister that she was continuing a family tradition.  (My daughter also got married on the anniversary of my husband and my first date.)

I am so glad my Mom kept records of everything in her beautiful and precise handwriting.  Reading through this book brought back stories and memories.  And brought back the joy of the wedding season that we are all missing.

https://zicharonot.com/2016/09/10/a-kansas-wedding-with-a-catskills-honeymoon/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

Rediscovering My Husband’s Parent’s Wedding Album

15 Jun

As we have been unpacking since our recent move, we found items we did not even know we had.   Among them was my husband’s parent’s wedding album.  It makes sense we had them.  At the time his mother died and their father moved, one brother was living in Europe and the other brother was busy with four little children.   That meant that my husband and I did a lot of the sorting and cleaning.   Especially since his father was moving to live with his new wife.  A wedding album with his deceased wife would not have been a good idea.

I should also say my husband’s mother died when she was just 59 years old from lung cancer.  It was a painful time for her and for her family.  She was way too young. Smoking three packs of cigarettes a day was not the best for her health.   (See blog below.)

I digress.  We found the wedding album as we were packing boxes in the old house. The album was in an old box of items important to my husband.  We were sorting through the box to see what we needed to move with us.  Of course, the photo album made the move! We did not have time to really look through it when we were getting ready for the move. But now that we are here and unpacking, we took a break to look through a bundle of old photos.

Lee, his mother, was one of ten children in the Matassarin family. I knew eight of them. One died before she was born. And one passed before I joined the family. In this photo, most of her siblings and their spouses are in the picture. I am assuming the one that is not in were still serving in the military. It was soon after WW2.

Her parents died long before she married.  Her mother died when she was only five or six years old; her father died when she was a senior in high school.  (See blogs belos.)

Her oldest brother walked her down the aisle.  Her youngest sister was her maid of honor.  In some of the photos, she looks pensive.  I wonder if she is missing her father?  Her mother?  Even though she had so many siblings with her, I have to think she missed not having either parent.

My husband’s first cousins planned to have a family reunion next week. They planned a trip to Leavenworth, Kansas, to see the family home and to visit the Jewish cemetery where their grandparents were buried. It has all been cancelled due to the virus. I had planned to share the wedding album then. Instead, I share it here. Not all the photos, but at least this one that shows all the family together on a very happy day.

https://zicharonot.com/2015/05/06/remembering-my-mother-in-law-with-a-manicure-and-pedicure/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/04/06/more-family-legends-confirmed/https://zicharonot.com/2019/01/11/cemetery-records-impacts-family-stories/

Rediscovering A Talk With My Husband’s Aunt (Part 1)

1 Apr

Cleaning out my house as we prepare to move has brought me several treasures.  One I have been looking for over the last few months, as my husband’s family had planned a family reunion in June, which has since been cancelled.  But what I was looking for finally turned up in a file cabinet drawer.

Over 30 years ago, I sat down with my husband’s Aunt Matt, who was his mother’s sister.  My husband’s Mom died of lung cancer when she was only 59.  After my daughter was born, I felt truly sad that she would never hear stories about her grandmother’s family.  So I asked Aunt Matt if she would be the substitute. She was delighted!

We used to spend a long weekend each March at the Lake of the Ozarks with Aunt Matt and her husband, Uncle Stan, in a time share they had.  This was the perfect opportunity.  My husband and his uncle took my daughter fishing, while Aunt Matt and I talked about her life in Leavenworth and Wichita, Kansas, and I recorded her words.

Aunt Matt, whose real name was Marie, was filled with love for her parents and her nine siblings.  Her father, Leon, was from Romania.  He had both a law degree and a medical degree.  After college, at Sorbonne, he went to England where he met his wife, Esther. She was just 15 when they married.  (See blogs below about their marriage) Leon spoke 7 languages!

Esther and Leon

They first lived in London where the first three children were born: Molly, Joe and Jean.  They came to North America in 1912.   I understand that they came through Canada.   They first settled in New Orleans, where Leon taught at Tulane University.   (I had never heard this before!)

During the First World War, Leon entered the United States Army, where he became a colonel.  He stayed an extra year in Europe as he was put in charge of the exchange of prisoners.  (There is actually a photo of him with prisoners that one of my husband’s cousins owns.) 

Colonel Leon M.

While he was in Europe, his young family lived in Brooklyn with family. Aunt Matt said with their grandparents.  (I do know that Esther’s had family in NY. But I thought it was her brother.).  When he finally got back to the USA, the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Colonel Leon was in charge of a military hospital.  They lived in a home belonging to a family that gave it to the Army to use.  It was just 100 steps from the hospital.

Somewhere along the way, from Tulane, to Wichita for a bit, to Pennsylvania, four more children were born: Marie, Fred, Florence (Toots) and Ben (Bubsy).  When Leon was finally discharged and left active duty, he moved his family to Wichita, Kansas. Aunt Matt had no idea why they moved. (The names in parenthesis are family nicknames.)

The next baby, Leona ”Lee”  (Bubbles) was born in Wichita.  Her birth in 1925 was almost exactly one year after the oldest daughter, Molly, died while attending college in New York.  Bubble’s middle name, May, was for her sister.  This baby was important in my family, as she was my husband’s mother.  Aunt Matt said, “Lee was a born one year and two days after Molly died of pneumonia in 1924 while at Columbia University, where she was studying art.”

Lee was the only child born in Wichita.   While there, Leon had a private practice. But he was also part of a group that founded the first free clinic.  The St. Francis Free Dispensary was founding in 1922.

Aunt Matt did not know why the family moved once again to Leavenworth, Kansas. But they did sometime before 1927, because the last two children, Barbara and Richard were born when they lived in Leavenworth.  Leon had a private practice their specializing in OB/BYN and Surgery.  

Life changed for them after just a few years after moving to Leavenworth. When the youngest, Richard, was just two years old, their mother, Esther, died.  Aunt Matt was in college then.  She was told that her mother died of pneumonia.  But we know she died in childbirth.  (See blog below.)

This blog covers the first three pages of 17 pages of notes. The next ones will discuss the time in Leavenworth, Kansas.

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

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/2019/04/09/more-on-esther-and-leons-london-wedding/

If you read these other blogs, you will find slightly different stories. We all have the stories our parent’s told us. With ten siblings ranging about 25 years apart in age, different grandchildren of Leon and Esther, were told slightly different stories. OR had slightly different memories. These are Aunt Matt’s memories.

Taking A New Name In America

29 Dec

We always hear of people saying the family’s name was changed at Ellis Island.  Well my family came before there was an Ellis Island.  They came through Castle Garden in New York City.  And they themselves changed their names.  This is the story of the Litvak/Goldman side of my family.

Here are the descendants of my great great grandparents Rasha (Goldberg) and Yaacov Litvak who were bakers in Bialystok, Russia.

As they came to the United States each of my great grandfather’s brothers changed their last name from Litvak to Goldman.  I guess it makes some sense as their mother’s maiden name was Goldberg.  My great grandfather was the last of the brothers to venture to the USA, but once here he changed his name as well.  Baruch Lev Litvak officially became Louis Goldman.

In a previous blog I recounted my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family (see blog below.  The information in this blog also comes from conversations I had with my grandmother in the 1970s as well as a document my aunt wrote with my grandmother.  We are lucky to have all of this information.

Yaacov and Rasha Litvak, also known as Jack and Ray, had seven children.  All of them immigrated to the United States in the late 1800s.  Avram/Abe, Duddie/David, Barnett, Leah, Tzipora/Tzippy, Chia/Chaya, Louis/Baruch Lev.

Avram/Abe had two daughters, named Martha and Florence, and one son

Duddie, or David, had three children. They also have both English and Yiddish names.  Chappie/Louis was married to Bessie.  They had two sons, Bennie and Miltie.  Itzacast/Harry and Lobel/Sophie were Duddie’s other children. (My grandmother remembered much more about those cousins she saw more often.)

Barnett married Sarah and had six children. Hymie, Ray, Bessie, Phil, Dora and Jack. She remembered a lot about this family. Hymie married Mary and had three daughters.  Phil married Selma and had two daughters.  Bessie married Harry Brinsley.  They had one son, Bert, who died young.  Ray Berber married two times, but never had children.

Then there is the somewhat sad story of Dora who supposedly died by suicide when she as just 18 years old.  The family legend is that she was pregnant by her boss.  This would have been in the early 1900s.

However, I decided to look into this story.  Is it true?  Did she die?  I am not so sure.   I did find her in both the 1900 US census living with her parents, Barnett and Sarah Goldman with siblings as mentioned and a few more: Abe, Hyman (Hymie), Rachel (Ray), Harry, Bessie/Betsy, Solomon, Philip, Jacob/Jack and Dora who was just two.  I know there are extra children here.  Some of these could be cousins who were living with their uncle.  Perhaps my grandmother’s memory was not quite correct.   Or perhaps some of them did not live to adulthood. And so my grandma and aunt did not know of them.

I did find two women name Dora Goldman who died around the time she would have been 18. But I also found a Dora Goldman on someone else’s family tree who has her linked to my Barnett and Sarah. This Dora Goldman married and had a daughter in 1922.  She had a second child in 1923.  But her first husband must have died young, because, Dora remarried in 1934.  She lived in New Jersey.  Is this the right Dora?  I do not know. The tree that linke them did not have a marriage license or a death certificate where I could check Dora’s parents’ names.

I guess I hope that she did marry and did not die by suicide.  I have to continue to research her and see if I can find the marriage license.

The next child of Jacob and Rasha was Leah Kramer and her husband who had six children: Ray, Issac, Louis, Bernie/Dverie, Jack and Rasay/Rashie. Rashie married but died quite young.  ( Rashie’s daughter Rachel/Ray had several children including one son who perished from injuries sustain in World War 2.  She also had several daughters.)

I think it was Louis/Label Kramer who had two sons, Irwin and Donald. A one son had or daughter (not sure if the name was Bernie or Dverie) had four daughters, Shaunie, Peralie, Shushkie and Rosie and one son, Hymie.

Tzippy/Tziporah was married twice, as her first husband died. She had Fannie/Chifeque, Harry and Jack.  Fannie had three daughters, including Ruthie Abrams.  It is funny because Grandma said we were close to her.  And I actually vaguely remember this name. Tzippy’s other daughters were Lillian and Shaynie.

Back to Ruth Abrams. She had a daughter named Berenice, who was married, last name Inhober (?). Who lived in NY and wintered in Florida.   Ruthie also had a son who was a cab driver.  Now this is a story I heard hundreds of time.  One day he picked up a fare and was shot to death!   There were family  debates about this incident.  Some say he was perfectly innocent and just a crazy guy killed him.   But then there are those who said he might have been a ‘wise guy’ who got into trouble with the Jewish mob.

I wish I had answers to this question.  But I don’t. Having his first name would help, I am sure.

Chia/Chaya never had children and died quite young.

Louis Goldman, my great grandfather, who married Ray/Rachel Wolf and had five children. This family has been identified in other blogs.

Of course, the questions are always there. What happened to these families?  After the third generation they lost touch.  My father and aunt and uncle knew them.  But we, the next generation, only have vague memories about a scattered few of these cousins.  But I know that the next generations are spread out in the world and show up in my DNA feeds as third, fourth and distant cousins.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2019/12/19/the-descendants-of-esther-lew-and-victor-avigdor-wolff-wolf/

 

https://zicharonot.com/2016/03/08/louis-of-the-blessed-heart/

 

The Descendants of Esther (Lew) and Victor (Avigdor) Wolff/Wolf

19 Dec

GG Grandparents

Esther Lew and Victor Wolff

In the late 1880s and 1890s many of my great grandma Ray’s siblings came to settle in the United States, specifically in the New York City area.  In fact, of the nine children of Victor and Esther (Lew) Wolf/Wolff, eight eventually left their small town, Ciechanowiec, in the Bialystoker region of Russia to move to the United States.

As a young child, I remember going into New York for the Cousins’ Club.  These crowded and noisy events were filled with all the descendants of these siblings and their descendants.  Eventually we stopped meeting.  I believe it was when the last siblings passed away.

Since I was always an inquisitive person, I was the grandchild who sat down in the early 1970s with all of my grandparents and asked for their stories.  It paid off, because I now am writing their histories.

From my Grandma Esther, I got the names of all of her mother’s siblings and all of the children.  Later in life, when my cousins saw my determination to chronicle our family, I was sent an additional document written by my aunt, my father’s sister, that gives a bit more detail for some, but not as much for others as Grandma’s reminiscing.

So for all those who are interested, here are the nine children and the many grandchildren of Victor and Esther.  I am not sure of the list in age order, as Grandma and my aunt had it a bit differently.  I will go with Grandma’s list.

Sarah:  She never had children of her own.  But she raised the daughter of her sister.  And actually Grandma said she had two children: Esther (Meshugganah Esther to the family) and Abraham, who might also be the child of Anna/Champka. (See blog link below.)

Rosie (Lichtenfeld): had four children: Benny, Jack, Jules and Esther. (My aunt was friendly with Benny’s two daughters Rhoda and Janet.)

Anna/Champka:  She came as a young widow from Europe with three children and pregnant.  It was her youngest Estelle/Esther who was raised by Sarah.  Her other children were Ray, Fanny and Abe (who also might have been raised by Sarah).   (See blogs below.)

Israel(Ezriel Aharon): He was the one who remained orthodox.  His children were Esther, Ray, Jack, Fannie and Charles. His children were all born in Europe. So they came later. Fannie never had children because she had tuberculosis.

Cheika/Chia Vrona/Wrona: This is the sister who never came to the USA. But two of her children came: Louis Verona who lived in Atlanta. Julia/Yudia who had three children Esther , Irene and Louis.  Ichie never came to the USA.

Ray/Rasha: My great grandmother who married Louis and had five children. Minnie, Esther, Jake (who died young) Philip and Sam.

Simcha/Sam: He had three sons Hymie, Victor and Charlie.

Harry: married Minnie and had four children: Esther, Julius/Yudel, and Goldie survived.  His daughter Rosie died when she was in her 20s.

Jacob: He was the youngest. That I know for sure. He had a daughter, Gertie who married Dave Stern. And two sons Hymie and Victor.

I remember there were many children named  Hymie, Victor and Esther.  (I wrote about the Esthers as well, see the blog below.) But my Uncle kept in touch with one Hymie who came to several family events.

I do know the names of some of the next generation. And occupations of some of the original siblings and first cousins. But I think this should be a good start in knowing the family.

https://zicharonot.com/2018/05/08/updated-esthers/

https://zicharonot.com/2015/01/27/serendipity-wins-in-finding-a-family-connection/

I Know These Names

17 Dec

As the snow continues to fall outside and I have a snow day from my job, I decided to continue searching in my Grandma’s Photo Album.  Since my last photo once again lead me to the Yad V’Shem data base and to another story of death during the Shoah, I searched for perhaps some happier photos.   I was successful.

I found three photos from the 1940s.  The first two were taken on November 25, 1945. Perhaps the photo with the three people is a wedding photo for Felix and Martha, along with Martha’s sister, Rosa.  They are celebrating something, as Felix and Martha are wearing flowers. The two women look so much alike. They have the same exact smile.   I know that they must be sisters.

The third photo, from July 14, 1947, is inscribed: “To you, dear cousin, from Rosel.”  I am sure the ‘dear cousin’ is my grandmother.  It surprised me because this photo was taken a few days before my grandmother’s 41 birthday.

These two girls are much younger than my grandma.  Closer in age to my mother, who would have been 18 in 1947.   So perhaps they are the surviving children of one of my Grandma’s first cousins.  There were so many of them.  Her mother had seven siblings and her father three or four.  Although my grandmother’s siblings survived, many of her cousins perished in the Shoah.

Martha, the girl who I think married, looks so much like my mother.  Not her smile, but the shape of her face.  I can see that they are somehow related.

Now I am on a search to see where they settled after the war.  I have emailed cousins and my siblings in this search.  Mainly because I remember these names.  I have heard together.  I have heard my grandmother say them.  One of my mother’s first cousins has no memory of these people.  But since I spent so much time in Israel and traveled there with my grandmother, I am hoping these are among the people that I met so many years ago. (See blog below.)

I know my grandparents sent money to relatives after the war.  Were these people among those who they helped?  I do not know. My grandfather once said that he was always helping grandma’s family.  But I know he did not mind.  It was something that had to be done.

I wish these photos included a last name as that would make my search so much easier.  But in the long run, perhaps it does not matter.  At least I know they survived and that alone gives me joy.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2014/08/19/old-photographs-bring-memories-to-life/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/09/26/another-photo-another-trip-to-the-yad-vshem-database/

https://zicharonot.com/2019/06/17/my-obsession-with-grandmas-album-leads-to-the-shoah/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/07/20/viroshov-wieruszow-a-jewish-community-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/

 

Back to My Grandfather’s Mysterious Brothers: First Jacob

10 Dec

My paternal grandfather had two brothers.  One disappeared when Grandpa was a young man.  I am still trying to figure out where he went and what happened to him.  Samuel’s story will have to wait to another day.

I plan to focus on my Grandpa’s younger brother, Jacob.  He was an interesting and upwardly mobile man.   Jacob came from nothing and became an attorney, lived on the upper east side of New York City, and then in the 1950s moved to England.  Those are all facts I know from my grandmother, father and aunt.

What I have been told.  Jacob was married to Dorothy.  She was, in the words of my grandmother, a person who did not really want anything to do with the poorer members of the family.  And that was mean, my grandma said, because my grandfather is the one who helped Jacob go through high school and college by being the main support of the family.

Jacob had two children:  Delilah and Rupert James.   My grandmother would say, their names say it all, “Who names their children Delilah and Rupert!”  Those who remember my grandmother can probably hear her say that.

My aunt, my father’s sister, had slightly different memories because she took piano lessons at Jacob’s home, with her first cousin, Delilah.   I think they had separate lessons as my aunt was several years younger.  However, the fact that she was provided these lessons makes me think my great uncle and his wife were not horrible. This is what they did to help.

But I am thinking that perhaps he went overseas to be an international lawyer. He would have been in his late 50s.  Either at the top of his career, or ready to retire.  I am not sure.

I found two articles in the August 24 and 25, 1953, European edition of “The Stars and Stripes,” the Unofficial Publication of the US Armed Forces in Europe.  And it has an article about an attorney, Jacob Rosenberg, and a case he was working on about an American citizen” imprisoned for 17 months in a Communist Hungarian prison after a conviction for espionage.”  Could this be my great uncle?  See link here: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1136/miusa1942d_066165-01008?pid=54273&treeid=&personid=&rc=1458,3094,1604,3119%3B128,3283,262,3306%3B1210,3430,1357,3454%3B1214,1079,1353,1101%3B1180,3095,1305,3119%3B1342,3093,1421,3115&usePUB=true&_phsrc=axO536&_phstart=successSource

As far as I know, after they moved to England there was basically no contact with the family in the USA.  Or at least our branch of the family.   He left right around the time I was born.  I have no memory of him or his family.  Just the names.

What I have found out and have not found out.  I have no marriage record for Jacob and Dorothy, but I know she was born in Russia somewhere between 1901-1903.  From a 1925 census, I know that he was still living at home when he was 29, so I know he married when he was at least 30.

From the 1930 census, I know that he was already an attorney at 34, married to Dorothy with one child, Delilah.  They lived at 881 Washington Avenue.

From the 1940 census, I know that both children were born.  Delilah was 12, (but as she was born in 1929, she was really 11) and Rupert (misspelled Rugsert) was 8.  Now they are living uptown on East 88th Street.  And there are two women living with them, a Jeannie Goldstein, who is older than Dorothy.  And a much younger woman, who I think was a maid.

I do not know why they moved to England or the exact date they moved.  I don’t know when he or his wife died.  But I do know a bit about his two children.

Delilah traveled back and forth between the USA and Europe/England many times in the 1950s.  She was on the Queen Elizabeth several times, the Noordam, the Wosterdam, the Flandre and more.   On one ship manifest for entering the USA, her profession is listed as pianist.  So all those years of piano lessons paid off for Delilah.   I remember my aunt telling me that Delilah played beautifully!

I do have information about a Delilah Rosenberg getting married in 1961. But I do not have the marriage record, so I cannot confirm it is her.  However, I cannot find her traveling back and forth after that date.  So perhaps she settled.

As for Rupert.  I found his high school yearbook.  In 1948 he was a senior at the Columbia Grammar and Prep School where he was on the Dean’s list four times, on the Debate Council, a member of the History Club, on the Literary Board of the school newspaper.  To see his senior photo, go here:  https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1265/43134_b191888-00000?backurl=&ssrc=&backlabel=Return#?imageId=43134_b191888-00036

It turns out Rupert was voted best student in his senior year: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1265/43134_b191888-00000?backurl=&ssrc=&backlabel=Return#?imageId=43134_b191888-00045

I had to find out about this school because I was sure it was not a public school, like DeWitt Clinton High School, where my Dad went. I found out that Columbia Grammar and Prep School is the oldest private non-sectarian school in the USA!  It was founded in 1764 by the forerunner of Columbia University.  It separated from the University in 1863.  It moved to its current location at 93 street near Central Park West in 1907, so Rupert would have gone to this building.    A women’s school, The Leonard School for Girls was opened in 1937.  ( I could not find yearbooks for the years Delilah would have been in high school.)   And in 1956, when they both were graduated, the two schools merged. (Wikipedia, see link below.)

He started using the name James Rupert Rosenberg.   I know he got married on December 19, 1953 to Elizabeth Ann King.  There is a small newspaper article which states: that he was married at Our Lady of Victories Chapel in Kensington, London, England.  This is a Roman Catholic Church, which might have upset his parents.

It is a centuries old building dating back before the 1500s! It stopped being a Catholic Church after the Reformation, but in 1794, when French Catholics fled France during the French Revolution, it once again became a Catholic Church.  The Church was destroyed during WW2.  The rebuilt Church did not open until 1959, so I assume my cousin and his wife married in a temporary space? (Information from the church website, see link below.)

His wife was the daughter of the late E.A. C. King of the Indian Police.    I wonder if the King family lived in India or Burma before her father died. Her mother is just listed as Mrs. King (I hate that.)

In any case, his father, Jacob, was in the United States when James Rupert got married.  So perhaps James is what brought his parents to England.  James died when he was only 59 years old in January 1991.

I still have many unanswered questions about the family of my great uncle Jacob.  But at least he is no longer just a name.  And his son, my father’s first cousin, now has a face.

Once again, thanks to my distant cousin, Evan Wolfson, who has helped so much in my research.   Here is an earlier blog I wrote about finding out the mysteries of my grandfather’s family:  https://zicharonot.com/2019/07/18/some-of-my-paternal-family-mysteries-solved-but-not-all/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbia_Grammar_%26_Preparatory_School

https://www.cgps.org/

https://www.ourladyofvictories.net/history.html

 

Childhood Events Definitely Impact My Adult Choices

5 Dec

When I was a child, I remember going to my grandparents’ cousin’s candy store on Bergen Boulevard near Journal Square in Jersey City.  My brother and I have discussed their names, as it is a memory from long ago, over 50 years.  He remembers the wife as Anna, and I remember the husband, as Morris.  We will go with these two names.

Like my grandparents, they were from Europe.  I believe that Morris was my grandfather’s second cousin.  That is a connection I have yet to finalize.  But I am pretty sure he was not a first cousin.  However, in the area they came from in Galicia, Mielec, my grandfather’s family was large and very intermingled.

The best part of going to the candy store, of course, was the candy.  We could eat whatever we wanted, within the reasonable constraints of my mother. The other part was seeing Morris and Anna, who were always excited to see us.  They never had children of their own, but they loved us.

Sometimes, my Mom would drive my grandmother, my brother and I to visit them in the candy store.  I have good memories of being there. My grandmother and Anna always had a good time visiting.  So even though it was my grandfather’s cousin, my grandmother often went to visit without him.  And since she never learned to drive, my Mom had that job and we got to tag along.

Morris always sat behind the counter and ran the cash register. He sat there because he no longer had legs, he lost them to diabetes.   Anna ran the store.  She was tiny and very energetic.  That is why what happened is so sad.

img_1484

Morris’ rocking chair. Now owned by my brother.

Anna died first.  I don’t think she was that old.  But when she died, Morris could no longer stay alone. The store was closed; their belongings were sold or given away, and Morris went into a nursing home.  I remember my parents speaking about it, because we were gifted his rocking chair.  It did not go to the nursing home with him.  My brother still has the rocking chair in his home.  The tangible evidence that Morris and Ann were part of our world.

The nursing home Morris lived in for the rest of his life was in Bayonne, New Jersey, close to where our family dentist had his office.  Usually we all went to get our teeth done at one time.

But on this day, it was just my Mom and me.  As we drove away from the dentist office, she turned to me and said, “I want to go visit Morris.  I know he lives near here.”I don’t remember how old I was, somewhere between 10 and 12.  To be honest, I thought we were going to the candy store.  But I was in for an unpleasant and emotional surprise.

When we arrived at a large one-story building, my mother and I entered and went to the desk, where Mom announced that she wanted to see Morris.  The woman stopped what she was doing and called to someone, a nurse/supervisor/care giver came out.   Both were so surprised that we were there to see him.  The supervisor said, ‘Oh my, who are you? You are the first people who have ever come to visit him.”

My Mom was stunned.  “Are you kidding me.  He has nieces and nephews.”  But she was not joking.  No one had visited Morris in the year or so he had been living there.

The nurse walked us to his room.  In fact, by the time we got there, I think three or four nurses or caregivers were following us.  Mom walked in first and knelt down beside Morris.  “Morris, It’s me Frances, Nat and Thelma’s daughter.” She said in Yiddish as she reached out to him.

Morris started cry.  He put his hands on either side of Mom’s face and sobbed, “Frances Frances.” Her name was like a chant.   While Mom hugged him with one arm, she put out her other arm, I knew that meant I needed to come over.

“Here is Ellen,” she said.  My face was now embraced by his hands as he cried into my hair and stroked my face.  I was crying by then as well, as were Mom and the nurses/caretakers.  We stayed and talked to him for about an hour.  It felt longer.  He spent most of the time crying and hugging us. And asking about all the family. I have never forgotten.

As we went to leave, the supervisor asked Mom for her address and phone number in case they needed to reach someone.  They had no contacts for him.

We went and sat in the car.  My Mom cried for an additional half hour or so.  Just sobbing, with her arms crossed on the steering wheel and her face down in her arms.  I cried with her.  It was one of my saddest moments as a child.  When we got home, my Mom called her parents.

I never went back to the nursing home.  I think because every time I thought of him, I started to cry.   But I know my Mom and my grandparents went.  To be honest he did not live long after our visit.   My sister, who is four years younger than me, does not remember Morris or Anna. But what she does remember is my grandparents and my mom talking about him.  And my mother always talking about what happens to someone when they are all alone in the world.

For the past ten months I have been a Spiritual Care Volunteer at an elder care facility.   Over and over again people have asked me:  How can you do that?  Doesn’t it bother you? Isn’t too difficult when someone dies?

The answer to all these questions is an emphatic NO.  Each week when I go, I am greeted by smiles and joy.  I speak to each one of them.  Some days I give them hugs.  Sometimes someone cries, especially if they have recently lost a loved one.  Most of them have family members who often come to see them.  Most important to me is that I know that I am going every week.  I am giving them the attention that Morris so deserved and did not receive.

This childhood event definitely impacted my adult choices. Each time I go, I feel a little lift to my heart, knowing that I have helped to brighten someone’s day.  It is the best feeling, because each time I go, a little of the sadness that has followed me for over 50 years, whenever I think about Morris, dissipates.

Survival of Shalom (Szulim) Hollander

25 Nov

Over my years of researching my family, especially my family who remained behind in Europe, I have found relatives who perished in both Belzec and Auschwitz Death Camps.  Those who died in the Lodz Ghetto.  Those who were probably burned to death in their community synagogue or mikveh. Those who were murdered after the war ended. They died in so many places, that I no longer am shocked, even though after each discovery, I feel a pain in my soul.  A pain that makes me stop searching for a month or so as I recover from the finality of my search.

I have a great grandmother who survived the war years hidden by a righteous Christian friend, but who could not save her from the final indignity:  murdered when she returned to her family property by the people who had squatted on their land.  I am named for her.  I keep her photo near my computer so she is watching my search.

There is at times a happier outcome.  I have also found those who survived.  My grandmother’s first cousin who survived the Shoah and the Kielce Pogram, and even wrote a testimony about her experience.   I have two distant cousins, the children of another of my grandmother’s first cousin, who survived the war after being put on the KinderTransport. Their parents did not survive. I have relatives who made their way to France, the United States, Australia, England and Israel.  Where once my families were in a small area of Poland, Austria and Russia before the war, now they are on four continents.

Now I add another story of survival through an extraordinary circumstance.  A relative, perhaps two, who survived the Shoah thanks to being one of almost 1100 names who were on Schindler’s List.

To be honest, I am a bit stunned.   I wrote about Shalom Hollander several times, in most detail in a blog that I published in June 2018.  This week Shalom’s story changed.

I was contacted by a distant cousin who read my blog.   She just recently has been researching her family and by goggling family names found my blog, “The Sorrow of Shalom Hollanders” (see below.). She sent me a message: “I must be an extended family member of yours. I am related to Tova Hollander, Mordechai/Marcus Amsterdam, Szulim (Shalom) Hollander, and all the people on this story. I found this while googling names and have been looking into ancestry.com. I would love to connect if you are willing.”

Of course, I was willing to connect.  I emailed her immediately.  I was delighted to find out that her great grandfather was Shalom’s brother.  He had come to the United States before the war, and so survived much like my grandparents.

The words that caught at my heart were these: My great grandpa’s brother was Shalom Hollander who you wrote about in your blog (not sure if you are aware but he is listed on Schindler’s List under the name Szulim Hollander). 

I had to look, and there he was:

Holocaust Survivors and Victims Database:   Schindler’s Lists: Electronic data regarding Oscar Schindler’s inmates, complied from two separate lists.

Szulim Hollander : Date of birth: 8 Feb 1906                                                             Persecution Category: Ju. [Jew] ;   Occupation:  ang. Tischler  (carpenter)         Nationality:  Po. [Polish] ; Prisoner Number:  69073

He survived because he was on Schindler’s List, but was it a good survival?  This knowledge hurt my heart.  While he was surviving, he lost his wife, his children, his parents, his sister.  So many relatives murdered.  I wish when I met him in 1976, I would have listened and learned more. But then, no one knew about Schindler or his list.  I am not even sure he spoke to my grandmother about how he survived.  Wait, I take that back.  Everyone we met with that trip told my grandmother their Holocaust story.   (see blog below.)

In the same email, she mentioned her Aunt Susan also told her about me.  I remember Susan, I connected with her through Tracing the Tribe.  We met about five years ago and exchanged information.  We knew that her husband must be related to my family.  But I did not know of the connection with Shalom.

Now that I know Shalom had a brother in New Jersey, where my grandparents had a kosher bakery, many little pieces came into place. I had an ‘aha’ moment.  My grandparents definitely knew this family.   We knew many Amsterdam families in New Jersey.  I never connected them because Shalom’s brother in New Jersey used the last name Amsterdam, which is their father’s last name, while Shalom used Hollander, which was their mother’s last name.

My grandparents and parents could not have known Shalom and not his brother in New Jersey. They were probably some of the many relatives I met as a child, who just blurred together in my grandparent’s European connections.

One other bit of good news about Shalom.  He did remarry after the war and started another family.  What strength!  He truly was a survivor.  My grandmother and I only met with him that day in Israel.  I rejoice in knowing this news.  I wish I could meet his family.

I must add that there is another Hollander on Schindler’s List: Rachela Hollander was born on March 23, 1917.  She was just a young woman when the war began. She is listed as a metal worker.  I will assume that some way she is related to us as well.

KinderTransport, Schindler’s List, Kielce, Belzec, Auschwitz, Lodz Ghetto: My family went through the worst of the Shoah.  But it comforting to know that some connected with people who had a bit of goodness left in their souls and somehow they survived.

 

https://zicharonot.com/2018/08/12/discovering-karolas-kielce-pogrom-testimony/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/11/05/how-the-kindertransport-touched-my-family/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/07/the-sorrow-of-shalom-hollander/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/06/05/murdered-in-belzec/

https://zicharonot.com/2018/09/06/one-more-family-destroyed/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/09/13/my-familys-holocaust-history-impacts-my-observance-of-rosh-hashannah/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/04/28/speaking-yiddish-always-brings-me-holocaust-memories/