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Bright Smiles

16 Jan

I absolutely love this photo.

It is 1951. My parents are engaged. Dad is in the army and will be deployed to Japan and then Korea. They will marry in June 1951, when he is on a two-week leave before his deployment.

In this photo, my Mom, far left, is with her future family. My father’s sister, mother and grandmother. (My Aunt Leona, or Yoey, Grandma Esther, and my Great Grandma Rae.) I believe it is at the shower held at my Grandma’s apartment in the Bronx, when Mom met all the women in the family. We actually have a movie of this event.

I love their smiles and faces of joy. My Grandma is looking at my Mom with so much love.

I smile whenever I see this.

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/

Sisters: Grandma Esther and Aunt Minnie

19 Oct

Esther and Minnie 1

Today I found a photo gem.  I love this photo.  I see my Grandma Esther and her sister, Aunt Minnie.  I see the fence around our bungalow colony in Kauneonga Lake.

The photo looks out to what we called the “front lawn,” and in the background I see the lake.  You might not notice it, but if you look through the fence, you can see a bit of blue surrounded by trees.

There are several things that make this photo special.  First, I love how my grandmother is standing.   She had a habit of holding her foot up like that in photos.  I guess she liked to stand that way.

Second, she has her sunglasses off to the side, and I remember those sunglasses!!  Although I usually think of them on her face.  She wore them all the time.  Third, their hair!  Neither of them are totally white yet.  Later Grandma would put a rinse in her hair which gave it a blue tint!

Also, they are dressed up! All I can think of is that they were going to a show that day at one of the big hotels.  Otherwise they would have been in shorts and shirts and sitting in a chair either playing canasta or knitting.

This has to be in the late 1960s.  I might have taken this photo with my Brownie camera.  Once I got a camera I started my life long habit of taking photos of everything.  It might have been someone else, but for now I will claim it.

I have written before that we spent every summer in the Catskills.  I had all four of my grandparents and many other family members together all summer long.

Grandma Esther, Grandpa Harry and Aunt Minnie shared a bungalow!  How that worked, I never asked.  It was just the way it was every summer. I assume their love for each other overwhelmed their annoyances!

In the winter they lived in the same building in Co-op City, NYC,  but in different apartments.  Uncle Al, Aunt Minnie’s husband had passed away years before.  From that point on the three of them were always together.

I cannot imagine them apart. The sisters were always together in my mind, loving and fighting.  Many times, I think back to them when my sister and I squabble.  A vision of the two of them fighting over a canasta game, they were always partners, flashes and sometimes I just want to laugh.

We were so fortunate to have our summers in Kauneonga Lake surrounded by people who loved us.

https://zicharonot.com/2014/01/25/the-grandmas-forever-canasta-game/

https://zicharonot.com/2014/02/13/knitting-and-crocheting-brings-love-and-memories/

 

Serendipity Wins In Finding a Family Connection!

27 Jan

Serendipity is when events happen by chance and cause success or benefit the person who the events occur around. Today, a few days after my birthday, my life was ruled by serendipity!

For about a year now I have belonged to a Facebook group entitled “Tracing the Tribe.” I joined it mainly to see if I could find anybody related to my maternal grandparents. And last summer I did make contact with a family member through this group.

Recently I began thinking about my paternal grandparents, and wondered if I could find anything out about them. A few days ago someone started a comment asking people to put up the names of the families they were searching for on to the site. I did not do this. But I was watching. They then put all the names into a spreadsheet.

GG Grandparents

So this morning, I checked. And there was a name I knew, Wolf or Wolff, or Wolfe. That was my great great grandparents last name. So I put up a post on the page addressed to the woman who had posted about the name Wolf. I just wrote, “ My gg grandparents were Victor and Esther Wolff. Does that match your search?” She was not related to me.

However, soon another man posted, EW. He had some interesting facts and names. Names that were familiar. We soon realized there was a connection. It was a distant one. But it seemed possible that his three times great grandfather was the brother of my two times great grandmother. If so, I would have much more information for my family tree.

And so we sent emails back and forth throughout the day. I sent him a photo of my great great grandparents. He sent me a photo of his great grandfather. And there were some similarities.

And through these emails and looking into my family information that I had gathered from my Grandma Esther in the 1970s, it was definite. We were related.

His three times great grandfather Israel Lew was the brother of my great great grandmother Esther Wolf.   And I now had the names of her parents, Jankiel and Mindel Lew/Lewin/Levin (who were cousins) from Ciechanowiec. I also now had the names of more of her siblings, including Israel Lew, there was Azriel Aharon Lew, Fedjda Perlowicz, Betzalel Lew, Abram Boruch Lew and three more!

WOW! I always knew that my Grandma Esther was named after her grandmother, but I now learned that my Great Aunt Minnie was named after her great grandmother Mindel. That was exciting.

Not only all this. But I found out that Victor’s Hebrew/Yiddish name was Awigdor/Avigdor, which I had not known before now. Although I knew he had to have a Hebrew name. And that Esther was also known as Etka, which was probably the European name.

EW also found the date that my great grandparents, Louis and Ray, married: January 28, 1894, almost exactly 121 years ago! What serendipity that I was finding this all out now. Right near their anniversary! I was a bit stunned. All by chance. By one little message on a Facebook group’s page!

There was so much information in the multiple emails my new relative sent me, I think I had an information melt down. As I read each email it made more and more sense, and I could see the lines making the connections.   It was like a mini revelation!

I cannot explain the glow and the excitement that went through me! One little posting and I learned so much!

I was so glad that I had sat with my grandmother 40 years ago to get this information so that I could now say with certainty, I can go back one more generation in my family’s lineage.

And perhaps more! My sister and I have been trying to find out where our great grandparents were buried. There in all the emails was information on Beth David Cemetary in Elmont, NY. If other relatives were buried there, I believe there is a good chance our great grandparents are also there.

Serendipity, Chance and little guts to put a post up on Facebook.   What a win!

 

 

Update.  Found out my great aunt and uncle are in Beth David Cemetery, but my great grandparents are in Washington Cemetary in Brooklyn.

Update 2:  Thanks to another distant ‘Lew’ relative, AB,  I have now seem my family tree of my great great grandmother Esther Lew Wolf and have seen my ancestor back to my seven times great grandparents…back to an ancestor born in 1720!  For a Jewish family that is quite amazing.  And I can do that in my maternal side as well!