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My Familiar Ancestor, Who We Cannot Identify

19 Dec

My cousin posted photos yesterday in the hope I could help identify them. None of them had any identifying information.  Several we could figure out, they were mainly our great grandparents and one great uncle. Several are children I has never seen before, perhaps they were from her Mother’s side.  And then there was this photo. A young women who looks much as I did as a young woman. She could be me.

Mystery woman, a relative?

Joan Steiner and me graduation

My college graduation.

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A mystery couple; is it the same woman?

I see so many similarities: our hair, our eyebrows, our noses, our resting face, our lips.  My glasses hide my eyes, but believe me they are similar. When I first saw the photo, I was startled.  Under it my cousin had written: You resemble this woman.  And I do.

I am now haunted by her. Who is she? Is she a great aunt? A cousin?  I am relatively sure she is NOT a grandmother of some generation.  But if I was a time traveler, I think I would be her.

I also love her dress.  There is a bit of sparkle on the collar.  All who know me, know that I love sparkle. I could wear a dress like that.  Perhaps not the high collar.  I do not like turtle neck shirts or high collars of any sort.  The dress itself, is something I would wear.  I imagine that it is blue, my favorite color.

I think she is my doppelganger.  I cannot quite get her out of my mind now.  She also looks a bit like some of my cousin’s daughters.  The family genes are strong. I really want to know who she is? Where she ended up?

This photo was taken in the USA at a photo studio on Grand Street, NYC.  So I at least do not have to worry about her dying in the Shoah.  I think she might be one of my grandfather’s five or six sisters.  I only ever met one as a child.  There were four or five we never knew.

We have another photo taken at the same studio.  Is this her as well?  Or a sister?  I am similar to her as well.  I think it might be her a few years older, with her husband.  She has rings on her fingers now.  But she is still wearing a top with a little drama to it, with all that lace!

Then there is the location of Grand Street, in lower Manhattan.  It runs parallel and a bit to the south of Delancey Street.  My grandfather and great grandfather had a tailor shop on Delancey Street. Also the Bialystoker Synagogue is on Grand Street!  Well we are all Bialystokers!  The synagogue started life as a Methodist Episcopal Church, built in 1826.  In 1905 it was purchased to be a synagogue.  But more important it was started by the Chevra Anshei Chessed of Bialystok, and our great grandfather was extremely active in all Bialystoke communal organizations. The synagogue is an historic landmark. I think I need to go and see this synagogue!!!

I am sure she is related somehow.  There are so many connections. I just wish I knew how! I do not think I ever will unless another photo turns up with a name!

In my heart, I wish that my ancestors had put names on the back of all the photos.  The ones with names in Yiddish, or Hebrew, or Polish or German are so wonderful because we actually have a name.  But the many photos that remain forever nameless sit in albums and wait for a name that will probably never come. This lack of identification concerns me as we go on to web-based photo collections.  We need to keep some sort of identification for generations to come.

But for now, I will look at this photo of my familiar but unknown relative and truly wish I knew who this woman is, and how she might be related to me.

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

https://zicharonot.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/12-delancey-street-and-my-family/

https://images.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=Bialystoker+Synagogue+on+Grand+Street+image

I Just Love Bakery Cookies

16 Dec

Recently a friend of mine asked me to come to speak to a group of 4-6th grade children and their parents/grandparents who were taking a baking class. The children learn a new recipe and also listened to a short talk about the recipe’s place of origin.

I was asked to speak about living in New York City and, black and white cookies.  This was an easy task for me. I have a thing for black and white cookies.  Also, I grew up basically in a bakery.  My grandparents owned a kosher bakery in New Jersey until I was 14.  Meaning I spent many hours helping and visiting and eating in the bakery.

I easily spent 15 minutes talking about living above a bakery; apartment houses; fire escapes; and other New York differences for these children who live in the suburbs of Kansas. Apartment dwelling in tall buildings is not a common occurrence in Kansas!

The talk was over quickly, but it started me thinking about the cookies.  Perhaps the holiday season helped to think of cookies —  not that this is a difficult topic to think about.  But I did start thinking about my favorite bakery cookies!

I love black and white cookies. These large round cookies are covered by both chocolate and vanilla icing divided down the middle of the cookie.

And I am telling you now, when you cut a black and white cookie in half, you must always give each person half the white and half the black.  The only time I made an exception to this rule was for my son….he never ate the chocolate side.  But for everyone else, the rule remains!

There is only one place in Kansas City that I have found black and white cookies that are decent.  The D’Bronx Deli near my house is where I go for this comfort food.  A typical lunch for me is a bowl of chicken noodle soup with a Matzah ball, iced tea and a black and white cookie. I do share it, as described above.  But if my companion does not want to share, I am always content to take it home to devour later.

I have tried other black and white cookies available in Kansas, but none have matched the cookies at D’Bronx.

My cookie desires follow me.  Whenever I go to New Jersey, my sister knows that a visit to Miller’s Bakery in Tenafly is a must stop for some black and white cookies.  Last time I was home, the bakery was OUT of my favorites.  We had to order some for the next day.  But the day was not a wasted, the bakery did have New York Chinese chocolate chip cookies.  These are also quite excellent.  A large chocolate chip cookie with a giant dab of melted chocolate on the top marks a Chinese Cookie in an East Coast Deli.

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There does not seem to be any real information on where these cookies originated, except they might come from Chinese almond cookies, as they do have an almond taste.  I haven’t seen them anywhere but in New York and New Jersey, but I assume wherever there is a Jewish bakery or deli, there might be these delicious cookies.

In any case, when I could not get my black and white cookies, I went to second choice…Chinese Chocolate Chip Cookies.  It was equally yummy, in a slightly different way!

Honestly, my sister and I find it good exercise to walk the mile to Millers for a cookie and coffee. Sometimes one of our friends meets us there. Then we walk back. No guilt cookie eating!

In an effort to be fair to all bakery cookies, I will admit that there is one more that touches my taste memory as well.  The raspberry linden cookie, also known as a Linzer Torte.  My grandfather always called them linden cookies.  These are two-layer cookies.  The bottom is round with scalloped edges. The top matches the size of the bottom and the scallops, but the center has a hole where the raspberry jelly can ooze through.  These are quite excellent if you are in a gooey, sugary mood.

Actually I have no problem eating any of these three cookies.  Growing up in a bakery, however, impacted my taste buds.  Whatever cookie I eat always is in competition by the taste memories I have from my grandfather’s bakery.  To be honest no cookie ever meets the challenge. But I have fun searching, because I just love bakery cookies.

I Love Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

22 Nov

To me Thanksgiving always means staying in my pajamas and watching the Macy’s Day Parade. Yes the Macy’s Day Parade! That is what I called it as a child and that is what I still call it in my mind.

Growing up in the New York City metropolitan area meant that the Parade was an important part of our life. We lived close to Hoboken. And as ‘everyone’ knows the floats are built in Jersey, the giant balloons are stored in Jersey and the participants practice in Jersey.

As a child I remember my Dad driving us to Hoboken in order to drive up and down the streets of warehouses and peek in. You probably cannot do it anymore, but when I was a child it was possible.

I remember seeing the color guards and bands practicing in the street.

It was part of the annual build up to the great event itself! The parade.

I loved watching the parade on television. But most exciting was actually seeing the parade in person. My Grandma Esther was the executive secretary for shoe company’s whose headquarters were across the street from Macy’s!

The best year of my life was the time we all went into NYC to her office. We watched the parade in the warmth of her office through the giant windows overlooking the Avenue. It was tremendously exciting! I remember the balloons flying right past the windows. Wow. I had such joy. Did I say I love the giant ballooons. Many people make an annual trek just to see the balloons filled with helium!

I will admit getting there was a hassle and getting home was the worst. But seeing the parade in person was worth it. I still get a thrill just remembering.

Watching the parade on television November 23, 2017.

When my children were little, we would lie in bed together and watch the parade. To be honest, they were not excited as me. It did not matter. Thanksgiving morning the television stayed on the Parade channel.

Eventually my children moved out. But it does not matter to me. I need no excuses to watch the parade. When the Rockettes make their annual appearance I smile. When the bands play and the color guard twirl their flags I feel satisfaction. Each broadway show tune makes me want to see a play. And then their are my favorite floats like Sesamee Street!

When Thanksgiving morning arrives I will still stay in my pajamas. Get a mug of coffee. Cuddle with my cats. And spend three hours watching the Thanksgiving Day Parade. I cannot imagine a better way to spend a Thursday morning!

House Seats Started My Love of Theater

6 Nov

This weekend my husband and I attended a benefit concert at our synagogue. It was great. A four-piece band led by Neal Berg and five fantastic Broadway singers. They were focusing on the top 100 songs from Hollywood, with much overlap to Broadway musicals.   I knew every song. I was “in heaven.”

Why do I know so many Broadway melodies?   I could say it was because I was raised in New Jersey, giving me the opportunity to see shows. But I have to be more specific I think.   We have the fortunate luck of having an Uncle who was involved with the Broadway theaters. It made it much easier for us to get tickets in the time before on-line purchases.

I am sure my parents got our show tickets from him, as we went as a family to see “Fiddler,” “Man of La Mancha,” The Rothschilds,” “Pippin,” among other shows.  My Dad loved going to shows. And thanks to my Uncle, we often had house seats. In fact, it never occurred to me as a child that you did not sit in house seats. These were seats reserved in the front center. My Uncle could get us the best seats. And if we were not in the center, we were always in the Orchestra section.

I remember the awe of watching the actors and actresses on stage, listening to the live music and hearing the lovely voices. It was magic. I still get that feeling when I see a play.

My Uncle also provided all of his nieces and nephews, as well as his own children, tickets for a Broadway show each Hanukkah. That was truly wonderful. We almost always had the best seats. Except one time, when we were in the top balcony. I remember as we kept walking up and up and up, I turned to my cousin and complained, “What happened?” We found out later that our grandmother did not want us too close to the stage….It was “Hair” and the actors disrobed.   Maybe she thought we would race to the stage.

My original Playbill from Hair as well as the flyer I picked up at the theater.


This memory came back to me on Saturday night when the musicians ended their performance with a rousing rendition of “Aquarius” and “Let the Sun Shine.”   I was moved back in time. It was December 1971. I was 16, a junior in high school,  and I was in the Biltmore Theater seeing “HAIR!” “Aquarius” was my lucky song growing up.   I was born under this astrological sign. So I believed whenever this song played, something good was about to happen. And yes, something I was hoping for did occur the next day.

When I met my husband, he had never been to a Broadway show. Makes sense, he was born and raised in the Midwest. But the first time he came East, when we were engaged, I changed his world.   I called my Uncle and asked if he could get us seats for “They’re Playing Our Song,” with Lucie Arnez and Robert Klein, at the Imperial Theater. It was the hottest show. My Uncle did it. I took Jay. But for the first time, I actually paid for the house seats. Ouch!!! But it was worth every penny! My husband loved it as well.

I am glad he caught the ‘bug.’ I love shows. We have season tickets for three different production companies. I used to have four, but gave up a summer series this year after 32 years, as we travel too much in the summers.   There are many shows I have seen a number of times. But I don’t care.   Most shows I don’t mind seeing several times.   There are just a few I am done with seeing. And only two that I never want to see again. I still try to see a show on Broadway at least once a year! 
Seeing a show takes you away from the world for a few hours. Just like a book, it moves you across time and location into someone else’s world. I thank my parents and my Uncle for giving me the gift of musicals and drama.   I was glad that my husband and I passed this gift on to our children. The memory of sitting in House Seats with be with me forever.

 

New York City Excitement With My Grandma

29 Nov

Whenever I watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, known in my mind as the Macy’s Day Parade, I always think of my Grandma Esther. The first time I went to Radio City Music Hall was with my siblings and my Grandma to see “That Darn Cat” and the Rockettes for the annual Christmas extravaganza. It did not matter that we were Jewish. What was important was seeing the show.

I remember that the line went around the block, but we had tickets. On the main floor! I still remember the first time I saw the Grand Staircase. I remember the thrill of sitting in those seats. I have never forgotten the movie that starred Hayley Mills, or the moment the Rockettes came on to the stage.

The parade brings back this wonderful memory, as well as others that Grandma arranged. I remember the year she arranged for us to watch the parade from her office. Grandma was the executive secretary for a shoe company that had their office opposite Macy’s! Yes right opposite the main store. One year we had the opportunity to watch the parade and all the shows from the company’s warm office and excellent viewing site. I still get chills thinking about how excited I was to be there. This was so much nicer than standing outside in the cold.

Grandma, worked until she was 77, treated me to special dates in the city . They must have been birthday celebrations. I loved going to Horn and Hardart. The Automat’s vast choices of cakes and foods were amazing. Grandma would let me get her food and my food. It was fun opening the doors and removing exactly what we wanted. Such joy!

My favorite date, to be honest, was to Schraftt’s Ice Cream Palour on Fifth Avenue. I remember wearing my dirndl dress and white gloves…to go eat ice cream!!! I had a chocolate sundae, of course. The gloves came off when it was time to eat. I still see the beauty of the restaurant. And I still can remember leaving with Grandma, and skipping as we left. I was so excited.

I know it was in the spring because after ice cream we went to the Barton’s store to purchase lots of candy and treats for Grandma’s annual Passover seder. I see, in my mind’s eye, the boxes of Barton’s Almond Kisses, chocolate covered matzah and other sweets.   I remember that we each had two shopping bags to carry.

Then it was back to her office. I would sit and wait for my Dad to come and get me after work. Grandma would give me some busy work to do while I waiting. And I did get to speak to the president, Mr. Pearlstein. But I knew I had to be quiet while Grandma was working.

It is not surprising that to this day I love watching the Macy’s Parade each Thanksgiving. Even though I now live in the Midwest, on Thanksgiving morning I get a cup of coffee and sit contently for three hours watching as the parade marches on and my memories linger.

Trouble with the Office: An American Bialystoker Story

21 Mar

The following is a report my Great Grandfather, Louis Goldman, made in a 1937 issue of the Bialystoker Stimme. It explains the reason why the Bialystoker Bikur Cholim decided that the organization needed its own offices. It seems asking for help from the community was just not working out. It gives the history of the decision to rent its own office. I think this might have be the precursor of the Bialystoker Home for the Aged, which was built over two years in 1929-1931.

Here is his article, as translated by my friend Blumah and edited a bit by me for clarity.

“The Bialystoker landsman in that time mostly lived in the East side (of New York City). The Bikur Cholim decided to put in that neighborhood a place for the sick people to receive help without difficulty. So they would be close to their neighborhood.

They arranged for a doctor and arranged for a pharmacist to get them medicine.

It was decided to give to the poor sick people a free pass to see the doctor and also pay for the medicine.

A certain landsman, who had a hot dog /salami store on Essex Street, gave his store for the sick people to come to receive these passes and papers. This became the office where they could get the papers. But there was a problem: The store keeper would give out these free passes like a prize to his own customers who would buy meat from him. (This was not what was intended so,) It was decided to rent a place somewhere else.

Next they found a butcher store from one of the landsman, Philip T. However there was not very convenient for several reasons.

They moved the office again to a new place. To “Fisher” who had a printing shop on Clinton Street. But Fisher started asking every month for new ‘additions’. (Not sure if he wanted more money or what he is wanting. Probably more money.)

So the Bikur Cholim decided once and for all to rent a permanent office for themselves. It was decided that this office could also act as a club for the active members. Also there would always be a secretary who would be paid and who would take care all of the cases for the Bikur Cholim.”

As my great grandfather, or the editor of the Bialystoker Stimme, entitled the article, “Trouble with the Office,” I think that was a fine assessment.  Personally I loved how the store owner gave out free medical passes to his customers.  One way to build a clientele, even though it was not ‘kosher.’  I know that they were trying their best to help their landsmen in need, without using the money needlessly.  Building an office might have seemed that way to them.  But eventually, having a paid secretary made more sense.

The history of the Bialystoker Home For the Aged and the Bialysotker landsmanshaft, immigrant organization, can be found in the NY Landmarks Preservation Commission Report of May 21, 2012. See link below:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/lpc/downloads/pdf/reports/2529.pdf

The part of this story that impacts my great grandfather’s article, is this small section from the report:

“In its first year of existence the Bialystoker Center was located in an old building at 228 East Broadway just few houses down from the basement location of the Bikur Cholim. In 1922-23 it replaced the aging structure with a new five-story headquarters, which included office space not just for its own use but also provided meeting rooms for affiliated associations.”

So I assume the offices that my great grandfather is writing about was this office on 228 East Broadway. Eventually, definitely by 1937 when his article was written, the Bikur Cholim offices were included in the beautiful building that was finished in 1931.

As I have said in earlier articles about my great grandfather,  I am so proud to be his descendant.  Each of these articles brings him to life.

 

Joyous Occasions in Discovered In Yiddish

14 Mar
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My Uncle Bernie and part of the article about his bar mitzvah.

 

Besides articles about my Great Grandfather Louis Goldman/Baruch Lev Litwack, there were also announcements of family events in the Bialystoker Stimme magazines under the title “Simcha by Landslight,”   or “Joyous Events by our community members.”   I found three events in Yiddish about my extended family members, which my friend, Blumah, translated for me as well.

The first was about my Uncle Bernie, or Bernard, about his bar mitzvah:

“A nice bar mitzvah party took place on Shabbat. The 11 of June by Mr. Bernard.  A nice, accomplished young man, the son Mr. and Mrs. H Rosenberg and the grandson of our dear friends and active community members Louis and Ray Goldman from the Bronx.

A nice private group of close family celebrated by the simcha. They wished much nachas to the parents from this bar mitzvah boy.

As is well known, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, the grandfather and grandmother, are actively in the Bialystoker Center and the Ladies Auxiliary.

Mr. Goldman is now the president of the Bialystoke charity organization that was the Bialystoke Free loan society: Bialystoke Somech Noflim, (It was started in 1886 in the USA.) This is he oldest charity association that the Bialystoke started.

We wish the zayde and bubie, and the parents to live to have much nachas and much joy from Bernard and the other children.”

I loved that even in an announcement of my uncle’s bar mitzvah, it was important to the writer to list my great grandfather and great grandmother’s accomplishments in the Bialystoke societies.   I am thinking it is to give them even more ‘kovod,’ honor. Or perhaps it is to encourage others to volunteer?

In later years, when the Bialystoker Stimme had more English, there is another Bar Mitzvah announcement for my father. But it is much shorter and written in English.

One of my father’s cousin’s is also mentioned in “Joyous Occasions.” My Dad’s first cousin David M. made the Yiddish paper, in a shorter and less flowery article.

“The Goldman’s talented grandson, David M., graduates with honors. The 16 year old grandson of our active members, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman, of the Bronx. He just graduated from Townsend Harris High School. He was immediately accepted in City College. We wish the parents Mr. and Mrs. Eli Marks and the grandparents of David much nachas from their very capable David.”

The final “Joyous Occasion” in Yiddish was my great Uncle Sam’s wedding announcement, for his first marriage. I never knew the woman mentioned in this announcement. But I do know that they had one daughter. I honestly only remember meeting her when I was a young child. I think the family lost touch with her.

“Sunday Dec. 11, our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman brought their youngest child to the Huppah: Samuel with the beautiful, intelligent Miss Otta Schmuckler. The wedding was private, and the supper was afterwards celebrated in Central Plaza, where many friends from both sides were part of the joyous occasion.

We wish Mr. and Mrs. Louis Goldman and the young couple much nachas.”

The only thing I can say about this announcement is that I always thought his first wife’s name was Yetta. And that might have been the name she used in English.

Every one of these little Yiddish articles is like a jewel for me. I find out tiny bits about my family’s life in the 1920 – 1940s. I see pieces of my Dad’s childhood. He probably was at all these simchas: his brother’s bar mitzvah, his cousin’s graduation party, his uncle’s wedding. We do have a few photos from this time. But I have never seen the photos of my uncle and my Dad’s cousin that shown in these articles.

The Bialystoker Stimme continues to be a treasure for me and I hope for my family.

 

 

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