I have now been able to trace the outline of the lives of the three Rosenzweig brothers who survived to adulthood: Abraham, Jack, and Joe. I posted elsewhere about Abraham and Joe, so let me fill in the details of Jack’s life. His name shifted throughout the records from Jacob to Jack back to Jacob and then to John Jacob and finally to John Edward, but based on both clues in the records and confirmation from Joe’s granddaughter Ariela, I am certain that all the records refer to the same person, born Jacob Rosenzweig on August 19, 1895, in New York City to Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig.
Like his older brother Abraham and his younger brother Joseph, Jacob served in the US Navy. Like Abraham, he already was a sailor in 1915 before the US entered World War I.
On his draft registration Jack claimed that both his mother and his father were dependent on him.
I found this interesting for two reasons: first, why would his father be depending on him? Wasn’t he still working as a painter? Also, Joseph had claimed on his draft registration that he was his mother’s sole source of support. According to his 1917 draft registration, Jack, like Joseph, was then employed by the Brooklyn Rapid Transit Company. The brothers must have been quite close, living together and working together. In 1920, Jack was still living with his mother and siblings in Brooklyn and working as a clerk in the shipyard.
On November 26, 1923, he married Ethel Bloom and was now identifying as John Rosenzweig. In 1925, he and Ethel were living with her parents Fanny and Hyman Bloom in Brooklyn, and Jack was working as a postal clerk.
In 1930 Jack is listed as John E. on the census, still working as postal clerk, but now listed as the head of household with his in-laws living with him.
In 1935 Jack and Ethel’s daughter Mona was born, as indicated on the 1940 census. On that census Jack was still working as a postal clerk.
According to his World War II draft registration in 1942, he and his family were still living in Brooklyn, and Jack was still working for the post office.
Sometime after his 1942 draft registration, Jack and his family moved out to Patchogue, Long Island. Jack died in June 1981, when he was 86 years old.
Jack may have changed his name a few times, but otherwise he seems like an incredibly constant and consistent man. He remained close to his family, he had a long marriage to one woman, and he worked for the US Postal Service his whole career.
Putting together what I have learned about Abraham, Jack, and Joe from these records and, more importantly from Joe’s grandchildren, I believe that I have a good sense of what these siblings were like. Despite having endured some terrible family tragedies growing up—the deaths of several siblings in infancy, including David, and of one as teen, Harry, and the apparent divorce of their parents around the time that Harry died, the brothers grew up to be warm, fun-loving and close to each other and to at least two of their sisters, Lizzie and Ray. They were all salt-of-the-earth men—a bakery driver, a postal worker, and a hat maker. Joe quit school after 3rd grade. He was very active in the union as well as an active Mason. He not only supported his own wife Sadie and his daughters Irene and Mildred; he also brought Sadie’s family over from Russia. Her family lived in his home until they were able to move out on their own. These three brothers, first generation Americans, worked hard, played hard and loved their children and grandchildren.
I was very touched by the fact that all the grandchildren with whom I have spoken or emailed have such strong feelings of love and affection for their grandfather Joe and grandmother Sadie. All mentioned how much they still missed them after all these years.
In a comment on the blog, Hava shared that she named her first-born son for Joe and that she sees him as a gift from her grandfather. She wrote, “My older son is named for him, and I believe the first thing Joe did when he got to heaven was send my Joe’s soul to be born to me! I’d been trying to get pregnant 5 years and we conceived the night Joe passed away.”
Ariela described her grandfather Joe as very fun-loving and outgoing. She said that he “loved children – and children loved him. He would walk around with pistachio nuts and Hershey’s Kisses and M&M’s in his pockets and distribute them to any child he would meet. He was warm, loving and nurturing and generous. He would sometimes stop the car in the middle of the road and start dancing to the music on the radio.”
Ariela also remembered how Joe would bring his grandchildren rolls of ribbons and beautiful hats. He always had a cigar in his mouth and loved a drink of scotch.
Ron told me that his grandparents Joe and Sadie were incredibly devoted and committed to having a relationship with him after their daughter Mildred, Ron’s mother, passed away when Ron was only 15 months old. They worked hard to stay in touch with him, and Ron remembers visiting them not only when he was a child, but also as an adult when Sadie and Joe lived in Brighton Beach near Ron’s in-laws. It was very clear to me that Joe and Sadie were exceptional people and exceptional grandparents to have developed such strong, close and lasting bonds with their grandchildren.
Although I have yet to find the grandchildren or children of Abraham, Jack, Lizzie or Ray, from the recollections of Ariela and Ron, it seems that the siblings were all warm, fun-loving and close. Ariela remembers that Abraham was quite a practical joker; she commented that he “used to hide behind a curtain and put his set of false teeth around and click the top and bottom together and scare me half to death. He was as fun loving as Joe was.” Ron remembers his grandfather Joe talking about going out to Patchogue to visit Jack, even when they were both relatively old men. Ariela also said that Ray and Lizzie were outgoing and warm and fun-loving.
To me, it is remarkable how happy and well-adjusted these siblings appear to have been. They endured so much loss and heartache. How did they grow up to be so seemingly functional and joyful? My impression from the historical data about their father Gustave has always been that he was a devoted and caring person who did whatever he could do to help his entire extended family. I don’t have as clear a picture of Gussie, but she also must have loved her children very much. It is therefore perhaps not that surprising that these children grew up to be so close and so devoted to their families.