Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and Her Four Sons, Members of the Greatest Generation

Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb’s fourth child1 and second daughter was Bessie, born in 1890 in Galicia. She was just six years old2 when she came to the US with her mother and settled in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, and then the Lower East Side of New York City. Bessie married Meyer Malzberg in 1914 in Detroit, and I’ve yet to learn what took them from New York to Detroit. Although they appear to have been in Detroit for a few years, they soon returned to New York and eventually settled in New Jersey near Bessie’s  brothers Julius and Joseph.

By 1930, Meyer and Bessie had four sons: Norman, born in 1915, Gustave, born in 1919, Burton, born in 1923, and finally Saul, born in 1928. That gave Sarah two grandsons named Saul—Bessie’s son and Morris’ son, born in 1930.  I assume they were both named in memory of their grandfather Samuel, who died in 1926, although Saul and Samuel are different biblical names (Samuel was actually known as Shlomo or Solomon in Europe).

Here (again) are the two photographs that we believe are the Malzbergs with Sarah Brod Goldfarb—first, with Bessie and Meyer, second, with two of their sons.

Meyer, like his brother-in-law Julius, was for some time in the liquor business. But with Prohibition, his livelihood was threatened, and his bar was one of many that were padlocked by the authorities in 1929.3

The 1930 census shows that a year later Meyer was the owner of a delicatessen instead.  The family was living in North Bergen, New Jersey, where they owned their own home, valued at $15,000, and had a radio.

Meyer Malzberg and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: North Bergen, Hudson, New Jersey; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0351; FHL microfilm: 2341093, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census

In 1931, Gustave Malzberg, then twelve years old, was injured when he was hit by a car—as had happened to his cousin Martin Goldfarb.  The Malzbergs won a lawsuit against the driver and were awarded $175 in damages. That would be the equivalent of about $2777 dollars in today’s money. As far as I know, unlike Martin Goldfarb, Gustave did not suffer any long-term consequences from his injuries.

“Father of North Bergen Boy Injured by Auto Awarded $175,” Jersey Journal, March 4, 1931, p. 4.

Meanwhile, Bessie and Meyer’s oldest son Norman was becoming well-known in the area for his chess prowess. I found close to one hundred news articles4 in the New Jersey papers starting in 1931 when Norman was 16 describing his success as a chess player. He also wrote columns for the newspaper about chess and chess strategy. In 1934 he was the champion of the Jersey City Chess Club and retained that title for six years until 1940. By that time Norman was 24 and in law school.

Jersey Journal, December 29, 1934, p. 11.

The 1940 census5 shows that Meyer Malzberg, like his brother-in-law Julius Goldfarb, had returned to the liquor business once Prohibition ended. He was now a wholesale liquor salesman as was his son Norman, who was working his way through law school at the John Marshall College of Law in Jersey City.6 Meyer and Bessie’s three younger sons were still in school and not employed out of the home.

But soon their world would change as the US entered World War II in December 1941. Norman had already registered for the draft on October 16, 1940, listing his employer as Federal Wine & Liquor Company in Jersey City, presumably his father’s business. He was living at home with his parents at 87 Van Wagenen Avenue in Jersey City.

Norman Malzberg, World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New Jersey, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 409, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Gustave registered on the same day as his older brother. He listed himself as self-employed, and like Norman, he was living at home in Jersey City. He was now 21 years old. Gustave enlisted on February 27, 1941, almost a year before Pearl Harbor. He was honorably discharged on December 2, 1945.7

Gustave Malzberg World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New Jersey, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 409, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Burton was too young to register in 1940, but he registered in June 1942. He was working for American Home Products Corporation and living at home with his parents in Jersey City.

Burton Malzberg World War II draft registration, The National Archives in St. Louis, Missouri; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New Jersey, 10/16/1940-03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147; Box: 409, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

The four Malzberg brothers all served during World War II. Norman served with the Medical Administration Corps in France, and Gustave was in an anti-aircraft unit stationed in Seattle.8

Although Saul was only sixteen at the time, he enlisted in April 1944 when he would have been only sixteen. According to his son Mark, Saul served in the Pacific Theater near the end of the war in Guam, the Phillipines, and the Panama Canal Zone.9

Burton’s military service was particularly harrowing. He enlisted on May 17, 1943, and was an infantryman in the Army and sent to France. In December, 1944, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge and was captured by the Germans.10 The Jersey Journal reported in September, 1944, that the family had not heard from Burton for seven weeks at that time, but that the Army had informed them that he had been “slightly wounded.” A later article in February 1945 reported that in fact Burton was a prisoner of war. He was liberated when the war ended a few months later. According to family lore, his war experiences haunted him long after the war ended.

Here is a photograph of Burton with the note he inscribed on the back:

Burton Malzberg, September 1943. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Jersey Journal, September 29 1944, p. 7.

Jersey Journal, February 1, 1945, p. 5.

Meyer Malzberg and Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg lived to see their sons return from the war, get married, and father nine Malzberg grandchildren. Meyer was 75 when he died on January 11, 1966;11 Bessie died five years later on November 9, 1971. She was 81.12

When Norman returned from the war, he took and passed the New Jersey bar and began practicing law. One of his long-time clients was the Allied Grocers Association, an association of independent grocery stores. He also became involved in various Jewish communal and religious organizations including his synagogue and the Jewish War Veterans branch in Jersey City.13

In 1964 when he was 49, Norman married Thelma “Toby” Diller, the daughter of Philip Diller and Jenny Englart. She was born in Bayonne, New Jersey in 1926. Norman and Toby had two children together.14

In December 1974, Norman was sworn in as an acting judge in the Jersey City Municipal Court. After three years, he decided not to continue because of a possible conflict of interest for one of his associates and returned to private practice. He continued practicing law until his death on July 10, 1999, at the age of 84 from pancreatic cancer.15

Jersey Journal, December 24, 1974, p. 3

Gustave Malzberg married Barbara Weinberg in 1957. She was born in Brooklyn, and she and Gustave settled in Brooklyn where they had two children. According to his son Steve, Gustave “worked in retail his whole life. He was a hard working loving caring man who always provided for his family.”  Steve said that his father’s greatest joy was holding his grandchild the night he was born and watching him grow for almost ten years until Gustave passed away in Brooklyn on September 14, 2009, at the age of 90.16

Burton Malzberg married Evelyn Ginsberg on June 2, 1947, in New York. Evelyn was born in New York in 1927 to Jacob and Esther Ginsberg.17 She and Burton had two children together, but later divorced. Evelyn made a name for herself many years later when she graduated from New Jersey City University in 2011 at the age of 84. Burton later married Jeanie Jones in December 1974 in Jersey City.18 Burton died on March 5, 1994; he was seventy years old. Like his brother Norman, he died from pancreatic cancer19

Saul Malzberg married Anita Spector in Newark, New Jersey, in 1954.20 Anita was born in Jersey City on May 26, 1931, to Benjamin Spector and Sadie Berman. A year after marrying, Saul graduated from Rutgers University. Saul and Anita had three children together. Saul worked as a credit manager for many years primarily for the Homelite division of Textron in North Arlington, New Jersey, before purchasing and running Union Center Card and Gift in Union, New Jersey. Sadly, his wife Anita died when she was only 46 on January 14, 1978.21 Saul remarried in 1997; his second wife was Beryl Baranker.22 Saul was 75 when he died from a bile duct carcinoma on August 14, 2003.22

My cousin Alyce shared these photographs from her brother’s bar mitzvah in 1960 of three of the Malzberg sons and their wives:

Evelyn Ginsberg, Burt Malzberg, Marcia Berger Goldfarb, seated. Standing, Gus Malzberg and Barbara Weinberg. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Saul and Anita (Spector) Malzberg, 1960. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Gustave’s son Steve shared this photograph of the Malzbergs at Mark Malzberg’s bar mitzvah in 1970. It includes his grandmother Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and all four of her sons and their wives as well as her sister Rose Goldfarb Levine and her husband Max and Joe Goldfarb’s son Marvin and his wife Florence. How proud Bessie must have been of her four sons.

Standing, Burt Malzberg, Max Levine, Rose Goldfarb Levine, Gustave Malzberg, Barbara Weinberg Malzberg, Saul and Anita (Spector) Malzberg. Seated, Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg, Toby (Diller) and Norman Malzberg, Marvin and Florence (Glasser) Goldfarb. 1970 Courtesy of Steve Malzberg and Mark Malzberg

My grandmother’s first cousin Bessie Goldfarb was born in Galicia and just six years old when she came to America. Like her older brothers Julius and Morris, she adapted to her new country and new language and raised four American-born sons, all of whom served their country during World War II. One son endured life in a German POW camp during that service. Bessie and Meyer Malzberg were immigrants whose sons protected their parents’ adopted country. The sons of Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg are evidence of the many contributions immigrants have made to America. We should all be very proud of them.

Thank you to Steve, Mark, and Alyce for their contributions to this post.

 

 

 

 

 


  1. As we have seen, Sam and Sarah’s third child and oldest daughter Gussie died during the pandemic of 1918-1919. 
  2. The 1896 ship manifest for Bessie’s arrival says she was two, but every record after that suggests she was born in 1890, including the 1900 census, which shows her age as ten. Goldfarb family, 1900 US census, Year: 1900; Census Place: Pittsgrove, Salem, New Jersey; Page: 17; Enumeration District: 0179; FHL microfilm: 1240993,
    Ancestry.com. 1900 United States Federal Census. 
  3. “120 More Hudson Saloons Face Padlocking by Drewen,” Jersey Journal, December 17, 1929, p.8. 
  4. E.g., “Berger Bows to Malzberg,” Jersey Journal, March 25, 1935, p. 18; “Chess Crown to Malzberg,” Jersey Journal, February 15, 1938, p., 14. 
  5. Meyer Malzberg and family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: m-t0627-02409; Page: 18A; Enumeration District: 24-282, Ancestry.com. 1940 United States Federal Census 
  6. “2 Sworn as Acting Judges,” Jersey Journal, December 24, 1974, p. 3. 
  7.  National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 04603; Reel: 182, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  8. “No Word from Wounded Son,” Jersey Journal, September 29, 1944, p. 7. 
  9. Saul Malzberg, Birth Date: 23 Jan 1928, Death Date: 14 Aug 2003, SSN: 141206478, Enlistment Branch: A, Enlistment Date: 12 Apr 1944, Discharge Date: 9 Jan 1947, Page number: 1, Ancestry.com. U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010. I am not sure how to reconcile that with the draft registration dated 1946 when he was of draft age. Saul Malzberg draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947. 
  10. National Archives at College Park; College Park, Maryland, USA; Electronic Army Serial Number Merged File, 1938-1946; NAID: 1263923; Record Group Title: Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789-ca. 2007; Record Group: 64; Box Number: 05842; Reel: 248, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946. Kay Lergessner Goldfarb family history. 
  11. Meyer Malzberg, Social Security Number: 140-03-9072, Birth Date: 8 Sep 1890
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New Jersey, Death Date: Jan 1966, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  12. Bessie Malzberg, Death Date: 9 Nov 1971, Death Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey, USA, Year Range: 1971; Surname Range: G-N; Title: New Jersey, Death Indexes, 1904-2000, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Death Index, 1901-2017 
  13. E.g.,”56 Pass N.J. Attorney Test,” Jersey Journal, January 16, 1947, p. 16; “Feldman Installed by Grover Post,” Jersey Journal, February 18, 1947, p. 2; “Allied Grocers Oppose Gross Tax,” Jersey Journal, February 18, 1949, p. 3; “Synagogue Officers,” Jersey Journal, March 20, 1959, p, 17. 
  14. Norman Malzberg, Marriage Date: Sep 1964, Marriage Place: Bergenfield, Bergen, New Jersey, USA, Spouse: Thelma Diller, Certificate Number: 30323
    New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1964; Surname Range: A – K, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016. Family tree records from Sue Wartur. Phillip Diller, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Bayonne, Hudson, New Jersey; Page: 11B; Enumeration District: 0226; FHL microfilm: 2341083, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  15. “Malzberg Quits Municipal Post, Jersey Journal, January 28, 1977. p. 2; “Norman Malzberg,” Jersey Journal, July 12, 1999, p. 8; Norman Malzberg, Social Security Number: 140-03-9073, Birth Date: 2 May 1915, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New Jersey, Last Residence: 07306, Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey, USA
    Death Date: 10 Jul 1999, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Email from Mark Malzberg, May 20, 2021. 
  16. Gustave Malzberg, Marriage License Date: 1957, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Barbara Weinberg, License Number: 9079, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018; Gustave Daniel Malzberg, Social Security Number: 138-12-3855, Birth Date: 4 Jun 1919, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New Jersey, Last Residence: 11223, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, Death Date: 14 Sep 2009, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Email from Steve Malzberg, May 18, 2021. 
  17. Burton Malzberg, Marriage License Date: 2 Jun 1947, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Evelyn Ginsberg, License Number: 16808, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 25, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018; Jacob Ginsberg and family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 15B; Enumeration District: 0779; FHL microfilm: 2341266, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census. 
  18. Jeanie O Jones, Maiden Name: Jones, Marriage Date: Dec 1974, Marriage Place: Jersey, Hudson, New Jersey, USA, Spouse: Burton Malzberg, Certificate Number: 54178, New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1974; Surname Range: A-K, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016 
  19. Burton Malzberg, Age: 70, Birth Date: 23 Mar 1923, Death Date: 5 Mar 1994
    Death Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey, USA, Year Range: 1994; Surname Range: G-N; Title: New Jersey, Death Indexes, 1904-2000, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Death Index, 1901-2017. Email from Mark Malzberg, May 20, 2021. 
  20. Saul Malzberg, Marriage Date: Jul 1954, Marriage Place: Newark, Essex, New Jersey, USA, Spouse: Anita Spector, Certificate Number: 20102, New Jersey State Archives; Trenton, New Jersey; Marriage Indexes; Index Type: Bride; Year Range: 1954; Surname Range: L – Z, Ancestry.com. New Jersey, U.S., Marriage Index, 1901-2016 
  21. Anita Spector, [Anita Malzberg], Birth Date: 26 May 1931, Birth Place: Jersey City, New Jersey, Death Date: Jan 1978, Father: Benjamin Spector, Mother: Sadie Berman
    SSN: 140245456, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  22.  Saul Malzberg, Social Security Number: 141-20-6478, Birth Date: 23 Jan 1928
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New Jersey, Last Residence: 08831, Jamesburg, Middlesex, New Jersey, USA, Death Date: 14 Aug 2003, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Email from Mark Malzberg, May 20, 2021. 

15 thoughts on “Bessie Goldfarb Malzberg and Her Four Sons, Members of the Greatest Generation

  1. I once have been an avid chess player when we lived in Calgary and I was able to participate in regional chess tournaments. While I was teaching I also did a lot to promote this royal game. Do you remember Bobby Fischer, Amy?
    I am amazed to read that the US authorities allowed Simon to register as a sixteen-year-old boy. Way too young to go to war!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do remember Bobby Fischer. I played chess growing up (never that well) and now play with my grandsons occasionally (still not that well though I can beat a six year old). Have you seen The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix? Even a non-chess fan would enjoy it.

      I am not sure how Saul got away with enlisting. It’s very odd that his draft registration is dated two years AFTER his enlistment. I guess he still had to register even after being in the service. My guess is either he lied about his age or his parents gave consent to his enlistment.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My wife and I enjoyed watching the Queen’s Gambit. When I was teaching at a rural high school in Alberta. All students played chess and it was almost as popular as hockey. Bobby Fischer did a lot to make chess popular in America. Best wishes! Peter

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Another wonderful posting about your family. I always learn something from you and this time was no different . I hadn’t known Samuel was Shlomo or Solomon in Europe. Back to immigration records for my great-grandfather Samuel to look under these names. A chess master, war hero’s ~ liquor, deli and lots of grandchildren too. All of the photos were wonderful!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sharon! Just to clarify. Samuel is not usually Shlomo; usually the Hebrew equivalent is Shmuel. But people adopting English names often just kept the first initial or sound. So my great-grandmother Pessel became Bessie, my great-uncle Moische became Max, etc. In the case of Sam Goldfarb, he adopted the name Sam but had been Shlomo in Europe—he could have picked any name. I’ve seen Shlomos who became Sol Saul, Steven, etc. There’s not any way to know for sure what a Hebrew name was unless you find a document with it or a gravestone. I just keep an open mind when I am researching, realizing that there’s not necessarily any particular Hebrew name to go with an English name or vice versa.

      Like

    • Thanks, Eilene. Well, I never knew them or even of them until recently. Now many of us are in touch through email. My hope is that we will be able to find a way of having a reunion one of these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I had to laugh that it was called out in 1930 that the family owned a radio. And only $175 ($2777 today) after being hit by a car? Wonderful photos!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I thought that award was pretty small also—but maybe he wasn’t that badly injured, and, of course, doctor and hospital bills were much cheaper. And cars were relatively new so maybe the court didn’t want to discourage people from buying and driving cars.

      Like

  4. Pingback: Who is in this Photograph? A Collaborative Effort by the Goldfarb Cousins | Brotmanblog: A Family Journey

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