My Grandmother’s Cousin Joe Goldfarb: A Hard-working Family Man

My grandmother’s first cousin Joe Goldfarb was the fifth child and third son born to Sarah Brod and Sam Goldfarb, and he was their first child born in America. He was born in Pittsgrove, New Jersey, on December 28, 1897, just a year after Joe’s older siblings and his mother Sarah had immigrated from Poland. Joe moved with his family to the Lower East Side of New York when he was just a little boy and lived right across Ridge Street from my grandmother Gussie Brotman, who was two years older and the first American born child of her parents, Bessie Brod and Joseph Brotman.

Here is Joe with his brother Leo probably standing on Ridge Street in New York.

Leo and Joe Goldfarb, c. 1901. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

I know that my grandmother knew Joe well because he was listed in my grandparents’ address book twice many years later. On this page he’s listed with my grandmother’s brother Sam Brotman and two other men.

Note also on this page that M(eyer) Malzberg and S(am or Sarah) Goldfarb are listed on the same page as Joe. Leo Ressler was my grandmother’s nephew so a cousin of the Goldfarbs also. And Rae Rosenzweig was my grandfather’s first cousin. I am still not sure who the first two individuals on that page were.

And I also have that treasured photograph of my grandmother with Joe and his younger sister Rose.

Rose Goldfarb Levine, Joe Goldfarb, and Gussie Brotman Goldschlager

We’ve seen that Joe was living with his brother Julius in Jersey City in 1915, working as a bartender presumably in Julius’ saloon.  But by 1918 when he registered for the draft, he was back living with his parents and working as a claims adjuster for the American Railway Express Company, and he was still living and working at the same places in 1920.

Joseph Goldfarb World War I draft registration, Registration State: New York; Registration U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918

Joe married Betty Amer in 1922, as we saw, and moved back to Jersey City where their three children—Marvin (1923), Francine (1925), and Selma (1928) were all born. My cousin Alyce shared these wonderful photographs of the children when they were young.

Marvin Goldfarb, c. 1924 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Selma and Francine Goldfarb, c. 1930 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Francine, Marvin, and Selma Goldfarb c. 1930
Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Like his brother Julius and his brother-in-law Meyer Malzberg, Joe was working in the liquor business at first, but he also ran into the obstacle of Prohibition. In May 1922, Joe and his brother-in-law Meyer Malzberg owned a saloon at 54 Railroad Avenue in Jersey City, and the local Chancery Court ruled that the police had no authority to shut down these saloons without first obtaining an injunction from the court.

Jersey Journal, May 22, 1922, p. 13

Ten months later in March 1923, Joe and Meyer pled not guilty to liquor violations.

Jersey Journal, March 21, 1923, p. 5

In February 1925, Joe was one of a number of saloonkeepers charged by federal agents with violating the Volstead Act.

Jersey Journal, February 11, 1925, p. 5

After that, Joe must have decided he’d had enough of the liquor business and by 1930 was working as a driver for the Bond Bread Company, as reported on the 1930 US census1 and seen in this photograph shared by his granddaughter Alyce:

Joe Goldfarb working for Bond Bread c. 1930 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Alyce also generously shared these photographs of the family of Joe and Betty Goldfarb, probably taken in the 1930s.

Joseph Goldfarb and his children, 1934. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Selma, Marvin, and Francine Goldfarb. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Betty Amer and Joseph Goldfarb, Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Betty Amer Goldfarb with Francine and Selma. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

By 1940 the family had left Jersey City and were living in Brooklyn.2 I looked up the two addresses listed for Joe in my grandparents’ address book and saw that both addresses are very near where my grandparents lived in Brooklyn at 1010 Rutland Road. Joe and Betty’s daughter Selma was only two years older than my mother. I wonder how well they knew each other, given how close they lived to each other.  But I’ve never heard my mother mention a cousin Selma or Francine or Marvin.

Joseph Goldfarb, World War II draft registration, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Joe was now working as a salesman for the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company, as reported on his World War II draft registration. Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company was formed in Kansas City in 1902 by Joseph Loose, a former member of the board of the National Biscuit Company (later known as Nabisco), his brother Jacob Loose, and John Wiles. Better known as the Sunshine Biscuit Company, they expanded all over the country. “In 1912 Loose-Wiles opened their “Thousand Window” bakery in the Long Island City neighborhood of New York City, which remained the largest bakery building in the world until 1955.” It was at that location that Joe Goldfarb worked and where in 1948 he was among those photographed as one of the Sunshine Sales Champs of that year.

Center, between the two men shaking hands, Joseph Goldfarb, 1948. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Joe worked for Sunshine/Loose-Wiles for many years. His granddaughter Alyce has memories of the cookies he would bring to his family: “He used to bring us all kinds of cookies. Big tins of the toy cookie shapes ( if you remember those), the melody cookies, chocolate with sugar on top, raisin biscuit cookies, and so many more.” 3 In her history of the Goldfarb family, Kay Lergessner Goldfarb related a family story that Joe sold dog biscuits and that Helen Keller was one of his customers because she had several dogs. I am not sure whether that particular story can be proven, and I am not even sure that Loose-Wiles sold dog biscuits, but it’s a nice bit of family lore.4

Meanwhile, Joe and Betty’s children were growing up. Here are some photographs likely taken in the 1940s when they were all teenagers:

Francine and Selma Goldfarb, c. 1940 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Francine, Joe, and Selma Goldfarb, c. 1940

Marvin and Francine Goldfarb, c. 1943 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Joseph and Betty (Amer) Goldfarb. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Marvin registered for the draft in 1942, reporting that he was working for A.B. Baumgarten in New York City and living in Brooklyn with his family.  According to a New York City directory, A.B. Baumgarten was a dental laboratory. Marvin enlisted in the US Army on June 22, 1943. It appears he served in the Reserves during the war.5

Marvin Goldfarb, World War II draft registration, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

After the war ended, the children of Joe and Betty Goldfarb married and started households of their own. More on that in my next post.



  1. Joseph Goldfarb and family, 1930 US census, Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0152; FHL microfilm: 2341090, 1930 United States Federal Census 
  2. Joseph Goldfarb and family, 1940 US census, Census Place: New York, Kings, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02550; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 24-134A, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  3. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, April 30, 2021. 
  4. KLG Family History 
  5. 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: 01361; Reel: 136, U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 

14 thoughts on “My Grandmother’s Cousin Joe Goldfarb: A Hard-working Family Man

  1. A veritable treasure of old photographs that you were able to publish with this post! I especially like the photo of Selma and Francine with Betty Goldfarb. Their smiles still radiate brightly so many years later.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful treasured photos of this family. I was thinking about the wives during this prohibition time and all that was going on with the men in these families. It must have been so scary for them/for all of them. That was really a wild time and quite a profession to be in – selling booze, owning a bar – It really was a historic time and they were right there in it. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sharon. You’re so right—it’s hard to imagine what that must have been like. Alcohol has always been so much of western culture that trying to prevent people from drinking by Prohibition was a doomed effort and only led to more crime. Just as we now see the legalization of marijuana—you can’t outlaw things that already are woven into social life.


  3. Amy, it’s very possible about the Helen keller story. She did always own dogs! I wonder if you can research if the company ever made dog biscuits? Of course, i know the Sunshine Biscuit co. What a cool job–making the kids happy every time you bring tins of cookies!

    Liked by 1 person

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