Arye Katzenstein

I have researched and written about hundreds of relatives (maybe thousands?) over the almost ten years that I’ve been writing this blog. And aside from my own direct ancestors, of those many, many cousins and great-aunts and great-uncles going back over two hundred years, there are only a small number whose stories are so compelling and unforgettable that when I see their name, I immediately remember the details of their lives.

One of those cousins is my fourth cousin Arye Katzenstein, whose heroic story I wrote about here. During a terrorist attack at the Munich Airport on February 10, 1970, Arye threw himself on a grenade released by the Palestinian terrorists and sacrificed his own life so that he could save the life of his father, Heinz Katzenstein, and the lives of all the other travelers. He was only 32 years old.

So when I received a comment on my blog from a woman named Miki saying her father was Arye Katzenstein, I gasped. I’d had no idea that Arye had had children when he was killed. I immediately wrote to Miki and learned that after more than fifty years, the city of Munich is finally providing a memorial for Arye on the grounds where the attack occurred. The land is now owned by a private company, BrainLab, and together with that company, the city, and the family of Arye Katzenstein, a proper memorial is being established. BrainLab has commissioned an art work by Alicia Kwade, an internationally known artist, and the family is creating a website and informational materials for the site, which will be dedicated sometime in 2024.

From Miki, I learned a great deal more about her father and his family and his life. As I already knew, Arye was born in Haifa (then Palestine, now Israel) on November 23, 1937, after his parents fled from Nazi Germany. But I learned from Miki that he had spent time in Germany as a student. In 1959 he came to Munich to study veterinary medicine, but later returned to study engineering. He had married his wife Bilha on October 22, 1961, and their first child, my cousin Miki, was born in Munich a few years later. The family returned to Israel before the 1967 war and had two more children there, a son and another daughter.

Thus, Arye left behind not only his parents and siblings, but also his wife and three very young children. It’s hard to imagine the pain and suffering that his death must have caused his loved ones. But his legacy is one of heroism and courage.

Miki shared with me several photographs of her family. First is a photograph of her father Arye as a young man traveling in Europe.

Arye Katzenstein Courtesy of his family

This is a photograph taken at Arye and Bilha’s wedding. Bilha is third from our left, then Arye next to her. Next to Arye are his parents Mania (Miriam) Dorf and Heinz Katzenstein.

Wedding of Arye Katzenstein Courtesy of the family

This chilling photograph is of Arye’s notebook taken after the terrorist attack that killed him. It was returned to the family by El Al after Arye’s death.

Arye Katzenstein notebook returned to family by El Al Courtesy of the family

This photograph was taken on the 53rd yahrzeit (anniversary) of Arye’s death in 2023, just a month ago. Arye’s gravestone reads: “Here lies our dear, noble spirited Arye Katzenstein, son of Miriam and Jacob Hacohen, who sacrificed his live during the attack on El Al passengers.”

Gravestone of Arye Katzenstein Courtesy of the family

The stones for Miki’s grandparents appear below:

Gravestones of Heinz and Miriam Katzenstein Courtesy of the family

Finally, Miki shared with me this photograph of her family—her husband, her children, and herself. I don’t usually include photographs of living people, but in this case I do so to honor the memory of Arye Katzenstein and to recognize the resilience of his family and the hope for a better future where all of us can live in peace and without fear of terrorism.

Miki Katzenstein Dror and family Courtesy of the family



Gerson Blumenfeld II, Part I: Two Marriages, Three Daughters, Three Sons

As I turn to the next child of Isaak Blumenfeld and Gelle Straus, Gerson Blumenfeld, I am fortunate to have not only the support and research of Richard Bloomfield, whose work I’ve already noted numerous times on the blog, but also of a direct descendant of Gerson Blumenfeld, his great-grandson Michael Rosenberg. Michael and I have been in touch for quite a while, and he also, like Richard, has been helpful to me in researching other aspects of the Blumenfeld family tree. But now I have finally reached Michael’s direct line, and I am excited that I will be able to work with him and learn from him.

Gerson Blumenfeld, the son of Isaak and Gelle, will be referred to as Gerson Blumenfeld II on my tree and on the blog; his first cousin, once removed, also named Gerson Blumenfeld I, was married to Giedel Blumenfeld, daughter of Isaak and Gelle and sister of Gerson II, as I wrote about here.

Gerson II was born on April 29, 1853, in Momberg, Germany.

Geburtsregister der Juden von Momberg (Neustadt) 1850-1874 (HHStAW Abt. 365 Nr. 608)AutorHessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv, WiesbadenErscheinungsjahr1850-1874, p. 4

On August 23, 1883, he married Mina Katz, daughter of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz. Mina was born on June 7, 1860, in Jesberg, Germany.

Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3838
Year Range: 1883, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

As soon as I saw that Mina was born in Jesberg and was a Katz, I figured she must also be related to me. Mina is my third cousin, three times removed, and is descended from my five-times great-grandfather Schalum Katz of Jesberg through his son Salomon Katz. So both Mina and Gerson II were my cousins, but they were not related to each other as far as I have been able to determine.


Gerson II and Mina had a daughter born in Momberg on August 30, 1884, and tragically Mina died the following day, presumably from complications from childbirth. She was only twenty-four years old. Their one-day old infant was named for her mother Mina.

Mina Blumenfeld birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6467, Year Range: 1884, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Mina Katz Blumenfeld death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 6551; Laufende Nummer: 915, Year Range: 1884 Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Gerson II remarried two years later on June 2, 1886. His second wife was Berta Alexander. She was born on November 16, 1859, and was the daughter of Joseph Alexander and Fradchen Frank, and like Gerson II’s first wife, Berta was also my cousin, specifically my second cousin, three times removed. Berta was the great-granddaughter of Abraham Katz Blumenfeld and Geitel Katz, my four-times great-grandparents. She also was a second cousin to her husband Gerson II, who was also a great-grandchild of Abraham Katz Blumenfeld.

Gerson Blumenfeld marriage to Berta Alexander, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6496, Year Range: 1886, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Thus, all the children of Gerson II and Berta were not just siblings, but also each other’s third cousins. And the descendants of Gerson II and Mina were my double cousins since I was related to both of them. Oy vey! No wonder I can’t sort out my DNA matches…

But onto the children of Gerson II and Berta. Their first child Moritz was born on March 16, 1887, in Momberg, Germany.

Moritz Blumenfeld II birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6470, Year Range: 1887, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Their second child, Siegmond Friedrich “Fritz” Blumenfeld, was born on December 7, 1888, in Momberg, Germany.

Siegmund Friedrich Blumenfeld birth record,Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6471, Year Range: 1888, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Katinka, their third child and oldest daughter, was born in Momberg on July 30, 1891.

Katinka Blumenfeld birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6474, Year Range: 1891, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Isaak Blumenfeld (labeled III on my tree) was born September 24, 1893, in Momberg.

Isaak Blumenfeld III birth record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6476, Year Range: 1893, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

The fifth and youngest child of Gerson II and Berta was their daughter Sida (sometimes spelled Sitta), born in Momberg on July 26, 1896.

Birth record for Sida Blumenfeld, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6479, Year Range: 1896, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901

Mina Blumenfeld, Gerson II’s daughter with his wife Mina Katz, married Albert Simon on October 31, 1910, in Momberg. Albert was the son of Joseph Simon and Guste Aumann, and he was born on November 17, 1879, in Hermannstein, Germany.

Mina Blumenfeld marriage to Albert Simon, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 915; Laufende Nummer: 6195, Year Range: 1910, Hesse, Germany, Marriages, 1849-1930

Mina and Albert had four children.

UPDATE: I just located a death record for a fifth child of Mina and Albert born before Julius. That child, a son named Dedo, died on January 16, 1912, in Hermannstein. He was only a day old.

Dedo Simon death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 4342; Laufende Nummer: 911
Year Range: 1912
Source Information Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Their second child, Julius, was born in 1913 and died when he was only two years old on May 31, 1915.

Julius Simon death record, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Personenstandsregister Sterberegister; Bestand: 4345; Laufende Nummer: 911, Year Range: 1915 Hesse, Germany, Deaths, 1851-1958

Mina and Albert’s third child Kurt was born on November 10, 1914.1 Their fourth son Joseph was born on October 26, 1916.2 And their fifth child and only daughter Grete was born December 23, 1919.3 Fortunately, these three children all survived to adulthood.

My cousin Michael shared with me this beautiful photograph taken before World War I of Gerson II and Berta with their five children as well as Gerson’s daughter Mina from his first marriage.

Gerson and Berta Blumenfeld and their children c. 1911

From left to right in the back row, they are Isaak, Fritz, Mina, Katinka, Moritz, and Sida. Berta and Gerson are seated in front of them, and the family dog lies at their feet. How can I not love a family that includes their dog in the family portrait?


  1. Kurt Simon, Gender: Male, Birth Date: 10 Nov 1914, Death Date: Jun 1969, Claim Date: 17 Jul 1969, SSN: 131102677, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  2. Josef Simon, [Joe Simon], Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 26 Oct 1916
    Birth Place: Hermanuskin, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 30 Oct 2001
    Father: Albert Simon, Mother: Meta Blumenfeld, SSN: 116034007, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007. 
  3.  National Archives at Boston; Waltham, Massachusetts; ARC Title: Petitions and Records For Naturalization, 10/1911-9/1991; NAI Number: 615479; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: Rg 21, Description: Vol173-175, Petition No 40197, Paul Saban, 24 Mar 1944 – Petition No 407321, Sophie Bursack, 16 June 1944, Connecticut, U.S., Federal Naturalization Records, 1790-1996 

The Family of Ernst Blumenfeld Escaped to America (And His Widow Married My Cousin from Jesberg)

The Nazis altered the fates of all seven of the grandchildren of Moses Blumenfeld IIA. Whereas the two children of his daughter Antonie Blumenfeld Katz safely escaped to Palestine and his grandson Albert Kaufmann, son of Hedwig Blumenfeld Kaufmann, escaped to Brazil, his granddaughter Anna Kaufmann Leyser and her husband and sons were murdered at Sobibor in 1943.

As for the family of Ernst Blumenfeld, the youngest child of Moses Blumenfeld IIA, although he died at 42 in 1935, leaving behind his young widow Bella and their three young children, Bella and their children all ended up escaping Nazi Germany by coming to the US on December 5, 1939, and settling in New York City, where in 1940 they were living with Bella’s parents Levi and Rosa (Katz) Tannenbaum.1

Bella Blumenfeld and children on passenger manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 1; Page Number: 132, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957

Two years later Bella remarried. Her second husband was Gustav Katz,2 born in Jesberg, Germany, on October 24, 1893, to Josef Katz and Roschen Stern.3 When I saw Katz and Jesberg, I speculated that somehow Gustav was related to my Katz and Katzenstein relatives from Jesberg, and sure enough, Gustav was my fourth cousin, twice removed! My five-times great-grandfather Schalum Katz was Gustav’s three times great-grandfather.

Gustav arrived in the US just a few weeks after Bella and her children on December 22, 1939, listing his occupation as textile merchant.4 But on his Declaration of Intention filed on July 8, 1940, he reported that he was a laundry worker,5 a sign of how challenging it must have been for some middle-class German Jews who escaped Nazi Germany to adapt to life in the US. Gustav died in February 1964; he was seventy.6 Bella outlived her second husband by 23 years. She died March 11, 1987 at the age of 87.7

Bella was survived by two of her three children with Ernst Blumenfeld, her son Paul having predeceased her by less than ten months on June 13, 1986, at the age of 54.8 I wonder whether Paul’s death hastened Bella’s demise so soon afterwards. Paul was married to Edith Stark, a Baltimore native, who was born there on March 27, 1933, and died there on April 12, 2014.9 Paul and Edith are survived by their four children and their grandchildren.

Ernst and Bella’s daughter Lore Blumenfeld married Manfried “Fred” Oppenheim in 1947.10 Fred was also a German refugee; he was born on June 12, 1920 in Kassel, Germany to Hermann Oppenheim and Esther Lehrberger.11 Fred came to the US on March 12, 1938, and in 1940 was living with his parents in New York and working as a waiter.12 His World War II draft registration shows that he was working for the Jones Beach Catering Corporation.

Manfred Oppenheim, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947 [

Fred enlisted in the US Army on September 21, 1943, and served until June 8, 1946.13  Lore Blumenfeld Oppenheim died on November 14, 1991; she was 64.14 Her husband Fred Oppenheim died the following year on March 31, 1992.15 They were survived by their children.

Finally, Ernst and Bella’s other son Franz became Frank in the US. When he registered for the draft, he was living in New York with his mother and stepfather and working at Volume Dress Company. Frank married Rita Rae Nelkin, a native of Houston, on December 16, 1956.16 They had three children. Frank died when he was 73 on March 22, 200217. According to his obituary, “He was proud to be an American, having served in the First Infantry Division in his birthplace, Marburg. He moved to Houston in 1955 where he met his wife. In 1957 he founded Formcraft, Inc., the largest independently owned business forms company in Houston. He was known to have a kind and generous heart, a winning personality and a great sense of humor as well as being an avid fisherman, shrewd businessman and a lover of classical music.”18

Franz Blumenfeld, World War II draft registration, National Archives at St. Louis; St. Louis, Missouri; WWII Draft Registration Cards for New York City, 10/16/1940 – 03/31/1947; Record Group: Records of the Selective Service System, 147, U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Fortunately Moses Blumenfeld IIA has many living descendants today in Israel and in the United States because the children of his children Antonie Blumenfeld Katz and Ernst Blumenfeld all left Germany in time, but tragically his daughter Hedwig Blumenfeld Kaufman has no living descendants since her son Albert had no children and her daughter Anna and her husband and their two children were wiped out by the Nazis. How cruel is fate that allowed some to escape and others to face a brutal death.

UPDATE: I received an email today (1/5/22) from the daughter of Paul Blumenfeld. I learned from her that Albert Kaufmann did have a daughter named Inge and that Inge had two sons. So Albert Kaufmann, and thus his mother Hedwig Blumenfeld Kaufmann, do have living descendants!


  1. Bella Blumenfeld and children, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02676; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 31-2115, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  2.  Bella Blumenfeld, [Bella Tannenbaum], Gender: Female, Race: White, Marriage Age: 42, Birth Date: Mar 1900, Birth Place: Germany, Marriage Date: 30 Aug 1942
    Marriage Place: New York, Manhattan, New York, New York, USA, Residence Street Address: 558 W. 164 St., Occupation: None, Father: Levi Tannenbaum, Mother : Rosa Tannenbaum, Spouse: Gustav Katz, Certificate Number: 17286, Current Marriage Number: 1, Witness 1: Leopold Blum, Witness 2: Herman Katz, New York City Department of Records & Information Services; New York City, New York; New York City Marriage Licenses; Borough: Manhattan; Year: 1942, New York, New York, Index to Marriage Licenses, 1908-1910, 1938-1940 
  3.  Gustav Katz, Gender: männlich (Male), Birth Date: 24 Okt 1893 (24 Oct 1893)
    Birth Place: Jesberg, Hessen (Hesse), Deutschland (Germany), Civil Registration Office: Jesberg, Father: Joseph Katz, Mother: Röschen Katz, Certificate Number: 67, Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Bestand: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3824, Hesse, Germany, Births, 1851-1901 
  4. Gustav Katz, ship manifest, Year: 1939; Arrival: New York, New York, USA; Microfilm Serial: T715, 1897-1957; Line: 6; Page Number: 99, New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957 
  5. Gustav Katz, Declaration of Intention, The National Archives at Philadelphia; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; NAI Title: Declarations of Intention for Citizenship, 1/19/1842 – 10/29/1959; NAI Number: 4713410; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: 21, New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943 
  6.  Gustav Katz, Social Security Number: 087-12-5580, Birth Date: 24 Oct 1893, Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Death Date: Feb 1964, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  7. Death notice, The Evening Sun, Baltimore, Maryland
    17 Mar 1987, Tue • Page 51 
  8. Paul F Blumenfeld, Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 2 Feb 1932, Birth Place: Marbery [sic], Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: Jun 1986, Father:
    Ernst Blumenfeld, Mother: Bella Tannenbaum, SSN: 105247709, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  9. Edith S Blumenfeld, Birth Date: 27 Mar 1933, Address: 2413 Sugarcone Rd, Residence: Baltimore, MD, Postal Code: 21209-1033, U.S., Public Records Index, 1950-1993, Volume 1. The Baltimore Sun; Publication Date: 8/ Nov/ 1959; Publication Place: Baltimore, Maryland, USA; URL:,0.12329582,0.3987464,0.16311908&xid=3398, U.S., Marriage Index, 1800s-current. Obituary,The Baltimore Sun, Baltimore, Maryland, 12 Apr 2014, Sat • Page A16 
  10. Lore Blumenfeld, Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 18 Feb 1947, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse:
    Manfred E Oppenheim, License Number: 5280, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 8, New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. 
  11. Manfried Oppenheim, [Manfrede Fred Oppenheim], Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 12 Jun 1920, Birth Place: Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 31 Mar 1992, Father: Hermann Oppenheim, Mother: Emma Lehrberger, SSN: 130128175, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  12. Manfried Oppenheim, Petition Age: 23, Birth Date: 12 Jun 1920, Birth Place: Kassel, Germany, Record Type: Naturalization Petition, Arrival Date: 12 Mar 1938, Arrival Place: New York, New York, Petition Date: 18 Dec 1943, Petition Place: Birmingham, Jefferson, Alabama, USA, Petition Number: 5477, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington D.c.; ARC Title: Petitions For Naturalization, Compiled 1909 – 1991; NAI: 4522188; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States; Record Group Number: 21, Alabama, U.S., Naturalization Records, 1888-1991. Oppenheim family, 1940 US census, Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: m-t0627-02674; Page: 64B; Enumeration District: 31-2035, 1940 United States Federal Census 
  13. Manfred F. Oppenheim, 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: 14938; Reel: 5, U.S., World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 
  14. Lore Gertrude Blumenfeld, Gender: Female, Race: White, Birth Date: 13 Mar 1927, Birth Place: Marburg, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 14 Nov 1991
    Father: Ernest Blumenfeld, Mother: Bella Tannenbaum, SSN: 132142097, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  15. See Note 11, above. 
  16. Frank Martin Blumenfeld, Gender: Male, Marriage Date: 16 Dec 1956, Marriage Place: Harris, Texas, USA, Spouse: Rita Rae Nelkin, Document Number:  216758, Harris County Clerk’s Office; Houston, Texas; Harris County, Texas, Marriage Records, Texas, U.S., Select County Marriage Records, 1837-1965 
  17. Frank Martin Blumenfeld, Gender: Male, Race: White, Birth Date: 21 Mar 1929
    Birth Place: Marburg, Federal Republic of Germany, Death Date: 22 Mar 2002, Father:
    Ernest Blumenfeld, Mother: Bella Kannenbaum, SSN: 120204479, U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 
  18. Obituary, Houston Chronicle on Mar. 24, 2002, found at 

Who Was That Baby? A Question Answered!

You never know when you publish a blog post asking a question when, if ever, that question will be answered. And I’ve learned never to give up hope. Just recently I learned the answer to a question I posed over four years ago on this post about Jake Katz, the Oklahoma cousin who started the Katz Department Stores in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and who eventually helped to rescue several of his cousins who were still living in Germany during the Nazi era.

Included in that post was a photograph of the three children Jake had with his wife Sophia Salzenstein: Albert Jerome, Margaret, and Helen.

Albert Jerome Katz in rear, Helen Katz and Margaret “Babe” Katz seated with unknown cousin on laps
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Under that photograph I posed this question:

Perhaps some Katz family member can identify the two unknown little cousins? Since we know Albert Jerome died in 1919, I am assuming this photo was taken in about 1918, meaning the two young children were likely born in 1916-1917. I am thinking one might be the daughter of Lester Katz and Mayme Salzenstein, Mildred “Bobbie,” since she was born in January 1916 and was related to Jake and Sophia on both sides, Lester being Jake’s cousin and Mayme being Sophia’s sister.

I didn’t get any answers when I published this post, but on September 19, 2021, I received this comment on that blog post from a reader named Jerry Richards:

Hi Amy, I have the same picture you do of Helen, Margaret and Jerome Katz. The two babies are, as you guessed, on the left Mildred Henderson nee Katz, born 1916, two years old. The baby on the right is Peggy (Mary Carolyn) Richards nee Salzenstein, born 8/6/1917. She is my mother.

I emailed Jerry and learned that his grandfather Solomon Wolf Salzenstein was the brother of Sophia Salzenstein, Jake Katz’s wife. Thus, Jerry is the grandnephew of Sophia and grandnephew-in-law of Jake.

And now I can correct the caption under the photograph:

Albert Jerome Katz in rear, Helen Katz and Margaret “Babe” Katz seated, left to right. Mildred Katz Henderson and Peggy (Mary Carolyn) Salzenstein Richards sitting on their cousins’ laps, left to right.
Courtesy of the Goldman family

Another reminder that you never know when a question you never thought would be answered will in fact be answered! Thank you, Jerry!

The Homestead Restaurant in Northampton: Another Small World Story

Once again the genealogy gods are playing with my mind and convincing me that I must somehow be related to everyone I know.

This past weekend I was texting my friend Marlene to make plans to get together for dinner. We were going back and forth, trying to find a restaurant that has outdoor seating and that will take a reservation. Then Marlene texted, “I have a cousin who owns a restaurant in Northampton. I’ve never been there though.”

I texted back, “That’s funny. I have a cousin who owns a restaurant in Northampton, but I’ve never been there or met him.” I couldn’t remember his name or the name of his restaurant at that moment, so I went to my Ancestry app, knowing that he was a nephew of my cousin Roger. Roger and his husband David have been tremendously helpful to me in my genealogy research, as readers of my blog know. Roger is my third cousin, once removed, on my Katzenstein-Goldschmidt line. We are both descended from Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt.

After checking my tree and finding the right name and the name of his restaurant, I texted Marlene, “My cousin is Jeremy Werther. He owns the Homestead restaurant.”

Much to my amazement, she responded, “He’s my cousin also!”

It seems Jeremy is Marlene’s second cousin, once removed, on his father’s side, and he is my third cousin, twice removed, on his mother’s side. We were just blown away. I’ve known Marlene and her husband Jim since 1982, and certainly as far as we knew, we had no relatives in common. How could it be that after almost forty years we had just discovered that she was the second cousin of the father of my third cousin, twice removed? We both just had to laugh and marvel at what a small world it is.

And, of course, that sealed the deal—we were going to Jeremy’s restaurant for dinner. We made a reservation at The Homestead, and I prepared various family tree charts to share with Marlene and with Jeremy.

It was a fabulous meal. Everything was so fresh and beautifully prepared and presented. We had two different salads, a roasted carrot dish, a bluefish dish, and two pasta dishes among the four of us. We shared most of the dishes as they are served as small plates to be shared, and it made for a very relaxed and enjoyable meal—each dish better than the last. And the service was stellar—friendly, efficient, and attentive without being intrusive.

Although I forgot to take photos of our meal, Jeremy gave me permission to include a few photos from their Facebook page. This is just a small sample of Jeremy’s artistry.

No photo description available.

But the best part was meeting Jeremy, who seemed amazed by the fact that two of his cousins had shown up at his restaurant without any warning—two women he’d never met before.  He sat with us as we explained all the connections and shared the charts with him.  He was as gracious as one could imagine—all of us sharing in the crazy joy that comes with discovering the magic of family history.

Restaurant —Homestead

My cousin Jeremy, chef and owner of the Homestead

Outside dining at the Homestead

If you live in the Pioneer Valley, or even if you don’t, be sure to visit The Homestead at 7 Strong Avenue in Northampton, Massachusetts. You won’t be disappointed.


My Vogel Cousins: From Germany to Argentina

Before I return to the family of Meyer Goldschmidt, I have two more posts to share relating to other family members.

Today I want to share some wonderful photographs I received from my fourth cousin, once removed, Patricia, the daughter of Heinz Vogel, granddaughter of Sophie Katz and Isaak Vogel, great-granddaughter of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz.

On September 10, 2019, I wrote about this family and told the story of the escape of Sophie and Isaak and their sons Heinz and Carl to Argentina from Nazi Germany in the 1930s. It was due to the generosity of Patricia and also Carl Vogel’s daughter that I was able to share details of the Vogel’s story and how they rebuilt their lives in Buenos Aires as well as many wonderful photographs.

In November, Patricia shared several more wonderful family photographs.

This is a photograph of Rosa Katzenstein in 1887 when she was 28 and married to Salomon Feist Katz for six years. (I’ve edited these photographs a little to improve clarity.) Rosa was my great-grandmother Hilda Katzenstein’s second cousin, once removed. I see a resemblance to Hilda. What do you think?

Rosa Katzenstein Katz, 1887

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Taken that same year is this photograph of Salomon, who was 35 at that time. Salomon was also my cousin (and Rosa’s cousin). He was my third cousin, three times removed, through our shared ancestors, Schalum and Brendelchen Katz, my fifth great-grandparents. He was Hilda’s third cousin.

Salomon Feist Katz, 1887

Patricia also sent me images of what was on the reverse of these photographs. Can anyone read the words above their names?

UPDATE: Thank you to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for transcribing the top words as Grossmutter (grandmother) and Grossvater (grandfather).

This photograph of Rosa and Salomon’s daughter Sophie Katz and her husband Isaak Vogel was taken in July, 1948, after they had immigrated to Argentina; the inscription on the reverse appears below it. Can someone decipher what it says? The second line says “63(?) Geburtstag 10 Jul 1948.”  Sophie was born on July 10, 1885, so this would have been her 63rd birthday. She and Isaak don’t look very happy, however.

UPDATE: Thank you again to Cathy Meder-Dempsey for transcribing the first word in the top line as aufgenommen, meaning “taken.” She wasn’t certain whether the next word was “bei,’ indicating where the photo was taken, or “von,” indicating who took the photo. And the third word was not legible.

SECOND UPDATE: Thank you to Eric, who commented below and was able to read that last word. It says Aufgenommen bei meinem 63rd geburtstag or Taken at my 63rd birthday. Thanks, Eric!

Sophie Katz and Isaak Vogel, 1948

Finally, Patricia shared a photograph taken at Sophie and Isaak’s 50th anniversary celebration on June 9, 1959. That adorable little girl in the center of the photograph is Patricia herself.

In the front row from left to right are Sophie Katz Vogel, Isaak Vogel, and Rosa Hamburger, Carl Vogel’s mother-in-law. Standing behind them from left to right is Carl Vogel, Gertrud Lippman Vogel (Heinz Vogel’s wife), Heinz Vogel, and Beate Hamburger Vogel (Carl’s wife).

When I look at this photograph and see the love and the smiles that permeate it and compare it to the stern expressions on the faces of Sophie and Isaak in 1948, it makes me think of how hard their adjustment to Argentina must have been, but also how fortunate they must have felt to have left Germany behind and to have made a whole new life for themselves in their new homeland.

I am so grateful to Patricia for sharing these with me.






November 15, 2019

Today would have been my father’s 93rd birthday. Tomorrow it will be nine months since he died on February 16, 2019. Nine months is a long time—long enough for a human baby to gestate and be ready for life outside the womb. And yet it is just a flash in a life that lasted over 92 years.

These nine months have been the hardest of my life—dealing with not only losing my father, but watching my mother decline as well. Life without my father has been just too hard for her to bear.

So today I’d like to dedicate my blog to them both, two people whose love for each other was the key to almost all of their happiness, two beautiful young people who grew to be loving parents, adoring grandparents and great-grandparents and aunt and uncle, and loyal and caring friends to people in their community and elsewhere.

Florence and John Cohen 1951

Ella Goldschmidt, Part II: The 1870s, Gains and A Heartbreaking Loss

As of the 1870 census, Ella Goldschmidt and her husband Albert Sigmund, a furrier, had eight children living at home, ranging in age from William, who was 24, to Mollie, who was eight. Jacob, who had been listed as six on the 1860 census, was not listed on the 1870 census, but no records have yet been found to explain what happened to him.

Twelve years after giving birth to Mollie in 1862, Ella apparently had another child, a daughter May born in 1874. As with all of Ella’s prior children, I cannot locate a birth record for May because Maryland birth records start in 1875, but am relying solely on two census records, specifically the 1880 and 1900 US census records.1 Ella would have been over fifty years old in 1874, according to her death certificate. The 1880 census lists Ella as 55 and May as 6, meaning Ella was at least 49 when May was born.  Could May really be her biological child? Or was she perhaps adopted or an out-of-wedlock child of one of Ella and Albert’s older children or another relative?

Meanwhile, Ella and Albert’s oldest child, William, had married Adelaide or Addie  Newmeyer (sometimes spelled Newmyer or Neumyer or Newmyre and even Neumeir) in September 1873 and was having children of his own by the time his baby sister May was born in 1874. Adelaide was born in about 1851 or 1852 in Pennsylvania, depending on the census record.

In 1870 Adelaide was living with her mother Fanny Newmyer and her six other children in Washington, DC. The 1871 Washington directory lists Fanny as the widow of Abraham,2 but the 1860 census includes the household of a John and Fanny Newmyre living in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, with their five oldest children. Adelaide appears to be listed as Alice on that census, but her siblings’ names match those on later census records. Since records for some of Adelaide’s siblings indicate they were born in Lock Haven, I concluded that this was Adelaide’s family on the 1860 census.3

Newmyre family, 1860 census, Census Place: Lock Haven, Clinton, Pennsylvania; Roll: M653_1097; Page: 274; Family History Library Film: 805097, 1860 United States Federal Census

Census Place: Washington Ward 4, Washington, District of Columbia; Roll: M593_124; Page: 814A; Family History Library Film: 545623, Washington Ward 4, 1870 United States Federal Census

I could find no other records for John Newmeyer, no matter how many wild cards or spellings I tried, but I did find a directory listing Abraham Newmeyer in Washington, DC, in 1863 as a peddler4 and a Civil War draft registration dated 1863 for Abram Newmyer, a 44 year old native of Bavaria.  I believe that Adelaide’s father was Abraham Newmeyer and that the family had left Lock Haven for Washington some time between 1860 and 1863.

National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Consolidated Lists of Civil War Draft Registration Records (Provost Marshal General’s Bureau; Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865); Record Group: 110, Records of the Provost Marshal General’s Bureau (Civil War); Collection Name: Consolidated Enrollment Lists, 1863-1865 (Civil War Union Draft Records); NAI: 4213514; Archive Volume Number: 5 of 5, U.S., Civil War Draft Registrations Records, 1863-1865

William and Adelaide’s first child Albert Sigmund was born on August 12, 1874, in Baltimore, according to his World War I draft registration. 4

Their second child was named Abraham, born on April 27, 1876,5 bolstering my conclusion that Abraham was the name of Adelaide’s father. William and Adelaide had a third child Jeannette born sometime between 1878 and 1879. She is listed as two on the 1880 census, but later census records have her born in June 1879 or even as late as 1881. I searched the Baltimore birth index for 1877, 1878, and 1879, and could not find her listed. The closest I could find was a child born on  October 7, 1879, to a William and Addie Smith, but I need to get the birth certificate to be sure that this is the correct couple. At any rate, Jeannette is listed on the 1880 census, so she had to have been born before that was taken.

The 1880 census lists a fourth child, one month old, named Herman living in the household. I found a listing in the 1880 Baltimore birth registry for a child born May 14, 1880, to “William and Annie Sigmon” which I assume must refer to Herman. In 1880, they were all living in Baltimore where William was working as a clerk in the tax office.

William Sigmund and family, 1880 US census, Census Place: Baltimore, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: 505; Page: 477B; Enumeration District: 215, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

In 1875, Ella and Albert’s daughter Henrietta married her second cousin Scholum Joseph Katzenstein, the oldest child of my great-great-grandparents, Gerson Katzenstein and Eva Goldschmidt. Henrietta and Scholum Joseph were both the great-grandchildren of Jacob Falck Goldschmidt and Eva Seligmann, my four-times great-grandparents. Their mothers Ella Goldschmidt Sigmund and Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein were first cousins.

I have already written about Henrietta and Scholum Joseph when I wrote about my Katzenstein relatives. You can find their stories here, here, here, and here. Thus, I will not repeat the stories of Henrietta and her descendants in telling the story of her parents and siblings, except to point out that Henrietta had six children, a daughter Moynelle born in 1879 and five sons, all born between 1881 and 1892, and that she was living in Washington, Pennsylvania.

Thus, Ella and Albert had become grandparents during the 1870s as well as having a new child May. But not all the news was good for their family. On July 31, 1875, their oldest daughter Lena died from cancer of the neck at age 27; according to her death certificate, she had been ill for over ten years.

Her death notice paid tribute to her courage:

UPDATE: Thank you to David Baron, who pointed out to me after I’d first posted this that this death notice mentions Solomon Sigmund as Lena’s husband. Somehow I completely overlooked that. I assume that this is the same Solomon Sigmund who was eighteen years old and living with Lena’s family in 1870 and that he must have been a relative of Albert Sigmund—a nephew or cousin. Once David pointed this out to me, I also located a marriage record for Lena and Solomon:

Sol Sigmund Lena Sigmund marriage 1873 MD state archives

I was unable to find any definite record for Solomon Sigmund after Lena’s death. Perhaps he returned to Germany. There were many other men with that name, but no way for me to connect any of them to Lena’s family.

On September 22, 1880, Ella and Albert’s son Joseph married Emma Goldman (not THAT Emma Goldman) in Baltimore.

Emma Goldman was born in about 1860 in Maryland and was the daughter of Leman Goldman and Henrietta Goldschmidt.6 When I saw Emma’s parents’ names, something rang a bell. Sure enough, there was another twisted branch on my family tree.  Emma’s brother Samuel L. Goldman was the father of Leman Poppi Goldman, who married Flora Wolfe, the daughter of Amalie Schoenthal, the sister of my great-grandfather Isidore Schoenthal.

And it gets even more twisted.  Stay tuned…

Thus, as of the end of 1880, Ella and Albert had lost one child, Lena. Three of their children, William, Henrietta, and Joseph, had married, and they had four grandchildren, William’s three children and Henrietta’s daughter. Ella and Albert were living with their remaining children, Simon (listed here as Samuel, 27), Leo (22), Stella (20), Mollie (18), and six-year-old May. Simon/Samuel and Leo were working as clerks, and Albert continued to work as a fur merchant.

Albert Sigmund and family 1880 US census, Census Place: Baltimore, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: 501; Page: 116C; Enumeration District: 110 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census

The next twenty years would bring many changes, some good, some bad.



  1. Albert Sigmund and family, 1870 US census,  Census Place: Baltimore Ward 12, Baltimore, Maryland; Roll: M593_576; Page: 248A; Family History Library Film: 552075, 1870 United States Federal Census; 1880 US census, Census Place: Baltimore, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: 501; Page: 116C; Enumeration District: 110, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1880 United States Federal Census 
  2. Publication Title: Washington, District of Columbia, City Directory, 1871, U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 
  3. Harriet Harris obituary, The Daily Record, Long Branch, New Jersey, 11 Feb 1937, Thu • Page 3 
  4. Albert Sigmund, World War I draft registration, Registration State: District of Columbia; Registration County: Washington; Roll: 1556838; Draft Board: 07, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.  I find it interesting that they gave their child the same name as William’s father even though he, Albert the elder, was still living, although naming a child for someone still living is fairly common on this side of my family tree. 
  5. Abraham Newmeyer, World War I draft registration, Registration State: District of Columbia; Registration County: Washington; Roll: 1556845; Draft Board: 09, U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918. 
  6. Leman Goldman family, 1870 census, Census Place: Baltimore Ward 7, Baltimore (Independent City), Maryland; Roll: M593_574; Page: 117A; Family History Library Film: 552073, 1870 United States Federal Census 

Sophie Katz Vogel and Her Family: A Brick Wall Falls in My Katzenstein Family

Back in October 2017, I wrote about a brick wall I could not break down involving the children of my cousin Rosa Katzenstein. Rosa was my second cousin, twice removed. She was the granddaughter of Jacob Katzenstein, the older brother of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein.

Rosa was the oldest child of Mina and Wolf Katzenstein, born on June 19, 1859, in Frankenau, Germany.

Rosa Katzenstein birth record arcinsys
HHStAW Fonds 365 No 174, p. 7

She married her third cousin, once removed, Salomon Feist Katz, son of Joseph Feist Katz and Brendel Katz of Jesberg. Rosa and Salomon were married on June 28, 1881, in Jesberg. They had four daughters, one of whom died as a child, but three survived to adulthood: Sara, Sophie, and Recha.

Marriage record of Rosa Katzenstein and Salomon Feist Katz
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 920; Laufende Nummer: 3836

I had a great deal of trouble learning what happened to two of those daughters, Sara and Sophie. I knew that Sara had married Otto Loew and had two children and that Sophie had married Isaac Vogel, with whom she’d had two sons, Heinz and Carl, but that was all I could find. Then, with incredible help from my friend Aaron Knappstein, I learned that Sara and Sophie as well as their sister Recha had all left Germany in the 1930s and escaped to Argentina.

But I did not know what had happened to the two sons of Sophie Katz Vogel, Carl and Heinz. Now, thanks to more wonderful research done by Aaron Knappstein, I not only know more about their story, I actually have photographs of the family and am in touch with two new cousins.

In April, 2019, Aaron received an email with a packet of information and photographs from Ingo Sieloff, the director of the Borken museum. Back in 2009, Carl Vogel’s daughter had exchanged emails with Heinrich Broz, then the archivist for the town of Borken, and had sent him photographs and other documents and a history of her family. Mr. Sieloff sent all of this to Aaron, and  Aaron sent them on to me. Last week I took a chance and sent Carl’s daughter an email using the email address she’d had in 2009. That same day she responded and shared it with Heinz’s daughter, and now I have two new cousins with whom to share and exchange family information.

Here is more of the story of Sophie Katz and Isaac Vogel. Most of the information in this post came from my correspondence with their granddaughters and the documents and photographs they shared with me.

Sophie Katz married Isaac Vogel on June 9, 1909:

Sophie Katz marriage to Isaak Vogel
Hessisches Hauptstaatsarchiv; Wiesbaden, Deutschland; Collection: Personenstandsregister Heiratsregister; Signatur: 915; Laufende Nummer: 5624

Their son Carl was born on March 30, 1910, in Borken, Germany:

Birth record of Carl Vogel

His brother Heinz was born two years later on July 18, 1912, also in Borken:

Birth record of Heinz Vogel. Courtesy of the Vogel family

During World War I Isaac Vogel served in the Germany military, fighting in France, and then was a city councilor in Borken in the 1920s.

Isaac Vogel (right). Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac Vogel, seated far right. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Isaac worked with his brother Moritz as a cattle trader. It was a business that Isaac and Moritz had taken over from their father Ephraim. It was a small business, but enough to support two families adequately.

Here are three photos of Carl and Heinz and their parents taken between about 1910 to about 1924 in Borken, Germany:

Heinz and Carl Vogel, c. 1910. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Sophie, Heinz, Isaac, and Carl Vogel, c. 1917. Courtesy of the Vogel family

Vogel family, c. 1924. Courtesy of the Vogel family

According to Ingo Sieloff,  the Vogel home in Borken was located at Hintergasse 125 and included a house and a stable; the house was 105 square meters or about 1130 square feet in area. It appears to be larger than that in this photograph:

Hintergasse 125, Borken. Courtesy of the Vogel family

I don’t know when this photograph was taken or the identities of the people standing in front.

As a child, Carl Vogel was an avid reader and a good student, and his parents decided to send him to grammar school in Kassel. During the week he lived with his uncle Moritz Vogel. Carl graduated from high school and then studied at the Philosophical Faculty of Friedrich Wilhelm University in Berlin. He also attended lectures at Rabbinerseminar and worked as a religion teacher.

These three photographs are labeled “Schule,” one with year 1921. I can find Carl in the Gymnasium photograph below (the third one); he is the young man standing fourth from the left in the back row. I assume that either Carl or Heinz is somewhere in the other two photos. Can you find them? I have guesses, but am not sure.

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Courtesy of the Vogel family

Heinz Vogel was also a very talented boy, but his parents could not afford to send both boys to high school. Instead, Heinz completed his apprenticeship as a retail merchant in Kassel at the Tietz department store.

Until 1933, the family lived a normal life. They saw themselves as Jews and as good Germans. They lived a quiet life, although there were occasional verbal anti-Semitic attacks .  But once the Nazis came to power, the Vogel cattle business suffered because farmers were not allowed to do business with Jews. Heinz Vogel also found his livelihood affected; although he was considered the best salesman in the store, he was released from his job. He then completed an apprenticeship in a practical trade in Frankfurt to prepare for emigration.

Carl read Hitler’s book “Mein Kampf” and recognized that the family needed to leave Germany. Sophie’s sister Recha Katz Goldschmidt had already left  for Argentina by 1932 after her husband Julius was beaten by the Nazis.

Carl and Heinz prepared to emigrate to Palestine, but then decided to go to Argentina since they already had relatives living there. Heinz and Carl first emigrated in 1935, and one year later their parents Isaac and Sophie and Sophie’s mother Rosa Katzenstein Katz followed. They sold their home in Borken for 9113 Reichsmarks. One source says that there were 2.5 Reichsmarks to a US dollar during World War II, so the price of the house would have been about $3,645 in US currency or about $48,000 in today’s dollars, according to this inflation calculator. They settled in Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, Carl and Heinz had to start their lives all over. But the family adapted well to their life in Argentina. The philanthropic association Asociación Filantrópica Israelita or Jüdischer Hillfsverein helped the newcomers adjust to their new country. In Buenos Aires, Isaac and Sophie continued to have a traditional Jewish home and went regularly to the liberal synagogue founded by German Jews; services were conducted in German and Hebrew and in later years, also in Spanish. Isaac and Sophie never learned Spanish, but it did not matter because they were living amidst other German Jews who had escaped from the Nazis. Isaac also tutored boys for their bar mitzvahs.

In 1943 Carl Vogel married Beate Hamburger from Frankfurt; Carl was very active and well known in the Jewish community and served as a deputy rabbi and as a bar mitzvah tutor. He also taught German and Latin. Beate also was a teacher; she gave private instruction in German and English. Carl and Beate had two children.

Heinz Vogel married Gertrud Lippman from Ludwigshafen in 1943. They had one child. Heinz started work in Argentina as an industrial worker in the meat business. Then he became a white collar worker in a big Argentina-owned multinational firm called Bunge & Born. For his job he was required to travel all over the world, including a six-month stay in India in 1954. He became the General Manager of the Jute department and traveled many times to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

Although Heinz lacked the formal education his brother Carl had received in Germany, his daughter described him as a “very cultured and interesting person.” She said that her parents lived a secular life and had friends from many different backgrounds; their connection to the synagogue was limited to Yom Kippur and lifecycle events for family and friends. Heinz’s daughter also told me that Heinz was very proud to be an Argentine citizen and that when he received a diploma from the Argentine government on the fiftieth anniversary of his becoming a citizen, he was very emotional.

Isaac Vogel died on April 16, 1960, in Buenos Aires;1 his wife Sophie died five years later on May 5, 1965.2  Carl died in 1981, and Heinz in 2005.

I feel so fortunate to have found the granddaughters of Sophie and Isaac and to have learned so much more about the courage and determination of Sophie, Isaac, Carl, and Heinz, who all started their lives over in a new place after being forced to escape from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.



A Life Well Lived

I am slowly emerging from the initial period of mourning and trying to re-enter the world. My father and my concern for my mother continue to fill almost all the spaces of my brain and heart. But Jewish tradition encourages one to return to a regular routine—to work, to school, to ordinary life—once the initial period of mourning is over. So I am going to try.  And that means returning to my family history work and to my blog. It also means picking up where I left off in reading the blogs I follow.

For today, let me just share a bit more biographical information about my father. I described his personality and interests a bit in my last post, but I’d like to tell a little more about his life, especially his early life.  Next time I will return to the Goldsmiths, my father’s cousins through his maternal great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein.

My father was born on November 15, 1926, in Philadelphia, to Eva Schoenthal and John Nusbaum Cohen. He was named John Nusbaum Cohen, Junior, which is an unusual thing to do in Ashkenazi Jewish families where the tradition is to name a child for a deceased relative. But that break with tradition was consistent with the assimilation of his family. Although my father was confirmed in a Reform Jewish temple, his family was not religious or traditional in any way.

When he was just a young boy, both of his parents became ill and were unable to care for him. His father had multiple sclerosis and eventually was institutionalized; my father had no memory of him walking unassisted. His mother suffered a breakdown and also was hospitalized and then cared for by her parents. My father and his sister Eva were taken care of by their paternal grandmother Eva Seligman Cohen, whose kindness and generosity I’ve written about before.

Eva and John Cohen, Jr. (my father and his sister)

My father was an excellent student; he also loved music and art. One of his favorite childhood memories was playing the role of Buttercup in Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore when he was at an all-boys summer camp. He often sang his parts from that show to us when we were children. He also enjoyed summer trips to Atlantic City with his grandmother and sister.

Just weeks before his thirteenth birthday, his beloved grandmother died in Philadelphia. The doctor who came to attend to her at home had to tell my father and aunt that their grandmother had died. There was no one obvious to take care of the two children, and for quite a while they were shuttled back and forth among various cousins for a week or so at a time. Eventually their mother was healthy enough to come back and take care of them.

My father graduated from high school and started college, but on February 14, 1945, when he was eighteen, he was drafted into the US Navy to serve during World War II. He was based in Chicago and then in Newport News, Virginia, doing intelligence work, until he was honorably discharged on August 1, 1946. He returned to Philadelphia and to Temple University to continue his education, but later transferred to Columbia University’s School of Architecture to complete his degree. He was encouraged and inspired by his uncle, Harold Schoenthal, to pursue a career in architecture, a decision he never regretted.

In the Navy

During the summer of 1950 when he was still a student at Columbia, my father worked as a waiter at Camp Log Tavern, a resort in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.  One weekend he spotted a young red-headed woman across the room and said to a fellow waiter, “That’s the girl I am going to marry.” Although she was more interested in another waiter during her stay, my father asked her for her number before she departed. She gave him the wrong number and a shortened version of her last name, which was Goldschlager. According to family lore, he searched the Bronx phone book until he found her. She was so impressed that she agreed to go out with him, and after that, they became inseparable.

They were married one year later on September 9, 1951. I came along eleven months later, just two months after my father’s graduation from Columbia.

My father and my grandmother at his college graduation in 1952

In the years that followed, my parents had two more children, moved to the suburbs, and lived a good life. Theirs was a true love match, and they adored each other through 67 years of marriage. Yes, there were hard times and harsh words at times, but I never once doubted that they were devoted to each other.

My father worked first for an architectural firm in New York City, commuting with all the other fathers. But not many years later he left the firm and established his own practice, a practice he maintained into his 90s, working with people and developers on houses, office buildings, additions, and other work.

Although my father had a hard childhood, his adult life was happy and fulfilling. He loved his family, and he loved his work. He was active in his local community, working as a volunteer fireman and as a member of the planning board.  When he died at age 92 on February 16, 2019, he was a well-loved and much respected member of his community and an adored husband, father, grandfather, uncle, and great-grandfather. His was truly a life well lived.