Pacific Street: Inspired by Facts and Love

Some of you know that since I retired two and a half years ago, I’ve been working on a novel inspired by my grandparents’ lives and the discoveries I’ve made about them and their extended families through my genealogy research.  Well, I finally put my “pen” down and decided to call it done.

Amy Gussie and Isadore

My grandparents, Gussie Brotman and Isadore Goldschlager, and me

It’s been an exciting process for me because ever since I learned to read, I’ve wanted to write a novel.  All through my career when I was writing long, boring articles for law journals, I wished that instead I was writing a novel. Novels have been my refuge all my life. I love being transported to different times and places and seeing into the hearts and minds of all kinds of characters.  I just wanted a chance to try to create some characters of my own.  When I retired, I promised myself that I would give it a try.

One friend reprimanded me when I said I was trying to write a novel.  She said, “Don’t say that.  Say you are writing a novel.”  I was and am insecure about the whole thing.  I never took a fiction writing course, participated in a writing workshop, or wrote any fiction at all, not since I wrote stories as a young child. What did I know?

My only sources of information about writing a novel were all the novels I’d read starting when I read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White when I was eight years old.  That book transported me in ways that changed the way I felt about reading.  I cried so hard (spoiler alert) when Charlotte died.  And she was just a spider! A fictional spider! How had the author made her so real and moved me to care so much?

Charlotte's Web

Charlotte’s Web (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now that I’ve written my own novel, I am even more in awe of the many great authors whose books have moved me so deeply. I am humbled by what those authors were able to do with words, and thus I feel presumptuous trying to promote my own book, despite my friend’s reprimand.

But it was a labor of love—love for family and love for the magic of the written word.  I wrote this book for my children and grandchildren so that they would have a taste of what their ancestors’ lives were like. I had lots of help and inspiration from my family and friends, as I acknowledge at the end of the book.  And so despite this aching feeling of insecurity, I do want to share and promote my book so that others will also know the story I’ve created about my grandparents—grounded in fact, but expanded upon by my imagination.

I hope that you will be tempted to read it.  You can find it on Amazon both as a paperback ($6.99) and as a Kindle ebook ($2.99) at

If you do read it, I’d love your feedback.  Thank you!

Rosenzweig Update: Who Signed that Death Certificate?

One of the biggest mysteries I encountered in researching my Rosenzweig cousins was the mystery of Lilly Rosenzweig, the first child of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig.  Lilly was my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager’s first cousin.  Lilly had married Toscano Bartolino in 1901 and had had a child William with him, born March 9, 1902.  Then just two years later on April 27, 1904, Toscano had died from kidney disease at age 27, leaving Lilly a twenty year old widow with a two year old child.

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate

Bartolini Rosenzweig marriage certificate


William Bartolini birth certificate

William Bartolini birth certificate

Toscano Bartolini death certificate

Toscano Bartolini death certificate


Lilly and her son William were living with Gustave and Gussie in 1905, but by 1910, William was no longer living with his mother and grandparents, but was in St. John’s Home for Boys in Brooklyn.

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

Gustave Rosenzweig family on the 1905 NYS census

William Bartolini 1910 at St John's Home, Brooklyn

William Bartolini 1910 at St John’s Home, Brooklyn


Lilly was still living with her parents in 1910 and working as a nurse.  In 1915, William was at a different residential home, but I could not find Lilly at all on the 1915 NYS census nor could I find her anywhere after that.  None of the great-grandchildren of Gustave and Gussie knew what had happened to her, except that they thought she had remarried and moved to New Jersey at some point.  No one knew her married name or whether she had more children.  I was stuck and could not get any further.

I thought I had a new clue when I obtained Gustave’s 1944 death certificate.  It was signed by an informant I thought might be Lilly.  I posted the signature on the blog, hoping someone would be able to decipher it more clearly than I could, but every possible reading of the signature led me nowhere, even using wildcard searches and as many variations as I could.  I put Lilly aside and figured it was a lost cause.

Gustav Rosenzweig death cert 1

And then? Well, this past weekend I received a call from Harriet, one of Lilly’s nieces.  She not only remembered Lilly well—she remembered the first name of her second husband—Carmen. And she said they had lived in Jersey City. She remembered Lilly fondly and described her as funny and fun-loving, like all the Rosenzweig siblings.

So I now had two more clues.  Lilly had married someone named Carmen, and they had lived in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Armed with just those additional pieces of information, I was able to design a search on FamilySearch using the two first names and the location.  The first result on the results list was a Lilly and Carmen Dorme living in Rutherford, New Jersey in 1940.

Carmen and Lillian Dorme 1940 US census

Carmen and Lillian Dorme 1940 US census


Rutherford was not Jersey City, but it was close by, so I decided to try that surname.  Using Dorme, I was able to search more thoroughly and found that Lilly and Carmen Dorme were already married by 1918 when Carmen  (using Carmine Dormes then) registered for the World War I draft and that they were living in Jersey City.  This had to be my long-missing cousin Lilly.

Carmine Dormes World War I draft registration

Carmine Dormes World War I draft registration


After that, I was also able to find Lilly and Carmen in several Jersey City directories and in the 1930 US census, which revealed that Lilly and Carmen had a child, Louis, who was then sixteen years old.

Dorme family on the 1930 US census

Dorme family on the 1930 US census

Further searching uncovered a Louis Dorme’s entry on the Social Security Death Index, indicating that he was born in New York on May 13, 1913, and had died in 1977.  This was consistent with the age and birthplace for Louis on the 1930 census, so I am reasonably certain that this is the correct person.

I still cannot find the family on the 1920 census, and since they were living in Jersey City both before and after 1920, I assumed that they would have been there then as well.  But although Carmen is listed in both the 1918 and the 1925 Jersey City directories, he is not in the 1922 directory (the intermediate years are not available online).  Harriet thought that Lilly had served as a nurse overseas during World War I, so perhaps that is where the family was located during that period.  I cannot, however, find a military record for Carmen, so I have no way to know for sure where they were during that period.

And although I do know when Louis died (1977) and when Carmen died (1962) from the SSDI, I cannot find Lilly on the SSDI nor can I find any other record of her death.  Harriet does remember Lilly’s death (in fact, Harriet’s mother reported that Lilly’s last words was a request for a corned beef sandwich!), but not the specific year or place.

But I do have one clue, and it goes back to Gustave’s death certificate.  As soon as I saw that Lilly’s married name was Dorme, something clicked in my head.  I went back to look at Gustave’s death certificate, and now it seemed strikingly clear that the informant’s name was L. Dorme.

Lilly as informant

How could I not have seen that or found her before?  I just don’t know.  But now I knew that it was in fact Lilly who signed her father’s death certificate.  And so I know that she was still alive as of October 16, 1944, when Gustave died.  I am sure with a few more clues I will be able to narrow down the year and perhaps find her death record as well.

So in the space of one afternoon with the help of a new cousin, I was able to resolve one of the biggest questions I had remaining about my grandfather’s Rosenzweig first cousins.  Thank you, Harriet!


And the Tree Keeps Growing: A New Rosenzweig Leaf!

Marvin Shea Sundick photo

I am delighted to announce that we have another new addition to the Rosenzweig family tree.  Marvin Shea Sundick was born at 12:05 pm on February 20, 2015.  He weighed 7 lbs. 5 oz. and was 20 inches long.  He is the son of Lauren and Bradley Sundick and the brother of Madeline Sundick.  He is the grandson of Robin and Ronald Sundick and of Ellyn Wolfenson, Mick Belzer and Bob Stein.   Marvin is also the great-grandson of Sandy Wolfenson.

Marvin is named for two people. Marvin (in Hebrew, Moshe) is for Lauren’s maternal grandfather, Marvin Wolfenson, who passed away just a year ago.   Shea was to honor the Shapiro family name (the birth name of Marvin’s maternal grandmother Robin).  In Hebrew, Marvin’s middle name is Yisroel for Robin’s father, Israel Shapiro, Brad’s maternal grandfather and Marvin’s great-grandfather.

On his paternal grandfather’s side, Marvin is also the great-grandson of Mildred (nee Rosenzweig) and Seymour Sundick, the great-great-grandson of Joseph and Sadie Rosenzweig, the great-great-great-grandson of Gustav and Gussie Rosenzweig, and the great-great-great-great-grandson of David and Esther Rosenzweig. (That makes him my third cousin twice removed as David and Esther Rosenzweig were my great-great-grandparents, the parents of my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager.)

Mazel tov to all of his family! And welcome to the family, Marvin!

Thank You, Grandpa, for the Gift of My New Cousins

It was about three years ago that I first started wondering more about my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager.  I knew almost nothing about his life before he came to the US in 1904 from Iasi, Romania.  I didn’t know too much about his life when he got to the US either.  It was my interest in his life in particular that first prompted me to go on and start searching for answers.  I soon hit a wall and gave up, only returning to ancestry a year later and starting my search for my Brotman relatives instead.

Then I returned to my grandfather again, a somewhat more experienced researcher, and this time I had better luck.  In fact, as I have written, I found not only his parents—I found his mother’s siblings Gustav and Tillie and Zusi Rosenzweig, and then I found their children and many of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  I was able to piece together a better picture of my grandfather’s extended family and even figured out how he met my grandmother Gussie, who happened to be living down the street from his Rosenzweig cousins in 1915 on Pacific Street in Brooklyn.

Last night I got to meet some of my Rosenzweig cousins for the very first time.    Four of the great-great-grandchildren of David and Esther Rosenzweig were there—Gerry, Ron, Michael and me.  Gerry, Ron and Michael are all the great-grandsons of Gustave Rosenzweig, the brother of my great-grandmother Ghitla/Gussie Rosenzweig Goldschlager.  Gerry is the grandson of Abraham Rosenzweig, and Michael and Ron are the grandsons of Joe Rosenzweig, the brother of Abraham.

Here is a picture of Abraham, Joe and Jack Rosenzweig:

Abraham Joseph and John (Jack) Rosenzweig

Abraham Joseph and John (Jack) Rosenzweig

And here is a picture of their first cousin Isadore Goldschlager, my grandfather.

Isadore Goldschlager

Isadore Goldschlager

It was a wonderful evening.  Even though many of us had never, ever met before, we quickly connected and found common bonds—all having grown up in greater New York, all enjoying a good laugh, all loving dogs and our grandchildren (not in that order), and all being unable to digest raw onions.  It was a great time, and even if we never knew each other as children, there was definitely a feeling of family.

Here we all are with our spouses.  Thanks to the lovely newlywed couple who not only put up with our noisy conversations, but also graciously offered to take this picture (on about five different smartphones).

Rosenzweig cousins Jan 24 2014

So keep looking for your cousins—you will never know how much joy you can experience.

Looking back:  The Cohen Family from Amsterdam to England to Philadelphia and Washington and beyond


Amsterdam coat of arms

Two months ago I wrote a summary of my perspective on the descendants of Jacob and Sarah Jacobs Cohen and their thirteen children, including my great-grandfather Emanuel Cohen.  I wrote about the way they managed to create a large network of pawnshops that provided support for the generations to come.  Many of the Philadelphia Cohens stayed in the pawnshop business into the 20th century.  The generation that followed, those born in the 20th century, began to move away from the pawn business and from Philadelphia.  Descendants began to go to college and to become professionals.  Today the great-great-grandchildren of Jacob and Sarah live all over the country and are engaged in many, many different fields.  Few of us today can imagine living with twelve siblings over a pawnshop in South Philadelphia.  We can’t fathom the idea of losing child after child to diseases that are now controlled by vaccinations and medicine.  We take for granted the relative luxurious conditions in which we live today.

File:Flag of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.svg

Philadelphia flag


The story of the Cohen family in Washington is much the same in some ways, different in other ways.  Jacob’s brother Moses and his wife Adeline also started out as immigrants in the pawnshop business , first in Baltimore and then Washington.  But unlike Jacob who lived to see his children become adults, Moses Cohen died at age 40 when his younger children were still under ten years old.  Adeline was left to raise those young children on her own as she had likely raised her first born son, Moses Himmel Cohen, on her own until she married Moses Cohen, Sr.  When I look at what those children accomplished and what their children then accomplished, I am in awe of what Adeline was able to do.   For me, the story of the DC Cohens is primarily the story of Adeline Himmel Cohen for it was she, not Moses, who raised the five children who thrived here in the US.  She somehow instilled in those children a drive to overcome the loss of their father, to take risks, to get an education, and to make a living.

Her son Moses, Jr., an immigrant himself, had nine children; his son, Myer, became a lawyer.  To me it is quite remarkable that a first generation American, the son of a Jewish immigrant, was able to go to law school in the late 19th century.  Myer himself went on to raise a large family, including two sons who became doctors and one who became a high ranking official at the United Nations in its early years after World War II.  Moses, Jr.’s other children also lived comfortable lives, working in their own businesses and raising families.  These were first generation Americans who truly worked to find the American dream.

Adeline and Moses, Sr.’s other three children who survived to adulthood, Hart, JM, and Rachel Cohen, all took a big risk and moved, for varying periods of time, to Sioux City, Iowa.  Even their mother Adeline lived out on the prairie for some years.  JM stayed out west, eventually moving to Kansas City; he was able to send his two daughters to college, again something that struck me as remarkable for those times.  His grandchildren were very successful professionally.  Hart, who lost a son to an awful accident, had a more challenging life.  His sister Rachel also had some heartbreak—losing one young child and a granddaughter Adelyn, but she had two grandsons who both appear to have been successful.

Three of the DC Cohen women married three Selinger brothers or cousins.  Their children included doctors, a popular singer, and a daughter who returned to England several generations after her ancestors had left.  The family tree gets quite convoluted when I try to sort out how their descendants are related, both as Cohens and as Selingers.

There were a number of heart-breaking stories to tell about the lives of some of these people, but overall like the Philadelphia Cohens, these were people who endured and survived and generally succeeded in having a good life, at least as far as I can tell.  The DC Cohens, like the Philadelphia Cohens, have descendants living all over the United States and elsewhere and are working in many professions and careers of all types.

flag of Washington, DC

Looking back now at the story of all the Cohens,  all the descendants of Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs, I feel immense respect for my great-great-great grandparents.  They left Amsterdam for England, presumably for better economic opportunities than Amsterdam offered at that time.  In England Hart established himself as a merchant, but perhaps being a Dutch Jew in London was not easy, and so all five of Hart and Rachel’s children came to the US, Lewis, Moses, Jacob, Elizabeth, and Jonas, again presumably for even better opportunities than London had offered them.  Eventually Hart himself came to the US, uprooting himself for a second time to cross the Atlantic as a man already in his seventies so that he could be with his children and his grandchildren.  Rachel unfortunately did not survive to make that last move.

Flag of the City of London.svg

The flag of the City of London

Arriving in the US by 1850 in that early wave of Jewish immigration gave my Cohen ancestors a leg up over the Jewish immigrants who arrived thirty to sixty years later, like my Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig ancestors.  Of course, the Cohens had the advantage of already speaking English, unlike my Yiddish speaking relatives on my mother’s side.  They also had the advantage of arriving at a time when there wre fewer overall immigrants, Jewish immigrants in particular and thus faced less general hostility than the masses of Jewish, Italian, and other immigrants who arrived in the 1890s and early 20th century.  Also, my Cohen relatives may not have been wealthy when they arrived, but Hart and his children already had experience as merchants and were able to establish their own businesses fairly quickly.  Thus, by the time my mother’s ancestors started arriving and settling in the Lower East Side of NYC or in East Harlem, working in sweatshops and struggling to make ends meet, my father’s ancestors were solidly in the middle and upper classes in Philadelphia, Washington, Sioux City, Kansas City, Detroit, and Baltimore.

When I look at these stories together, I see the story of Jewish immigration in America.  I see a first wave of Jews, speaking English, looking American, and living comfortably, facing a second wave who spoke Yiddish, looked old-fashioned, and lived in poverty.  No wonder there was some tension between the two groups.  No wonder they established different synagogues, different communities, different traditions.

A recent study suggests that all Ashkenazi Jews were descended from a small group of about 350 ancestors.  We all must share some DNA to some extent.  We are really all one family.  But we have always divided ourselves and defined our subgroups differently—Orthodox, Conservative, Reform; Galitizianer or Litvak; Sephardic or Ashkenazi; Israeli or American; so on and so forth.  We really cannot afford to do that in today’s world; we never really could.  Today very few of us make distinctions based on whether our ancestors came in 1850 or 1900 because we are all a mix of both and because we have blurred the economic and cultural distinctions that once were so obvious.  But we still have a long way to go to eradicate the divisions among us and to overcome the prejudices that continue to exist regarding those who are different, whether Jewish or non-Jewish.



Whose Clothing Were They Wearing?

I recently posted these two photographs of two of the Strolowitz/Adler sisters, Rebecca (Ray) and Leah.

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

A number of people asked me questions about the photographs.  In particular, people were struck by the fact that two poor immigrant young women were dressed so well and were able to sit for a formal portrait.  The photograph was dated 1918, so Ray and Leah had only been in the US for about ten years.  They were both working as dressmakers.  How could they afford these luxuries like furs and hats and fancy shoes and a studio photograph?

I did some research online but did not find anything that indicated that photographers provided clothing for customers to wear, although there are many references to the props photographers kept in their studios to add interest to the photographs.  There is also this quote from a website that addresses the question of how to determine the date of a particular photograph:

“Your ancestor may have only owned one nice dress or suit that was used for all sorts of occasions. Perhaps they did not own a nice suit of clothing and borrowed one from the photographer.”

I also posted a question to the Tracing the Tribe group on Facebook about these issues and received numerous responses that were very helpful.  One commenter pointed out that since Leah and Ray were dressmakers, it was entirely possible that they made these outfits themselves.  The commenter recalled that her own ancestor was able to create fashionable dresses from older clothing and scraps by copying what she had seen in store windows.  Another commenter made the point that furs may not have been that expensive back then.  There was also discussion of the possibility that the furs and hats were props supplied by the photographer to supplement the clothing that belonged to the customers.  And some commenters believed that photographers did have clothing at their studios for the customers to wear.

As to the question of the cost of having a portrait taken, several people pointed out that having portraits done, regardless of your economic status, was very common.  Immigrants wanted to be able to send photographs back to the old country and to mark their own special occasions.  This website points out that with improved photographic techniques, it was in fact not that expensive to have a formal photograph taken even for a family of limited means.  The early 20th century saw the development of postcard photographs in the size used like the ones of Leah and Ray, and the website states that they were a “cheaper, quicker format for producing prints, made photo portraits available to almost everyone.”

I was also able to locate some information about the photographer.  From the photographs I was able to find his name, Rothman, and address, 186 East 116th Street in New York.  By using the tool for finding an address on a census, I was able to find Isadore Rothman, recent Russian immigrant, residing at 186 East 116th Street.  In 1916, Mr. Rothman was working for a different studio, Mantor Photographic Studio, according to the 1916 New York directory.  So perhaps Rothman was just starting out on his own when Ray and Leah came to have their pictures taken.  They also all lived in the East Harlem neighborhood.

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

Isadore Rothman on the 1920 census

So I don’t know the answer for sure, but it is possible that Leah and Ray made their outfits or borrowed them from the photographer or from someone else or a combination of both.   I guess we will never know.  And it is also possible that these photographs were not that expensive despite their seeming formality and quality.

UPDATE:  I just received this comment from Ava Cohn, an expert in using photographs in genealogical research.  She said, “Photographers did have props that were used in photos. By this time, however, the clothes were usually not part of what was “borrowed” from the photographer. As many have suggested, our Jewish ancestors were tailors in Europe and quite adept at pattern-making and sewing. There were also many companies that produced patterns and sewing one’s own clothes was both a business and a past-time. Studio photos were relatively inexpensive. …  And btw, if you are certain that your photos were taken in 1918, then Ray’s outfit is not the latest fashion. Her skirt length and shape are more typical of the 1916-1917 period.”  You can learn more about Ava Cohn and her services at her website, Sherlock Cohn.

Ray and Leah: Two Beautiful Portraits

When I published the photograph of Ray Strolowitz Adler several days ago, my cousin Jean emailed me to say that she was struck by the similarity between that photograph and one she had sent me months ago of her grandmother Leah Strolowitz Adler, Ray’s younger sister.  Looking at both photographs more carefully, you can see that they were taken at the same studio with Leah and Ray standing in similar poses.  You can definitely see the family resemblance between the two sisters.

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Leah Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

Ray Strolowitz Adler

In rescanning the photo of Leah, Jean took it out of the frame and found this inscription on the back.

back of photo sept 1918 cropped

If both photos were in fact taken at the same time in 1918, this would have been after Ray was married and a few years before Leah married.

I wonder if all the siblings had these portraits done.  Unfortunately, the others may have been lost forever.  It always surprises me when I see studio portraits of the recent immigrants who could not have had a lot of extra money to spend on luxuries, yet so many of them did have these photographs done.  I am so glad they did, and I am so lucky that their descendants were willing to share these two with me.

A Photo Essay: The Strolowitz Adler Family, Joe Louis, and The Resilience of the Human Spirit

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about the Strolowitz Adler line in my family tree since I have been focused on my father’s Cohen line, but I have now completed my research on one other member of the Strolowitz Adler family so am taking a short break from the Cohens in order to report on that research.

Tillie Rosenzweig Strolowitz Adler was my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager’s sister.  Tillie was the aunt who provided a home for my grandfather Isadore Goldschlager and his sister Betty when their father died in 1909.  Tillie had been recently widowed herself after her husband Jacob had died shortly after arriving in NYC from Iasi.  Tillie also outlived two of her sons, Pincus and Isidor, both of whom had died from serious illnesses as young adults.  Her other five children lived to adulthood, but many of them also faced some personal struggles and in some cases tragic deaths.  Only Leah, the youngest child, seemed to lead a long and happy life with a long and happy marriage to Ben Schwartz.

The only one of Tillie’s children I had not yet written about was Rebecca, the fifth child born in 1892 in Iasi.  She was fifteen when she immigrated to the US with her parents and younger brother and sister in December, 1907, and in 1910 and 1915 she was working in a sweatshop as a dressmaker.

I am very fortunate to have this beautiful photograph of Rebecca Strolowitz Adler.  All the photos included in this post were provided by  members of the extended family.

Ray Adler

Rebecca Strolowitz/Ray Adler (undated)

On April 7, 1917, Rebecca, now using the name Ray, married Ben Seamon.

Ray Adler and Ben Seamon marriage certificate

Ray Adler and Ben Seamon marriage certificate

Ben was born in Chicago in 1893.  He enlisted in the US Army in November, 1917, and served during World War I until he was honorably discharged in January, 1919.  Ray and Ben’s first child Jerome was born in June 1919, and as of 1920, Ben was working as a foreman in a dressmaking shop (perhaps this is where he had met Ray?).  By 1925, Ray and Ben had two sons, Jerome born in 1919, and Paul, born in December, 1920, and the family had moved to the Bronx.  Ben was now working as a chauffeur.  Their third son, Harold, was born in October, 1924, and Ben and Ray’s youngest child Thelma was born in 1926.

By 1930, however, Ray was living with her children in the home of her brother David Adler along with his wife Bertha and their daughter Tessie in Manhattan.  Ben, on the other hand, was living in the Bronx with his mother and his brothers Samuel and Mannie Seamon.

Mannie Seamon ran a gym where he trained boxers, and according to the 1930 census, both Manny and Ben were working as managers at the gym at that time.  According to Mannie’s obituary in the NYTimes dated March 26, 1983, in 1937, Mannie was hired as the assistant to the trainer for Joe Louis, the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 until 1949, and in 1942 when that trainer died, Mannie became Joe Louis’ trainer, working in that position until 1951.

Manny Seamon and Joe Louis

Manny Seamon and Joe Louis

Mannie also had trained many other boxers, including Benny Leonard, the World Lightweight Boxing Champion.  According to Ben Seamon’s obituary in the July 25, 1971 NY Times, Ben also had been a boxer and a boxing trainer.

During the Depression, Ray became a patient at the Central Islip State Hospital.  I was not able to find any records for Ray after 1942. Her two youngest children, Thelma and Harold, were admitted to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum (HOA) in Manhattan on June 28, 1935.  Thelma resided there from ages 9 through 15.   Harold was discharged to return to live with his father on February 25, 1940;   Ben was then working as an announcer for boxing and wrestling bouts.  Thelma was discharged from the HOA on July 20, 1941, two months before the HOA closed in Sept. 1941.

Thelma Seamon visited by her cousin Teddy Schwartz

Teddy Schwartz, daughter of Leah Adler Schwartz, visiting her cousin Thelma Seamon around 1944

But it all seemed to work out well for Thelma.  While at the orphanage, she met her future husband, Nathan Letnick, who was also a resident there.  Thelma graduated from high school in 1942.

Thelma Graduation photo 1946

Thelma Seamon graduation photograph 1942

Jerome Seamon married Lillian Wolf on September 22, 1940:

Wedding of Jerome Seamon and Lillian Wolf September 22, 1940

Wedding of Jerome Seamon and Lillian Wolf September 22, 1940

Pictured here are Mannie Seamon (top row, second from left), Harry Seamon (right of Mannie), Paul Seamon (right of Harry).  Thelma is second from the left in the middle row.  In the front row, Ben Seamon is second from the left, then the groom Jerome Seamon, Ben’s mother, and the bride Lillian Wolf Seamon.  The others are relatives and cousins from the Seamon side of the family.

All three of Ben and Ray’s sons and their son-in-law Nathan served overseas during World War II, and Paul received a Purple Heart for his service.  Thelma worked at Western Electric in Manhattan during World War II.

Thelma working at Western Electric during World War II

Thelma working at Western Electric during World War II

Nathan Letnick and Thelma Seamon were married after the war on November 10, 1946.  Here is their wedding photograph with the extended family.

Nathan Letnick and Thelma Seamon's wedding 1946

Nathan Letnick and Thelma Seamon’s wedding 1946

Among those pictured above are the following people, most of whom are referred to in this post:

Back row, far left: Paul Seamon;  Middle row, far left: Jerry Seamon; Front row: Lillian Wolf Seamon (Jerry’s wife); Ben Seamon’s sister, Ida; Nathan Letnick; Thelma Seamon Letnick; Ben Seamon; Ben’s sister Bertha.

Nathan graduated from NYU with degrees in business, thanks to the GI Bill. The four Seamon children, Jerome, Paul, Harold, and Thelma,  eventually moved to Long Island after the war, where all except Harold married and raised families.

Here is a photograph from the wedding of Paul Seamon and Marilyn Tobetsky on August 6, 1949, showing all of Ray and Ben’s children and their spouses as well as Ben:

Wedding of Paul Seamon and Marilyn Tobetsky 1949

Wedding of Paul Seamon and Marilyn Tobetsky 1949

From left to right:  Nathan Letnick, Thelma Seamon Letnick, Ben Seamon, Mae, Paul Seamon, Marilyn Seamon, Jerome Seamon, Lillian Seamon,  and Harold Seamon

As for Ben, I found  a World War II draft registration dated 1942 that indicates that he was employed by the Town Pump in Tullahoma, Tennessee, but was residing with Jerome in the Bronx.  Ben moved to Florida sometime after 1952 and worked at a dog racing track now known as the Mardi Gras Casino.  He died in July, 1971, and is buried at Long Island National Cemetery.

After retirement Nat and Thelma moved to Florida.  They were still married in 2000 when tragically Thelma was killed by an elderly driver who had Alzheimer’s.  Nat died six years later.  Thelma’s daughter told me that one of Thelma’s passions was knitting:  “All her adult life, everyone knew my mother to be knitting something for everyone and anyone having a baby.”

Finally, a more recently dated photograph of Thelma and her brother Paul in 2000.

Thelma & Paul April 8, 2000

The story of Tillie Strolowitz Adler and her children is a story filled with lots of  heartbreak and  hardship but ultimately survival.  They all came as immigrants from Romania to New York City and sought happiness and success, which did not come easily to them.  Although they may have struggled, the generations who followed them found a home here in the US, served their country, and ultimately not only survived but thrived.  These photographs reflect the resilience of the human spirit better than I can ever capture it in words.

Remy Brandon Fischer, Shalev Ezra ben Dov Baer Yaakov v Rivke Gittel



Yesterday just before 4 pm, our family grew again with the birth of our grandson Remy.  He weighed 8 pounds and is 19.5 inches long, and he is beautiful.  His big brother Nate whispered in his ear, “You are going to be my best friend,” bringing us all to tears.  It was a magical, wonderful, perfect day.

Remy is named for five remarkable women from all sides of his family.  Remy is for Rose, his paternal great-grandmother who passed away just a few months ago.  Brandon is for Bea, his other paternal great-grandmother who lived to be 101 years old.  Here they both are, together at Remy’s parents’ wedding in 2006.  They were both strong, independent women, both widowed far too young, but both women who not only survived, but found continuing  joy and fulfillment in their long lives.  I was honored to get to know them both.

Bea and Rose

Bea and Rose

Remy’s Hebrew name is in honor of three women from his mother’s side.  Shalev is for my mother-in-law Sara, Remy’s maternal great-grandmother, who also lived a long life.  She was the matriarch of her family and a strong, sweet, loving and incredibly funny woman who was adored by all her grandchildren, her nieces, nephews, and, of course, her sons and her daughters-in-law.  She raised two truly wonderful men, one of whom I was fortunate enough to marry.


Sara with Maddy and Rebecca

Sara with Maddy and Rebecca

Ezra is for my two aunts.  My father’s sister Eva, who despite contracting MS as a young woman, lived a long and productive life, working until retirement age for the city of Philadelphia, where she was born and lived almost her whole life.  She was another strong and independent woman who had an incredibly large and yet close circle of friends. (Picture to come once I get back to my scanner.)

Ezra is also for my Aunt Elaine, my mother’s sister, our family’s matriarch, who was yet another incredibly strong and loving and smart and funny woman, our family historian.  As my mother remarked this past weekend, we cannot tell a story about her that does not make us laugh and smile.  She, too, was adored by all.

Phil and Elaine

Phil and Elaine

Remy, you have an incredible foundation to start your young life.  May you be blessed to have the strength, the heart, the independence, and the sense of humor that all five of these women had to help get you through what we hope will be a long, healthy and very happy life.



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