July 2021: Scenes of the Outer Cape

I will be taking a break for the first two weeks in August, so I will leave you with some of the highlights of July in Wellfleet. See you soon!

Low tide at Indian Neck Beach:

A hike over Uncle Tim’s Bridge to Cannon Hill

My garden:

My cats:

After the storm:

Long Nook Beach in Truro, the ocean beach we frequented when I was a child:

That’s it for now. See you in August when I will return with stories about a whole new branch of the family tree!

One Thousand Posts

This is the 1000th post I’ve published on this blog. It all started almost eight years ago when my cousin Judy Ruzicka, a Brotman second cousin, suggested that instead of emailing my research discoveries to all the Brotman cousins, I create a blog where people could subscribe and see my research. I had at that time read and followed a few blogs, but had never thought about creating one. Judy did the initial setup on WordPress, and I started to publish. Haltingly at first. Posting one census record or death record and adding a few words.

This was my first post. No commentary or analysis, just an image.

Bessie was Joseph's second wife and mother of five children

Bessie Brod Brotman Moskowitz—the first image I posted back in September 2013

And then it grew. I started realizing that I could tell stories about the relatives I was researching. I could put together narratives, and when I started doing that, I could see where I had holes in my research or where I needed more sources. And suddenly I found that I had more than my Brotman cousins reading along. I had other bloggers reading as well. And I started reading their blogs, and that gave me ideas for my own research and my own writing.

From there I discovered I could share my blog on Facebook and connect with more researchers and learn even more about family history research. The blog became a bigger and bigger part of my life. I at one point was posting three or four times a week and writing posts that were sometimes 3000 words. But I then learned that sometimes too much is too much. People didn’t want to read that much in one day or that often. So I cut my publishing schedule to twice a week and my post lengths to about 1000 words.

Then the best part started to happen. Cousins started to find me through my blog. Someone would Google their grandfather’s name or their great-grandmother’s name and find them mentioned on my blog. They would contact me, and I would learn more about that part of my family—often leading to photographs, letters, documents, and memoirs and memories. The blog itself became a way of advancing my research. Today I have connected with well over 200 living cousins, many because they found my blog.

Joseph Brotman’s headstone, the avatar I use for WordPress and for my blog

So as I post Number 1000, I wanted to stop and recognize and thank all those who have supported this endeavor by reading, commenting, sharing, and finding my blog. From Judy Ruzicka, who started it all, to all the family members, friends, and fellow genealogy and other bloggers who read the blog—whether periodically or regularly—thank you for giving me this platform to share and expand my family history project.

Now—on to post 1001! I will be taking a break to spend some time with my kids, but I’ll be back in a couple of weeks.


Joe and Betty Goldfarb and Their Children: A Close and Loving Family, Part II

When World War II ended, the children of Joe and Betty (Amer) Goldfarb were young adults. Marvin was 22, Francine was 20, and Selma was seventeen. Although these photos aren’t dated, I believe they were probably taken around this time.

Francine, Marvin, and Selma Goldfarb 1940s Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Francine, Joe, and Selma Goldfarb 1940s Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Marvin and Francine Goldfarb 1940s Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

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

Francine was the first of the siblings to marry. On September 15, 1946, she married Irving Shapiro in Brooklyn. Irving was born in Brooklyn on October 2, 1917, to Sam Shapiro and Fanny Lipschitz, both of whom were immigrants from Russia. Sam was a furniture upholsterer.1

Wedding invitation for Francine Goldfarb and Irving Shapiro Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Irving served overseas in France and Germany during World War II and met Francine at a club in 1945 after returning from the war. Irving worked for American Razor Company while also doing furniture upholstery and later worked for E.J. Korvettes, the one-time department store.  They had two children, Stewart and Alyce, the cousin who has so generously shared so many family photographs, including these of her parents Francine and Irving and of her brother and herself.2

Francine Goldfarb and Irving Shapiro. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Stewart Shapiro 1949 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Alyce Shapiro c. 1954 Courtesy of Alyce herself

Betty Amer, Alyce Shapiro, Irving Shapiro, Francine Goldfarb, and Joe Goldfarb c. 1950s Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Selma married next. She married Seymour (“Chippy’) Wolotsky (later changed to Wahl) in November, 1948.3 Seymour was born in New York on April 13, 1923, to Isidore Wolotsky and Ida Yellin; his father was from Russia, his mother from Poland.4 Seymour grew up in Brooklyn and was a musician; his World War II draft registration indicates that in 1942 he was employed by Juilliard, the highly prestigious music and performing arts school in New York.

Seymour Wolotsky, World War II draft registration, Ancestry.com. U.S., World War II Draft Cards Young Men, 1940-1947

Here a photo of Selma and Seymour, known better as Chippy:

Selma Goldfarb and Seymour “Chippy” Wahl. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Alyce told me that her parents lived in the basement of Selma and Seymour’s house in Flushing for a few years before moving to East New York in Brooklyn where Alyce grew up. Seymour and Selma moved to Valley Stream, New York, and had two children. Selma and Seymour later divorced.5

Marvin was the last of the siblings to marry. Alyce told me that he had been quite ill with tuberculosis for an extended time.6 He married Florence (“Florrie”) Glasser in February 1950. Florence, born in 1927, was the daughter of Solomon Glasser and Lillian Schwartz, both of whom immigrated from Russia.7 Marvin and Florence created their own wholesale jewelry design and manufacturing business; according to Alyce, Marvin’s experience in the dental lab gave him the skills to cast jewelry. Marvin and Florrie did not have children.8

Here are Marvin and Florrie on their wedding day:

Florence Glasser and Marvin Goldfarb, 1950
Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Thus, by 1950 all three of Joe and Betty Goldfarb’s children were married, and Joe and Betty had one grandchild. Two more grandchildren were born in the 1950s and one in the early 1960s. Alyce, one of those grandchildren, shared a number of photographs of Joe, Betty, their children and grandchildren during those years:

Joe Goldfarb, Betty Amer, Florence Glasser, and Marvin Goldfarb, c. 1950s
Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Joe Goldfarb, Betty Amer Goldfarb, Alyce Shapiro, Francine Goldfarb Shapiro, Irving Shapiro, c. 1957 Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

This photograph was taken at Stewart’s bar mitzvah in late 1960.

Seymour Wahl and son Steven, Selma Goldfarb Wahl, Joe Goldfarb, Betty Amer Goldfarb, Francine Goldfarb Shapiro, Irving Shapiro, Alyce Shapiro, Stewart Shapiro, Florence Glasser Goldfarb, Marvin Goldfarb, 1960. Courtesy of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt

Alyce shared this sweet memory of her grandfather Joe in addition to her memories of his deliveries of many types of cookies to their home in Brooklyn:9

One of my few memories of actually spending time with grandpa, he would sit on the bench outside of my building and watch me play with my friends. He would always give me nickels to go buy candy at the corner luncheonette. It’s sad I don’t remember much else, but I was young.

Joe Goldfarb died on July 8, 1962, at the age of 64.10 Alyce shared that he had been quite ill for some time with Hodgkins lymphoma.  Her grandmother Betty survived Joe by eleven years; she died in December 1973, when she was 73.11

Alyce has more memories of her grandmother since she lived that much longer, and she shared some of those with me:12

After grandpa passed away, grandma Betty ended up living in the same housing project I did. She lived in a different building and I would walk to her apartment, she and would cook for me. I used to play cards with grandma Betty. She taught me how to play rummy. She also taught me how to knit although I wasn’t great at it. She knitted clothes for my Barbie dolls. Eventually she moved to Florida to be with her sisters and brother. After a while she became too ill to take of herself, so she came back the NY and shared her time living with us, Uncle Marvin, and Aunt Selma. She eventually went to a nursing home in Queens. By that time I was getting married. She was not able to attend the wedding in 1973. She was too ill. We did go see her that night after the wedding was over. She passed away later that year on December 23, 1973.

Joe Goldfarb and his wife Betty Amer were first generation Americans. They grew up with immigrant parents, helping to bridge the gap between the old world and the new. They spent almost all of their adult lives in Brooklyn. As Alyce wrote, the family was not wealthy, but they also were not poor. Joe worked hard to earn a living, spending many years as a salesman for the Sunshine Biscuit Company. He and Betty were adored by their children and grandchildren.

Joe and Betty (Amer) Goldfarb, 1960 Courtesy of their granddaughter Alyce

Joe and Betty (Amer) Goldfarb Courtesy of their granddaughter Alyce

They were survived by their three children and their four grandchildren. Marvin Goldfarb died on February 2, 1988, when he was 64, the same age his father had been when he passed away.13 His wife Florence survived him and may in fact still be living as I have no record of her death. Francine Goldfarb Shapiro died at 73 on August 28, 1998;14 her husband Irving died just a year later on September 18, 1999; he was 81.15 Selma Goldfarb Wahl outlived her older siblings; she was ninety when she died on November 3, 2018.16

I am so grateful to my cousin Alyce who has shared so much with me—her photographs, her memories, and her own family history research. I feel so very blessed that she and I matched on 23andme and that we have not only found each other but that she also helped me connect with our mutual cousins, Ann, Melissa, Kay, and Becky. Now along with Sue, Debi, Lisa, Steve, Mark, Ted, Michelle, Morty, and Lori, as well as all my Brod/Brotman first and second cousins and their children and grandchildren, we have a large family circle of the descendants of Joseph Brod and Gittel Schwartz.  Finally DNA testing has paid off! Perhaps it’s time for a reunion to celebrate our shared roots.

But first—a look at the two youngest Goldfarb siblings, Leo and Rose.

  1. Irving Shapiro, Birth Date: 2 Oct 1917, Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 40520, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965. Samuel Shapiro, National Archives and Records Administration; Washington, DC; NAI Title: Index to Petitions for Naturalizations Filed in Federal, State, and Local Courts in New York City, 1792-1906; NAI Number: 5700802; Record Group Title: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685-2009; Record Group Number: RG 21, Description: Vols 100-105, Certificates 49021-52007 1920-1921, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1794-1943. Family tree of Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt on Ancestry. 
  2. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, May 11, 2021. 
  3. Selma Goldfarb, Marriage License Date: 15 Nov 1948, Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Seymour Wolotsky, License Number: 24028, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018 
  4. Ida Yellin, Marriage License Date: 30 Jul 1917, Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Isidore Walatsky
    License Number: 25402, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Manhattan; Volume Number: 11, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Seymour Wolotsky, 1925 NYS census, New York State Archives; Albany, New York; State Population Census Schedules, 1925; Election District: 42; Assembly District: 02; City: Brooklyn; County: Kings; Page: 86, Ancestry.com. New York, U.S., State Census, 1925 
  5. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, May 11, 2021. 
  6. Ibid. 
  7. Marvin Goldfarb, Marriage License Date: 20 Feb 1950
    Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA
    Spouse: Florence Glasser, License Number: 2728, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Florence Glasser, Birth Date: 27 Jul 1927
    Birth Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 31085, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Birth Index, 1910-1965. Lillian Schwartz
    Gender: Female, Marriage License Date: 3 Dec 1925, Marriage License Place: Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA, Spouse: Solomon Glasser
    License Number: 21501, New York City Municipal Archives; New York, New York; Borough: Brooklyn, Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Marriage License Indexes, 1907-2018. Glasser Family, 1930 US census, Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Page: 21B; Enumeration District: 0773; FHL microfilm: 2341266, Ancestry.com. 1930 United States Federal Census 
  8. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, May 11, 2021. 
  9. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, April 30, 2021. 
  10. Joseph Goldfarb, Birth Date: abt 1897, Death Date: 8 Jul 1962
    Death Place: Manhattan, New York, New York, USA, Certificate Number: 14582,
    Ancestry.com. New York, New York, U.S., Death Index, 1949-1965. Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/77764363/joseph-goldfarb : accessed 24 May 2021), memorial page for Joseph Goldfarb (unknown–8 Jul 1962), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764363, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585). 
  11.  Betty Goldfarb, Social Security Number: 052-52-2394, Birth Date: 5 Jan 1900
    Issue Year: 1973, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 11361, Flushing, Queens, New York, USA, Death Date: Dec 1973, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. Find a Grave, database and images (www.findagrave.com/memorial/77764305/betty-goldfarb : accessed 24 May 2021), memorial page for Betty Goldfarb (unknown–22 Dec 1973), Find a Grave Memorial ID 77764305, citing Mount Hebron Cemetery, Flushing, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Athanatos (contributor 46907585). 
  12. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, April 30, 2021. 
  13.  Marvin Goldfarb, Social Security Number: 089-16-6702, Birth Date: 15 Apr 1923
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Death Date: 2 Feb 1988, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  14.  Francine Shapiro, Social Security Number: 112-18-2207, Birth Date: 29 Jul 1925
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 11961, Ridge, Suffolk, New York, USA, Death Date: 28 Aug 1998, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014. 
  15.  Irving Shapiro, Social Security Number: 051-07-9403, Birth Date: 2 Oct 1917
    Issue Year: Before 1951, Issue State: New York, Last Residence: 11763, Medford, Suffolk, New York, USA, Death Date: 18 Sep 1999, Social Security Administration; Washington D.C., USA; Social Security Death Index, Master File, Ancestry.com. U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 
  16. Email from Alyce Shapiro Kunstadt, May 11, 2021. 

Santa Fe Love Song: A Family History Novel

I am delighted to announce that my newest novel, Santa Fe Love Song, has been published and is available in both paperback and e-book format on Amazon here. Like my first novel, Pacific Street, Santa Fe Love Song was inspired by the lives of real people—in this case, my great-great-grandparents Bernard Seligman and Frances Nusbaum—and informed by my family history research. But as with my first book, Santa Fe Love Song is first and foremost a work of fiction.

Bernard Seligman, my great-great-grandfather

Frances Nusbaum Seligman, my great-great-grandmother

It is a double love story—a story of Bernard’s passion for his newly adopted home in New Mexico and of his deep love for a young woman in Philadelphia. How will he resolve the conflict between those two loves? That is the heart of the novel.

But this is also an adventure story because the first part of the book tells of Bernard’s arrival from Gau-Algesheim, Germany, his adjustment to life in Philadelphia, and then his challenging and exciting trip on the Santa Fe Trail when he moves out west to work with his brother Sigmund. On that trip Bernard faces many different obstacles and learns to love the American landscape. He transforms from a German Jewish immigrant into an American pioneer and businessman.

Upper left, Bernard Seligman with other merchants and Indians on the Santa Fe Trail

As with Pacific Street, I wrote Santa Fe Love Song with my children and grandchildren in mind. This time I also decided to get my grandsons involved in the project. Nate, 10, and Remy, 6, became my illustrators. As I told them stories about Bernard and Frances, they created drawings that told those stories visually. I am ever so grateful to my two wonderful grandsons for their work, and I hope that someday their grandchildren will cherish these books and the illustrations and honor the memories of their ancestors Bernard and Frances.

I hope that you also will find Santa Fe Love Song a worthwhile and enjoyable read. If you do, please leave a review on Amazon. Thank you! I appreciate all your support.

My Goldschmidt Family Project: Looking Back and Looking Forward

With this post, I come to the end of my Goldschmidt research—at least until I get new updates or make new discoveries. I’ve done my best to find whatever records, stories, and photographs exist for Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Reuben Seligmann, my four-times great-grandparents, and their descendants.1

I started blogging about my Goldschmidt relatives a little over three years ago on January 12, 2018, making it the longest of any of my family research projects.  And it’s been such a rich and rewarding journey. I’ve connected with Goldschmidt/Goldsmith cousins in France, England, and all over the United States. Some of those cousins have roots in the US that are as deep as mine—going back to the 1840s when Simon Goldschmidt/Goldsmith arrived or the 1850s when my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein arrived; some are the children of those who were born and raised in Frankfurt, Germany, and were forced to leave their comfortable and successful lives to escape from the Nazis as recently as the 1930s or 1940s.

One thread that runs through so much of the Goldschmidt family is an interest in the arts and literature—whether in writing, as with Milton Goldsmith and Anna Seghers, or an interest in antiquarian books, as with Alfred Goldsmith and Emil Offenbacher, or in music like Florence Goldsmith, or  in creating art like William Sigmund and Martha Loewenthal Wolff, or by working as an art historian and curator like Yvonne Hackenbroch, and, of course, then there are the many, many Goldschmidt family members involved in collecting and dealing in art—from the Goldschmidt brothers Jacob Meier and Selig to Julius Falk Goldschmidt to the Freres Tedesco family and so on.

Alfred Goldsmith self-portrait, Joseph J. Felcone, The Old Book Table. A Record of its First Seventy-Five Years, 1931–2005 (New York: The Old Book Table, 2006), p. 5.

Painting by Martha Loewenthal Wolff

Of course, there were also many merchants, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and scientists in the Goldschmidt clan. But when I think of my father’s artistic ability and his passion for art, architecture, music, and literature, I attribute it to his Goldschmidt DNA. His mother was artistic, and she was the granddaughter of Eva Goldschmidt. My great-uncle Harold Schoenthal, also a grandchild of Eva Goldschmidt, was also an artist and an architect. My daughter is also very artistic, though she did not pursue it as a career. When I see my grandsons drawing, I think, “It must be their Goldschmidt DNA.” I may not be artistic, but I’d like to think that my love of reading and writing comes from that Goldschmidt DNA as well.

The Seventh Cross by Anna Seghers

The Rabbi and The Priest by Milton Goldsmith

After three years of research, it’s hard to boil down in one post all that I have learned. That research has exposed me to so much of American Jewish history and German Jewish history—from the late eighteenth century right up to 2020. The Goldschmidts kept my brain busy during this pandemic time, and they provided me with some truly memorable Zoom calls with cousins.

It has been an amazing experience. I am indebted to so many of my Goldschmidt cousins that I fear if I make a list, I will leave someone out. But thank you to all of you who shared your family’s photographs, letters, memoirs, documents, and stories. I hope that I’ve served our extended family well by recording the stories of their lives for posterity. And please stay in touch! I want to meet as many of you as I can in person someday soon.

Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Madame Stumpf and Her Daughter, 1872. Courtesy of the National Gallery.
Once owned by the Freres Tedesco Gallery, Paris

A work from the Guelph Treasure
Reliquary of the arm of Saint Blaise (Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum, Dankwarderode Castle). User:Brunswyk, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons. Once owned by J&S Goldschmidt

It’s bittersweet to reach this point and know it’s time to move on to the next project. But I’ve gone as far as I can go in the Goldschmidt research—at least for now.  I need to decide what to do next. I’ve been dipping my toes in several ponds to see which one grabs my attention.

Before I reveal where I am going next, however, I need to take a break for a bit to catch my breath and to catch up on the research it will take to start that new project, whatever it may be. But first, I will introduce my new novel. So stay tuned!

  1. I would be remiss in my duties as a family historian if I didn’t mention that in addition to their four sons Meyer, Seligmann, Lehmann, and Simon, whom I’ve studied in depth, my four-times great-grandparents Jacob Falcke Goldschmidt and Eva Seligmann had a daughter Jette Goldschmidt. She married David Gruenwald of Poembsen, Germany, and they had two children. One died as an infant or was stillborn, but the other, Jacob Gruenwald, was born in 1820, lived to adulthood, married Sarah Nethe, and had fourteen children born between 1847 and 1872. All of this information, however, is based purely on a secondary source, a report in the Alex Bernstein Collection at the Leo Baeck Institute. I’ve tried to locate more information about Jette’s descendants, but so far have not succeeded. If the day comes when I can, I will add Jette’s family to the blog. 

Thanksgiving in a Pandemic

I’ve been in a bit of a funk the last week or so. It’s COVID, it’s politics, it’s the weather. November is  hard for me. I hate when the trees lose their leaves, the grass turns brown, the sky turns gray, the temperature drops.

So I am going to take the advice of an old friend and list the top ten things that fill me with gratitude—in no particular order. I find when I focus on the things for which I am grateful, it makes me feel better. So here goes.

  1. I am thankful for my husband and my children and my grandchildren. They are the rocks in my life, the ones who get me from spot to spot, no matter how roiling is the water beneath our feet.
  2. I am thankful for my parents. My father is gone, and my mother is struggling. But they were a constant source of love and support in my life, and I hold all the memories close to my heart.
  3. I am thankful for the rest of my family, including all the cousins I’ve found on this genealogy journey. They all remind me how connected we all are—all humans—regardless of where we grew up or when or how.
  4. I am thankful for my three cats, whose ability to live in the moment and to provide constant companionship, affection, and comfort has been so very important during the last nine months.
  5. I am thankful for my friends—my friends from high school, from college, from law school, and from the community where I have lived since 1983. So many times in the last nine months I have turned to my friends—by Zoom, text, telephone, email. They have made me laugh, they have given me perspective, they have given me strength. I hope I’ve done the same for them.
  6. I am thankful for the genealogy village—those who read my blog, those who help me with my research and with translations, those in the Facebook groups who comment and help answer my questions. Family history research has been one way I’ve escaped from the anxiety of the pandemic. It has given me focus and a distraction and continues to keep my brain working.
  7. I am thankful for the good fortune I have to live in a comfortable house in a wonderful community of neighbors. In the course of our daily walks we’ve gotten to know our neighbors and their dogs and feel so fortunate to live where we live.
  8. I am thankful that I don’t have to worry about where my next meal will come from or whether I will be able to get adequate medical care or whether I will be harassed or injured because of my race. In a time when so much feels dangerous, I’ve learned more than ever to appreciate just how privileged I am.
  9. I am thankful for the beautiful world we live in. We’ve taken walks and hikes in places we never knew about before and in places that we’ve always loved—the beach and the woods, the mountains and the lakes. I learned early on that getting into a quiet place surrounded by nature was often the best thing to do to find solace and calm the noise in my head.
  10. I am thankful for science and for doctors and nurses and all the frontline workers in hospitals and grocery stores and elsewhere who are putting their lives on the line to do everything possible to keep us safe.

That’s my top ten. There are probably hundreds if not thousands more. What are yours?

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Crazy Quilt of Selig Goldschmidt’s Family

As I move on now to the next child of my four-times great-uncle Meyer Goldschmidt, his fifth child and second son Selig Goldschmidt, I admit to some trepidation. I’ve been working on my Goldschmidt line for almost three years now, and Selig has one of the biggest branches.

The overall Goldschmidt clan is so large and so entangled. There are eleven men named Jacob Goldschmidt/Jacob Goldsmith on my tree, six named Meyer Goldschmidt/Goldsmith, six women named Helene/Helena/Helen Goldschmidt/Goldsmith, six named Hedwig Goldschmidt, and nine women named Clementine (including three named Clementine Fuld) within the Goldschmidt family. And then there are all the cousins who married cousins, adding more confusion and twists to the family tree.

And Selig Goldschmidt’s family only adds to all that entanglement. Just a quick overview to give you a sense of what I mean by entanglement. Sources and details to follow.

Selig Goldschmidt married Clementine Fuld. She was the sister of Salomon Fuld, the husband of Selig’s niece Helene Goldschmidt, daughter of Selig’s brother Jacob Meier Goldschmidt.

Salomon Fuld and Helene Goldschmidt’s daughter, also named Clementine Fuld like her aunt, married David Cramer, the son of Jakob Cramer. Selig’s daughter Hedwig Goldschmidt married David Cramer’s brother Hirsch Cramer. And Selig’s son, Meyer Selig Goldschmidt, married Selma Suzette Cramer, a first cousin of Hirsch and David Cramer.

Two of Selig’s other children, Flora and Recha, married men with the surname Schwarzschild. I’ve not yet found records establishing a connection between the two Schwarzschild husbands, but I bet there was one.

Finally, Selig’s youngest and sixth child, Johanna Goldschmidt, married Abraham Stern, the son of Sarah Goldschmidt, Selig’s older sister, or Johanna’s first cousin. Fortunately I’ve already told the story of Johanna and Abraham when I wrote about Sarah Goldschmidt’s family so that particular web has already been untangled. I hope.

But as you can see, of Selig’s six children, one married a first cousin, two married spouses who were related to each other (first cousins), and two may have married spouses who were related in some way. Only Selig’s oldest child, Helene (yes, another Helene Goldschmidt) married someone who seems otherwise unconnected to someone else in the family.

And so, with that introduction to the family of Selig Goldschmidt and Clementine Fuld, I now will turn to this next branch of my Goldschmidt family tree. Once I finish Selig’s branch, there will be only one more Goldschmidt branch to cover, that of Selig’s brother Falk Goldschmidt. His line is also a crazy patchwork of intrafamily marriages, but I’ll address that when I get to that branch of the tree.

Blogging in a Pandemic, Part IV: It’s Getting Too Real

I’ve written a series of posts over the last five or six weeks to record the experience of living through the pandemic, trying to find some good news among all the darkness. Writing them has been therapeutic for me, and from the responses I’ve gotten, I know that they’ve resonated for others. I am, however, finding it harder and harder to find the light in the darkness. But I am trying.

The last two weeks have made it harder because the virus has come to my community with a vengeance. Many people have died, including the mother of one of my dear friends and the sister of another friend. Our local nursing homes have been ravaged, including 21 deaths in the Jewish Nursing Home near us. Other friends have had loved ones become ill with the virus. I live in dread of hearing that my mother or someone in her memory care facility is infected. My anxiety level has increased to the point that most of the things I was finding helpful—long walks, yoga, Zoom sessions—are becoming less effective.

And the rush of some to resume “normal life” even though it means risking more lives, including their own, is infuriating, as are the actions of those who are putting political ambition and money above the health and well-being of people.

But I know we are among the very fortunate ones. We have a safe home, resources to pay for what we need, food in the house and delivery services bringing more as needed, and, so far, our health. We have the support network of our children, our relatives, our friends, and our community. We have each other. I am always mindful of that.

My three cats are a real source of comfort; they are oblivious to what’s going on outside, and they only care that we are here to feed them and to pet them. They cuddle up next to me day and night and give me some peace.

And little things make me smile. Our neighbors drawing hearts on all the driveways and leaving painted stones on all the doorsteps and paper flowers taped to our windows.

The discovery of more places to walk where we can avoid close contact with people and enjoy the quiet of nature continues to be soothing.

The weekly Shabbat Shalom zooms with family are a needed break from the constant talk of COVID19. Who cannot smile when a five-year-old wants to play Twenty Questions by Zoom?

This week my younger daughter was celebrated by her friends on what would have been Marathon Monday with cards and posters and a bottle of champagne. I can’t tell you how much that meant to her and to us.

There is so much love out there, and the best of human nature can outshine the darkness of illness, death, and the suffering of so many.

One small example from my genealogical activities. While all this has been going on, I’ve connected with a few more cousins who found me through my blog. I think people stuck at home are turning to family history for consolation and also are uncovering photographs and letters that were buried in boxes or trunks in their attics and basements.

One of these cousins sent me scans of some photographs of my Benedict cousins, including this terribly torn photograph of Hannah Goldsmith Benedict, the first cousin of my great-grandfather Isadore Schoenthal:

I was thrilled to receive this photograph—a definite moment of joy. But heartbroken that Hannah’s photo was so damaged. Could it be repaired, I wondered?

I posted it in the Free Photo Restoration group on Facebook, and when I woke up the next morning, three group members had posted repaired versions. Aren’t they amazing?

These people obviously spent a great deal of time fixing this photograph and asked for nothing in return. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. It made me smile, and it reminded me once again that most people are kind and good and generous and loving.

I need to keep all these reminders in front of me as things outside get scarier and scarier.

Passover During A Pandemic

Every year for as far back as I can remember, my family has gathered for Passover. In my childhood, we had seders at my aunt and uncle’s house with my cousins Jody and Jeff. Then we all started doing a second seder together at our house. Every year, no matter what else was happening, we had seders. They were wild and chaotic and so much fun. Passover was my favorite holiday and was my first introduction to Jewish culture, history, and religion.

Once I married, the tradition shifted, but nevertheless, every year we had seders, one with my family at my parents’ house, one with my husband’s family either in New Jersey or the Bronx or later in Newton. They were all wild and chaotic and a great deal of fun.

Then we had grandchildren, and we began hosting one of the seders at our house, relieving my mother of the burdens of preparing the seder. We love hosting the seder, although the craziness beforehand and during makes me appreciate what all those who had hosted in the past were experiencing. Trying to convert our house to Passover dishes and pots and pans while also cooking some food ahead of time, renting tables and table cloths to accommodate the crowd, and then attempting to participate in the seder while also warming and serving food was a logistical challenge.

Passover 2019

But seeing my family gathered together around our table made it all more than worthwhile.

My dad and Remy, Passover 2016

Harvey and Nate

So here we were, facing Passover during the social distancing brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. How were we going to celebrate without being together? Would this be the first year ever in my memory that I would not be going to a seder? The thought saddened me, as I know it did for Jews all over the world.

Fortunately, my nine-year-old grandson Nate presented us with a challenge and an idea. Could we do a virtual seder using Zoom, the platform his school was using for remote learning? We spent some time learning how to use Zoom and thinking of how we could do this.

We scanned the Haggadah my family has used forever (The Haggadah for the American Family—mostly in English and accessible to all) and figured out who would read which parts. We added back in the handwashing we usually overlook. Nate and Remy practiced the four questions. Then we distributed a PDF of the scanned Haggadah to all who would be attending with their parts designated in the margins. As a final touch, Nate filmed himself doing an introduction and explanation of how things would work, and I emailed it all to everyone along with a Zoom invitation.

Nevertheless, the day of the first seder, I was feeling a bit blue. Sure, I had a lot less work to do, but that made me feel a bit at loose ends. Was it really Passover? I set the table for two with our seder plate filled with the usual ingredients, our cups for Elijah and for Miriam, our matzah holder, and salt water for the parsley.  It looked empty. We even put on nicer clothes than what we’ve been wearing since self-quarantining to make the day feel special. And then we waited for our guests to arrive in the Zoom waiting room.

Our seder table 2020 (before the seder plate was filled)

And they all showed up on time, ready to go. After chatting a bit and saying hello, our grandson Remy, only five, asked if we could have a virtual group hug. Can you imagine how happy that made me? We all reached out our arms to each other. What an amazing insight for a five-year-old—to recognize that we all needed that embrace, even if it was only across the internet.

I asked if everyone had a seder plate, and sure enough, everyone had made the effort to put together as best they could a plate with charoset (or an apple), moror, an egg, a shankbone (or a plastic sheep), and parsley or some other green. It was so uplifting, seeing that everyone had made the effort to make this a real Passover. Here are a few examples; you can see the creativity involved.

In fact, my younger daughter Maddy went all out and made chicken soup and matzoh balls, something she had never cooked before, and it looked amazing. My older daughter Rebecca made homemade macaroons. Everyone cared enough to do whatever they could to honor our holiday and our traditions. Suddenly it felt like this was really Passover.

Once we started the seder, it was almost as if we were all in the same room. Nate and my husband shared the responsibilities of being the leader, an honor Nate had certainly earned by virtue of his efforts and creativity in getting the seder organized. We went through our Haggadah as we usually do, adding a few extra comments appropriate to the situation—talking about the need for handwashing, adding an eleventh plague for COVID19, and recognizing the current meaning of the lesson that the wise child is the one who works for the benefit of all humankind, not just for him or herself.

Nate and Remy did a beautiful reading of the four questions, first in English and then in Hebrew. Then I read something our rabbi had written, describing how this Passover is different from all other Passovers and making us all think about our gratitude to those on the front lines of this pandemic—the medical personnel, those working at grocery stores and drug stores, the delivery people, the police and fire and other emergency personnel. Her words also gave us hope that as with our ancestors in ancient times, we would pull through and get out of this contemporary time of captivity.

And then we shared our dinners together, gefilte fish, soup, or whatever we each had prepared for that evening. Nate and Remy searched for the afikomen in their own home, and we sang for Elijah, but didn’t let anyone else inside. We pulled out whatever we had for dessert, and then we said good night.

Of course, it wasn’t the same as being together. Zoom makes it hard to have individual conversations or any real extended conversations that aren’t interrupted by the chatter of everyone else. And there are no hugs and kisses to say hello and goodbye.  But we had celebrated Passover. We had been together. We had remembered our own family traditions as well as the traditions of Jews everywhere around the world and throughout all time. We had had a seder.

Next year we hope we will be together in one space. But maybe this year’s seder will be the one we will always remember best. Because we all cared enough to make it real, to feel the connection to each other, and to appreciate what our traditions have taught us about hope and freedom and gratitude.

Blogging in a Pandemic, Part II

As we enter our third or really our fourth week of social distancing, self-quarantine, or whatever else you want to call it (no closer than six feet from anyone but each other, washing our hands religiously, no restaurants, no stores except when we can’t get delivery of groceries, and so on), I have to say that this week things suddenly seem much harder and much sadder. But we are still fortunately feeling fine despite having flown twice in March, and we feel very, very relieved, and are so grateful to be home.

And we also feel very grateful that so far our families are also okay and our friends. I almost am afraid to write that for fear of tempting the corona gods. But I know that magical thinking is just superstition. We all just have to keep staying apart, staying safe, and staying home. The anxiety sometimes feels unbearable, but my mantra has always been and continues to be—one day at a time.

We’ve taken some wonderful walks in places nearby, a few of which we’d never been to before. And we’ve taken many walks in our neighborhood, chatting with neighbors from at least six feet apart, and feeling a sense of community and warmth that can be overlooked when we all just drive in and out of our garages.

I’ve cleared out a drawer filled with expired medicines and other products, organized our “junk” drawer, and discovered dust in places you cannot imagine. Every day I try to think of at least one small project to accomplish, even if it is simply remembering to mail a check.

I’ve also started to accept that I will never do some of the things the internet keeps throwing at us: free courses online, free tours of museums and national parks, free videos of exercise classes, and so on. I just can’t focus long enough to do those things. Fortunately, doing genealogy in shorter spurts than usual and writing my blog still provide me with a way to escape from the pandemic pandemonium.

Now we are preparing for a Zoom seder. The planning has given me an opportunity to work with my nine-year-old grandson on that project. In fact, we’ve had more contact with our kids and grandsons during these weeks than we usually do, though not in person. I am reading the wonderful book Hatchet by Gary Paulsen with the older grandson and playing chess online with the younger one. And we’ve had Zoom cocktail hours with friends and with family. So it’s not all bad.

What really prompted me to write this particular post was one of those little benefits I’ve gotten from people spending all this time at home. My brother, who also has been spending more time at home than usual (but who is still working since he is a doctor), was going through a box of papers and photographs that had been my father’s and discovered this photograph.

I know this is not great quality (and my brother’s scan of it does not help). But I am so excited by this photograph. Let me explain why.

This is a photograph of my father as a baby being held by his father with my aunt sitting on her father’s left. My father had written the ages in the margins, and although he had not written the names, it was easy to deduce the identities from the relative ages and the facial characteristics using other photographs of my grandfather, of my aunt as a young child, and even of my father as a baby.

Eva Schoenthal and John Cohen, Sr. 1923

My aunt Eva Hilda Cohen and my grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen, c. 1925

My grandmother and my father, c. 1927

But what made this so special is that I had never seen a photograph of my grandfather with his children. All the photographs I had of him were either of him alone or with my grandmother. So seeing this photograph was really touching. Look at how he is looking at his son. There is such joy and love on his face.

It was especially touching because I knew that my father had had very few years living with his father before my grandfather became disabled from multiple sclerosis and was ultimately institutionalized for the rest of his life.  He died long before I was born, and for most of my life I knew almost nothing about him. I didn’t ask when I was young because my father seemed to be reluctant to talk about him. I didn’t know if that was out of sadness or anger or indifference. But I didn’t want to upset him either way.

One of the gifts of doing genealogy and talking to my father in the five or six years before he died in February 2019 was that he finally did talk a bit about his father. And in doing so, I realized that even though he had not spent many years living with his father, my father had loved him. His reluctance to talk about him was due to pain and sadness, not anger or indifference.

The fact that my father saved this photograph and hid it away in a box we never saw before is telling. This must have been a photograph he cherished, something special that he didn’t want mixed in with the hundreds of other photographs he had taken over the years of vacations and friends and family. I am so glad that my brother discovered it and that he shared it with me. It gave me new insights into my father and his father.

Have you discovered any wonderful photographs or other treasures while staying at home? Have you always planned to label and/or scan your family photographs? Maybe now is a good time.