Who was Sarah Goldfarb? The Plot Thickens

My search for answers as to how Sarah Goldfarb was related to my grandmother’s family had thus far led me to conflicting evidence.  Three of her children had listed her birth name as a version of Brotman on their marriage records, and the death record of her daughter Gussie also listed Sarah’s birth name as Brotman. Brotman, of course, was my great-grandfather Joseph’s surname.


Two records, however, indicated that her birth name might have been Brod.  The birth record of her daughter Rosie in 1902 indicated that her birth name was something different—Braud, which appeared to be a phonetic equivalent to Brod. Brod or Brot was what I believed was the birth name of my great-grandmother Bessie.  And the marriage record of Sarah’s son Morris in 1919 reported Sarah’s birth name to have been Brod.


So was Sarah a sister of Joseph or a sister of Bessie? Since she had named one child Bessie and one Joseph, the naming patterns weren’t helpful and were in fact bewildering.  Was neither Joseph nor Bessie her sibling?

And their residences in the US also presented confusing evidence.  Sarah first had lived near the Brotmans, who settled in Pittsgrove, New Jersey; then she and Sam had moved across the street from my great-grandmother Bessie after Joseph Brotman died in 1901.  Had Sarah moved to help her sister? Or her sister-in-law? Nothing was definitive.

As I indicated in my last post, a great-grandchild of Sam and Sarah Goldfarb, my cousin Sue, sent me extensive family history notes that someone in her extended family had compiled back in the 1980s.  I will refer to these materials as the “Goldfarb family research.” There were no original documents in these papers, but rather handwritten charts and notes that someone had recorded based on the research he or she had done.

I scoured those notes looking for additional clues.  Most of the information about Sam and Sarah Goldfarb confirmed what I’d already found.  There was also a lot of information about Sam Goldfarb’s siblings and their families and descendants.  Although these were not my genetic relatives, I nevertheless added them to my family tree and looked at the notes carefully, thinking that this information might also lead me to clues about my own relatives. Most importantly, the genealogist who compiled the Goldfarb family research agreed with my conclusion that the Sam and Sarah had come from Grebow, Poland, the same town I had visited in 2015 and the town that my great-uncles David and Abraham Brotman had listed as their home on their ship manifest in 1889.  That was reassuring.

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889

David and Abe Brodmann on the Portia 1889 Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13156

Perhaps the most useful part of the Goldfarb family research were the notes that reflected more recent marriages and births and deaths than I had yet located and the names of descendants and their spouses. For example, although I had been able to find information that indicated that Joseph Goldfarb, Sam and Sarah’s fifth child, had married a woman named Rebecca “Betty” Amer, I did not know when or where they had married. According to the Goldfarb family research, Joe and Betty had married on September 17, 1922, in Brooklyn.  But I cannot find any entry in the NYC marriage index on either Ancestry or FamilySearch or through Steve Morse’s website to confirm that.

Since their first child Marvin was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1923, I thought that perhaps Joe and Betty had married in New Jersey, not Brooklyn.  I asked my researcher in New Jersey whether she could find a marriage record for them in New Jersey, but after a diligent search, she was unable to find a marriage record there either. Perhaps Joe and Betty never filed a marriage certificate?

Meanwhile, I continued searching for the Goldfarbs going forward from 1920 where I’d left off.  In 1925, Sam and Sarah were still living on Williams Avenue in Brooklyn with their daughter Rose, who was now 22.  Sam (listed here as Solomon) was no longer working.  Living at the same address were Sam and Sarah’s son Morris and his family; Morris was a grocery store owner.

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

Sam and Sarah Goldfarb 1920 US census
Year: 1920; Census Place: Brooklyn Assembly District 2, Kings, New York; Roll: T625_1146; Page: 9A; Enumeration District: 82; Image: 21

In 1925, Julius and Ida Goldfarb were living in Jersey City, according to the Jersey City directory for that year.  Listed right above Julius is a Joseph Goldfarb, and listed right below him is a Leo Goldfarb.  Although I could not be sure, I assumed that these were Julius’ brothers Joe and Leo (especially since Leo was not living with his parents in Brooklyn according to the 1925 NY census).

Jersey City directory 1925 Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

Jersey City directory 1925
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory

That was then confirmed when I searched for their sister Bessie (Goldfarb) and her husband Meyer Malzberg.  I had not been able to find them on the 1920 US census nor on the 1925 NY census, but when I saw that their child Burton was born in 1923 in Jersey City, I decided to check that 1925 Jersey City directory for the Malzberg family.  Sure enough, there they were living at 247 Montgomery Street in Jersey City, the same address listed for Leo Goldfarb.  So in 1925, four of Sam and Sarah’s six surviving children were living in Jersey City; only Rose and Morris were still living in Brooklyn.

1925 Jersey City directory Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

1925 Jersey City directory
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011.
Original data: Original sources vary according to directory.

Then on October 4, 1926, Sam (Solomon) Goldfarb died at age seventy.  I ordered a copy of his death certificate:


Sam had died from heart disease.  His father’s name was Julius; obviously, Sam and Sarah had named their firstborn son for Sam’s father.

But the one item that made me stop when I obtained this record was Sam’s birthplace: “Tarnobjek, Austria.”  I knew this must have been Tarnobrzeg—the very town I had visited in 2015, the place also known as Dzikow, the place I had long assumed was the home of my great-grandparents, Bessie Brod and Joseph Brotman, and that is only a few miles from Grebow.  Here was one more piece of the puzzle helping me corroborate that Tarnobrzeg and its immediate environs was where my great-grandparents had lived before emigrating from Galicia.

After Sam died, Sarah continued to live on Williams Avenue with her daughter Rose, and by 1930 her son Leo had moved back there as well.  He was working as real estate salesman. Morris was also still living on Williams Avenue, though now in a different building down the block; he was still the owner of a grocery store.

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census

Sarah Goldfarb 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Brooklyn, Kings, New York; Roll: 1493; Page: 7A; Enumeration District: 1220; Image: 15.0; FHL microfilm: 2341228

Julius and Joe Goldfarb and their families were still living in Jersey City in 1930; Julius was the owner of a real estate business, and Joe was working as a salesman for a biscuit company.  Bessie was also living in New Jersey in North Bergen where her husband Meyer Malzberg owned a delicatessen.

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45 Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Julius Goldfarb and family 1930 US census, lines 40-45
Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1352; Page: 29A; Enumeration District: 0075; Image: 209.0; FHL microfilm: 2341087

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census

Bessie Goldfarb and Meyer Malzberg 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: North Bergen, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1358; Page: 20A; Enumeration District: 0351; Image: 859.0; FHL microfilm: 2341093

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census

Joseph Goldfarb and family 1930 US census Year: 1930; Census Place: Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey; Roll: 1355; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 0152; Image: 753.0; FHL microfilm: 2341090

Sarah Goldfarb, like her husband Sam, died when she was seventy years old; she died on July 2, 1937.  Her death certificate was the most important and the most revealing of all the vital records I ordered for the Goldfarb family:

goldfarb-sarah-death-page-1 goldfarb-sarah-death-page-2-resized

Her son Joseph, the informant on the death certificate, reported that Sarah, who died from hypertension complicated by diabetes, was the daughter of Joseph Brod and Gittel Schwartz. I stared at this record for many minutes.  This was a huge revelation.

Joseph is the same name listed on my great-grandmother Bessie’s death certificate as the name of her father.  That certificate had named her mother as Bessie Broat, but I was and remain convinced that the informant, Bessie’s bereaved second husband Philip Moskowitz, was confused and thought he’d been asked for Bessie’s maiden name, not her mother’s maiden name.  Notice also that Bessie, like Sarah, suffered from diabetes.

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

Bessie Brotman Moskowitz

In addition, on Bessie’s marriage certificate from her marriage to Philip, she had given her father’s name as Josef Brotman and her mother’s as Gitel Brotman.

bessie philip marriage certificate

Things were starting to make more sense—to some degree.  It was starting to look like Sarah Goldfarb was my great-grandmother’s sister, not my great-grandfather’s sister.  Sarah and Bessie both had parents named Joseph and Gittel.  They both had suffered from diabetes. They both had daughters named Gussie or Gittel.

The naming patterns are fascinating.  In Eastern Europe, Ashkenazi Jews followed certain traditions in naming their children.  First, a child was to be named for a deceased relative, not a living relative.  Second, although there were no strict rules, generally children were named for the closest deceased relative—a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, and so on.

Sam and Sarah named their first son Julius for Sam’s father; their second son Morris was not named for Sarah’s father Joseph, suggesting that Joseph Brod was still alive when Morris was born.  But when her third son was born in 1897, she did name him Joseph, presumably for her father, who must have by that time died. That would mean that my presumed great-great-grandfather Joseph Brod died between 1886 and 1897.

The same rules would generally apply to the naming of daughters. Sam and Sarah named their first daughter Gittel, presumably for Sarah and Bessie’s mother Gittel Schwartz Brod.  Gittel (Gussie) Goldfarb was born in 1890, suggesting that Sarah and Bessie’s mother was deceased by then. My great-grandmother Bessie named her first daughter Tillie in 1884, which might indicate that her mother Gittel was still alive.  But when she had my grandmother in 1895, her second daughter, she named her Gittel, presumably for her mother. Thus, Gittel Schwartz, my presumed great-great-grandmother, must have died between 1884 when Tillie was born and 1890 when Gittel Goldfarb was born.

So at first I thought I had solved the mystery and thought that Sarah had to have been Bessie’s sister.  But then things started getting murky again.  Why did some records refer to Sarah’s birth name as Brotman, some as Brod? Why did records sometimes refer to Bessie’s birth name as Brot or Brod, sometimes as Brotman? What the heck did this all mean? Were these really two versions of the same name?

And then I recalled that the ship manifest that I had assumed was possibly the one listing my great-grandfather used the name Yossel Brod.  I wasn’t sure this was in fact my great-grandfather, but if it was, why was he using the name Brod, not Brotman?

Joseph Brotman ship manifest

Yossel Brod on ship manifest Staatsarchiv Hamburg; Hamburg, Deutschland; Hamburger Passagierlisten; Microfilm No.: S_13155

I know that family lore says that my great-grandparents, Joseph Brotman and Bessie Brod, were cousins.  I know also that sometimes children in Eastern Europe used their mother’s names as surnames, not their father’s names.  Could Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather, have been the son of a woman named Brod who was a sibling of the Joseph Brod who fathered Sarah and Bessie? Or was it the other way around? I have no record for Joseph Brotman’s mother’s name aside from the reference on his death certificate to “Yetta.” Moses Brotman’s death certificate lists his mother as Sadie Burstein.  Neither helps me here at all. And I’ve no idea how accurate either is anyway.

Unfortunately, the Goldfarb family research papers did not shed any further light on this question either, but merely contained the same information I’d found on the actual records about Sam and Sarah.

What am I to make of this? I have asked one of the Goldfarb descendants to take a DNA test, but given my experiences with DNA testing, I don’t hold out hope for much clarity from the results. But it’s worth a try.  If anyone else has any ideas or reactions, please let me know your thoughts.

The big question remains: was Sarah Brot(man) Goldfarb a sibling of my great-grandmother Bessie? Or a sibling of my great-grandfather Joseph? What do you think?

And perhaps even more importantly, are Brod/Brot/Brodman/Brothman/Brotman all really the same surname?

But the story continues when I turned to the question of … who was Taube Hecht? And it gets even better.




Another Writer in the Family: Alan Baer Green

In many ways the life of my cousin Josephine Baer parallels that of her sister Amanda.  As I wrote here, Josephine Baer married Morris Alon Green in January, 1906.  Their son Alan Baer Green was born less than eleven months later.  They were living in Pittsburgh.  In 1918 Morris was an executive with the Crucible Steel Company in Pittsburgh.  In 1925, they were living in New York City, and Morris was working as a manager.  In 1930, they were still living in New York, and Morris listed his occupation as “financial.”  Their son Alan was working in advertising.

In 1931, Alan married Gladys Bun, and they had three sons in the late 1930s.  Although Alan continued to work in the advertising field, like his first cousin Justin Baer Herman, he also became a successful writer.  As reported in his obituary, Alan wrote “Love on the Run,” which became a movie starring Clark Gable and Joan Crawford in 1936.  It is a screwball comedy about two competing newspaper reporters covering the wedding of a socialite.

Love on the Run poster

He also wrote several other books during the 1930s, primarily mysteries, sometimes written under the pseudonym Roger Denbie (co-written with Julian Paul Brodie), sometimes as Glen Burne (co-written with his wife Gladys).

Alan’s parents are listed in the 1938 directory for Los Angeles, so I thought perhaps they had all moved out to Hollywood, but Alan himself is not listed in that directory.  And by 1940, all three were listed as living in New York City in the census.

Josephine Baer and Morris Green 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2655; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 31-1349

Josephine Baer and Morris Green 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2655; Page: 13B; Enumeration District: 31-1349

On the 1940 census, Morris and Josephine were living on East 77th Street, and Morris was retired.  Alan and Gladys and their three sons, ages 2, 1, and eleven months, were living on East 86th Street. They had two nurses living with them.  Alan listed his occupations as “author” and “advertising.”

Alan Baer Green and family 1940 US census Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2658; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 31-1454

Alan Baer Green and family 1940 US census
Year: 1940; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Roll: T627_2658; Page: 61B; Enumeration District: 31-1454

During World War II, Alan served on the War Writers Board, a privately established organization that worked with the government to create propaganda to promote the war effort.  The US Holocaust Museum had this information about the War Writers Board:

Two days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Morgenthau, Jr., proposed organizing the nation’s writers as civilians “under arms” to promote the war effort. A month later, a group of prominent American authors formed the Writers’ War Board, a private association partially supported by government subsidy. The board coordinated more than 2,000 writers in diverse activities including slogans, poster contests, syndicated articles, poems, radio plays, dramatic skits, government publications, books, advertisements, and war propaganda. In May 1942 and 1943, the board sponsored anniversary observances of the Nazi book burnings to keep alive the connection between the destruction of books and the consequences of intolerance.

Alan and Gladys had moved to Westport, Connecticut, by 1943, where they would live for more than thirty years.  After the war Alan was a founder of the Writers Board for World Government, an outgrowth of the War Writers Board formed to promote peace through a “world federation” of all nations.

In 1950, Alan won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for his book, What A Body, which was selected as the best first mystery novel of that year. [1] It is a murder mystery involving a police officer who falls for the niece of the murder victim.

What a Body by Alan Baer Green

On December 9, 1954, Morris Green died at age 79 in Atlantic City, where he and Josephine were then living.  A year later Josephine established a scholarship in his name at the University of Pittsburgh; as reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, although Morris himself did not have much formal education, he “was always devoted to the higher ideals of higher education.”

Morris Green scholarship


At some point after Morris’ death, Josephine moved closer to her son Alan in Connecticut.  Alan continued to write.  One of his best known books, Mother of Her Country, was published in 1973. It was subtitled, “A Comic Novel about Pornography and Censorship.” Kirkus Review wrote the following about it:

A clean joke about porn which doesn’t run to more than one line but tells you something about publishing in general (Mr. Green was around in it for quite some time) and censorship and those not too fine distinctions to be made between words whether they appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary or Macbeth. Laura Conroy, a vestal virgin from the Midwest comes to New York to get a job in the book business which she does — with a small press — to the consternation of her mother who is the Carry Amelia Nation of something called the Americans for Clean Entertainment. There’s a court case and a tacked on coda re a rediscovered journal as to where George Washington might really have slept but the story’s not really much more than a stretcher to fill the space between brou and haha — however cheerful and sensible its reprimand.

Mother of Her Country by Alan Green

Two years later, Alan Baer Green died on March 10, 1975.  He was 68 years old.  He was survived not only by his wife and three sons, but also by his mother Josephine, who was almost 97 years old. Alan Baer Green obit NYTimes March 11 1975-page-001


Josephine died in August, 1975, less than six months after the death of her son.

So how did Josephine’s life parallel that of her sister Amanda? No, she didn’t marry her sister’s widower and raise two nephews.  But like Amanda, she raised a son who grew up to be a successful writer.  Like Amanda, she survived her husband by many years, 28 for Amanda, 21 for Josephine.  Like Amanda, she lived a long life.  Amanda was 89 when she died, Josephine was 97.



[1] I am not sure how he qualified for this as it seems he had already written and published several mystery novels by that time, but perhaps those didn’t count for some reason.

All Things Considered, I’d Rather Be in Philadelphia

W.C. Fields, who was born in Philadelphia, used to make fun of his birthplace as a staid and boring place by threatening to have the line, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia,” as the epitaph on his gravestone.  (Apparently, that threat was never carried out.)  Philadelphia has often been overshadowed by New York to its north and by Washington to its south.  I remember traveling to Philadelphia to visit my relatives when I was a child, my siblings and I fidgeting in the back seat of the car as my father fought through the traffic on the ugly New Jersey Turnpike.

English: W.C. Fields

English: W.C. Fields (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My grandmother Eva Cohen and her second husband Frank Crocker lived in what I remember as a small apartment in Philadelphia, and somehow it was always hot and humid whenever we visited.  I was only nine when my grandmother died, so my memories are somewhat vague, but I do remember watching a baseball game with Poppy Frank, as we called him, discussing the merits of Sandy Koufax versus Don Drysdale (the Phillies were obviously playing the Dodgers that particular visit).  We would sit and visit for a while, have lunch or dinner, and then pile back in the car, suffer through the Jersey Turnpike again, fidgeting and bickering in the backseat.  So I guess I could relate to W.C. Fields’ sentiments about his hometown.  Somehow I associated Philadelphia with long car rides, being tortured by my siblings, and hot, humid weather.  I wish I could remember more about my grandmother, but as a child, I was focused on childish things. Well, and baseball.  As I wrote before, I remember her as beautiful, reserved, and very dignified, a true gentle-woman in both senses of the word.

So given my somewhat skewed views of the City of Brotherly Love, I did wonder why my Cohen relatives (and in fact all of my father’s lines) ended up in Philadelphia.  They sailed into New York City—why did they leave the Greatest City in the World to go to its poor stepsibling to the south? I asked my father, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, this question the other day, and he said something about William Penn and how Philadelphia was a Quaker city and probably more tolerant of Jews.

I decided to do some research to answer a couple of questions: What was Philadelphia like for Jews in the 1840s and 1850s when the Cohens arrived? Where did they live in the city, and what were the socioeconomic conditions like in those areas? What drew them there instead of New York or some other American city?

I found a wonderful resource, a book by Robert P. Swierenga, a historian who has published several books about the Dutch in the United States.  The book I relied on is titled The Forerunners: Dutch Jewry in the North American Diaspora (Wayne State University Press 1994), and in it Swierenga traced the immigration of Dutch Jews to America and their settlements in several US cities, including Philadelphia.  I read the chapter on Philadelphia and learned not only about the Dutch Jews who settled there, but more generally about the history of Jews in Philadelphia.  After reading this chapter, I better understand why the Cohen family decided to settle there.

Philadelphia had one of the earliest Jewish communities in the United States.  In 1776 it had the third largest Jewish population of American cities, after New York and Charleston; there were 300 Jews living in Philadelphia at that time.  That number grew to 200 families by 1778 as Jews sought refuge there during the Revolutionary War.  The population was largely Sephardic, and the first synagogue was formed in 1782, Congregation Mikveh Israel, an Orthodox Sephardic synagogue.  Once the war ended, however, many of the Jews returned to their prior homes, and by 1790 there were only 25 Jewish families or about 150 people.  (Swierenga, pp. 118-119)

English: Former home of Mikveh Israel Synagogu...

Former home of Mikveh Israel Synagogue

There was a growing number of non-Sephardic Jews settling in Philadelphia after the Revolution, however, as immigrants from Germany, Poland and the Netherlands began to arrive, and in 1790 these people formed a new synagogue, Rodeph Shalom, which would adhere to Ashkenazi practices.  Rodeph Shalom was the first Ashkenazi synagogue in North America, and most of its first congregants were Dutch.  (Swierenga, pp. 119-120)

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since Augu...

Rodeph Shalom Synagogue on the NRHP since August 7, 2007. At 607–615 North Broad St., in the Poplar neighborhood of Philadelphia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Jewish population really started to grow in the early 19th century.  In 1820, there were 450 Jews in Philadelphia; in 1830 there were 730.  By 1840, there were 1500, and then there was a huge surge to 6000 by 1850 and to 10,000 by 1860.  This, of course, was the period my Cohen relatives began to arrive in Philadelphia—between about 1848 and 1851.  In fact, according to Swierenga, a substantial number of these Jewish immigrants were Dutch Jews.  (p. 120)

In his discussion of Dutch Jews, Swierenga included not only those who came directly from the Netherlands (meaning primarily Amsterdam), but also those, like my ancestors, who had emigrated from Amsterdam to England before coming to America.  Based on his research, he concluded that for the most part the Dutch Jews who came to Philadelphia tended to come directly from Amsterdam whereas those who had first stopped in London tended to end up in New York.  Swierenga found that in 1850 and 1860 there were only two Dutch Jewish families in Philadelphia who had had children born in England. (Swierenga, p. 125)  Was he counting my relatives? Hart Levy Cohen’s children were born in England, but did they count as “children?” On the other hand, Jacob’s daughter Fannie was born in England, and although his later children were born in the US, his family must have been one of those two families.

In fact, this screenshot from Appendix III in Swierenga’s book, captioned “Dutch Jewish Household Heads and Working Adults in Philadelphia 1850, 1860 and 1870,” shows that Swierenga did count Hart Cohen as one of those Dutch Jews.

Appendix III from Swierenga. The Forerunners

Appendix III from Swierenga. The Forerunners

Based on this data as compared to his findings that there was a greater number of Dutch Jewish families in New York with children born in England, Swierenga reached the following conclusion: “Clearly, the Dutch Jews in Philadelphia had been better off economically in the Netherlands, and they immigrated earlier than those settling in New York, who out of economic necessity spent a longer sojourn in London.  For the Philadelphia Dutch Jews, a London stopover or two-stage migration was not as necessary or desirable.” (p. 126)

I found this observation very interesting. Obviously, my ancestors did make that two-stage migration.  Did they do that because they could not afford to get directly to the US, or did they originally plan to stay in London?  Does this mean that Hart and Rachel were not as well-off as many of the other young couples who left Amsterdam at the end of the 18th century?

The Dutch Jewish community was located in the south side of Philadelphia. With the large wave of German immigrants in the 1840s, the Dutch Jews had moved south to Wards 1 through 5, and primarily Wards 4 and 5, located between what is now Broad Street and the Delaware River and South Street to the south and 2d Street to the north.  Swierenga described these two wards as slums.  Ward 4 is where Jacob and his family lived for many years at 136 South Street.   Was he living in a slum with his large family and three servants? It seems unlikely.  The neighborhood must have been somewhat economically diverse to attract what Swierenga himself had described as a fairly comfortable Dutch Jewish population.  (pp. 139-146)

This growing community of Dutch Jews eventually decided to form their own synagogue and leave Rodeph Shalom, which had become increasingly made up of congregants who had emigrated from Germany.  Also, Rodeph Shalom and Mikveh Israel as well as a third synagogue, Beth Israel, were all located in the north side of Philadelphia.  (Swierenga, pp. 127-129) Thus, in 1852 the Dutch Jewish families formed their own synagogue, B’nai Israel, on the south side where Jacob and Rachel were living in 1850. (pp. 130-145)

Between the 1850s and 1880, however, the Dutch Jews increasingly left the south side of Philadelphia and moved to neighborhoods further north.  Those who remained could not support their own synagogue, and B’nai Israel was closed in 1879.  By the end of the 19th century, the Dutch Jewish community had integrated into the larger Jewish community and had disappeared as a separate cultural subgroup.  (pp. 135, 320)  As I move forward from 1860 in tracing my Cohen relatives, I will keep in mind this shift to see whether or not they were a part of that trend.

After reading this material and understanding more about the history of the Jewish community in Philadelphia in the first half of the 19th century, I better understand why my ancestors chose Philadelphia.  It had a distinct Dutch Jewish community, which might have been very attractive to them after the Chut experience as outsiders in London.  It had a long history of a diverse but cooperative overall Jewish population.  And perhaps, like today, it seemed less overwhelming and more affordable than New York City.

I now read, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia” in a whole new light.

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How did they meet?

Among the photos that Robin sent me last week are these pictures of her parents, Maurice and Lynn Goldschlager, taken in 1949.

Maurice and Lynn Goldschlager Camp Milford 1949

Maurice and Lynn Goldschlager Camp Milford 1949

It was labeled Camp Milford in Connecticut.  I asked Robin if

she knew what Camp Milford was, and she said she thought it was one of those camps for adults that existed back in those days.  I looked it up and found this advertisement and these postcards.

Camp_Milford_ad_1948On the Lake, Camp Milford Kent, CT

Maurice and Lynn did not meet at this camp, but met in New Jersey where my uncle was stationed for some time during World War II.  As Robin tells the story, “The story goes that my dad heard the clicking of her heels walking down the hall and he said to a buddy (before he even laid eyes on my mom) that’s the girl I’m going to marry. And they did.”  They were married soon after on June 10, 1945, with my uncle still in uniform.

My parents, however,  did meet at one of those camps, as did my aunt Elaine and her husband Phillip Lehrbaum. It was a popular way for young Jewish singles to meet back then—away from their parents, but under some kind of supervision.

My parents met at Log Tavern in Milford, Pennsylvania (not to be confused with Camp Milford in Connecticut).

Camp Log Tavern Milford, PA

Camp Log Tavern Milford, PA

log tavern from jodylog tavern softball postcard

My aunt and uncle met at Green Mansions in Warrensburg, New York, which became well-known for its theatrical and musical performances.

Ad for Green Mansions in a YMHA newsletter

Ad for Green Mansions in a YMHA newsletter

green mansions

Green Mansions

Green Mansions

Here’s an interview with someone discussing the history of Green Mansions:

It’s too bad these camps no longer exist; they seem like a great idea.  Maybe they were not as efficient as online dating, but at least you met someone face to face, not over bandwidth.  My husband Harvey and I did the next best thing: we met as camp counselors at a YM-YWHA day camp for kids when we were in college.

Thinking about this got me thinking about how my parents met, how my aunts and uncles met.  I am always intrigued by how couples meet.  The stories are usually sweet or funny or romantic or surprising.  They also take on a certain mythic quality.

Florence and John Cohen 1951

Florence and John Cohen 1951

Did my father really first see my mother across the dining room at Log Tavern where he was working as a waiter and immediately tell his friend that she was the girl he was going to marry?

According to another family legend, my Aunt Elaine met her husband when she mistook him for a different man she had met the day before at Green Mansions.  Apparently, my Uncle Phil was not scared off either by her unintentional forwardness or her mistake.  Here they are on their honeymoon visiting Fort Ticonderoga in 1941:

Elaine and Phil 1941

Elaine and Phil 1941

My grandfather Isadore supposedly saw my grandmother sitting in the window of her sister Tillie’s grocery store in Brooklyn and was taken by her beauty.

How did your parents meet? Your grandparents? How did you meet your significant other? If you are willing to share the stories, feel free to use the comment space below or email your stories to me, and I will add them to the blog.

Thank also to Jody for finding the pictures of her parents and the postcard of Log Tavern.  Here are some more of them at Green Mansions.

Elaine and Phil at Green Mansions

    Elaine and Phil at Green Mansions


lap photo green mansions
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Where they lived: East Harlem in the Early 20th Century

One of things that puzzled me when I started looking at the census reports for the Goldschlagers between 1905

English: Looking from 96th Street in the south...

English: Looking from 96th Street in the south, northward along Second Avenue towards Spanish Harlem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

and 1915 was where they were living.  I had always assumed that my grandfather, like my Brotman ancestors, had settled in the Lower East Side when he arrived in New York.  I thought that was where all poor Jewish immigrants had settled in the late 19th and early 20th century.  Yet at the time of the 1905 census, my grandfather was living at 2213 Second Avenue, near the intersection with 115th Street, in the neighborhood we know as East Harlem or Spanish Harlem.  He was living by himself (at age 17) in a building with some families with Jewish names but mostly families with Italian names.  What was he doing there? Why was he living up there and not on the Lower East Side?

When Moritz arrived, they remained in East Harlem on 109th Street, and after Moritz died, Betty and Isadore moved in with Tillie on 109th Street.  In 1915, all of the surviving Goldschlagers were still living on 109th Street.  Eventually, Isadore moved to Brooklyn, and David, Betty and their mother moved to the Bronx, until Betty and Gisella moved to Bayshore, Long Island in the 1930s.  But why had they started and stayed in East Harlem?

330 East 109th Street today

Some quick research revealed that East Harlem was a huge Jewish community in the early years of the 20th century, but that that community had disappeared and was for the most part forgotten.  As David W. Dunlap wrote in The New York Times in 2002, “On the map of the Jewish diaspora, Harlem is Atlantis. That it was once the third largest Jewish settlement in the world after the Lower East Side and Warsaw — a vibrant hub of industry, artistry and wealth — is all but forgotten. It is as if Jewish Harlem sank 70 years ago beneath the waves of memory, beyond recall.”  Dunlap then described the many signs that Jews once lived in East Harlem in the churches that were once synagogues.

Former Temple Israel Jewish synagogue, now Mt. Olivet Baptist Church. Detail: Star of David.

Mount Olivet Baptist Church in East Harlem, originally Temple Israel

The neighborhood had been rural until the subway and elevated trains arrived around 1880.  Soon after tenement buildings were constructed, and immigrants moved in, first German and Irish immigrants, then Jewish and Italian immigrants.  According to Wikipedia, there were 90,000 Jews living in East Harlem in 1917; however, the neighborhood was predominantly Italian and came to be known as Italian Harlem or Little Italy.  That is consistent with my study of the names in the 1905 census.

Photograph shows 105th Street between Madison and Park avenues in 1929, with traces of Jewish Harlem, including the Hebrew Home for the Aged in Harlem <i>(left)</i> and the synagogue called Beth Hamridash Hagadol of Harlem.

My mother remembers that her father spoke several languages and was quite fluent in Italian.  He must have learned Italian living in East Harlem in his first ten years in New York.   He was not a religious person and had left Romania at least in part to escape the anti-Semitism there.  Perhaps living in a mixed neighborhood made him feel more American, although obviously there was a well-established Jewish community there as well with many synagogues and other institutions.   Maybe it was cheaper than the Lower East Side, maybe the Lower East Side was already filled beyond overcrowding, or maybe East Harlem was a better neighborhood, not a cheaper neighborhood.  I don’t know what drew my grandfather there or why he stayed.

It’s always good to learn something new.  Now I know not only something new about my family, but also something new about the history of New York City and the Jewish immigrants who settled there.

2287 1st Avenue, East Harlem, New York.

2287 1st Avenue, East Harlem, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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