Season’s Greetings!

With my last post I completed the stories I’ve been able to find about all the children and descendants of my three-times great-grandparents Seligmann Goldschmidt and Hinka Alexander as well as those of Seligmann’s brother Lehmann Goldschmidt and his wife Ranchen Frank. It has been a full year since I started blogging about the Goldschmidts, and I am not nearly done. Now I need to sort out what to write about next regarding  the remaining Goldschmidt relatives.

In the meantime, I will be taking a break from blogging for the next couple of weeks. So for now, I wish all who celebrate Christmas a joyous and happy holiday, and my hope for everyone is that 2019 will bring good health, happiness, and a world that is less filled with hate and corruption and more filled with love and justice.

Before I go for 2018, here are three short updates about other family history matters that happened this fall while I was focusing on my Goldschmidt/Goldsmith relatives.

Last month I had lunch with two of my Katzenstein cousins, my fourth cousins Marsha and Carl. Marsha and Carl are third cousins to each other and are descendants of Rahel Katzenstein and Jacob Katz. Rahel was the sister of my great-great-grandfather Gerson Katzenstein. We are all three-times great-grandchildren of Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld.  We spent three hours, along with Carl’s wife and my husband, eating and mostly talking and laughing and sharing our stories—past and present. Even though I did not know Carl or Marsha growing up nor did they know each other growing up, we definitely have bonded and are more than just cousins.  We are friends.

My cousins Carl and Marsha

Three descendants of Scholem Katzenstein and Breine Blumenfeld

I also recently heard from my cousin Jean. Jean is my third cousin. We are both great-great-granddaughters of David Rosenzweig and Esther Gelberman. Jean is descended from their daughter Tillie Rosenzweig and her husband Yankel Srulovici (later Strolowitz, then Adler), and I am descended from their daughter Ghitla Rosenzweig and her husband Moritz Goldschlager. Jean sent me this beautiful photograph of her great-aunt and my grandfather’s first cousin, Bertha Adler. I wrote about Bertha here and here. Bertha had been married to Benjamin Bloom, but the marriage did not last, and Bertha did not have any children. I am so delighted that I now know what she looked like. I love how simply elegant she looks. She was 71 years old when this picture was taken and died just four years later.

Bertha Adler Bloom, 1956. Courtesy of Jean Cohen

This is my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager, Bertha’s aunt. I definitely see a slight family resemblance. Do you?

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Finally, another amazing small world story. I recently posted about my cousin Arthur Mansbach Dannnenberg, the son of Hannah Mansbach Dannenberg and grandson of Sarah Goldschmidt Mansbach, my great-great-grandmother Eva Goldschmidt Katzenstein’s sister. He was a pediatrician in Philadelphia, and his obituary described in detail what a dedicated doctor he had been.

I received a comment on that post from my fourth cousin Meg, who is a descendant of Abraham Goldschmidt/Goldsmith, who was also a sibling of Eva Goldschmidt and Sarah Goldschmidt. Meg commented that  Dr. Arthur Dannenberg  was the pediatrician who saved her sister’s life in 1946 when she was 10 months old and had meningitis.

What we don’t know is whether Meg’s mother Jean realized that their pediatrician was also her second cousin, once removed. Meg certainly did not know that.

Once again, merry Christmas to all who celebrate and happy New Year! Thank you all for continuing to follow me on my journey!




A Brotman, Goldschlager, and Rosenzweig Update: The Baby Book

As you know if you’ve been following this blog for a while, my Aunt Elaine preceded me as the family historian for my maternal side.  Several times notes she made or information she gave to others has led me to more information.  Her information has almost without exception proven to be accurate.  For example, she provided me—indirectly—with the names of my grandmother Gussie Brotman’s half-siblings, Abraham, David, Sophie, and Max.  She provided me with the clue that the Brotmanville Brotmans were our close relatives.  She told me how my grandparents met each other in Brooklyn.

Well, she has done it again.  This time, however, it was not information or notes that she provided, but rather her baby book, which my cousin found in a shoebox of old papers.  It was partially filled out when my aunt was born on October 14, 1917.  Although most of it is blank, the few pages that were filled provide not only further confirmation of relationships about which I was previously aware, but hints at some new ones.

Elaine 1926

Elaine 1926

Here are the pages of the book that have been filled in:

Aunt Elaine baby book p 1

This is my grandfather’s beautifully florid handwriting.  His daughter, my aunt, also had fancy handwriting like this.


Aunt Elaine baby book p 2

My grandmother was never called Grace, always Gussie.  But family lore is that my grandfather’s family thought Grace was more American.


Aunt Elaine baby book 3

My two maternal great-grandmothers!


Aunt Elaine baby book 4

Who are these people?

Tillie Ressler—my grandmother’s older sister

Mr. and Mrs. H. Brotman—my grandmother’s brother Hymie and his wife Sophie

Rebecca Rosenzweig—my grandfather’s cousin, daughter of his mother’s brother Gustav Rosenzweig

Mr. and Mrs. D. Goldschlager—my grandfather’s brother David and his wife Rebecca

Mrs. and Miss G. Goldschlager—my great-grandmother Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager and her daughter Betty

Mrs. and Miss B. Moskowitz—my great-grandmother Bessie Brotman Moskowitz and her daughter Frieda

The next two are not familiar, but provide new paths to research.  Can anyone help me decipher the names?

UPDATE: The last two must have been friends.  Mr. and Mrs. Leon and Ray Kiok and her mother Mrs. Frances Azeraad.  I found them all living together in Brooklyn, but not near my grandparents. I am not sure where they would have met.  Leon was born in Poland in 1886, and Ray’s parents were born in Spain.

Finally, Mr. and Mrs. M. Brotman: my grandmother’s half-brother Max Brotman and his wife Sophie

On the following page were more names.

Aunt Elaine baby book 5

Miss E. Shapiro and fiancé—not known yet

Sam Brotman—my grandmother’s younger brother

Mrs. A. Peter and son—I do not know

Mr. and Mrs. A. Brotman—-my grandmother’s half-brother Abraham Brotman and his wife Bessie

Mrs. D. Brotman—Annie nee Salpeter, wife of David Brotman, my grandmother’s half-brother

Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb—more on them below

The next three are not familiar—Mrs. Louis (?) Yassky, Miss Rose Botomick (?), and Mrs. Tsulie (?) Hecht.  As far as I can tell, these were not relatives, but friends.

I just loved seeing all these names.  Names that I have researched and know are my family, but names I’d not seen in something like this, something that makes it clear that these people were all really connected to my grandparents in a personal way.  I know that sounds odd.  These were the siblings, mothers, and cousins.  But since I grew up without hearing many of these names, it still was wonderful to see them all listed as the first visitors to see my aunt as a newborn in 1917.

I also found the list of gifts fascinating.  My grandparents did not have money for silver and silk, but someone was very generous in giving these items to them for their first-born child.

One final page—the inside of the back cover:

Aunt Elaine baby book 6
A. Rosenzweig—-my grandfather’s cousin, Abraham Rosenzweig, Rebecca’s brother.  I have speculated, based again on a story conveyed by notes from my Aunt Elaine, that it was either Abraham or Rebecca or Sarah who was accompanying my grandfather Isadore on Pacific Street in Brooklyn when he first laid eyes on my grandmother and declared he was going to marry her.

Back to Mr. and Mrs. Julius Goldfarb.  I asked my mother who they were because in a second old item—a notebook my grandfather used for various purposes that was also used by all three of his children at one time or another[1]—the name Joe Goldfarb appeared twice.  Who were these Goldfarbs?

Grandpa Notebook page 1 addresses Joe Goldfarb

Grandpa notebook 13 more addresses Joe Goldfarb

(There’s more great stuff on this page—Sam Brotman is my great-uncle Sam, Feuerstein B. is my great-aunt Betty Goldschlager Feuerstein, Leo Ressler is my mother’s first cousin, her Aunt Tillie’s son; Rae Rosenzweig and Lizzie Horowitz are my grandfather’s first cousins, sisters of Abraham and Rebecca. And there is an S. Goldfarb in addition to Joe.)

My mother said all she could remember was that either Julius or his wife was my grandmother Gussie’s first cousin.  I’d never heard the name Goldfarb before, so what did I do? What all genealogy addicts would do.  I immediately started searching.  And the results of that search will be discussed in a later post once I have filled in more gaps in that story.

But for now, I once again can hear my aunt cheering me on, telling me to keep digging and finding the family stories.

elaine and amy 1953

Aunt Elaine and me 1953






[1] I will share more of that notebook in later posts also.

My Great-grandparents: Thank You

When I started doing genealogy research about four years ago, I only had seen pictures of two of my eight great-grandparents:  Isidore Schoenthal and Hilda Katzenstein, parents of my paternal grandmother Eva Schoenthal Cohen.

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Hilda Katzenstein Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal

Isidore Schoenthal



I had no idea what any of my other six great-grandparents looked like.  Over time I have been very fortunate to find cousins who had pictures of four of those other six.  For example, I now have pictures of Moritz Goldschlager and Ghitla Rosenzweig, parents of my maternal grandfather Isadore Goldschlager.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager



Another cousin had pictures of my great-grandmother Eva Seligman, but I did not have a photograph of my great-grandfather, Emanuel Cohen.  Until now.  One of the photos in my Aunt Eva’s suitcase was a photograph of Emanuel Cohen. I was so excited to be able to see his face.  It’s amazing how a photograph can bring to life someone you’ve never seen.

So I now have pictures of Eva Seligman and Emanuel Cohen, parents of my paternal grandfather, John N. Cohen, Sr.

Eva Seligman Cohen

Eva Seligman Cohen

Emanuel Cohen

Emanuel Cohen

That leaves me missing only one photograph in the collection of photographs of my great-grandparents.  I am fortunate to have a picture of my great-grandmother, Bessie—the person for whom I named.  But I do not have a picture of Joseph Brotman, my great-grandfather.  The Brotmans remain the most elusive of my ancestral families, and they were the ones who started me on this search and to the blog.  How I would love to know what Joseph looked like, but none of my cousins has a photograph, and somehow it seems very unlikely that any will turn up.  But here is my great-grandmother Bessie Brod/Brot/Brotman, the mother of my maternal grandmother Gussie Brotman Goldschlager.

Bessie Brotman

Bessie Brotman

When I scan through these photographs and think of my eight great-grandparents, I feel somehow comforted and inspired.  It makes me feel good to know that they are remembered and that their stories are being told, at least as well as I can tell them.  Five of the eight were born in Europe and immigrated here to make a better lives for themselves and for their children and those who followed. They came from Sielen, Germany, from Iasi, Romania, and from Tarnobrzeg, Poland.  The other three were the children of immigrants from Gau-Algesheim and Jesberg, Germany and from London, England; they benefited from the risks taken by their parents, my great-great-grandparents, but they each took risks of their own.  In America, my great-grandparents lived in Washington (Pennsylvania), Philadelphia, New York, Denver, and Santa Fe.  Each in his or her own way was a pioneer.  Each one is an inspiration to me.

On this week of Thanksgiving, I am grateful to them for all they did and proud to be their great-granddaughter.


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!

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.



Enhanced by Zemanta

The Fusgeyers, Part IV: Romania Today


Where my grandfather was born in 1888 in Iasi, Romania

As noted in my last post, the population of Jews in Romania has declined precipitously over the last one hundred years as a result of emigration before World War I and thereafter and also as a result of the murder of about 300,000 of them during the Holocaust.  From a peak of 800,000 after World I, there are now just a few thousand Jews living in Romania today. What is it like in Romania today, and, more specifically, what is it like to be a Jew living in Romania today? What  legacy is there in Romania from the once substantial Jewish community, and what do current residents know or remember of the Jewish communities and of the Fusgeyer movement that led many of those Jewish residents out of Romania?  Beyond the cold, hard statistical facts, what is left of Jewish Romania?

I have consulted only two sources of information to answer these questions, so my views are based on limited information and possibly inaccurate.  But those two sources left somewhat different impressions, so perhaps the truth lies somewhere in between.  Jill Culiner’s book, Finding Home, paints a rather gray and dismal picture of life in Romania in general and specifically of the Jewish legacy there.  Stuart Tower, author of The Wayfarers, has a more positive impression of Romania today and of its people as seen in the photographs he took first in the 1980s and then in 2005 and also from what he shared with me by email.  Culiner and Tower visited different cities and towns for the most part, but there was some overlap; both visited Barlad and Sinaia within a few years of each other.  Both ultimately paint a picture of a country that once had many thriving Jewish communities but that now has virtually no Jewish communities and few residents who remember the communities that once were there.

Tower based his book around the town of Barlad; it is where the three Americans, grandfather, father and son, go to learn about their ancestral roots and meet the rabbi there who tells them the story of the Barlad Fusgeyers.  Tower’s story is fictional, and he told me that he’d never actually met a rabbi in Barlad, but both Culiner’s book and Tower’s book talk about a very small Jewish community continuing to exist in that city and the beautiful synagogue that still stands there.  In Tower’s novel, the rabbi describes a community of thirty people who still keep kosher and observe shabbat, but who have trouble forming a regular minyan.  The elderly rabbi’s children have all moved away, and he knows that he will be the last rabbi in Barlad (spelled Birlad in the novel).

Culiner started her Romanian travels in Adjud, where she got off the train and began her Fusgeyer-inspired walk.  Her description of Adjud is disheartening:

Here, fields lie flat under a grueling sun, and cars, trucks and buses roar with giddy impunity over pot-holed, uneven main roads.  Under thirsty-looking trees outside the station, lining the street are unlovely lean-tos, modern bars and patios. All claim to be discos, all pump loud American music into the hot air.

Culiner, p, 35.

Culiner also said that “there were no buildings left from the pre-Communist era and certainly nothing of beauty.” (Culiner, p. 35)  Her encounters with the local people are no more heart-warming.  No one could tell her where there was a hotel or room to stay in, and she described the people she saw as “exhausted..expressionless, resigned.”  Culiner, p.36.  No one in town remembered  that there ever was a Jewish community there or a synagogue, although there had been a community of about a thousand Jews there in 1900.  The man who showed her where the non-Jewish cemetery was located demanded an exorbitant fee for his troubles.  By the end of this first chapter, I was already feeling rather depressed about her experience and about  life in Romania.

In contrast, here are some of Tower’s photos of the Romanian countryside that left me with a different impression.  Thank you to Stuart Tower for giving me permission to post these:

Recently%2520Updated%25201112 Recently%2520Updated%25201113 Casa Elena in Voronets Fall foliage in the Bicaz Gorge Romania%25202005%2520262 Romania%25202005%2520263 Romania%25202005%2520264

Culiner’s experience at her second stop, Podu Turcului, was not any better.  The townspeople warned her that her plans to walk through Romania were dangerous and that she would be better off visiting more modern cities elsewhere.  There were no Jews left in this town, and no one there remembered there ever being a synagogue, although there was a Jewish cemetery.  Only one man acknowledged that there once was a Jewish community there, a workman who had been curious about the Jews while in school and had learned where the Jewish residents had once lived in town, now just a neighborhood of faceless housing from the Communist era.  This man told Culiner that he had been unable to learn more about the Jewish community in his town because discussing such matters was prohibited during the Communist era.

Culiner and her companion next arrived in Barlad, a city of 79,000 people, the city where Tower’s characters stayed and learned about the Fusgeyers and were in awe of the beautiful synagogue.  Culiner is less enthusiastic.  Her first impression of the city is its “potholed, deteriorated sidewalks” and the “[r]are trees [that] gasp out their life in the dense cloud of exhaust fumes, providing little shelter from the pitiless sun.” (Culiner, p. 55) Culiner once again encountered skepticism about her plans and ignorance about the Jewish history of the city.  She was particularly disappointed that in this city where the Fusgeyer movement began, no one seemed to remember anything about them.  Even she, however, was impressed with the synagogue, to an extent:

Despite its rather austere, unassuming exterior, the synagogue is magnificent.  Dating from 1788, the walls and ceilings are decorated with paintings of birds, flowers, leaves and imagined scenes of Jerusalem.  Yet, despite its beauty, there is a strange feeling of loss, the aura of a building struggling to exist in a world that has little place for it.  It has become a relic.

Culiner, p. 58.

Although Tower also described a dying Jewish community in his novel, there was still some life, some people who cared in Barlad.  Culiner saw the glass as half-empty whereas Tower saw it as half-full.  Here are some pictures of the Barlad synagogue and some other towns visited by Tower that show a far less dismal impression of  in Romania.  All photos courtesy of Stuart Tower.

Synagogue in Barlad courtesy of Stuart Tower

Synagogue in Barlad  Photos courtesy of Stuart Tower

President Alexander Coitru

Stuart Tower reading from The Wayfarers at the Barlad Synagogue

Stuart Tower reading from The Wayfarers at the Barlad Synagogue

birlad shul interior

Romanian countryside

Romanian countryside

Romanian woman

Romanian woman

Romania%25202005%2520090 Romania%25202005%2520175

17th Century wooden synagogue in Piatra Neamts

17th Century wooden synagogue in Piatra Neamts

Piatra Neamts Sinagogaodd haystack, neighboring farm Troop Popa Tarpesht villagers and their War Lord

Culiner’s experiences in the towns and cities she visited after Barlad were not much different from her first three stops: ignorance and indifference to the history of the Jewish communities in those towns, ugly scenery, and disappointment.  She did meet some friendly and helpful people along the way, including some who were Jewish or were descended from Jews, but for the most part she found most Romanians at best ignorant and at worst rude and even hostile.

In Focsani, no one seemed to be able to help her find the synagogue, sending her on a wild goose chase only to find it right near her hotel.   On the other hand, Focsani had a fairly active Jewish community (relatively speaking), as the synagogue regularly drew about twenty people for shabbat services and more on major holidays.  Culiner was bewildered by the fact that the non-Jewish residents did not even know where the synagogue was located despite its central location.

In Kuku, Culiner met a friendly, helpful woman who likely lived in a building that was once the hostel where the Fusgeyers stayed while traveling through that town, but that woman also knew nothing about where the Jewish community had gone or about the Fusgeyers.   In Ramnicu Sarat, Culiner spent time with a woman whose mother was Jewish and who remembered the days of an active and close Jewish community.  The woman told Culiner that the Communists had demolished the synagogue that had once stood in the town.  She also talked about being unable to be openly Jewish during the Communist era.

Similarly, in Buzau she talked to a Jewish man who refused to take her inside the synagogue because he was ashamed of its condition; there were not enough Jews left in the town to make a minyan and not enough money to maintain the building.  This man told her that “the greatest threat is that all will be forgotten.” Culiner, p.122.   In Campina, another Jewish man told her, “The Jews will die out.  We will go to the cemetery.  And no one will replace us.” Culiner, p. 144.

Only in Sinaia did Culiner find anything of beauty in the countryside, but again not without some negative observations. She wrote: “The scenery is a slice out of a romantic painting and Watteau would have delighted in the mossy banks, the majestic spread of trees, although he might have taken artistic liberty, ignored the discarded shoes and packaging stuffed into vegetation, the tattered plastic and ripped shreds of fabric caught on branches in the river.”  Culiner, p. 146.  Tower’s photographs of Sinaia reveal all the beauty without the observations of garbage mentioned by Culiner.

Peles Castle, Sinaia and surrounding countryside

Peles Castle, Sinaia and surrounding countryside

cottage on the grounds Romania%25202005%2520042 Romania%25202005%2520044 October snowfall, near Peles

Before I read Culiner’s book, I had been giving serious thought to an eventual trip to Romania, in particular to Iasi.  After reading her book, I put that thought on the far back burner.  Her book left me with a vision of an ugly country filled with ugly people who hated Jews.  After looking at Tower’s photos and corresponding with him about his travels in Romania, I am reconsidering my decision to put a visit there on the back burner.  Just as I would like to visit Galicia to honor my Brotman family’s past, I would like to visit Iasi—to see where my grandfather was born and spent his first sixteen years, to honor his past and the lives of his family—-the Rosenzweigs and the Goldschlagers.  I have no illusions about what I will find there.  I know not to expect a lively Jewish community or even any Jewish community.  It’s all about walking where they walked and remembering their travails and their courage.  Maybe the scenery is not as idyllic as in some of Tower’s photos.  Maybe the people are not as colorful and friendly as they seem in his photos.  But that, after all, is not the point, is it?

Culiner did not visit Iasi, our ancestral town in Romania, on her trip, but Tower did, and I thought I would end this post by posting his pictures of Iasi and some of its people as well as those taken by my Romanian researcher Marius Chelcu.  Maybe someday I will get to be there in person and walk down St Andrew’s Street where my grandfather was born and pay tribute.

If we don’t, who will? Will we allow the story of the Fusgeyers and of the Jews of Romania to be forgotten for all time? That, in some ways, is the message of both Tower’s book and Culiner’s book: we need to learn and retell the story of our ancestors so that those stories and those people will not be forgotten.


Stuart Tower’s photos of Iasi

1670 Synagogue in Iasi

1670 Synagogue in Iasi

Traian Hotel, Iasi


Father of Yiddish Theater

Father of Yiddish Theater, plaque in Iasi

National Theater, Iasi

National Theater, Iasi

Gypsy wagon, near Iasi (Yash) Astoria Hotel, Iasi Yash) Iasi street Recently%2520Updated%25201108 Lady/Man (?) walking toward Yash (Iasi) Gypsy family (Iasi), wanted food and money Iasi (yash) Ladies of Iasi (Yash)


Marius Chelcu’s photos of Iasi:

St_Andrew_Str_no_26_0003 St_Andrew_Str_no_26_0001 Near St Andrew Str_11 Near St Andrew Str_10 Near St Andrew Str_4 Near St Andrew Str_5 Near St Andrew Str_6 Near St Andrew Str_7 Near St Andrew Str_8 Near St Andrew Str_2

Photos taken near St Andrew Street where the Goldschlagers lived

Photos taken near St Andrew Street where the Goldschlagers lived





Enhanced by Zemanta