Fact versus Fiction


The story of Jacob M. Cohen II who allegedly stole jewelry from his father’s store, pawned it, and ran away to St. Louis generated some discussion among some of my readers.  I had speculated that he did it in the aftermath of the death of  his brother Munroe (or Monroe, as it is sometimes spelled in various accounts).  The discussions have caused me to go back and try to piece together the facts and to create a timeline.

The first news story about Munroe’s death was published on March 23, 1903, a Monday.  It said that Monroe died on Saturday, which would have been March 21, but that the accident that led to his death occurred on Thursday, which would have been March 19.  The second news story, dated March 24, said his body was returned to Washington for the funeral, which was to take place the next day, March 25, 1903.

The Kingston Daily Freeman, Volume 01, March 23 1903, Page 3

The Kingston Daily Freeman, Volume 01, March 23 1903, Page 3

The first news story I found about Jacob’s alleged crime was dated March 27, 1903, and said that “several days ago” Jacob had disappeared from his home and that his father thereafter discovered that jewelry was missing from his store.  The police had thought that Jacob would return for Monroe’s funeral, but he had not done so.  I inferred from this that Jacob had disappeared sometime after his brother died or at least after his accident on March 19, since “several” ordinarily means more than two but not more than seven.  If it had been more than a week, I would think that the newspaper would have said “over a week,” not “several days.”  Also, if the police thought Jacob would return for his brother’s funeral, they must have had reason to think that Jacob knew that his brother had died. Thus, I do not think that Monroe’s accident was precipitated by Jacob’s disappearance, as one skeptical reader suggested.  It seems possible, however, that Jacob’s disappearance was precipitated by his brother’s accident and death, as I speculated.

Jacob Cohen son of Hart 1903 arrested

 

(“Son’s Alleged Dishonesty” Date: Friday, March 27, 1903, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 15)

I had forgotten to post one other article about the Jacob story in my post yesterday.  In this article, dated October 5, 1903, a few more details of Jacob’s activities were provided.  Jacob admitted stealing the jewelry, pawning it in Washington, spending the money in Baltimore, and then traveling to St. Louis, New Orleans, and Indian Territory before returning to St. Louis, where he was arrested.  He had gotten a job in a dairy in St. Louis and was there a week when he was arrested.  There had been a hearing in St. Louis, and Jacob was unable to provide the security needed for his release and thus was in the custody of a marshal to be returned to Washington.  One reader speculated that he had never actually stolen the jewelry, but had simply run away; the reader wondered whether his parents had created the story of the stolen jewelry to get the assistance of the police in locating their son.  It seems that Jacob’s admission is inconsistent with that speculation, but anything is possible.

Jacob confession pt 1

Jacob confession pt 2

(“Admits the Crime,” Monday, October 5, 1903, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC), page: 11)

 

The final story, posted yesterday and dated October 20, 1903, detailed Jacob’s arrest and the items allegedly stolen.  One reader pointed out that in the final sentence of that article it states “it is thought” that Jacob’s parents would not press charges against him when he was returned to the city.  That would explain why I could not find any further reports of a trial or sentence in the case.  To me, this is also consistent with my speculation that Jacob acted out of grief or upset in the aftermath of his brother’s death.

Jacob son of Hart arrested in St Louis

 

(“Charged with Grand Larceny,” October 20, 1903, Washington Evening Star, p. 11)

Do I know for sure? Of course not.  Certainly most people do not engage in criminal behavior while grieving.  Maybe Jacob just wanted to run away and needed the money to do so.  Maybe he was angry with his parents for reasons completely unrelated to Monroe’s death.  Maybe he just was being a rebellious teenager.  Maybe he was crying out for attention.  Who knows?  The facts suggest he reconciled with and lived with his parents for years after this incident and was not in any other trouble.  I find it unlikely that these two incidents—Monroe’s death and Jacob’s disappearance—were not related.

What do you think?

 

 

The Twentieth Century for the Descendants of Moses and Adeline Cohen 1900-1910

The first decade of the twentieth century must have been a very difficult one for the extended Cohen family in Washington, DC.  First, on March 21, 1903, Hart’s son Munroe was killed in Kingston, New York, in a gruesome accident while working as a brakeman for the West Shore railroad. He was trying to couple two railcars when he slipped and fell between the cars.  He sustained serious injuries and died of shock resulting from those injuries, according to the Kingston Daily Freeman.  He was only 22 years old.  His body was returned to Washington, DC, where he was buried on March 24, 1903.

The Kingston Daily Freeman, Volume 01, March 23 1903, Page 3, found athttp://news.hrvh.org/cgi-bin/newshrvh?a=d&cl=search&d=kingstondaily19030323.2.32&srpos=1&e=-------20-PubMetakingstondaily-1----monroe+cohen-all

The Kingston Daily Freeman, Volume 01, March 23 1903, Page 3 found at http://news.hrvh.org/cgi-bin/newshrvh?a=d&cl=search&d=kingstondaily19030323.2.32&srpos=1&e=——-20-PubMetakingstondaily-1—-monroe+cohen-all

Monroe Cohen body 1903

It appears that at or around or perhaps right after the time of Munroe’s accident and subsequent death, his younger brother Jacob, then seventeen years old, stole about $700 worth of jewelry from his father’s store and pawned it to another pawnbroker.  As the article below indicates, the police were hoping he would return for his brother’s funeral, so it would seem that Jacob’s theft occurred close to the time of his brother’s death.

Jacob Cohen son of Hart 1903 arrested

(“Son’s Alleged Dishonesty” Date: Friday, March 27, 1903, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page: 15)

It took six months for the police to track Jacob down, and when they did, they found him in St. Louis.  He was arrested and admitted to the crime and was then returned to Washington.

Jacob son of Hart arrested in St Louis

(“Charged with Grand Larceny,” October 20, 1903, Washington Evening Star, p. 11)

I have not found anything to indicate what happened next, but in 1910, Jacob was living with his parents in Washington, and working as a chauffeur.  I don’t know what could have motivated Jacob to steal the jewelry, but the fact that this occurred at the time his brother died makes me believe that it was related in some way to the grief he felt from his brother’s death.  It seems that Jacob had no further run-ins with the law and that his parents took him back into their home since he was living there as a 24 year old in 1910.

Unfortunately, that was not the end of the tragedies for the extended DC Cohen family in that first decade of the twentieth century.  Just a few months later, on January 24, 1904, Ella Cohen Greenberg, the daughter of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta Baer Cohen, died at age 29, leaving behind her husband Jacob and their eight year old daughter, Marjorie.  I do not have a death certificate (yet) for Ella, so I do not know why she died.  Jacob was remarried by 1909 to a woman named Hattie with whom he had a son, Theodore.

And then just nine months after Ella’s death, Moses, Jr. himself died on November 24, 1904.  He was 63 years old.  According to his obituary, his death was sudden, the result of a heart attack.  The obituary paints a portrait of a successful business man who was very active in his synagogue and in various other Jewish communal and charitable organizations.  It described him as a “pioneer Hebrew citizen” of Washington, DC, and as “highly esteemed” and “highly regarded.”  One interesting error in the obituary is that it says that he was the father of eight children, all of whom survived him.  Moses and Henrietta had had nine children, and Ella had predeceased him.  Had the newspaper just made an error, or had there been some falling out between Ella and her family?  I will assume the first since I have no basis for concluding otherwise, and Ella was included with an insert into the family portrait, which obviously was taken some time between her death and the death of her father nine months later.

Moses Jr obit part 1

moses jr obit part 2

(“Moses Cohen Dead,”  November 25, 1904, Washington Evening Star, p.3)

It’s ironic that despite emphasizing Moses’ Jewish identity in several places, the obituary’s subtitle describes him as a strong supporter of his “church.”

The other thing that I found interesting was Moses, Jr.’s headstone.  Unlike his father Moses, Sr.’s headstone, which was a very traditional Jewish headstone engraved mostly in Hebrew and with the symbol for the Cohanim, Moses, Jr’s headstone has no Hebrew at all. Given how involved he was in the Washington Hebrew Congregation as both an employee and a congregant, I found this surprising.  Perhaps it is a sign of assimilation that the family chose a headstone in English and not Hebrew.

Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

Moses Cohen, Sr. headstone

Moses Cohen, Jr. headstone

Moses Cohen, Jr. headstone

But the decade was not completely sad.  The eight surviving children of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta were doing well, and the next generation was growing up.

  1. Augusta and Julius’s five children were young adults and teenagers, the three oldest all working as jewelers like their father.
  2. Myer Cohen and his wife Helen had one more child, Myer, Jr., born in 1907, and their children were also teenagers. Myer continued to practice law.
  3. Jacob and Ida Cohen and their two children, Aimee and Gerson, moved from New York City to Yonkers, New York. In 1905 and in 1910, Jacob was working as the manager of a dry goods store.
  4. Alfred Selinger, Fannie Cohen’s husband, was a tailor. Their daughter Selma was also a teenager in 1910.
  5. Florence and Harry Panitz were still living in Baltimore, and Harry was still a salesman. Their daughter Aline was still a young child.
  6. Grace Cohen married William Katz on January 20, 1901, and they had two children in the next decade: Hilda (1901) and Morton (1907). William was a manager in a furniture store, and the family was living in Washington, DC.
  7. Solomon, the youngest son of Moses, Jr., and Henrietta, married Estelle Spater in 1906, where the couple then resided. Solomon was employed as a manager of a mail order business.  Solomon and Estelle had a son Ralph born in 1908 and a son Theodore, born in 1910.  Sadly, Theodore died on November 21, 1912 when he was only two years old.
    Theodore P. Cohen death certificate

    Theodore P. Cohen death certificate

    When I found the death certificate for Theodore, I was confused by a number of things.  First, he died in Seneca, Lenawee County, Michigan, not Detroit, where his family lived.  I thought perhaps he had died in an accident, but the cause of death was indigestion.  I found that very puzzling, but then saw that a contributory cause was Little’s Disease.  I looked up Little’s Disease and learned that it was a form of cerebral palsy.  I am not sure how indigestion caused his death, but obviously it was related to his underlying condition.  I also found it very strange that his birth date was unknown, that there was no information about the birth place of either of his parents or his mother’s maiden name, and that the informant was neither of his parents.  My guess is that Theodore was in a hospital or home for children with similar conditions since it appears that he was not living with family.

  8. In 1910, Moses, Jr., and Henrietta’s youngest child, Mabel, was residing at the Maryland Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded in Baltimore; she was 27 and unable to read or write.

In June 1909, there was a large family celebration of the 25th anniversary of Augusta and Julius Selinger at their home.  From this description in the Washington Evening Star, one can get a sense of the lifestyle of the family during this decade.

Augusta and Julius 25th anniversary party

Augusta and Julius 25th anniversary party

(Sunday, June 20, 1909, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC),   Page: 61)

 

As for Moses, Sr., and Adeline’s other children, JM and Belle Cohen were still living in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1905, but by 1910, they had moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where their daughter Fannie Sybil had moved sometime after marrying Sigmund Stern, a German-born immigrant who had arrived in the United States in 1892 as a fourteen year old and who was living in Sioux City in 1900, where he was residing as a lodger along with his two brothers, Henry and Morris, in what appears to be a boarding house.  Sigmund and his older brother Morris were both working as clothing merchants.   Sometime before 1906 Sigmund and Sybil, as she was known, had moved to Kansas City, as their daughter Judith was born there in 1906.  Although I cannot find a 1910 census report for Sigmund and Sybil Stern, Sybil’s parents JM and Belle and her sister Ruth were listed as living in Kansas City that year; JM was retired at age 57.

The other two children of Hart and Henrietta (aside from Munroe and Jacob M. II, discussed above) were Frances and Isadore.  In 1910, Frances was single and living with her parents and had no occupation.  Isadore had married Frances David in about 1907, according to the 1910 census, and their first child, Monroe, was born April 14, 1910.  Isadore was working as a clerk for the post office at that time.

As for Rachel and Frederick Selinger, they were still living in Washington with their son Monroe in 1910, and Frederick was still working in a furniture store.  Their daughter Fannie had married Aaron Hartstall sometime before 1910, and their son Morton was born January 20, 1910.  Aaron was employed as a paper hanger, and they also were living in Washington, DC.

So the family had grown in numbers and the children were growing to be adults in the first ten years of the twentieth century.  There had been some big losses and a fair number of births.  The next ten years would see additional growth and additional challenges as the family and the world faced World War I and the younger generation began to reach adulthood and have families of their own.

 

 

Jews in Iowa? Cohens on the Prairie 1880-1900

“Sioux Falls panorama 1908 1″ by G.W. Fox – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID pan.6a09880. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sioux_Falls_panorama_1908_1.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Sioux_Falls_panorama_1908_1.jpg

Although the descendants of Moses and Adeline Cohen stayed close to Washington until 1880, in the next two decades many of them ventured further away.  I’ve already written about the children of Moses, Jr., four of whom left DC, three for NYC, and one for Baltimore.  But his siblings and their children ventured even further away, although for some it was just a temporary move.

The real adventurer seems to have been Jacob M. Cohen, apparently known as JM.  JM married a woman from Cuyahoga, Ohio, named Belle Lehman, on August 19, 1877.  Their first daughter, Fannie Sybil, was born in Washington, DC, in 1879, but sometime after 1880, JM and his wife and young daughter left town and moved west to the Dakota Territory where the second child, Seba Maude, was born in 1882.  I wish I knew what drew JM away from Washington and off to the prairie and how he met a woman from Ohio in the first place.  Was it a desire to be a pioneer or a desire to strike out on his own away from his family?  I don’t know, but I was certainly surprised to see “Dakota” as the birthplace of his second child.

Not long after Seba’s birth, the family must have moved again because a third daughter, Ruth Josephine, was born on June 8, 1883, in Sioux City, Iowa.  Sioux City seems to be where JM and Belle established deeper roots. They lived there until at least 1905, and their fourth child and only son Arthur was born there in 1885.  According to the 1885 Iowa state census, JM was working as a pawnbroker; in the 1888 directory for Sioux City, he is listed as being in real estate, but in 1900 his occupation on the census is a ticket broker.  Perhaps the census taker heard that incorrectly; perhaps he was still a pawnbroker.  Or maybe a real estate broker.

JM Cohen and family 1885 Iowa census

JM Cohen and family 1885 Iowa census

JM Cohen and family 1900 US census

JM Cohen and family 1900 US census

JM and Belle suffered a terrible loss when their daughter Seba died on January 2, 1886; she was not even four years old.

Seba Maude Cohen headstone

I fear that their son Arthur, born in 1885, also died young.   He does not appear on the 1895 census or the 1900 census when one would assume he would have been only ten and then fifteen years old and presumably living with his family.  On the other hand, I cannot find a death record for him in Iowa or elsewhere, nor is he buried where Seba and his parents were buried in Sioux City.

I wondered whether there were any other Jews in Sioux City at that time and was able to locate a book by Simon Glazer entitled The Jews in Iowa: A Complete History and Accurate Account of Their Religious, Social, Economical and Educational Progress in this State; a History of the Jews of Europe, North and South America in Modern Times, and a Brief History of Iowa, published in 1904 by Koch Brothers Printing Company and now available as a free e-book on Google.  According to Glazer, there were only 25 Jews in Sioux City in 1869, but by 1904 there were over two thousand, including my relatives. In fact, when the Jewish community decided to form a cemetery association, the Mt Sinai Cemetery Association, in 1884, JM Cohen, my cousin, was one of the founding members.  (Glazer, p. 295)  Moreover, that same year JM’s wife Belle was the leader of a movement among the Jewish women to create a fund-raising organization to help the poor and to raise money to build a house of worship. (Glazer, p. 296)  Despite this burst of energy in 1884, there was no formal congregation until 1898.  As described by Glazer:

“The Jewish spirit which kept them together was a mere ghost of little more consequence than a shadow. Everything they had gained during their childhood, everything their parents had imbued within them vanished form [sic] their memories, and nothing new could come and knock at their gates since no effort was endeavored prior to 1898, to form a congregation and engage the services of a minister.” (p. 297)

According to Glazer, “Their temple was built largely through the efforts of the ladies, and the man [sic] frankly admit that had it not been for the heroic efforts of the Jewish women no such place for Judaism in Sioux City would as yet have been made a matter of fact. Their first services were conducted at the Masonic Temple, which is, indeed, very complimentary to both, the Masons and the Jews.” (p. 300)

JM Cohen was listed by Glazer as one of the ten officers and leaders of Mt Sinai Congregation in those early days.

Mt Sinai Synagogue, Sioux CIty, Iowa From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Glazer then described the influx of Russian and Eastern European Jews in the late 1880s and thereafter and the divisions between the older assimilated population which had established Mt Sinai, the Reform congregation, and the newcomers who were more Orthodox.  He concluded his chapter on Sioux City by saying, “The Jewry of Sioux City is as yet in its infancy, but it has plenty of mettle to make itself a stronghold of both Orthodox and Reform Judaism in the northwest.” (p. 302)

So my cousin Jacob M. Cohen was a pioneer.  He left the comforts of a well-established Jewish community in Washington, DC, where his older brother Moses, Jr., was a leader in the Washington Hebrew Congregation, a well-established synagogue, and went out to the prairie lands of the Midwest (the northwest in 1904 when Glazer was writing) to become a Jewish leader there.

JM also succeeded in getting two of his siblings and his mother Adeline to move to Iowa, if for only a short time. Adeline, who was born in Baden, Germany, had immigrated to Baltimore, raised four children on her own when her husband Moses died in 1860, and supported them herself in Washington, DC.  Adeline again uprooted herself and left a safe, settled urban world to live in Iowa.   In 1888 she was living with JM in Sioux City, according to the city directory.  I don’t know how long she lived there, but she did return to Washington, DC, by 1894.

Title : Sioux City, Iowa, City Directory, 1888 Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

Title : Sioux City, Iowa, City Directory, 1888
Source Information
Ancestry.com. U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989

In that same 1888 Sioux City directory is a listing for Hart Cohen as well, JM’s older brother.  The first half of the 1880s for Hart and his wife Henrietta brought two more children to their family, Isadore Baer, born in 1883, and Jacob M. II, born in 1885, in addition to Frances, who was born in 1878, and Munroe, born in 1880.  Hart, like his brother JM, was a pawnbroker, and like his first cousin Hart in Philadelphia, he was charged in 1885 with receipt of stolen goods in the course of his business; he was acquitted of the charges in 1886.

 

Hart DC Cohen arrested 1885 snip

(“A Pawnbroker Arrested,” Wednesday, March 25, 1885, Critic-Record (Washington (DC), DC),Issue: 5,187, Page: 3)

Letter from Washington. A Pawnbroker Acquitted - Measures to Avert a Flood in the Potomac Date: Friday, February 12, 1886  Paper: Sun (Baltimore, MD)   Volume: XCVIII   Issue: 76   Page: 4

Letter from Washington. A Pawnbroker Acquitted – Measures to Avert a Flood in the Potomac
Date: Friday, February 12, 1886 Paper: Sun (Baltimore, MD) Volume: XCVIII Issue: 76 Page: 4

It might have been in the aftermath of these criminal proceedings that Hart decided to join his brother JM in Sioux City.  He was there at least until 1895, as on the 1895 Iowa census he and his entire family are included.  His occupation at that time was described as a jeweler.

Hart Cohen and family 1895 Iowa census

Hart Cohen and family 1895 Iowa census

By 1900, however, Hart and his family had returned to Washington, DC, where he was still working as a jeweler.  His children were now all at least teenagers, ranging in age from 14 (Jacob) to Frances (21), and perhaps he felt like he had gotten his life in order and could return to his hometown.  They were living at 1424 Seventh Street, NW, in 1900.

Hart Cohen and family 1900 census

Hart Cohen and family 1900 census

JM even lured his sister Rachel to come to Iowa for some time.  Rachel had been newly married to Frederick Selinger in 1880, and in 1882 they had their first child, Fannie Selinger, in Washington, DC.  Their second child, Monroe, was born in 1888 in Washington as well, but in 1891 when Frederick applied for a passport, they were living in Sioux City, Iowa.  (Interestingly, the witness on the application was Myer Cohen of Washington, DC, his wife’s nephew, son of her brother Moses, Jr.)

Frederick Selinger passport application 1891

Frederick Selinger passport application 1891

Frederick is also listed in directories for Sioux City from 1890 through 1892.  Like Hart and Adeline, however, Rachel and Frederick returned to Washington, DC, where in 1900 the family was living at 1502 Seventh Street, NW.

Frederick and Rachel Selinger and family 1900 census

Frederick and Rachel Selinger and family 1900 census

Thus, by 1900, the great experiment of living out in Sioux City had ended for all of the DC Cohens except for JM and his family, who would never return to Washington, DC.  All the rest of the Moses Cohen family—from Adeline (until her death in 1895) to Moses, Jr., to Hart, to Rachel– were living within five or six blocks of each other in the Northwest section of Washington, DC, in 1900.

The twentieth century was about to begin, and with it came new challenges and new family members.  The story will continue…

 

 

 

 

 

Why I Have Been Quiet about Israel

I have never been afraid to express my opinion.  I welcome reasonable discussions and debate about almost anything—food, movies, books, baseball, politics, world affairs, religion, you name it.  I have strong feelings about almost anything and everything, and I usually am not at all hesitant to say what I am thinking.  I like to think that I listen to what others have to say and that I try and be informed about as much as I can before formulating my own opinion.  My values have not changed much at all in the course of my life, so I know my starting point based on those values, but my mind has been changed many times on many issues by listening and reading what others have to say.

But this time I am lost.  I am Jewish, I am proud to be Jewish, and I feel a strong emotional tie to Israel and Jewish people everywhere.  I’ve only visited Israel once, back in 1997, and it left an indelible mark upon me.  I felt a connection historically and spiritually to the place.  I cried when we left in a way that was far different from the sadness I always feel when a trip or vacation ends.  Israel felt like home to me in a way I never expected.  From my research I now know I have family in Israel.  I have friends in Israel. I know how important Israel is to the past, the present, and the future of the Jewish people.

I am also a lifelong progressive liberal (and not ashamed at all of that word) who argued and protested against every US war during my lifetime—from Vietnam starting in 1965 when I was a teenager up through Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2002.  I know that some wars were so-called just wars; defeating Hitler and others who have tried to commit genocide is justified and necessary.  Dropping an atomic bomb on Japan, however, is not something I would have agreed with, if I’d been born at the time.  I don’t agree with capital punishment, even when the convicted person has committed a heinous crime.  I just don’t see killing as a way of accomplishing anything unless and until there is no choice in the name of self-defense or defense of others.

So I have read the news these last few weeks with my stomach churning, my heart breaking, and my brain torn from one side to the other.  Almost everything I have read is filled with one-sided rhetoric. There is no reason for me to recap the arguments; you’ve heard them all before.  People who are defending Israel point me to pro-Israel sources; people who are anti-Israel point me to anti-Israel sources.  I read the New York Times every day, hoping it is more objective than other sources.  People who are pro-Israel say that the Times is biased against Israel; people who are anti-Israel say the Times is biased in favor of Israel.

There are only a few actual facts: Hamas wants to destroy Israel—it says so in its charter; there is a blockade around Gaza that makes escape for those who live there almost impossible and life there absolutely miserable; Hamas is building tunnels and accumulating weapons and shooting rockets to reach its goal of destroying Israel; Israel is fighting back with stronger and bigger weapons and with a defense system that has resulted in many more Palestinian deaths than Hamas has been able to inflict on Israel; Hamas refuses to agree to a ceasefire; Israel refuses to stop building new settlements; Hamas continues to shoot rockets, knowing that its own people will be killed in greater numbers; Israel knows that it cannot avoid killing them when it shoots its rockets at Gaza.  Neither side can win unless it obliterates the other side, in which case neither side has won.

Meanwhile, people are dying on both sides, no one feels safe, and there is hate being spewed by both sides.  And across the world, there are people protesting, saying things that I’ve not heard said so publicly and proudly in my lifetime: “Death to the Jews, Kill the Jews.”  In one town in France, shop windows were smashed.  Immediately I thought of Kristallnacht.

So why have I remained quiet?   Being quiet did not help the Jews in the 1930s. But why express my feelings when they only provoke more rhetoric?  Why be accused of being either a self-hating Jew for having sympathy for the people in Gaza or of being a Jewish imperialist/Zionist for understanding why Israel feels a need to use force to stop Hamas from trying to kill the Israeli people and their country? The dialogue is pointless.  No one really listens.  They just argue.  They just throw around words of hate.  They just make me feel sick and sad and confused.

I have also remained quiet because I am confused and upset and heart-sick.  I see no hope for any improvement in the situation; I only see things getting worse.  I only see a terrible ending to all this anger and killing and hate, and it makes me despair for my children and my grandchildren, for Jews and for non-Jews, for our world, our planet, our lives.  There is no right, no wrong.  There is just ugliness, blood, violence, and hatred.  There are no words.  I have no words.  I am speechless.  I am silenced.

Please don’t tell me what you think.  Please don’t fill my heart with more hate, with more anger. I’ve heard all the arguments. The rhetoric is all noise to me. Endless Facebook postings prove nothing; people only read what supports their point of view. There is nothing to celebrate. Everyone is wrong; everyone is right. Everyone needs to be quiet, to stop talking, and to start listening to their hearts, hoping with their souls, and thinking with their brains.  If those of us who do not live where the bombs are flying cannot talk to each other with respect and understanding, how is there any hope that there will ever be peace over there or, for that matter, anywhere?

So my silence does not signify indifference or apathy; it signifies confusion and a willingness to listen and think and hope. You cannot listen when you are talking.  You cannot think when you are just spewing rhetoric.  You cannot hope when you are angry.  I am listening.  I am thinking.  I am trying as hard as I can to hope.

A Brick Wall Tumbles, Thanks Once Again to the Genealogy Village

When I learned that my brother’s Y-DNA did not match the Y-DNA of a descendant of Moses Cohen of Washington, DC, I was sorely disappointed.  I was sure that all the circumstantial and documentary evidence I had found supported my hunch that Moses was the brother of my great-great-grandfather Jacob Cohen and son of my three-times great-grandfather, Hart Levy Cohen.  But DNA does not lie, and I was very surprised by the results.

I had one small glimmer of hope when I learned about a family story that indicated that Moses Cohen, Sr., was not the biological father of Moses Cohen, Jr., who was in fact the biological great-great-grandfather of the living descendant whose DNA had been compared to that of my brother.  But how would I ever prove that?  It seemed hopeless.

Nevertheless, I decided to see what I could find that might help answer some of my questions.  Where and when was Moses, Jr., born? When and where did Moses, Sr., marry his mother Adeline Himmel? I could not find any American records showing a marriage or an immigration record for Adeline and her son Moses, Jr.  All I had were census records from 1850 and 1860 showing that Moses, Sr. and Adeline were already married by 1850 and that in 1850, Moses, Jr., was eleven years old.  Later census records indicated that both Moses, Jr., and Adeline were born in Germany and that Moses, Sr., was born in England (though a few later census reports filed after Moses, Sr.’s death by his children said he was also born in Germany).  Some of Moses, Jr.’s and Adeline’s records were even more specific, several naming Baden as her place of birth.

Several months ago when I first discovered the DC branch of the Cohen family, I had tried without success to find where in Baden Adeline had lived.  I sent a message on the GerSIG listserv (German Special Interest Group) of JewishGen.org asking for help.  I received many suggestions, but the most helpful one was from a man named Rodney.  First, he looked up the surname Himmel in Lars Menk’s “Dictionary of German-Jewish Surnames” and found that there was only one Jewish community in Germany where the name Himmel appeared, in  the Eberbach region of Baden.  Then he pointed me to a website that compiled various birth, death and marriage records from various towns in Germany, the Landesarchiv, and specifically to a book of the Jewish records for a town in Eberbach called Strumpfelbrunn where Rodney found a birth record for Jacob Himmel that he translated for me.  The record said, “On the 24th December 1815 was born Jakob Himmel, legitimate son of Moses Himmel and his wife Bromit nee Jakobin(?). Witnesses are Jakob Goez and Abraham Mond.”

(Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe 390 Nr. 1137, Bild 8
Permalink: http://www.landesarchiv-bw.de/plink/?f=4-1121353-8
Standesbücher / (1691-) 1775-1875 (-1958)
Kernlaufzeit 1810-1870 > Amtsgerichtsbezirk Eberbach >
Strümpfelbrunn, israelitische Gemeinde: Standesbuch 1810-1866 / 1810-1866)

Jacob Himmel birth record

Jacob Himmel birth record

I immediately wondered whether this Jakob Himmel could be the same as the one living next door to Moses, Adeline, and Moses, Jr., in Baltimore in 1850, the one I suspected was the brother of Adeline.

Moses Cohen and family 1850 census

Moses Cohen and family and Jacob Himmel and family  1850 census

Rodney suggested that I look for other records in the Strumpfelbrunn book, but it was written in old German script that looks like what you see above.  I wouldn’t even recognize my own name written in that script.  I tried my best, but after a few pages, I gave up and said that there had to be an easier way.  But there was not.  These records are not digitized or translated anywhere yet.  So I returned to American records and moved on, figuring I’d either never find Moses, Jr.’s records or I’d find them some other way.

Then in the last few weeks I found the passenger manifest for Jacob Himmel.

Jacob Himmel ship manifest

Jacob Himmel ship manifest

Detail

Detail

I posted it to a Facebook group called Baden Genealogy for help in deciphering the town listed as Jacob’s place of last residence, which looked like Rutlingheim to me and to most others.  But there was no such town in Baden, no town that had a name that looked even close.  I tried searching for the two men who appeared to be traveling with Jacob from “Rutlingheim” and had no luck at all locating them in the US.  Then two days ago, I posted again to the Baden Facebook group, asking whether the town could be Billigheim, a town reasonably close to Strumpfelbrunn where a Jacob Himmel had been born.

Monica, a member of that group, responded, and when I explained why Strumpfelbrunn was my point of reference, she invited me to send her the birth record I had and the source where I had found it and she would translate it for me.  Her translation was consistent with that of Rodney except that she read Jacob’s mother’s name as Fromit, not Bromit.  She, like Rodney, said I should look for other mentions of Himmel in the record.  The book is close to 300 pages long, and I told her that I just could not decipher the old German script.  Then she made a brilliant suggestion; she sent me a link to the font for that old script, had me install it into Word, and then suggested I type out Himmel and any other relevant names in the script and compare it to what I could find on the pages of the records book.

And so I did, and on page 78, I found a record that looked like it had the name Moses Himmel in that old script.

Moses Himmel birth record 1839

Moses Himmel birth record 1839

Moses Himmel birth record 1839 detail

Moses Himmel birth record 1839 detail

I sent it to Monica, who translated it as follows: “In the year 1839 29th Dec at noon an illegitimate son of the spinster Adelheid Himmel was born.  She is the legitimate daughter of the deceased Moses Himmel and of Frommat nee Lagg from Amsterdam.  The boy will be named Moses at his circumcision.”  It then names some witnesses.

When I received that email with the translation, I felt those bricks tumbling down.  Could this be anyone other than Adeline Himmel Cohen and her son Moses? Does this not provide evidence that the family story that Moses, Jr., was not the biological child of Moses Cohen, Sr., is reliable? Doesn’t it explain why Moses, Jr.’s great-great-grandson does not share DNA with my brother, who is a direct descendant of Hart Levy Cohen, who was Moses, Sr.’s father, but not the biological grandfather of Moses, Jr.?

I then found another page, 26, that also seemed to have the name Himmel.  Monica translated that one as well.  “On the 5th of May 1820 in the morning 4 o’clock he died and was buried at noon.  Moses Himmel was married with Fromat Lagg (or Lugg or Legg) from Holland.  Age forty and four years.”  This was the death notice for Moses Himmel, the father of Adelheid or Adeline Himmel.  She named her illegitimate son for her father, not as a junior for Moses Cohen, the man she would later marry, probably in the United States.

Moses Himmel the grandfather of Moses Himmel

Moses Himmel the grandfather of Moses Himmel

Of course, there are many questions remaining.  I still don’t know when Moses, Sr., married Adeline.  Nor can I be 100% certain this is the right Adeline, though it certainly would appear to be so.  These discoveries also open up some new doors for my research.  If Adeline’s mother was named Fromat Lagg or Lugg or Legg and she lived in Holland, perhaps there is a connection to my Dutch ancestors in Amsterdam.  Her name was given as Jakobin on Jacob’s birth record; perhaps she was part of the same family as Rachel and/or Sarah Jacobs, my three-times and two-times great-grandmothers.  Now I need to return to the Dutch research and see what I can find.

In any event, once again the generosity of my fellow genealogy researchers has been demonstrated.  I never could have done this without the help of Rodney and Monica, two people I’ve never met, and the larger GerSIG and Baden Genealogy Facebook group communities.  It is astonishing what can be accomplished when people work together instead of fighting and killing each other.

 

The Family of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta Cohen 1880-1900: Years of Growth and Change

Moses Jr and Henrietta Cohen and children c. 1900

Moses Jr and Henrietta Cohen and children c. 1904 Seated left to right: Myer, Mabel, Henrietta, Moses, Jr., and Augusta; standing left to right: Fannie, Solomon, Grace, Jacob, and Florence. Insert: Ella Photo courtesy of Jane and Scott Cohen

The years from 1880 through 1900 were years of continued growth for the children of Moses and Adeline Cohen, as their children had more children and as their grandchildren grew and had families of their own as well.  It was also a time of change, as some of the family members left the Washington, DC, area for other parts of the country.

I will focus first on the family of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta (Loeb) Cohen since he was the oldest of Moses and Adeline’s children by more than ten years. As I wrote last time, by 1880 he and Henrietta already had a large family of eight children, the oldest being Augusta who was already a teenager and the youngest being Solomon, who was just born in 1879. (There also were apparently two other children who died in infancy, but I have no documentation of their births, names, or deaths.)  They would have one more child, Mabel, who was born in 1883 when Henrietta was already 41 years old.  As reported to me by a direct descendant of Moses, Jr. and Henrietta, Mabel had Down’s syndrome, perhaps not all that surprising given the age of her mother when she was born. Sometime after 1880, Moses had switched from selling clothing to being a sexton for his synagogue and also a collector (a bill collector, I assume), according to city directories for Washington, DC, during that period.

The year after their last child Mabel was born, Moses and Henrietta saw their first child get married.  Augusta married Julius Selinger on June 10, 1884, when she was only eighteen years old.  Although I do not yet have any record to prove it, my hunch is that Julius was a brother or cousin of Frederick Selinger, the husband of Augusta’s aunt Rachel, her father’s sister.  Like Frederick, Julius was born in Hubern, Germany, according to his passport application. Julius had emigrated only a year or so before marrying Augusta. The two Selinger men were only three years apart in age.    By 1900, Augusta and Julius had five children: Sidney (1885), Harry (1888), Jerome (1889), Maurice (1893), and Eleanor (1894).  Julius was working as a jeweler, and his oldest son Sidney was an apprentice watchmaker.  The family was living in DC at 1157 8th Street, NW. [All addresses in this post are in the NW section of DC.]

Augusta and Julius Selinger 1900 census

Augusta and Julius Selinger 1900 census

During this same time period, Moses and Henrietta’s second child, Myer, was obtaining an education and building his career as well as his family.  Myer might be the very first Cohen to get a law degree (or the first I’ve found so far).  According to a 1917 alumni directory for George Washington University, Myer Cohen received an LL.B. in 1886 as well as an LL. M. in 1887, and was a lawyer in Washington, DC.

Ancestry.com. U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Original data: College Student Lists. Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society.

Ancestry.com. U.S., College Student Lists, 1763-1924 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: College Student Lists. Worcester, Massachusetts: American Antiquarian Society.

Myer married Helen Wolf on January 14, 1890.  Helen was also a DC native, and her father Simon Wolf  had been president of Washington Hebrew congregation where Moses Cohen was a member and the shammes for many years.  Helen and Myer must have known each other for years before marrying.

Simon Wolf was a very well-known and well-regarded lawyer known for advocating for Jews and Jewish causes; one source described him as “a friend of Presidents from Abraham Lincoln to Woodrow Wilson.”[1] Myer joined his father-in-law’s practice, which became known as Wolf and Cohen; Simon Wolf had also started an insurance business in 1878, which also became known as Wolf and Cohen.[2]  It was the first insurance brokerage business in the Washington, DC, area.

Between 1890 and 1900, Myer and Helen had four children: Ruth (1891), Edith (1893), Marjorie (1896), and Roger (1898).  Another son, Myer, Jr., would be born in 1907.  The family was living at 1711 S Street in DC in 1900.

Myer Cohen Sr. 1900 census

Myer Cohen Sr. 1900 census

The third child of Moses and Henrietta was Jacob G. Cohen.  He married Ida Slegh in 1894; she was also a DC native. They had a daughter, Aimee, born in 1895, perhaps the first ever “Amy Cohen” in the family (although they spelled it the French way).  In 1900, their son Gerson was born. The family was living at 1 West 115th Street in New York City, and Jacob was employed as a bookkeeper.

Jacob G. Cohen and family 1900 census

Jacob G. Cohen and family 1900 census

A third Selinger joined the family in 1893 when Fannie Cohen, the fourth child, married Alfred Selinger.  Like Julius and Frederick, Alfred was born in Germany.  He immigrated to the US in October, 1888, and in 1891, he and Julius were both living at the same address, 810 I Street, according to a DC directory for that year, certainly an indication that the two were related and probably brothers.  In 1892, Julius and his family traveled abroad along with Alfred, according to a society item in the Washington Evening Star on June 17, 1892.  (Friday, June 17, 1892, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC)   Page 3)  Fannie Cohen married Alfred a year later on June 10, 1893. Alfred and Fannie had one child, Selma, who was born in March, 1894.  According to the 1900 census, Alfred was a tailor, and the family was living at 711 I Street in DC.

Fannie and Alfred Selinger 1900 census

Fannie and Alfred Selinger 1900 census

Moses, Jr. and Henrietta must have had quite a wedding budget because in 1895 their fifth child, Ella, married Jacob Bernard Greenberg.  Ella and Jacob had a daughter Marjorie Ruth the following year, and in 1900 they were living in New York City at 140 West 100th Street, not too far from Ella’s brother Jacob G. Cohen. Her husband Jacob was employed as a freight clerk.

Ella and Jacob Greenberg 1900 census

Ella and Jacob Greenberg 1900 census

The weddings did not end there.  In 1898, Florence, the sixth child, married Harry Panitz.  Harry was a salesman from Baltimore, where the couple lived in 1898 and thereafter.  I thought that they did not have a child until 1902 when their daughter Aline was born, but when my brother visited Washington Hebrew Cemetery to look for the headstones for Moses Cohen, Sr., and his family, he saw one overturned headstone in the same area as other Cohen graves and picked it up.  It was very hard to read even in person, but he was able to edit the photo below to highlight the dates.

Headstone for Helen Panitz October 2, 1899 to May 12, 1900

Headstone for Helen Panitz October 2, 1899 to May 12, 1900 Photo courtesy of Ira Cohen

From those dates, I was able to search the death indices and found that Helen Panitz, less than one year old, had died in Fayetteville, North Carolina, on May 12, 1900, and was buried in Washington, DC, on May 14, 1900.  I do not know what they were doing in Fayetteville, nor do I know why Helen died so young. They were not living in Fayetteville as of December 27, 1899, because the Washington Evening Star reported on that day that Grace Cohen, Florence’s sister, had just returned from a visit to Baltimore to see Florence and Harry Panitz perhaps to see the ill-fated baby Helen.  (Wednesday, December 27, 1899, Evening Star (Washington (DC), DC), Page 7)

As of the 1900 census, Grace and her sister Mabel were still living with their parents, Moses, Jr. and Henrietta, at 1130 8th Street, just down the street from Augusta and Julius and their five children, some of whom were not much younger than their two aunts.

Moses Cohen, Jr. and family 1900 census

Moses Cohen, Jr. and family 1900 census

Moses and Henrietta’s youngest son Solomon was living on his own in New York City in 1900; he was 20 years old and working as a clerk.  He was living at 20 West 115th Street and boarding with a family named Pawel.  Solomon’s brother Jacob was living at 1 West 115th Street, the building across the street, and his sister Ella just a mile away, so Solomon had plenty of family to look after him in New York.

Solomon Cohen 1900 census

Solomon Cohen 1900 census

So by 1900, almost all of Moses, Jr’s nine children had married and/or moved out on their own.  Several had left Washington, DC—three to New York City and one to Baltimore.  There were many births and not too many deaths or other tragedies.  Moses and Henrietta had a son who was a lawyer and many grandchildren and more to come.  From the outside, it looks like life was very good for the entire clan.

There was, however, one major loss suffered by the family during this period. On January 15, 1895, the family matriarch, Adeline Himmel Cohen, died.  She had survived the loss of her husband Moses 35 years earlier and had essentially raised the four younger children on her own and perhaps Moses, Jr., as well before she married Moses, Sr. Adeline had worked outside the home to support her children, selling second hand clothing and carrying on the work that her husband Moses, Sr., had been doing before his death.   She must have been a very strong and determined woman to have weathered so many storms in her life.

Adeline Cohen headstone

Adeline Cohen headstone Photo courtesy of Jane and Scott Cohen

 

[1] Website of the Goethe Institute at http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/lp/kul/mag/deu/ewy/per/en6791595.htm

[2] The insurance business still exists today and was partially acquired by the Meltzer Group. See Related articleshttp://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-meltzer-group-inc-acquires-certain-assets-of-wolf–cohen-life-insurance-inc-55350942.html

Cohens in the Nation’s Capital: 1860-1880

As I continue to work on finding out when and where Moses Cohen, Sr., married Adeline Himmel and where and when Moses, Jr., was born and whether he was the biological son of Moses, Sr., I am operating under the assumption that Moses Cohen, Sr., was the brother of my great-great grandfather Jacob and the son of Hart Levy Cohen and Rachel Jacobs Cohen, my great-great-great grandparents.

Two months ago I wrote about the death of Moses Cohen, Sr., in 1860 and the decade that followed for his widow and children.  To recap, on the 1860 census, Moses, Sr., was listed as a forty year old china peddler, born in England; he was also described as “insane from intemperance.”  Perhaps that alcoholism is what led to his early demise just over two months later on October 2, 1860, at age 32, according to his headstone, or at most age 40, if his age on the 1860 census is more accurate.  He left his widow Adeline with four children under ten: Hart (9), Rachel (8), Jacob (6), and John (2).  In addition, he was survived by Moses Cohen, Jr, who was twenty years old.

Moses Cohen and family 1860 census

Moses Cohen and family 1860 census

 

After Moses, Sr., died, Adeline had gone to work out of the home as a merchant of second hand clothing, and Moses, Jr., was also in the clothing business. Moses married Henrietta Loeb on August 16, 1862, and by 1870, Moses and Henrietta had three children, Augusta (6), Myer (4), and Jacob (4 months). Moses was still a clothier.

Moses, Jr. and family 1870 census

Moses, Jr. and family 1870 census

Adeline in 1870 was still living with the four younger children; Hart was working as a pawnbroker and Jacob as a clerk. The other two children were still at home.  Interestingly, although on both the 1850 and 1860 census, Adeline had indicated she could not read or write (English, I assume), by 1870 that box was no longer checked off.

Adeline Cohen and family 1870 census

Adeline Cohen and family 1870 census

Between 1870 and 1880, there was a lot of growth in the family.  Moses, Jr., and Henrietta had five more children: Fannie (1872), Ella (1874), Florence (1876), Grace (1877), and Solomon (1879), bringing their family to eight children, ranging in age from one year to fifteen years old.  Moses was working at or owned a notions store in 1880.

Moses Cohen, Jr., and family 1880 census

Moses Cohen, Jr., and family 1880 census

Moses, Jr.’s brother Hart married Henrietta Baer in 1878, and they had their first child, Frances, later that year.  Hart was working as a clerk, presumably in a pawnshop.  A son Munroe was born on November 5, 1880, after the 1880 census had been taken.

Hart Cohen and family 1880 census

Hart Cohen and family 1880 census

Jacob M. Cohen, the next child of Moses, Sr., and Adeline, was married to Belle Lehman in 1877 in Cuyahoga, Ohio, where Belle’s family resided.  They had a daughter, Fannie Sybil Cohen, born on November 7, 1879.  As of the 1880 census, Jacob was working in a “loan office.”

Jacob M. Cohen and family 1880 census

Jacob M. Cohen and family 1880 census

Moses, Sr., and Adeline’s only daughter, Rachel, was also married by the end of the decade.  She married Frederick Selinger on January 10, 1880.  Frederick was born in Hurben, Germany, and had emigrated from Germany to the US in 1871, according to his passport application.  According to the 1880 census, Frederick was working as a “clerk in store.”   Adeline Cohen, Moses, Sr.’s widow, was living with her daughter Rachel and son-in-law Frederick Selinger.

Frederick and Rachel Cohen Selinger and Adeline Cohen on 1880 census

Frederick and Rachel Cohen Selinger and Adeline Cohen on 1880 census

The only member of the family I cannot locate between 1870 and 1880 or thereafter is the youngest child, John.  He was twelve as of the 1870 census, but I cannot find him at all on the 1880 census, nor can I find a marriage record or a death record.  He seems to have just disappeared.

Thus, as of 1880, Adeline and Moses, Sr.’s four oldest children were all married, and Adeline already had eleven grandchildren with more to come.  All of the children were living in Washington, DC, and it would seem that life was fairly routine for the four young families and their matriarch, Adeline Cohen.  It seemed that Adeline’s children had thrived despite losing their father at such an early age.

Things would start to change in the 1880s, as members of the extended family faced crises and changes.