A Personal Reflection: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Yesterday was a turning point in my life.  Since August, 1982, I have been a law professor.  Over the course of thirty-two years, I have taught over 4000 students various law courses, including copyright law, trademark law, antitrust law and contracts.  The students I’ve taught have been overall very hard-working, determined, and excited to be in law school.  I’ve enjoyed every semester, though perhaps not every day that I’ve taught during those semesters.  Sometimes I was tired, impatient, or disappointed; sometimes the students were bored or unprepared or frustrated.  But those were the rare days.  Almost all the time, I loved being in the classroom.  I loved helping students to learn, laughing with them, pushing them to try harder, and delighting in their successes.  It was never boring for me; it was almost always fun and rewarding.

Yesterday was my last day teaching law students.  After thirty-two years, I’ve decided to retire from the law school faculty and pursue other interests, including but not limited to genealogy.  I was not tired of the students or teaching, but it was time for a change.   I hope to find new ways to use my skills and love of teaching as a volunteer, working with a different type of student, teaching something other than law.  I want to learn new things myself.  I want time to do the things that I’ve not been able to do while working full time.  But I will miss teaching law students and preparing them for a profession that they are so excited and proud to enter.

Yesterday I said goodbye to my students.  I got choked up.  It caught me by surprise how emotional I was, how sad I felt.  I thought I would want to celebrate.  I’d been counting down the days all year.  Until this last week.  Then suddenly I no longer was counting the days.  It suddenly felt scary and sad.  Don’t get me wrong.  I have no second thoughts; I know this is the right thing for me and the right time to do it. But after 32 years, if I didn’t feel a little sad, what would that say about those 32 years? As my brother-in-law once said in a different context, if it doesn’t hurt when it’s over, it could not have been worth very much.

Yesterday is over; today I am processing what it meant.  But tomorrow I will start thinking about what is ahead.  I still have exams to grade, recommendation letters to write, one more faculty meeting, and graduation to attend.  But after that I get to start a brand new chapter of my life.  The third chapter.  Chapter One was preparing to be an adult: childhood, adolescence, and education.  Chapter Two was being an adult: raising a family, owning a home, having a profession.  Chapter Three?  I don’t know what Chapter Three will bring.  I hope it brings new challenges, new experiences, new discoveries.  I hope it brings time to reflect, time to give back, time to be with those I love, time to learn and write and think and read—all the things I love best.  I know that a big part of Chapter Three will be learning more about my ancestors, more about my family.  I know that this blog will be a big part of it as well.  All my life I have wanted to write.  This is my chance.  This is my time.  Tomorrow is here; yesterday is over.

 

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Assessment time

It’s time for my periodic review of what I have learned and where I am going in my research.  I keep a Word document with lists of things I need to do, but sometimes I need to step back and see the whole picture, then step forward and see the details.

English: Forest trees Part of the forest which...

English: Forest trees Part of the forest which is a bit more mature than some of the other parts along the path here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the Brotman side, I think I am in fairly good shape.  I have found descendants of all but one of Joseph and Bessie Brotman’s children, although I am not in touch with all of the descendants.  The only missing link is Sophie Brotman; I’ve had absolutely no luck finding any records for her.  I don’t know when she arrived, whether she married and, if so, who she married, where she lived, where she died.  And sadly, I don’t think I ever will.  There is no one left alive to ask about Sophie; none of the descendants I’ve spoken with know anything about her.  Perhaps one of Abraham’s descendants might know something, so I will contact Paula, the one Abraham descendant I’ve been in touch with, and see if she has ever heard of an aunt named Sophie.

Bessie

Bessie

The big research area remaining for me on the Brotman side is finding out whether we are related to any other Brotmans, in particular the Brotmans who settled in Brotmanville.  I am in touch with a few of Moses Brotman’s descendants, and one is a genealogist, so we plan to collaborate and see whether we can find the connection between our families.  If we can, that may also lead me to other clues about where in Galicia Joseph and Bessie lived and to clues about other family members.

Moses Brotman

Moses Brotman—Joseph’s brother?

On the Goldschlager branch, I think I am also in fairly good shape.  I have found the descendants of Moritz, my great-grandfather, and of Betty and David Goldschlager, my grandfather’s siblings, and I know about the lives of Betty and David and their children.  I’d love to go back and research Moritz Goldschlager’s family, but since his parents died when he was a young child, there does not seem to be too much more I can learn.  My Romanian researcher did not find anything more related to my Goldschlager relatives, so I may have reached the brick wall with respect to that line.

Moritz Goldschlager

Moritz Goldschlager

On the other hand, the Rosenzweig branch, my great-grandmother Ghitla’s family, still has a number of unanswered questions.  I have been able to learn a great deal about most of the children of David and Esther Rosenzweig, my great-great-grandparents, but Zusi Rosenzweig remains a mystery.  Her descendants were not responsive to my inquiries, so I may have to find another way to get closure on Zusi and her son Nathan and her husband Harry Mintz.  I’ve had better luck with Tillie Rosenzweig Strolowitz Adler and her children and grandchildren and have been in touch with two of her great-grandchildren.  There are still some loose ends there, but for the most part I have been able to find a fair amount about the children of Tillie and Jankel and even about their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

Ghitla Rosenzweig Goldschlager

As for the family of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig, I still have some open questions, mostly about the daughters Lillie, Lizzie and Ray.  This week I spoke with one of Sarah’s granddaughters, and I am hoping that she will also be able to help me find out more about her grandmother’s sisters, but as of right now, I have not been able to find any of the descendants of Lillie, Lizzie or Ray.

So that’s where I am in this journey to find my mother’s family.  I feel as though I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, though there is still plenty of tunnel to get through.

Tunnel

What do I do now besides continue to search for answers to the remaining questions?  I have a number of thoughts.

For one, I want to continue to build the relationships I’ve made with all my new cousins on both sides of my mother’s family—the Brotmans and the Goldschlager/Rosenzweigs.  Having found them, I don’t want to lose them again.  Facebook and email make this so much easier, but it will still take effort.  I also want to see if I can organize a meeting for the Rosenzweig/Goldschlager cousins like we had for the Brotmans earlier this month.

I also want to pull all my research together into a format that will make it more easily accessible.  I’d like to tell the story of the Brotmans, Goldschlagers and Rosenzweigs as a chronological story so that someone can pick it up and get the whole story without having to jump from blog post to blog post, searching for the next discovery.  That is a larger project, and I don’t even know how to start it, but that is what I see as my ultimate goal—to write the book that tells the stories so that our descendants will have it and know who their ancestors were.

And then there is the next huge research task: my father’s side.  That will be a very different research experience.  His family has been in this country for about fifty years longer than my mother’s family.  They came from Germany and from England.  They settled and lived in other places: Philadelphia, western Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New Mexico, among other places.  There will be a lot more American and European records available, which will make the task both easier and harder.  I’ve already traced one of my father’s lines back to the 1750s or so in Amsterdam, a full century earlier than I’ve been able to trace any of my mother’s relatives.  I look forward to this research with some trepidation because of the size of the task ahead.  But I am also excited by the idea that I have more discoveries, more stories, more understanding of my family and of myself ahead of me.

 

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Gifts from Doing Genealogy: My Wonderful Cousins

Amy:

I have updated this post by adding a link at the end for additional pictures taken by Bruce, Jody and me. If anyone wants to add more, just send them to me.

Originally posted on Brotmanblog: A Family Journey:

Ten of Joseph and Bessie's great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Ten of Joseph and Bessie’s great-grandchildren on the Lower East Side

Lower East Side tenement

Lower East Side tenement (Photo credit: Salim Virji)

After much planning and anticipation, ten of Joseph and Bessie Brotman’s great-grandchildren, four of their great-great-grandchildren and one great-great-greatgrandchild as well as a number of spouses spent the weekend, talking, eating, laughing and connecting and reconnecting in NYC.  Some of us had known each other all our lives, some had never met at all, and some had not seen each other in many years.  We represented two of Joseph and Bessie’s children, Hyman and Gussie. Although a few people could not make it for various reasons, there were several others who wanted to join us but were unable to do so, including one of Max’s granddaughters and one of hisgreat- granddaughters and one of Abraham’s granddaughters.  We had a wonderful tour of the Tenement Museum and several of us…

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Rachel “Ray” Rosenzweig: Can anyone remember anything else?

I have had amazing luck in finding out something about the lives of all but one of Gustave and Gussie’s children.  I have even been able to connect with descendants of many of them.  There are still holes and unfinished stories for Lillie and Lizzie and Sarah, but I’ve at least been able to trace them through some part of their adult lives.  The only child I have had no luck finding after she left the family home is Rachel or Ray, the youngest child.

I know Ray was born in 1904 and that through 1930 she was living with her mother in Brooklyn, but I have found nothing that reveals what happened to her after her mother died.  I have not been able to find her on the 1940 census, on the NYC marriage index, or on the Social Security Death Index.  I don’t know whether she had any descendants.  I need some assistance.

A number of Gussie and Gustave’s descendants remember Ray, and I have been able to obtain these two photographs of Ray from the 1940s.  I know she must have lived at least into the late 1960s since so many of her great-nieces and great-nephews have memories of her.  One remembers that she moved to Florida at some point and thinks she married, but cannot remember her husband’s name.  Another remembers that she lived in New Jersey and married someone with an Italian surname.

Now I am asking to look carefully at these two photos and see if they spark any specific memories—an occupation, a husband, a child, a residence, a date of death—anything that might help me find out more about the youngest child of Gustave and Gussie.

Ray

Ray

Ray 1

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Hyman and Sophie Brotman’s Sons: A Family Album

 

Sophie and Hyman Brotman

Sophie and Hyman Brotman

One of the benefits of getting to meet six of my Brotman second cousins was that I was able to obtain a lot more photographs of my Brotman relatives.  All six of the living grandchildren of Sophie and Hyman Brotman, my grandmother’s older brother, were able to attend our “reunion”—the three children of Saul and Vicky Brotman and the three children of Manny and Freda Brotman.  Sadly, the two daughters of Joseph Brotman, Hyman and Sophie’s oldest son, have passed away.  But I now have a good collection of pictures of Hyman, Sophie, their three sons, and their grandchildren.

Hyman Brotman was born in Galicia and arrived with  his mother, my great-grandmother Bessie,  and his sister Tillie in 1891 when he was about eight years old.  He lived on Ridge Street with his family until he married Sophie Weiss on March 12, 1904.  Hyman and Sophie had three sons.  Joseph Jacob was born on February 4, 1905, and was named for Hyman’s father, my great-grandfather Joseph Jacob Brotman.  Their second son, Saul, was born on April 27, 1907, and their third son Emanuel or Manny was born on May 9, 1910.

Hyman worked at various occupations, including as a chauffeur and in the sweatshops of NYC, but in the early 1920s he and his family moved to Hoboken, NJ, where he opened a liquor store.  My mother has childhood memories of visiting her uncle and aunt in Hoboken, though by that time the three boys were all grown, and sadly she has no memories of her cousins.

Hyman, Bruce and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store

Bruce, Hyman and Sophie in the Hoboken liquor store

 

As their children reported, all three Brotman brothers were very close and very athletic.  They were all excellent swimmers and loved competing against each other, always arguing over who was the fastest.

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Saul Sophie Joe and Manny

Joe married Perle Gorlin on May 1, 1935, and they lived in Queens where Joe was employed as a salesman for Abbott Laboratories, according to the 1940 census. Joe was a pharmacist in New York, but later moved to Florida where he became involved in commercial real estate.

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle Brotman 1940 census

Joe and Perle had two daughters, Barbara, born in 1939 and probably named for Bessie, who had died just five years earlier, and Merle or Miki, born in 1941.  Here are some photos of Joe and Perle and other family members:

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman

Perle, Joe and Sophie Brotman

 

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Hyman (second from left) and Joe (far right) and two unknown men

Joe and Saul Brotman

Joe and Saul Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

From Front Center, Clockwise: Joel, Herman, Sophie, Joe, Perle, Manny, Freda, Denny, Saul , and Vicky Brotman

Saul Brotman was an excellent athlete, especially in swimming and handball.  He graduated from Hoboken High School and started college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy in 1926; he then transferred to and graduated from Panzer College, which has since merged with Montclair State University in New Jersey.  He later got a master’s from Rutgers University.

1932 Panzer College yearbook

1932 Panzer College yearbook

Saul at Panzer College

Saul at Panzer College

Saul

Saul

Saul

Saul

In a comment posted in response to an earlier blog post, Bruce wrote the following about how his parents Saul and Vicky met:

In Manhattan Beach (Brooklyn) there was a beach club, Manhatten Private. It had pools, handball courts, tennis and other sports. My parents were playing handball, my parents were both fine athletes, but not with each other. The ball from my mom’s court was accidently hit toward my dad’s court some distance away. My mom called to my dad saying “ball please”. Dad picked it up and threw it to mom. He then turned to his cousin, with whom he was playing and said “I’m going to marry that girl”. That was about 1940 or 41 I guess. He asked her out several times but she refused. On December 7 1941 my cousin Mel was born. Somehow my father found out and went to the hospital. (Mel was mom’s older brother Al’s first child). Mom asked dad what he was doing there – he said that he thought she might need some help, noting that Pearl Harbor had just been attacked. She apparently knew at that moment that she loved him. The rest is history.”

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Vicky Horowitz Brotman

Saul and Vicky were married in 1942.

Saul served in the US Army during World War II and won a handball championship while serving in the army. After the war, he became a teacher in New Jersey, where he coached many state championship teams.  After 32 years as a teacher,  he left teaching after being assaulted by the parent of one of his students.  Saul then became the pension director for a union.

Saul in the army

Saul in the army

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky 1940s

Saul and Vicky had three sons, Bruce, Ronald and Lester.

les bruce ron

Les, Bruce and Ron

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Bruce, Ron and Les Brotman

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce's bar mtizvah

Saul, Bruce and Vicky at Bruce’s bar mtizvah

Saul remained a great athlete all his life.  In fact, Bruce told me that when Saul was in his seventies, Bruce challenged him to a game of handball, thinking that he could easily beat his father. Instead, Saul soundly defeated his much younger son;  he won four straight games, with Bruce unable to score a single point in any of the four games.

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Bruce

Saul and Vicky

Saul and Vicky

Manny, the youngest of Hyman and Sophie’s sons, was also an excellent athlete like his older brothers.

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

Manny (far left) at camp in 1925

manny 1926

Manny November 1928

Manny November 1928

 

Like his brother Saul, he began college at the New Jersey College of Pharmacy, but he transferred to the University of Iowa, from which he graduated.

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

Manny with his fraternity brothers at U Iowa

He also graduated from John Marshall Law School (New Jersey), which was later taken over by Seton Hall University. Manny became a member of the New Jersey bar in 1938.

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Letter informing Manny that he has passed the New Jersey bar exam

Manny married Freda Feinman on December 22,  1940.

Freda and Manny's wedding invitation 194?

Freda and Manny’s wedding invitation 1940

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny and Freda 1940s

Manny enlisted in the US Army in 1944 during World War II.

Manny Brotman

Manny Brotman

Manny practiced law for some time, but then joined J.I. Kislak Mortgage Corporation, a subsidiary of J.I. Kislak, Inc.  J.I.Kislak, Inc. was a residential and commercial Realtor, originally based in Hoboken and then in Jersey City, and Kislak Mortgage was primarily a residential mortgage banking company, one of the largest in NJ at the time, based in Newark.  He was president and then chairman of Kislak Mortgage for many years, was president of the Mortgage Bankers Association of NJ, and a long-time board member and two-term Treasurer of the Mortgage Bankers Association of America, where he received the Distinguished Service award. Kislak Realty, a commercial mortgage firm, where he became the president.  He was often quoted as an expert on veteran’s housing and housing in general in various newspaper articles.  Here is one example of an article that ran in several newspapers across the country:  Lebanon_Daily_News_July_10__1971_Lebanon__PA_Manny_Brotman

Manny and Freda had three children: Joel, Denny and Bonnie.  Here are some pictures of Manny and his family:

Manny, Joel and Freda

Manny, Joel and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

Denny, Bonnie and Freda

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1932

The Feinman and Brotman families June 16, 1937

From left to right: Aron Feinman, Hyman Brotman, Mary Feinman, Sophie Brotman, Manny Brotman, Sam Feinman, Freda Feinman, Saul Brotman (according to the back of this photograph)

 

I did not know Hyman or Sophie or any of their sons, but I was very fortunate to meet six members of the next generation, my second cousins Bruce, Ron, Les, Joel, Denny, and Bonnie.  They all made the effort to come to New York City, some from as far away as Florida and Ohio.  I really enjoyed meeting and talking to each one of them and getting a chance to meet some of their children, four of whom also showed up during the course of the weekend.

What a wonderful tribute to their grandparents and parents that these cousins and their children cared enough about the extended family, including some second cousins they’d never met,  to make such a united effort to come to New York so that we could all be together.

 

Saul and Manny's descendants

Six of Hyman and Sophie’s grandchildren and three of their great-grandchildren

 

 

 

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April 17

My cousin Jeff would have been 68 years old today, and it is over ten years ago that he died.  I’ve written about him before—my oldest cousin, the one whom we all adored, the leader of our pack.  I am older now than he ever got to be.  He did not get to see his children graduate from high school or college, and he will not get to see them get married or have children.  He was cheated, and so were all of us who loved him.  So for Jeff, a photo collage of pictures, some that I’ve posted before, some that are new to the blog.  These give me comfort, and I hope that they will for all of us who miss him.

Jeff was an active child from day one, always into mischief.  I remember my aunt’s story about finding him on top of her high dresser when he was just a toddler.  Somehow he had climbed from his crib all the way to the top and was sitting there when she found him.

Gussie and Jeff 1946

Gussie and Jeff 1946

Jeff and Gussie c. 1946

Jeff and Gussie c. 1946

Jeff 1947 Jeff 1947 Jeff 1949 Jeff 1951

Elaine and Jeff 1949

Elaine and Jeff 1949

These next two pictures of Jeff make him look far more angelic than he ever was!

Jeff Lehrbaum 1952

Jeff Lehrbaum 1952

Jeff 5 years old

Jeff 5 years old

Jeff and Beth c. 1954

Jeff and Beth c. 1954

One of my favorites—I am sitting with two of my favorite people, my Aunt Elaine and my cousin, her son Jeff.

Elaine Jeff and Amy 1953

My cousin Robin sent me these three.  They were taken when Jeff came to visit them in West Hartford the summer after he graduated from high school.  I was so sad that summer, knowing that Jeff would be moving far away (to upstate New York from where both our families lived in White Plains).

Sue and Jeff 1964

Sue and Jeff 1964

Jeff in West Hartford 1964Jeff 1964 in West Hartford

 

Jeff 1965

Jeff 1965

Jeff at Horizons 1965 or 1966

Jeff at Horizons 1965 or 1966

Jeff and Jim 1971

Jeff and Jim 1971 oldest cousin to youngest cousin

 

Jeff remained a big part of our lives even after he went to college and when he moved to Philadelphia after college, married and had children.  I did not see him as often as when we were kids, but he was always there at family events, and he remained the leader of our pack and always will be.

 

 

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The Legacy of Rebecca Rosenzweig: Her Son, Irwin Elkins

Iriwin Elkins 1960

Iriwin Elkins 1960

I recently connected with Richard Elkins, the grandson of Rebecca Rosenzweig Elkin.  Rebecca died in 1921 at age 27, when her son Irving was less than two years old.  Irving grew up to be Irwin Elkins, who married Muriel, with whom he had two sons, Michael and Richard.  Richard was kind enough to share with me some stories about Irwin’s life.  With his permission, I am including some of what he shared with me in his own words.

First, some background.  Rebecca Rosenzweig, my grandfather’s first cousin and the daughter of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig, married Frank Elkin in 1914.  Her son Irving was born in 1919.  After Rebecca died in 1921, Frank married Frances Reiner in 1922 and moved to Boston. Frank and Frances had a son named Stanley, who was born in 1925.  In 1930 Frank was back in Brooklyn with Frances and the boys, but sometime thereafter they returned to the Boston area, where they settled permanently.  I had assumed that Irving had stayed with Frank and his new wife during the 1920s, but Richard informed me otherwise.

“When Rebecca Rosenzweig passed away in 1921, Irwin Elkin moved into the home of Gustave and Gussie Rosenzweig, where he resided for eight years until 1929.  Irving adored his Grandma Rosenzweig, and Grandma Rosenzweig adored my Dad. My Dad thought of Gussie as his mother. My Dad said Gussie was a fabulous cook.   My Dad never spoke about Gustave.”

Perhaps the reason that Irwin never spoke about Gustave was that by 1921, Gustave and Gussie were divorced or at least no longer living together.  If Irwin’s years with his grandmother were from 1921 to 1929, he was living with just Gussie, Ray, and Lizzie.

One of Irwin’s favorite stories about his years living with his grandmother was this one, according to Richard:  “There was a large family gathering at Gustave and Gussie’s home, and Gussie discovered that she did not have enough food to feed the entire clan.  Gussie pulled my Dad aside and told him to tell all the other children that when Gussie asked who wanted chicken for dinner, all the children were to say, ”No, thank you,” because they were not hungry.  That way there would be enough food for the adults. When everyone sat down at the table, Gussie asked who wants chicken for dinner?  All the children dutifully said no thank they were not hungry and were excused from the table.  After the dinner was served and completed, Gussie then announced, ‘Any child who did not eat my chicken dinner will get no dessert!’ “

Richard also shared this story about his uncle, Jack Rosenzweig: “The only other story I recall about my Dad growing up in the Rosenzweig household is someone my Dad referred to as Uncle Jack who had a wild sense of humor.  Jack worked behind the counter in the post office.  One day my Dad walked into the post office to see Jack and Jack told my Dad he went to Yankee Stadium and met with legend Babe Ruth.  Jack then tossed to my Dad a baseball with Babe Ruth’s autograph on it.  There was just one problem.  The autograph was written in purple indelible ink that was the same color ink that Jack used to address packages for postal customers.”

Irwin’s time with the Rosenzweig family ended in 1929.  Richard wrote: “In 1929 Irwin was told to pack up his belongings. Frank arrived from Boston, picked up Irwin, and they went back to Boston on the train. My Dad was aware that Frank had remarried and had met Frances (Fan) Reiner. What my Dad did not know, until he arrived at his new home, is that he had a kid brother named Stanley who was six years younger than he was. That fact had been withheld from him while Irwin was living in the Rosenzweig household.”

I asked Richard if he knew why Frank and Frances had moved to Boston rather than stay in NYC.  He wrote:

“Although Francis Fan Reiner was born in New Jersey, her extended family lived in Boston. … The second move back to Boston occurred because Frank changed professions. He met a couple who were twenty years younger than he was named Joseph Cohen and his wife Rene Cohen.  They opened up a business called Debonair Frocks located on Kneeland Street that was in the high rent fashion district in Boston.  Frank was the salesman who traveled throughout New England.”

Richard also told me that his father graduated from Boston English High School and was accepted into the MIT School of Engineering.  He could not afford the $600 per year tuition and instead went to Northeastern University, which had awarded him a football and baseball scholarship and the opportunity to work on a paid co-op job.  According to Richard, “Frank and Fanny Elkins were very unhappy that Irwin wanted to study engineering in college. They believed it was a useless profession. They would invite family and friends over to convince my Dad that the future was in clothing, not engineering.  People need things to wear, they don’t need mechanical engineers.”

Irwin soon proved them wrong.  Richard wrote:

“When World War II broke out with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, my Dad had just graduated Northeastern and tried to enlist as a fighter pilot.  He was rejected for two reasons.  He stood 6’4 and weighed 200 pounds which made him too large to fly.  He also had his degree in mechanical and aeronautical engineering that made him too valuable to serve in the armed forces. My Dad was assigned to be a civilian contractor working for Bethlehem Steel at the Fore River Ship Yard in Quincy, Massachusetts.  His responsibility was to oversee the construction of light cruisers and destroyers, take them to sea on shakedown cruises, and sign off on their seaworthiness before turning over the ships to the War Department.

“It was my Dad’s crew of engineers at the Fore River Shipyard who perfected the “Davit” that was first invented in 1928.  It’s the device that holds a ship’s lifeboats in place that would lower the lifeboat by hand cranking the boat down into the water.  My Dad was the lead engineer who re-designed the Davit into a fully automated self-contained hydraulic system that would first lower the two arms holding the lifeboat from their vertical position – while keeping the lifeboat level – into a horizontal position for boarding. The Davit hydraulics would then resume lowering the lifeboat into a fully locked horizontal position at which point a second set of hydraulics would automatically lower the lifeboat while maintaining its level stability even if the weight distribution in the boat was not balanced. The end result was an automated steady descent onto the water regardless of the surf conditions or high winds. 

“If you want to see first-hand the engineering legacy of Irwin “Tiny” Elkins, then take a vacation cruise on a Princess, Carnival, Disney, or Royal Caribbean ship.  Look closely at the hydraulics on the Davit’s holding up the lifeboats. Nothing has changed in the past seventy years. The survivors of cruise ship disasters like the Concordia in Italy can thank the Rosenzweig family genes for that innovated engineering solution.”

Irwin Elkins with Piper Cub 1958

Irwin Elkins with Piper Cub 1958

Richard also shared these recollections of his father:

“My Dad was physically a large man and a wonderful athlete.  Growing up we skied together, played tennis, and golfed.  In a batting cage he could outdo me with little effort.   Whenever anyone asked my Dad why such a large person like him was called “Tiny,” his standard response was “I was an incubator baby, and the nurse in charge turned the heat up too high.”  Whenever he was asked why he did not have a middle name, his standard response was, “My parents were so poor they could not afford one for me.” Whenever someone asked him why he was so tall, his standard response was “So if I cut off my legs, will it make you feel any better?” In his business dealings he often told his customers, “It will be done my way and don’t worry about it. If I’m wrong, I’ll deal with it after I’m dead.” If someone did something that my Dad considered to be stupid, my Dad would point to his head and say “That’s using your toukis.”

Finally, I asked Richard whether his father ever reconnected with the Rosenzweig family.  He shared this story:

“In 1969 a woman and her son walk into my Dad’s office in Brattleboro.  When my Dad asks if he can help her, she introduces her son named Steven Rosenthal who will be a student at Windham College in nearby Putney. My Dad replies, why is that of interest to me? She informs my Dad that her name is Rebecca Kurtz Rosenthal. She was named after my Dad’s mother Rebecca Rosenzweig. Her mother was Sarah Rosenzweig, the sister of Rebecca Rosenzweig.  To say that my Dad was completely stunned at this unannounced visit is an understatement.”

Irwin Elkins reunited with his cousins Rebecca Kurtz and Ben Kurtz and others in Florida 1992

Irwin Elkins reunited with his cousins Rebecca Kurtz and Ben Kurtz and others in Florida 1992

The following year Richard himself met the Rosenzweig family:

“In 1970 at a family reunion in Long Island, New York, at the home of Rebecca Kurtz Rosenthal and her husband Sam Rosenthal, I arrived with my parents.  Other than Rebecca and her husband Sam, none of the Rosenzweig family knew that my Dad would be attending the reunion.  When we walked into the backyard Rebecca introduced my Dad to all of her family.  I distinctly remember a flood of tears because the entire Rosenzweig clan had not seen Irwin in over forty years.”

“Rebecca’s and Sam’s son, Steven, introduced me to a woman he called “My Great Aunt Lizzie.” She must have been Lizzie Rosenzweig. She knew the name of the cemetery where Rebecca was buried. When my Dad asked her what his mother died from, Lizzie replied that she succumbed to a flu pandemic in 1921 that devastated NYC. Lizzie also informed my Dad that he had two older brothers named Milton and David who also died from the same pandemic that took his mother’s life. “

“When the emotions settled down several hours later, Lizzie told my Dad a comical story about when Frank showed up at the Rosenzweig household to court Rebecca, Lizzie’s parents would lock all the other sisters into their parent’s bedroom.  However, they were allowed to put their ear to the door and listen.”

Rebecca’s death certificate indicates that Rebecca in fact died from tuberculosis at a sanitarium in Liberty, New York, where she had been a patient for a little over a month before her death. rebecca elkin death certificate I also found the death certificates for Rebecca and Frank’s two other sons.  The first born was Milton, born on December 14, 1914, just nine months after Rebecca and Frank were married.  He died just five months later on May 16, 1915.  It seems he had been sick for two months, in other words, since he was really just an infant.

Milton Elkin death certificate

Milton Elkin death certificate

The second child was Daniel (not David).  He was born October 31, 1916, and died December 16, 1917, when he was just over a year old, from broncho pneumonia.

Daniel Elkin death certificate

Daniel Elkin death certificate

Although the family lore was that Rebecca and the two boys died during the flu pandemic of 1921, that appears not to be true.  It would appear instead that Milton died over a year before Daniel was even born, and that Daniel died two years before Irving was born and four years before Rebecca died.  Maybe the family remembered it differently because it was just too painful to imagine Rebecca and Frank losing one child after another and then Frank losing Rebecca when Irving was not yet two years old.  It is too painful to imagine.

I am deeply appreciative of Richard’s willingness to share his family stories.  They preserve not only the memory of his grandmother Rebecca, who never saw her son grow up; they also preserve the memory of that son, Richard’s father, Irwin Elkins, who despite losing his mother at such a young age, grew up to be a man with a great sense of humor, a wonderful father, a successful businessperson, and an inspired engineer.  The resilience of the human spirit is remarkable.

 

 

 

 

 

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