The original 1991 write-up is published below, enjoy.
Kasnett Family Tree
Kasnett List of Names
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Kasnett Family Tree
Kasnett List of Names
I would like to Dedicate The Kasnett Family Web Pages to the memory of my Grandmother Ida (Kosnesky) Bark who passed away March, 1998 at the age of 94.
The List of Borishansky Names
Editors note: The Borishansky List of Names was compiled by Jim Bennett of Haifa, Israel. We are trying to figure out how the Kasnett Ancestors are related to this family. Both the Kasnett Ancestors and the Borishansky Ancestors all originated from the same location in Russia.
All of the data was researched and compiled by Jim Barnett whose wife Myrna is a Borishanski descendant. Jim can be contacted at:
Benjamin Kosnetsky (Kasnett) maternal Grandfather was Elchanan Borishansky. We are in the process of trying to link our two families together.
If you need to make any additions to the KASNETT LIST or correct any entries, please E-MAIL the author by clicking below. Please be patient, I maybe delayed in updating the web pages.
Kasnett Family History
Introduction, Kosnesky Family, The Washingtonians,
The Baltimoreans, Relatives & Friends, Zalman Edlavitch,
Shana Esther Danenberg, Mary Shine, Scheinin Family in Russia,
Other Relations & Friends,
The Feingolds, Original Write-up Photo's
The Family History of Benjamin & Anna Kosnesky (Kasnett)
Kosnesky's (circa. 1911)
Front L. to R. Edith, Anna, Ida, Benjamin & Isadore
Back L. to R. Henry, Hyman
This is a narrative record of the family of Benjamin and Anna Kosnesky, who emigrated to the United States with their children about 1901. The idea for this document began with Marvin L. Bark, one of their grandsons, who wanted to preserve a record of his family for the future. He collected the information and documents contained in this account by soliciting information from family members and researching family documents and immigration records. The entire document has been edited by another grandson, Benjamin N. Davis.
Some mention should be made here about the spelling of the family name. A variant spelling, Kusnetzsky, appears on the birth certificate of one of the children, Ida, who was born in the United States in 1904. However, all other official documents show the spelling of the family name as Kosnesky. Marvin, who is Ida's son, speculates that when the midwife, Mrs. Scherman, registered his mother's name, she may have used that spelling since, as Ida always said, "People in the neighborhood had many ways to pronounce their names."
This history focuses on Anna and Benjamin and their children; it pays some attention to the grandchildren, who participated in this project out of a desire to preserve their memories of their parents and grandparents. Future generations of the family can continue this history. It will be officially filed at the Jewish Historical Society in Baltimore, Maryland.
THE KOSNESKY FAMILY IN AMERICA
Benjamin and Anna Kosnesky emigrated with their three children Henry, Hyman, and Edith (a fourth child, Robert, had passed away in Europe) to the United States from Ekaterinoslav, Russia, sometime in 1903, and settled in Baltimore, Maryland.
Their reasons for migrating are not known. However, they were not the only ones in their family to emigrate to the United States. Of Anna Kosnesky's two sisters and two brothers, one sister, Katie (Chaina) Benjamin, and one brother, Zalman, also came to America. Zalman, however, who was a widower and who came with his daughter, Sarah, returned to Russia sometime between 1900 and 1904, leaving Sarah in Baltimore with his sister, Katie. Later, Sarah would also stay with her other aunt, Anna. Anna's other brother and sister, Gershke and Hanna, remained in Russia.
Benjamin Kosnesky had two sisters, one of whom, Shana Esther, also migrated to the United States and settled in Baltimore. At some point, either in Russia or the States, she married Joseph Danenberg. Although the other sister, Mary (Kosnesky) Shine, never migrated to the States, her daughter, Ida, eventually did come over and lived for awhile with her aunt, Shana Esther. Ida later married Jacob (Jake) Wolod and moved to Buffalo, New York.
Whether Benjamin and Anna were the first in their families to emigrate to the United States or followed other family members is also not known. It is interesting to note, however, that most of their immediate relatives settled in Baltimore.
What route did Benjamin and Anna and their three children take to get to the United States? The answer can only be conjectured since, at the time this history was written, no one was alive who knew. Using a 1904 map of Russia, Marvin Bark, the grandson who initiated and guided the writing of this history, traced the many railroad lines that covered that vast expanse of land. In trying to imagine the easiest route to take with three children, he had several questions: Did they travel on Shabbos? How much money was available? Did they have to stop and work to meet expenses? Did the father, Benjamin, travel ahead of his family? How often did the trains run, and what other means of conveyance did they use?
A likely route that they could have taken, Marvin finally decided, extended northwest from their home city, Ekaterinoslav, which is on the Dnieper River, to Kiev and then veered due west to Zitomir. From Zitomir the major points along this route ran from Lutsk to Chelm to Lublin to Lodz to Poznan to Berlin. From Berlin they could have gone to Bremer/Bremerhaven, an important point of embarkation to the States for Eastern European immigrants of that time, where they could have booked passage on a ship and landed on Ellis Island. Their daughter Edith's citizenship papers stated that the family came to Baltimore in 1903 aboard the ship, the Catherine. However, a search of the Catherine's passenger lists of that year has not proved fruitful; their names were not on these lists. As of this writing, Marvin is checking further to see if they did come in through Ellis Island. If so, then the route sketched above was the probable one they took.
That route, which covers a total distance of approximately 6,000 miles from Ekaterinoslav to the United States, also encompassed the large Jewish population centers of that time. Thus, it would have been easier for them to secure food and lodging during the journey.
After their arrival in Baltimore, the family set up residence in east Baltimore at or near 137 Harrison Street. In January 1904, just several weeks before the Great Baltimore fire, a fifth child, Ida, was born; and in 1906, the last child, Isadore (Izzy), joined the family.
Benjamin was a tailor, specializing in making men's pants. He had a shop at 14 Albemarle Street near Fawn Street, which he continued to maintain as the family moved to different residences. The exact dates of these moves are lost.
The Kosnesky family moved from Harrison Street to 1137 E. Lombard Street well before Lombard Street became the main shopping center for the Jewish population of Baltimore. The next move was just off Broadway to 1643 and 1645 E. Fayette Street, where the Church Home Hospital stands today. The houses on Fayette Street must have been a miniature "Ellis Island." Edith and Ida would reminisce about how newly arrived relatives and landsmen would stay at the house during their first days in America and Baltimore.
In the 1920s the family moved out of east Baltimore to 1531 N. Smallwood Street in west Baltimore (phone number Madison 7743-R). This house remained in the family's possession until the early 1950s.
By the time of the move to Smallwood Street, the family was using the Americanized version of their name, Kasnett, although it was not changed legally until 1941.
About 1922, either before or after the move to Smallwood Street, the father, Benjamin, went to Lompoc, California, because of his asthma. The family felt that the weather in California would be better for him. In addition, he already had an aunt living there, a Mrs. Wahl, who was the great-grandmother of Louise (Ross) Nemeth and Lenny Ross. Louise and Lenny's mother was a Wahl.
Benjamin thrived in the California climate. He worked in a shipyard in Lompoc; and when Henry came out there to see him (Henry worked in a furniture store while he was in California), he reported that he could not believe the change in his father's health as a result of the climate. He could lift things, he was mobile all without getting asthmatic attacks. According to some accounts, Benjamin begged Anna to move there. But she refused, and he came back east. However, there seems to be some conflict in the story of how well he really liked it there.
According to his daughter Edith, he was uncomfortable with the California lifestyle. For instance, Edith used to tell the story of how he lent $100 to a rabbi, but was never repaid. According to Edith, her father could not get used to people like the "gonif" rabbi or to the "dirty" conditions in which people lived. In addition, it seems that Henry's wife, Edna, did not want to move west and leave her mother. The original plan had been for the whole family to move together; it was not willing to split up. All of these factors most likely contributed to the decision for Benjamin to return to Baltimore.
Before the move to Smallwood Street, Henry and Izzy had moved to Washington, D.C., where they spent the rest of their lives. Edith and Ida always referred to the Washington branch of the family as the "Washingtonians."
In February 1927, after the move to Smallwood Street, Benjamin Kosnesky, the patriarch of the family, passed away. The cause of death was related to his asthma. He was about 56 years old.
He seems to have been an unassuming, quiet man. His granddaughter Rhona, Edith's daughter, remembers how her mother talked about him. "I never knew my zade; he died before I was born. However, there are ways of knowing a person through the eyes of another. I felt I knew him through the eyes of my mother. When she spoke of him, it was with warmth, love, and always tears. He was gentle, kind, and very special to her. She had many stories to tell about him: how she went searching for him once in the snow when he didn't come home from work and found him somewhere, half-dead, unable to breathe because of his asthma; how, on hot nights, he would take the children on the roof to sleep. But there's one story in particular I remember her telling because, for me, it conveyed how much she loved him. He used to give them pocket money even though they were poor, and he would say in Yiddish, 'You should only remember that you had a tate (father).' Years later she found that sentence in Yiddish in a newspaper (I don't remember what the article was about), and she cut it out and kept it in her purse. She would take it out and show it to me and tell me, again and again, the story of his generosity."
Anna Kosnesky, the matriarch of the family, lived to the age of 74 and passed away in April 1948.
What were the Kosnesky children like? These are some of the remembrances. Henry was an amateur boxer before he went into the army. Izzy, the youngest, was supposed to have been the mother's favorite. Certainly, Edith and Ida pampered him and always talked about him in glowing terms. He was blonde and goodlooking, although heavy. He seemed to have been something of a playboy. He is described by Marvin as a "free-spirited person, happy, and always on the go." He was a fantastic bridge player and a fine dancer, according to Marvin, very light on his feet, despite his weight.
Edith, who was raven-haired and had green eyes, was a very pretty, striking-looking young woman. She was also the most ambitious and studious of the five children. Her Hebrew school principal wanted her to continue her studies at the Hebrew College. She later wanted to become a dentist, modeling herself after a woman dentist in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, her parents squelched these ambitions as unimportant for a girl, and Edith acquiesced. Perhaps she rebelled by not marrying until much later in life than was usual for a woman of that time.
Ida was a pretty blonde with more modest goals for herself. She worked at Fox's Pocketbook Factory until she married in 1929.
Hyman (Chonky) was mildly retarded as the result of an accident in Russia. Edith would sometimes talk about the time the doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital wanted to operate on him since there was a possibility he could be helped; his problem was relatively minor. However, it was a new procedure, and there was a danger he could die. Anna, the mother, being an unsophisticated woman with the conservative, superstitious wariness of a peasant, refused to allow the operation and assigned Chonky to "God's will."
Chonky was kept at home for years; but finally, because of the harassment's he suffered at the hands of other children and the other difficulties of keeping him in the community, his parents were forced to institutionalize him at Rosewood State Hospital in Owings Mills, the state institution for the retarded, where he spent the remaining fifty-five years of his life. This occurred before the move to Smallwood Street. Edith, being the oldest of the two girls, had to travel by streetcar once a week to visit him at Rosewood. At that time it was about a two-hour ride each way to this rural area outside the city. Edith used to recall the long, tedious ride in which she would regularly get sick.
Over the years of his institutionalization, the family visited Chonky regularly. Marvin recalls some poignant memories of these visits and of Chonky. "My earliest recollection of Uncle Chonky dated back to when I was a young boy. We would travel to Baltimore and gather at Bubbe's house before the ride to Rosewood. It seemed to me that all the family from Washington, Baltimore, and Annapolis (at that time his parents ran a store in Annapolis) went on a picnic in the country.
"For all the years he spent at Rosewood, Uncle Chonky remembered family members. Aunt E would speak to him in Yiddish, and he would respond. He never seemed to forget what he learned as a youth. It must have been indelibly etched in his mind. How he and Aunt E fought over the nickels and dimes for ice cream. Aunt E wanted to knot the coins in his handkerchief, and he wanted to put the money in his pocket.
"Aunt E would make him angry just by asking him if he would take the pants to the button hole maker. This was a chore which he did when he lived at home. He never liked doing it, and when she would tease him, he would pout.
"Chonky would ask my father, 'Barney bring me cap Sunday That was another one of his antics that I'll never forget. He always wanted a hat or cap. When preparing to go to Rosewood, you made sure you had plenty of coins and a cap.
"In later years we would bring him to the house on Park Heights Terrace, but he always wanted to go home to Rosewood. He seemed to sense that Mommy, Poppy, Henry, Izzy, and Barney were not coming to see him on Park Heights Terrace, so he had to be in familiar surroundings.
"He loved to tell you about the time he went to the hospital in Baltimore to be operated on. He was like any one of us talking about our trips to the operating table.
Upon Henry's return from World War I, he met and married Edna Margolis and moved to Washington, D.C. (circa 1919). Izzy later also moved to Washington. Henry and Izzy had a furniture store, Capitol Furniture, on 639 Indiana Avenue.
In February 1921, Shelton, the first child, was born to Edna and Henry. He was followed by Leonard, Robert, and Justine, in that order. The family lived for many years at 419 Decatur Street, NW. This house was always filled with family and friends. There was a club basement where parties were held. Especially memorable were those parties celebrating the return of Shelton, Lenny, and Bobby from World War II. Lenny and Phyllis were married at the Decatur Street house.
The house also contained a grand piano, which Justine played. People would stop their cars in the summer to listen to her playing.
Shelton married Ruth (Ruthie) Zuckerman; Lenny married Phyllis Elling; Bobby married Phyllis Eibender; and Justine married Gilbert Tabb. To distinguish between the two Phyllises, Edith and Ida would often refer to them as Lenny's Phyllis and Bobby's Phyllis or sometimes refer to the latter as Phyllis Eibender.
Henry and Edna moved to 14 Street and Missouri Avenue, NW, in the early fifties. Henry died of a heart attack on January 8, 1956. Edna eventually moved to an apartment on Connecticut Avenue and lived there until she passed away in October 1987. By the time of her death, Edna was a very old lady who had lived a full life. Despite her age and physical infirmities (she was almost blind; all her life she had had bad eyes and wore thick lenses; she had also had several heart operations), she retained to the end her affectionate nature and sense of humor.
Izzy was married to Sadie Pollock (Polly). They had no children. They first lived in a house on 4 Street, NW; and later they moved to 429 Decatur Street, NW, a few doors from Henry and Edna. Izzy passed away on December 17, 1945. He died of a heart attack in his car, while it was stopped for a red light. He was just 39 years old at the time of his death.
On June 18, 1929, Ida married Benjamin (Barney) Bark, whom she had met at Fox's Pocketbook Factory. They had three children, Barbara (Beanie), Marvin Lee (Moishe), and Gerald (Jerry).
Edith married Henry Davis on March 17, 1934. They had two children, Benjamin Norman (Benny) and Rhona Faye (Sissy).
Over the years Ida and Barney owned and operated small grocery stores at various locations. Their first store was at High and Low Streets in Baltimore, and their second store was in South Washington, Virginia, which is now Crystal City. Around 1934 they moved with their two children, Beanie and Moishe (Jerry was not yet born) to 48 Northwest Street (off Church Circle) in Annapolis, Maryland, where they lived until 1942. That site is now occupied by a state office building. The four of them lived in quarters behind and above the store.
Their life in Annapolis seemed to be a particularly happy time for them. Their daughter Beanie's charming, humorous memories of that period paint a nostalgic picture of a time when communities were close-knit. "My earliest memory of my life in Annapolis was my enrollment in elementary school. My mother took me in hand to the Annapolis grammar school to be enrolled in the first grade. At that registration, my mother was told that I could not be enrolled for the term since I was not yet six years old. I would have been six a few days too late to register for that semester. We went home, and after lunch my father took me back for a second try.
"My mother deployed a little deception. She changed my clothes and combed my hair in a different style. This time my father gave my birthdate as 28 August 1930. When asked for my birth certificate, he told Miss Roberts, the principal, that we had just moved to Annapolis and were not fully unpacked. He promised her that as soon as everything was unpacked, he would locate the birth certificate and bring it to school for recording.
"We made many friends in the years we spent in Annapolis. There were the Roths, the Earles, the Fines, the Rosensteins, the Levins, etc. Most of them are gone now, but coincidentally, Katie Fine now lives in Mom's apartment building. Over the years since leaving Annapolis, I have come into contact for brief periods of time with two of my friends from there. Elsie Cohen was just ahead of me at Sinai School of Nursing; and some years later I met her sister, Frieda, in St. Mary's County. Her husband, who was a naval officer, was stationed at Patuxent River Naval Station.
"Many of the social activities were centered around the shul, Knesseth Israel, which was the only synagogue in Annapolis at that time. Moishe and I went to Hebrew school three times a week and to Sunday school on Sunday mornings. The rabbi then was Rabbi Cohen. He was a strict Hebrew school teacher and a strong leader of the Jewish community, which was not very large at that time. There were, perhaps, seventy families, but the community worked together. I remember the Sabbath services and the services for both major and minor Jewish holidays. Dinners were held at the shul and at the ladies auxiliary picnic each summer on the South River. Moishe won a baby beauty contest at the 1937 picnic. The entire family participated in these functions. Whoever heard of babysitters?
"Mom and Dad were card players and were part of a weekly poker game with the Roths, Earles, and Rosensteins. Each week the game was at the home of one of the participants. Moishe and I went with our parents to these weekly games; the Roth and Earle boys also came with their parents. While the adults played cards, we listened to the radio and played games. TV was not yet available!
"Our other friends in Annapolis were the Calabreses. My friend was Jenny, who was one of five sisters; and Moishe's friend was Angelo, Jenny's cousin. Jenny and Angelo's fathers were barbers. Both families lived together on West Street in a large three-story house.
"One of my memories was of Angelo's father's car, which was an old limousine with jumpseats. On several occasions we went with the Calabreses to Priest Farm for a Sunday outing along the Severn River. We were packed into the limo like sardines. One time, though, was particularly vivid. It was December 7, 1941, the day the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I was staying the weekend with Jenny and her family. When the announcement of the attack came over the radio, hysteria went through the house. The Calabreses were devout Catholics. Their first instinct was to go to church. What were they going to do with me? We all jammed into the limo and went to St. Mary's Church on Duke of Gloucester Street."
In 1942 the Barks moved to Curtis Bay in Baltimore. World War II was still on, and Barney worked at the shipyards in Fairfield as a pipefitter, helping to construct liberty ships for the war effort. The family also had a store there. In late 1944 with the war winding down, Barney left the shipyard and bought another grocery store at 1049 N. Mount Street in Baltimore, where the family moved.
In May 1945 Gerald (Jerry) was born.
While the Barks were peripatetic, Edith remained on Smallwood Street with her mother. She was 32 years old when she married Henry Davis in 1934. Until her marriage she worked as a stenographer in the clothing industry in Baltimore. She always said she never intended to marry, but then "Henry Davis had to come along." They married in a secret ceremony in Annapolis, but continued to live apart until they finally announced the marriage to her mother. Then they began living together on Smallwood Street.
Henry had been married once before to a woman named Edna, from whom he was divorced. He had one child from that marriage, a daughter Phyllis, who later married a Posner. Edith and Henry would take Phyllis out until, according to Edith, Edna became so disagreeable that they stopped. Edith and Henry's two children never knew of Phyllis's existence until after Henry's death and never met her until they were adults.
During their ten-year marriage (Henry died of cancer in 1944), Edith did not work. Although Henry was ambitious, Edith would say he never had the patience to stick with one thing. He established Davis and Davis Insurance Company with his brother Meyer, but prematurely left this company, which eventually grew into a million-dollar business, to open a coal yard that he named for his son. the Norman Coal Yard (Norman was Benny's middle name).
Life on Smallwood Street was similar in many ways to Beanie's description of her childhood in Annapolis. The neighborhood was close-knit. Henry and Edith's daughter, Sissy, remembers "Easterwood Park, Halloween parades on North Avenue, sledding down Pressman Street, and the neighbors who were family to us the Kolkers, Lerners, Portneys, and many more.
"We went to Har Zion Hebrew School where Rabbi Green was in charge. Later when it closed its doors, we were bussed to Isaac Davidson Hebrew School off Reisterstown Road. By that time, however, Benny had already graduated from Har Zion and was attending Hebrew College."
Easterwood Park was the neighborhood playground located one block west on Bentalou Street. It had swings, seesaws, a basketball court, and a tennis court. On summer nights, colored lights would be strung around the tennis court, and some type of outdoor event, as Benny recalls, would be held. The park also held crafts classes and dance classes for the kids. Benny remembers making potholders and learning to dance the waltz.
"There are other memories of Smallwood Street," he reminisces. "Stanley Kolker, who lived next door to us at 1533 N. Smallwood Street, was my best friend. Fayge Jaslow, who lived two doors away at 1535, introduced me to the Pratt Library branch on North Avenue between Smallwood and Bentalou Streets, just after my father died. I loved reading and went there all the time. I would cart home five or more books at a time, as if I were in a contest to see how many books I could read in the two- or four-week period you were allowed to borrow them.
"Jerry Schiff, Stanley Kolker, and I used to call ourselves the Three Musketeers. Shirley Portney, her cousin Marilyn Portney, Marcia Rudolph, the brothers Bernie and Barry Stern (their father, Lefty, was the iceman) these were the kids my age who lived in the neighborhood."
Some of Benny's strong memories of Smallwood Street relate to his father. "My father used to take us to the Fulton Theater on Fulton Avenue and Baker Street. I still remember scenes from movies I saw there. Often when he came home from work, he would bring us kids crackerjacks and lie on the porch glider with all the neighborhood kids sitting around him on the floor. My mother used to say that the other kids envied us because of our father.
"One of the last times I saw him was at Church Home and Hospital when he was dying. Ironically, it was the same hospital where Sissy and I were born. My mother and I and a cousin were sitting on the porch of the hospital. My mother snuck me into his room to see him. He was all wired up. I don't know what I thought or even if I understood what was happening. I stood there because I was expected to. Then afterwards on the porch, I sat quietly on the rocking chair. I heard my mother remark to my cousin how upset I was. Was I? What I remember was how conscious I was of my quietness, but not what it meant, as if I were an actor performing for other people's benefit. I know I've blocked out a lot of my feelings about his death. My mother told me how I sat on the stairs in our house after he died, crying hysterically, "What is going to happen to us?" I don't remember this. I do remember that after his death, we seemed to be suddenly deprived and, worst of all, abandoned. Our maid, Toni, whom Sissy and I loved, had to leave us. On her last day, she took us to Easterwood Park to say goodbye to us."
Henry died of cancer in August 1944 at the age of 42. The Bark and Davis families started to operate together after that. Barney would pick up Benny and Sissy each evening to bring them to Mount Street for dinner. Edith would come there after work, and later Barney would drive them home to Smallwood Street.
Edith had resumed working as a secretary in the clothing industry in Baltimore and moonlighted in the evenings as a door-to-door saleswoman for her brothers-in-law, Meyer and Eli, who owned Davis and Davis Insurance Co. Many nights Edith would call to have Barney pick her up someplace where she had gone to sell insurance. She was tireless and determined to support her children and provide them with an education.
In 1950 the Davis/Bark families united to live in the house on Smallwood Street. In 1951 the house was sold, and both families moved to 2526 Park Heights Terrace. From there the offsprings left to lead their own lives and start families of their own.
Moishe married Diane Lubman and had two sons, Edward (Eddie) and Benjamin (B.J.). Beanie married a pharmacist, Michael Sachs, and moved to southern Maryland. They had three children Arlene, Harvey, and Louis. Jerry married Susan (Susie) Shernan and had two sons, Brian and Robert.
Sissy married a dentist, Allen Itkin. They settled in northern New Jersey. They had two daughters, Judith and Sharon. Benny never married. In his late forties, he moved with his friend, Bill Cipolla, first to Potsdam in upstate New York and then, eleven months later, to New York City. Bill moved to Paris two years later, and Benny bought a co-op in the Village.
In August 1959 Barney Bark passed away, and Ida continued to operate their grocery store, which was now at 1808 W. Franklin Street (they had given up the one on Mount Street when they moved to Smallwood Street). Ida and Edith stayed together. After selling the house on Park Heights Terrace in either 1961 or 1962, they moved to 3501 Menlo Drive. Several years later they moved to a first floor garden apartment at 6514 Eberle Drive in an apartment complex behind the Reisterstown Square Plaza.
Edith passed away in March 1987. She was in her middle 80s. Sissy best sums up the impact that this remarkable woman, her mother, had on those who knew her. "In 1944 my father passed away, leaving my mother to care for me, who was five at the time, and my brother, Benny, who was seven. We lived with Bubbe. 'Those were hard years for Benny and me, but not half as hard as they were for our mother.
"In 1947 Bubbe passed on, and so the three of us were left alone in the house on Smallwood Street. My mother's strength, determination, and iron will kept us together. Times were hard, but somehow, Benny and I knew the depth of our mother's love, although there was no energy left in her at the end of the day to show us her feelings. The years have reinforced how right our inner feelings were as young children.
"My mother's goal never changed: education for her children. She herself never fulfilled her dream of becoming a dentist. Education was not important for a girl when she was young; marriage was the goal of parents for their daughters in those days. The eighth grade was the limit of my mother's education. Three cents for carfare was too much to ask for to go on to a higher education, and so she missed opportunities that were open to her because of the price of transportation. She was born at the wrong time; she was a woman ahead of her time in her thinking. Given the opportunity, she could have been whatever she chose to be. This was a true waste of brains and ambition. And so upon completion of the eighth grade, my mother became a stenographer.
"After my father died, we grew up never knowing we were poor. My mother gave us the best; we were never in want. She was strict, strong, and a disciplinarian, but she tried always to be fair. Her family and friends turned to her for advice, guidance, and the resolution of their problems. She always managed to solve them. The words "no" and "I can't" were foreign to her. My mother was not a saint; she was a tough lady who commanded respect. She loved my daughters, and they adored and respected her. I like to think that they are carrying on her tradition and fulfilling the ambitions that she never could. They are both successful lawyers.
"The stock market became a great part of her life. She took risks and shared her good fortune with family and friends. She cared about the security of those who meant very much to her.
"My mother left a great legacy and touched many people. Her death has been hard for me. The rabbi in his eulogy referred to her as 'a woman of valor.' His words were well chosen. Her life was hard; her death followed in the same pattern. I miss my mother."
Ida resided at the Eberle Drive apartment until April 1991, when, because of her deteriorating physical condition, her children, Moishe and Beanie, arranged to have her move to a senior citizen home, the Huriwitz House.
RELATIVES AND FRIENDS OF THE KOSNESKY FAMILY
This section relates to some of the brothers and sisters and other relatives and friends of Benjamin and Anna Kosnesky. It is based mostly on Marvin Bark's memories. This section is narrated in his words.
Bubbe's Brother, Zalman Edlavitch
Zalman was the father of Sarah Hackerman. He returned to Russia about 1900 leaving Sarah in Baltimore with Tante Benjamin or with Bubbe.
Ben Hackerman, Sarah's son, had several letters written by Zalman to Sarah and Tante Benjamin. These letters were translated and are a part of this chronicle. From the letters we have learned of relatives who had been unknown to us and of events that have long passed. This is a direct link to Czarist Russia, from which our ancestors fled. It shows how little times have changed for Jews in that portion of the world or, for that matter, throughout the globe.
I found these letters extremely interesting and was fascinated by the translator's comments to me that for all our modern technology these types of treasures tell so much more than some historical texts, because Zalman was writing about his life as he was living it.
Zalman Edlavitch (seated in rickshaw) while serving in the Czar's Army during the Russo-Jappo War circa 1903 Somewhere in Mongolia.
Zalman has introduced us to Gershka, Liza, Boruch, Khasya, and a whole parcel of another generation. Whatever happened to them we will never know. But as long as the Kasnett, Bark, and Davis families continue, future generations will know of their existence.
Bubbe had two sisters, Hanna and Tante Benjamin (Chaina), as well as two brothers, Zalman and Gershka. We know so little of these people. Only the letters from Zalman introduced us to them. (Ed. note: Marvin is not referring to Tante Benjamin, who had migrated to the States and whom we knew.) Sarah Edlavitch Hackerman, Zalman's daughter, married Louis B. Hackerman. They lived for many years on Gwynns Falls Parkway, near Pulaski Street. They had one son, Benjamin. Ben married Sue Noahson and had three sons - Timothy, Richard, and Louis.
One thing we all remember about Sarah (other than her kindness and giving) was her sponge cakes. Now, after all these years, we all agree the cakes were a bit lumpy. But each holiday the table was decorated with a cake from Sarah Hackerman.
Bubbe's Sister, Katie (Edlavitch) Benjamin
Tante Benjamin lived on the corner of Callow Avenue and Reservoir Street. Her home was a large three- or four-story rowhouse. I remember it was furnished with many indoor plants and small statuettes throughout the main living area. Tante lived with her son Rob and daughter Rena. Rob never married, but Rena eventually did and moved to North Carolina.
Tante's other offspring were Charles (Bucky) and Edith (her married name was Rosenthal), who were twins. There were also Esther (married name Bernstein) and Ida (or Irene, married name Solomon). Ida is nearing the century mark and is presently living on Craig Street in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I visited Ida in October 1987 on a trip to Pittsburgh, and at that time I renewed my acquaintance with her son, Raoul Solomon, and daughter, Emily Solomon Mendelsohn. The only other surviving grandchild of Tante's is Rhona Faye Bernstein Druck, who is the daughter of Esther and Paul Bernstein.
During World War 11 Paul Bernstein worked at the Trading Post on Baltimore Street, and I would go there and buy surplus Army/Navy patches for a nickel a piece from Paul.
Zade's Sister, Shana Esther (Kosnesky) Danenberg
The only thing I remember about her was her dying. I've seen photos of her, and she was a beautiful woman. She married Joseph Danenberg (Uncle Youssel). There were three sons from this marriage Harry, Dave, and Benjamin. They also adopted Bertha, a daughter of one of Uncle Youssel's brothers.
Bertha married Sam Mendelsohn; their children were Sheila Mendelsohn Hoffman and Herbert, who is an M.D.
Harry Danenberg was a tailor. In fact, he made my bar mitzvah suit. He was married to Frieda Feingold. There are no children surviving.
Dave (Tefke) was liked by all who knew him. Tefke married Dena Snyder. They had a son, Saul, and a daughter, Lucille Danenberg Adler. Saul never married. Lucille and her husband, Ira Adler, have three children - Brad, Robin, and Roy.
Benny Danenberg married Annie Kresk. For years they lived in the 1700 block of N. Monroe Street. Their offsprings were Isadore (Izzy) and Shirley (Sarah). Izzy married Donna Cohen. He passed away in 1968, coincidentally during the riots resulting from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, assassination. Sarah is married to Henry Herman, they live in Silver Spring, Maryland.
My remembrances of Annie's house are the fragrance of spicy food being cooked and of Annie at her sewing machine. She was a very quiet person, and her home was open to all.
Izzy was my ninth grade teacher, and that's how I got out of junior high school. Seriously, Izzy was also the vice-principal. Whenever I was sent to his office, it was no problem. We kept the relationship quiet so he would not be accused of being partial. Let me interject a little note here. Elaine Schreiber, Aunt Edna's cousin, taught Latin at the same school. Izzy was a good teacher, but too easy to convince that the other teachers were the real troublemakers.
Zade's Sister, Mary (Kosnesky) Shine
Mary (Kosnesky) Shine, a sister of Zade's and Shana Esther's, was the mother of Ida (Shine) Wolod. What follows is information given to me by Ida's son, Meyer.
Mary Kosnesky married Mikle Shine. Apparently the couple left the area of Ekaterinoslav to migrate northeast to Kharkov. It was from there that Ida Shine emigrated to the United States, leaving two brothers, Esaie and Elya, and a sister, Frieda, in Kharkov. Elya became an animal trainer with the circus and used the stage name of Berlak.
On her arrival in Baltimore, Ida lived with her aunt, Shana Esther. In 1918 she married Jacob (Jake) Wolod. The couple moved to Buffalo, New York, where Jake played in the orchestra of the vaudeville house. He had a good ear for music and was a born "klazmir." Jacob and Ida had three children Blanche, Meyer, and Marjorie.
After several years in Buffalo, they returned to Baltimore and Jake went into the wallpaper and paint business. Eventually there were two stores one on Eastern Avenue and the other on Broadway. 'Me family lived at 2021 Wheeler Avenue, just off West North Avenue.
My mother, Ida Bark, relates the story of her trip to Buffalo circa 1919 on the average of two times a year. The story goes thusly: Being a natural blonde and riding coal-powered trains, by the time she arrived in Buffalo, her hair was coal-black. Her cousin, Ida Wolod, had to wash her hair numerous times in order to restore her natural color. How cold and damp it was! Ida Wolod wore boots all day, in and out of the house. As I approach my fifty-ninth birthday, I must have heard this story between 150 to 200 times from my mother and/or Aunt E.
(Editors note: Below is a shortend summary of the Shine (Scheinin Family in Russia, written by Victor Shablya, and edited by Benjamin J. Bark)
The History of the Scheinin Family in Russia
(Date of 1993)
Mary and Michail ( Isreal) Scheinin had four childern; Tanya (Ida), Esaie, Elya, and Frieda. There is almost nothing know about the oldest generation.
Frieda used to recall that during her childhood they lived in the town of Artemersk and then had moved to the town of Kharkev. Both of these towns are in the Ukraine.
Esaie and Elya took an active part in the socialist revolution and civil war in Russia. After the revolution Esaie was the director of a large salt procurment plant. Elya began to train animals. I the 1930s he moved to Moscow. Frieda graduated medical college in Kharkov, and was working in the X-Ray consulting room. I guess Tanya had gone to America from Artemersk or Kharkev.
Esaie Scheinin (1899-1955) was a calm intelligent man. Being a young director of the salt plant, he paid particular attention to his secretary. She was to become his future wife Margret Derman. In 1925 twins were born Piotr (Peter) a son and Galina (Galya) a daughter. In the late 1930s during the depression Esaie was dismissed from his job and they ended up living with Elyas family.
Elya Scheinin (Burlak) (1900 1952) was the most outstanding member of the family. He was very energitic and enterprising man. He was very strong and stury. He took the pseudonym- artist name of "BURLAK". He was very fond of animals and having no special education, he mastered the complex methods of animal training and achieved the greatest sucesses in it. For instance, he was the first in Europe who trained the dogds and bears to ride two wheeled bicycles. He arranged his own circus and his wife Valentina worked in it too. He was demonstrating different tricks with animals (dogs and bears) and she was working with speaking dolls. Besides she was a good painter.
Frieda Scheinin (1905 1980) she worked in a hospital in KharKov. In January 1935 she was married to Fiodor Shablya. He was a skilled cabinet-maker. In March 1935 Victor was born.
In 1941 the war with Germany began. In the Autumn when Germany came close to Kharkov, Frieda, Victor and Esaies family were evacuated to middle Asia in Kirgizia and lived in the towns of Frunze and Kant. Fiodor Shablya was drafted into the army early in the war, and was killed early in the war. In Kirgizia, the families met up with Elya who was caught in the region when the war started. Frieda ended up working in a military hospital during the war.
Esaies son Piotr volunteered for the Air Force and was severly wounded during the war. In 1942 Elina (Lina) was born in Elyas family. At the end of the war, Victor, Frieda, and Elyas family moved to Moscow and Esaies family moved to Kharkov.
Victor and Frieda living with Elya family helped around the house and with the animals. In 1952 Esaie died of stomach cancer.
Elyas daughter Lina, moved to Austria (Vena) in 1971 and in 1972 moved to Germany, first to Gamberg then to Koln. She is a parapsycholgist. Her mother lives in Dusseldorf.
Piotr Scheinin (Peter) (1925 1982) Being a disabled veteran, he was a very merry a affable man He lived in Douetsk, Ukraine, and graduated from a medical institute. And became the professor of medicine. Besides his teaching he was a famous pathology anatonist. He was married in his 40s and his wife was a physician too. In 1965 their first daughter Elizabeth was born and in 1967 their second daughter Alexandda was born. Both of them are physicians too. Piotr died of an heart attack in the autumn of 1982.
Galina Scheinin (1925 1986) was a French and Spanish teacher in a Kharkov school. In 1947 she married Isaak Kostukovsky. Their daughter Hellen (Elena Aliona) was born in 1954. Galina and Isaak were soon divirced. Hellen married Valeri Nikhinso. In 1982 their son Paul (Pavel) was born. Hellen is a neuropathologist and Valeri is a dentist.
In the Autumn of 1985 Margarite died from complications of a stroke. In 1986 Galina died of stomach cancer. Hellen and her family moved in 1988 to West Hollywood California.
Victor Shablya married Svetlana ? in 1959, both are building engineers. In 1960 thrie son Oleg was born. He is a physicist-engineer, his wife Svetlana is a school teacher. In 1985 their son Alexey was born. Victor and Svetlana had a set of twins, Vadim and Irina were born in 1964. Vadim and his wife Natalia are pediatricians, and have a daughter Hellen. Irina is a doctor. Her husband Vasilii is a physicist-engineer by trade, but works in a commercial bank. They have two childern Valentina and Victor.
Other Relatives and Friends
There was a whole group of people some lost to memory who used to come to Bubbe's house on Smallwood Street. One whom none of us will ever forget was Sarah B. Straus. Sarah was Tante Benjamin's husband's sister; hence the "B" in her name. Sarah would always be at Bubbe's house. I remember trips to her farm in Severna Park, Maryland. The old man Straus would drive us kids around in his model T Ford. During the day we would go swimming at Round Bay, where today houses of S250,000 and up sit beside the beach.
Sarah was fond of going to Atlantic City. She would always return with a chochke, a toy, for each of us. I enjoyed the lacquered cedar boxes with Atlantic City on them. I probably thought that Atlantic City was on the other side of the world.
Even when my sons, Eddie and B.J., were quite small, she would find her way to Ludgate Road, where we lived, to visit the "kleine kindeles." It is too bad there will be a generation of our family who will not benefit from knowing this kind mensch.
Sarah Straus had two daughters, who were very close to us - Annie Gerstein and Esther. Annie's son, Leonard, is close to my age; his brother, Robert, had married a cousin to my wife, Diane.
There was also Anuta, who was Youssel Danenberg's sister, Fanny Danenberg, Sarah Weger, and Sarah's dog, Patsy. Others who were close to us were Dave Lowenberg, the Townsend family, and Aunt E's girlfriends Little Mary, Big Mary (Friedman), Sadie Moran, Kitty Sachs, and Ethel. Kitty's nephew, Michael, married my sister, Beanie.
My mother's Saturday night card players were the Jaslows, Mindels, Franks, Elza, and others.
My father had a close friend in Annapolis, Barnett Betman, a very nice man who visited us often after we moved to Baltimore.
Aunt E's friend, Sadie Moran ("Aunt Sadie" as she was affectionately known to all of us), was really a part of the family. I shall always remember going downtown for some reason and stopping by to see Sadie in Hochschild Kohn's (a major department store in Baltimore in those days) where she worked in the fur department. To me it seemed the right thing to do. There were Saturdays when Aunt E would go shopping, and I would take Benny and Sissy to an early movie. After the movie, we would go to Hochschild's and wait for Aunt E. Then we would all go to Hochschild Kohn's tearoom for lunch.
Sadie is still alive as of this writing (April 1990) and lives in Reisterstown. Sissy and my mother maintain contact with her.
Finegold - Feingold Connection
Soshie Kosnesky, Benjamin Kosnesky's mother. had a sister, Rifka, who married Anshel (Isaac) Charlove-Feingold. The name Feingold came into use about World War 1. Soshie and Rifka's mother was Sarah Borishanski, Father name was Elchanon Borishansky. Below is a photograph of these matriarchs. The young lady in the photo is Rifka's daughter, Edna (married name Cohen). Rifka's offspring were Dora, Hyman, Ida, Abraham, Esther Ann, Jack, Israel, and Edna. Injest we have named this photograph " The Fearsome Foursome ". Below is the first chapter of a book that discusses more about the Feingold's.
"The Fearsome Foursome"
Back Row L. to R.: Edna Feingold, Rifka Feingold
Front Row L. to R.: Soshie Kosnesky, Sarah Borishanski
Rifka Feingold's Tombstone
An chapter from "NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE The Adventures and Inventions of Nathan "Bill" Morris"
Copyright 1993 by Annette Morris Lerner
1 "The Middle Point of the World"
Bill Morris was born in East Baltimore on July 19, 1907, the second child of Abraham and Esther Finegold Morris. He was given the name of Nathan, and although he chose to be called Bill later, his mother never called him anything but Nathan. "I gave him a good name- Nathan - and that's his name," she would say with finality.
Esther Morris was 21 years old at the time of Bill's birth. She had already experienced far more than many other women or men of her age. She had come to the United States seven years before, braving the rough Atlantic crossing in the company of strangers to be with her parents in Baltimore. During her first months in her new country, she had learned to speak English and had taught herself to read and write the language. At the time of Bill's birth, she already had a four-year-old son, David, and because her husband Abraham was gravely ill with tuberculosis, she was using every ounce of her energy and ingenuity to keep her small family afloat. Already an accomplished seamstress, she worked her nimble fingers constantly to provide income for the family.
Bill was a lively child, showing curiosity about the world around him and an inventiveness that equalled his Mothers. He soon took an interest in how things were put together, which gave his mother great expectations for his future. He grew into a slight little boy with curly blond hair, bright blue eyes, and a ready smile. He and David and the two girls born after them Sophia, whom everyone called Sunny, and Emily, who was born on Bill's sixth birthday saw little of their father, because Abraham spent most of his time away in the country or in the mountains, in the vain hope that clean air would restore him to health. In 1910, when Bill was three years old, his father went all the way to Florida, because he had heard that a miraculous cure for TB was possible there. That time he was gone for a whole year.
Esther moved her family to 1312 Orleans Street when Bill was small. Despite Abraham's absence, there was no lack of father figures in the Morris children's lives. Their maternal grandfather, Isaac Finegold, lived close by and often came to visit. A tall, slender man with the beautiful white beard of a patriarch, he was a favorite with his grandchildren. Wise, witty, and elegant, he would gather the little ones around him, telling them stories
about his fife in the old country. He always entered Esther's house making a joke. " This is the middle point of the world," he would say in Yiddish, "and if you don't believe me, go measure it!"
Peals of childish laughter would greet his remark each time. Nothing on earth could be as funny as Grandfather Isaac's joke.
Grandfather Morris was also a visitor to Orleans Street. He would take the train to Baltimore from his home near Durham, North Carolina, bringing jars of rock and rye, a potent whiskey concoction filled with fruit. Although Esther would never let the children drink the whiskey, she would allow them to eat the fruit once she had drained it. Grandfather Morris could also be counted on for another treat - huge bags of peanuts fresh from the fields. Esther would roast the raw nuts on the stove until such a wonderful fragrance permeated the house that the children found it almost unbearable to wait for them to be ready to eat. Occasionally Abraham's youngest sister, Aunt Gussie, would accompany her father from North Carolina, bringing her own surprises from the country for all the family.
Sometimes the children would visit their Morris grandparents who owned a farm and kept a country store near Durham. Sunny tells about a trip she made with her father when she was four. Clad in her best clothes and admonished by her mother to keep herself as neat as possible on the long train journey, Sunny strode up and down the aisle of the coach to show off her little red coat and hat trimmed with white fur, her matching white fur muff, and her new red shoes adorned with tassles. She wanted everyone to see how nice she looked. When she and her father reached their destination, Grandfather Morris was sitting grandly in his horse-drawn buggy outside the railroad station. It was dusk and quite chilly, so Sunny was wrapped in a horse blanket to protect her from the cold. The clip-clopping of the horse's hooves on the frozen road made her so drowsy she was almost asleep when they reached the farm. She enjoyed her holiday in the country and when she and her father got back to Baltimore, she rattled off the details of her trip to her mother, with Abraham proudly filling in what she missed. The story became part of family legend.
Bill's grandparents on both sides had made the dangerous and wearying journey from Eastern Europe to the United States, and their stories of the past were powerful and fascinating to the children. His mother's parents, whose old-country names were Rebecca and Anchel Carlove, had been married in Russia in the 1870's, when Rebecca was 13 years old and Anchel 15. Both came from unusually small families for that time and place, each of them having only one sister. Anchel and Rebecca met for the first time when they stepped beneath the wedding canopy, and each of these young strangers was nervous about the other. The marriage had been arranged with their best interests in the minds of their parents, as was the custom in Europe in the nineteenth century. Esther would tell her children many years later that her parents had learned to love each other and had had a good marriage.
The Carloves came to America in the late 1890's, giving up a comfortable life to avoid the violent and unpredictable political climate in Russia. The growing hostility toward Jews, evidenced in the pogroms against Jewish villagers throughout the country, and the universal conscription that made the lives of so many young Jewish men miserable, threatened to increase beyond endurance, so they left their village of Slonim on the Russian-Polish border to find a more peaceful and protected existence in America. Because Slonim had changed hands so many times in the constant armed conflicts between Russia and Poland, Rebecca and Anchel, like most of their fellow villagers, spoke both Russian and Polish, as well as their mother tongue, Yiddish.
As a young man in Russia, Anchel was an ironmonger, designing and manufacturing - among other things - ornate brass bedsteads that were prized by his customers for their artistry and luxury. His family was considered wealthy because they had a comfortable house situated on twelve acres of fertile land and servants to wait on them. Despite their prosperity, however, they were tormented by the constant fear of death or the loss of their four sons to the punitive conscription laws. It was not uncommon for Jewish boys who did survive the ordeal of the Russian Imperial army to be sent to faraway places on completion of their tours of duty, and seldom often never - to be heard from again. The Carloves knew that the law required them to sacrifice all their assets if they chose to emigrate to the United States and that they might face the direst poverty once they reached
their destination. Despite the privations they anticipated, however, they decided that they would be far better off starting over again than remaining in Europe.
With only the clothes on their backs and a few cherished possessions in cloth satchels, Rebecca and Anchel left Slonim. The couple went alone, promising that they would send for each of their eight children. Like the present-day boat people from Southeast Asia or the Caribbean, they scattered their family temporarily with the expectation of bringing them together as soon as they had a decent place to live and money to bring them across the Atlantic. The reuniting of the Carlove family was to take several years. Each child came over with a neighbor or a stranger, whoever might be coming to America at a time when enough money had been accumulated to pay the child's passage. Since the children came with different families, each of them entered the country with a different surname. Once they were together again, with so many surnames to choose from, the family decided to change their own name to one they considered most suitable and easiest for Englishspeakers in America to pronounce. They chose Finegold.
Esther Finegold, who was to become Bill Morris's mother, was born in Slonim on April 7, 1886. just 11 years old when her parents left for America, she remained in Slonim until they could send for her. While she waited, she first lived with her grandmother. Then she stayed with cousins and aunts and neighbors, shuffled from household to household, but always well cared for. The villagers looked after each other as if they belonged to one big family, so Esther was loved and protected, though her parents were half a world away. Despite their hard work, her mother and father were able to raise only enough money for the cheapest passage in steerage for each of their children, and when it was Esther's turn to come, they sent the $50 needed for her ticket to an agency that provided the teenager with a family for the trip over. Esther was 14 years old when she arrived in the United States in 1900, disembarking at Locust Point in Baltimore.
At a time when most Eastern European immigrants came through Ellis Island, Esther and her siblings - Dora, Hyman, Ida, Abe, Edna, Israel, and Jack - each came through the port of Baltimore, which was fortunate for them and their parents. Dora, the eldest, had left Slonim. to many her sweetheart and had lived in Odessa before she and her husband made the
crossing. On his arrival, Abe, who became a fine cabinet maker, was apprenticed to a German family to learn his trade.
Years later, when Esther told her children about the difficulties of her trip to America, she would say that the trip seemed to last forever, since she and the family with whom she traveled had to make the European stretch of the journey on foot with only occasional rides in a cart or horse-drawn buggy. They walked day and night, traveling from the Russian-Polish border to the German seaport, Bremen. The ship they boarded was far from a floating palace. Without air circulation, it was miserably hot, reeking of crowded, frightened, seasick humanity. They had no idea what awaited them, and Esther often wondered whether she would see her beloved parents again.
Her fears were soon put to rest when the ship docked. Her parents had started their new life in Baltimore. As recently-arrived immigrants they were hard at work modifying the shtetl life of Eastern Europe to fit the requirements of their new country. Anchel's name had been changed to Isaac when he landed in America. As so often happened, the immigration officers did not understand what a newly-arrived immigrant answered when they asked his name, so they wrote down what they thought he had said: Anchel was now Isaac. Since he was a religious man, set on observing the Sabbath, he had difficulty finding employment in a place where people were expected to work on Saturday. Being a Hebrew scholar, however, he was soon able to find a position teaching Hebrew to boys at B'nai Israel, one of the oldest synagogues in Maryland. His salary was meager. He and Rebecca eked out a bare existence, living in a humble house on Watson Street in downtown Baltimore. Although there was scarcely room for the family members, Isaac somehow managed to make space for his school in the front room. When Esther arrived, she spoke virtually no English, and because her father was too busy with his students to teach her, she had to teach herself how to read and write her new language. Isaac encouraged her, however, as he did all his children. He knew that study and persistence paved the road to a good life.
Rebecca was a short, stout woman who, like most Orthodox women of her time, shaved her head or cut her hair very close and covered her head with a wig. She was only 52 years of age when she died of a cerebral hemorrhage.
Esther, along with many other young women in the early years of the twentieth century, married young. As soon as a girl reached the age of 15 or 16, which was considered the appropriate age for marriage, the family would find her a husband and marry her off. Having one less mouth to feed and a little more living space made life a bit easier for the family. So at age 15-and-a-half, Esther Finegold was married to Abraham Morris, a young shopkeeper and farmer from Durham, North Carolina, who had come to Baltimore for the sole purpose of finding a Jewish bride.
Abraham's mother had sent each of her sons to Maryland to seek a wife, because there were few daughters among the small Jewish population in North Carolina. Sometime in 1901, Abraham, who was in his midtwenties and possibly already striken with tuberculosis, followed his mother's advice and came to Baltimore to find a bride. One day, as he was walking down the street in the Jewish section of the city, he saw a beautiful young girl sitting in the window of a tailor's shop sewing a jacket. He stood and watched her for awhile. Although her head was down in deep concentration on her work, when she did occasionally look up, Abraham noticed that her eyes were a clear blue. When she rose to get more fabric, he saw that she stood about five feet three inches tall and that her figure was wellproportioned. Curious about who she might be, he began asking questions about her in the neighborhood. When he discovered that her name was Esther and her father was associated with a nearby synagogue and taught Hebrew to the boys in the congregation, he immediately went to see Isaac.
Abraham explained to the dignified teacher of Hebrew that he was taken with Esther, whom he had seen in the window of the tailor shop where she worked, and that he sought her hand in marriage. To prove to Isaac that he would be a good provider, Abraham displayed his bank book, which showed a balance of $800 in his account. Isaac thought Abraham a rich man, because $800 was a princely sum then, so he gladly gave permission for the marriage.
When it was time for Esther to meet Abraham, she was apprehensive about him, but she knew that by tradition she must obey her father's wishes and marry this stranger. Unlike her mother, however, she would have the chance to meet her husband-to-be before her marriage. As she entered the parlor, Esther saw a tall, slight young man with thin blond hair and steady blue eyes. He walked over to her and greeted her courteously before offering her a seat beside him on the sofa. As they sat together, he talked to her about his family and himself. He seemed to be a kind and gentle man, and she liked his looks. She began to calm down and listen intently to him. She imagined that he would be a good husband.
Abraham's family had come from Latvia, settling in Baltimore, which had been their port of entry, as it had been the Finegolds'. Originally named Mervis, they, like Isaac, had had their name changed to Morris by an immigration officer who couldn't understand their pronunciation. Abraham's father, tall, thin, with red hair and a long red goatee, had been a farmer in Latvia. Being unable to carry on in agriculture when he reached America, he had become a peddler, traveling all over the country with a pack on his back. He sold all manner of merchandise, including eyeglasses. He walked through Maryland and Virginia and North Carolina selling his wares for 15 years, until he had saved enough money to buy a farm in North Carolina that he thought would be an ideal home for his family. Over the years, several other Jewish families moved into his community so that eventually there were ten men thereabouts, enough to start the first small synagogue in the area. From that community Abraham's mother had sent her sons in search of Jewish brides.
About a year after her marriage to Abraham Morris, when Esther was only 16 and-a-half years old, their first child, David, was born. Shortly after her wedding, Esther had gone to North Carolina to five with Abraham's family. She helped in their store, sewing whenever her handwork was needed. Once she helped the Morrises get rid of a load of blankets they hadn't been able to sell by putting her gifted fingers to work, cutting up the blankets and turning them into men's work shirts. Her creations sold so fast she couldn't keep up with the demand. It was not a happy time for her, however. Far removed from her family, living in what she called "the backwoods," she became depressed. She remained in North Carolina for two years, giving birth to another child, a daughter, Dora Hannah, who only lived six months.
Although Abraham's health appeared to be delicate, he and Esther returned to Baltimore, and it was soon evident that he would be unable to work because of his tuberculosis. Esther would have to be the family breadwinner. They lived for a time on West Baltimore Street, where Esther soon became known for her fine sewing. She thrived in the city, and when they moved to Orleans Street after the birth of her Nathan, she began to feel
completely at home. Her new neighbors were as close as family, watching out for each other, minding each other's children when parents had to be away from home, and helping each other in any way they could.
Remembering their childhood, Bill's sister Sunny says Orleans Street was like a miniature United Nations with Bohemians, Germans, Italians, Poles, Russians, and other Europeans living side by side. A few Negroes from the south were also among the people who occupied the small two-story row houses that lined the street and others like it in East Baltimore. In summer the air was fragrant with the smell of foods from all over the world. Although many of the houses were electrified on the first floor, it was rare that the second floor was wired. Nor was indoor plumbing readily available, so a wooden privy stood at the far end of each narrow backyard. Provisions could be purchased from shops on each comer, and many people had small businesses in their homes.
The longer the Morrises lived at 1312, the closer Esther felt to her neighbors. She was always grateful for the help they gave her. If rent money was short on collection day, she could borrow the few dollars from a neighbor who was at the moment a bit better off than she was. The lender, in turn, could be sure that the loan would be repaid as soon as Esther had sold some of her handwork. Most of the Orleans Street people were familiar with the difficulties that came with poverty and the constant striving to improve their circumstances, but few of them worked as hard as Esther did to support her family.
Many of the neighbors worked long hours, though, and they did every kind of job. One was a tailor, one a grocer, one a street sweeper. Joe Elkins, who sometimes helped Esther out with a loan for the rent, sold used furniture. Mamie Ruhl, who lived next door, had a franchise for the Elite Laundry. It was Mamie who taught Esther some of the basic procedures of daily living - how to deposit money in the bank, how to fill out a birth certificate for a new baby, how to treat a small child's minor coughs and cuts. Unmarried and self-supporting, Mamie encouraged Esther to keep on with her small business through times of deepest discouragement, and she looked after the children when Esther went to visit Abraham in some distant sanatorium.
A throng of children lived on Orleans Street, playing together when they weren't in school or running errands for their parents or other
grownups. The Moses household included fourteen children, most of whom grew up to be doctors and nurses. Some of the Moses clan married into the family of Mr. Miller, the tailor, who lived across the street from them. Esther thought many times how like the village of Slonim Orleans Street was, and she loved its familiarity.
Her battles to make ends meet and pay for treatment for her husband constantly stretched her imagination. She wasn't afraid to undertake any kind of work, but she was so capable with her needle that most of her ideas centered on designing and tailoring clothing for children. At a time when parents couldn't buy attractive ready-made garments for their youngsters, she would make eight or ten little dresses a day for her customers. She would save whatever she could from her sales in the hope of having enough money someday to expand her business. When Bill was still a toddler, his mother took her savings and some borrowed cash to seize what she thought a wonderful business opportunity: she bought a small confectionary store on West Baltimore Street and went to work behind the counter waiting on her customers herself. People could come in and order a soda for two cents. If one of them complained that the soda was too sweet, Esther would add seltzer water to it. Then the person might say that it wasn't sweet enough now, so she would add more syrup. By the time she had finished making the perfect soda, her finicky customer would have consumed three sodas for the price of one. That was typical of Esther's way of doing business -she always tried to send her customers on their way completely satisfied.
When she sold the confectionary shop, the proceeds afforded Abraham the year in Florida that failed to cure his TB. Esther kept $500 from the sale, which enabled her to open a small shop in the front room of her home, where she sold the beautiful clothes she made for children.
The house was hardly large enough to permit space for family living and a store, but Esther made the best of it. Although she kept Kosher and instilled in her children a respect for religion, money was so short that she couldn't afford to observe the Sabbath, so she kept the shop open on Saturday for the precious income. She never stinted where her children were concerned. They came first in everything. Determined to protect them from illness, she would carry them on her shoulders to the privy, even in the dead of winter when snow lay deep on the ground. In every way she could she shielded them from the cold. The sole source of heat in the house was a coal
stove in the kitchen, and the second floor rooms where the children slept, reached by a rickety curved staircase, were so bitterly cold in winter that the youngsters felt as if they slept in an icebox. Before putting them to bed each night, Esther would iron the sheets with a heavy black flatiron that she had heated on the stove and lugged upstairs. Then she would put a hot brick wrapped in flannel at the feet of each of them to make them as warm as possible. In the morning, they would rush downstairs to dress in front of the stove.
Once a week, Esther would bathe each of the smaller children in a tin tub in water she had heated on the back of the stove. She was immensely proud of each of them, and she instilled in them a respect for themselves and others, no matter what privations they might undergo. When they went to school, she made sure they were not only clean, but that their shoes were polished and their hair neatly brushed. If she had a little money to spare, as often as not she would spend it on something for them to wear.
On special occasions Esther would dress her children as stylishly as she could to show her pride in her family. To celebrate the signing of the Balfour Declaration in 1917, Sunny remembers, her mother had a woman come in to wash and curl the girls' hair. Then Esther dressed them up and hired a touring car in which the family rode around the city to honor the founding of a homeland for all Jewish people. The car was decorated with white and blue streamers and Sunny thinks it may have been part of a parade.
Despite her constant care, Esther couldn't keep her children from every danger, much as she might try. One night, after putting Sunny and Emily into the bed they shared, she began sewing a satin mantle cover. Since there was no electricity in the upstairs rooms, she used a candle in a saucer to light her work. A strange noise in another part of the house startled her, and when she left the room to investigate it, the material on which she had been working fell close to the candle and caught fire. Although Sunny was not yet seven years old, she calmly averted a calamity by jumping out of bed and putting out the fire. She had been wakened by the smell of smoke, while her little sister slept peacefully through the whole thing.
As Abraham's health worsened, Esther would make hasty trips to see him in a distant hospital or sanatorium, leaving Mamie Ruhl to watch the children. Sometimes she would only go for the day, getting up early on Sunday morning to catch a train to visit her husband in the mountains of Western Maryland, and not arriving home until late in the evening. She always tried to take him anything she had heard might cure TB.
On one occasion, Mamie Ruhl told Esther that she had heard that oysters were a certain cure for the disease. Esther was accustomed to hearing the cries of "Oysters, oysters," when the seafood man made his rounds of the neighborhood. Short and stout, he was a familiar figure, selling shellfish from the back of his horse-drawn wagon. Since oysters weren't Kosher, Esther was reluctant to buy them from the vendor, but since she was willing to try any remedy, even a forbidden one, if there was the slightest chance of it curing Abraham, she sought Mamie's advice. Mamie, who was not Jewish, quietly obtained a quart of oysters for her, and Esther carried the jar, carefully wrapped, to Abraham. This nostrum, like all the others before it, failed.
When Bill was 11 years old, all the Morrises came down with the Spanish flu in the great epidemic of 1918. Although Esther and the children were quite ill, they recovered completely. Abraham, however, was so gravely ill that he was hospitalized, and his body was by now so weakened by tuberculosis that it could not survive so virulent a secondary disease. He died just as his family were regaining their health. His funeral was held according to Orthodox Jewish custom. His body was brought home, and members of the burial society washed it, wrapped it in a shroud, and laid it out with candles at head and foot. The mirror in the small room was covered with a black cloth as Esther gathered the children around their father's bier for the traditional prayers. Dave and Bill were now old enough to stay with the men, but Sunny and Emily, still too young to understand fully what was happening, remained with their mother clutching her hands tightly during the ritual ceremonies. After the prayers ended, the men carefully placed Abraham's shrouded body on a wooden stretcher, laid it in a horse-drawn hearse, and formed a procession behind it to the small Jewish cemetery, B'nai Israel on Southern Avenue, where it was gently lowered on ropes into the grave. Again prayers were said. Then each of the men slowly took a shovelful of earth and threw it on the body until the grave was filled.
When her husband died, Esther was 32 years old, with four children ranging in age from four to fifteen. Grandfather Isaac encouraged her to remarry, because he believed a widow with children needed a man around the house. He himself had remarried after Grandmother Rebecca's death, not once but four times. Heeding her father's advice, Esther married again a few years after Abraham died. Her second husband, Herman Gottlieb , twenty years her senior, had pursued her from the moment he met her at her sister Dora's house on North Avenue, where he boarded. Isaac approved of him and supported his suit, and as always, Esther was obedient to her father's wishes.
Herman had come to Baltimore by way of Chicago from Latvia, where he had served in the Russian Imperial army for many years. He said he wanted to help Esther with her business, but he proved to be of little help, financially or otherwise. Although he could often be seen sitting idly near the door of the shop, he never waited on the customers, because he thought it unseemly for a man to work if his wife was as successful as Esther. Early in the marriage, Esther gave birth to two more children, Morton and Reba, but the match was never a happy one, and the Gottliebs were divorced when Esther was in her early fifties.
Shortly after Esther married Herman, she lost her father. Isaac was 65 years old when he died, still an elegant and impressive figure to his grandchildren. Not only had he given them a fine example of industriousness and learning, but he had also been a pillar of strength. Although it was Isaac who joked about "the middle point of the world," it was his daughter Esther who created the warm and stable center of the Morrises' universe with her unfailing perception, good humor, and concern for her children's welfare. Without her father, she carried on with courage, a model of ingenuity and determination.
Sarah (Edlavitch) Hackerman
Tefke, Shana Esther, Benny, Joseph, and Harry
Shana Esther Danenberg
Shana Ester & Joseph Wolf Danenburg's Tombstone
Harry (in the background is Freida), Benjamin (Benny), Dave (Tefke) Danenberg
Elya Shine (Berlak)
Ida and Jake Wolod
Katie and Israel Benjamin's family circa 1916
Front Row L. to R.: Charles, Katie, Rena, Israel, Edith, and Esther
Back Row L. to R.: Samuel (Robert), Sonneborn (brother-in-law to Israel), Irene Dorothy (Ida)
BURIAL LOCATIONS OF FAMILY MEMBERS
Rosedale Cemetery 6300 Hamilton Avenue Baltimore, Maryland
Benjamin and Anna Kasnett Hyman (Chonky) Kasnett Shana Esther and Joseph Danenberg Dave and Dena Danenberg Benjamin and Annie Danenberg Blanche (Wolod) Lane Sarah Strauss
Bnai Israel Southern Avenue Baltimore, Maryland
Henry and Edith (Kasnett) Davis Israel and Katie Benjamin
Beth Sholom Capital Heights, Maryland
Henry and Edna Kasnett Isadore (Izzy) Kasnett
Mikro Kodesh Bowleys Lane Baltimore, Maryland
Benjamin (Barney) and Ida Bark, Marvin L. Bark
Workmen's Circle German Hill Road Baltimore, Maryland
Jacob (Jake) and Ida Wolod
Berryman's Lane Baltimore, Maryland
Isadore (Izzy) Danenberg
Baltimore Hebrew Cemetery Belair Road Baltimore, Maryland
Louis and Sarah Hackerman
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