The Rekhes family and Malaya Arnautskaya

In the pogrom death records there were two members of the Rekhes or Rekhis family from Vilna. One was Rasya Shifra Rekhis, age 8, and the other Khana Nekhemya Rekhes, age 20, the wife of a Vilna citizen. Also in the Odessa death index is a Meer Rekhis who died 9 November 1905, a couple of weeks after the pogrom. In the 1904-5 directory there is one Rekhes, S. Rekhes (Сруль Евсеевич Рехес) at 28 Malaya Arnautskaya, just across the street from number 29, where 10 Jewish socialists had been arrested a few months before the pogrom. Srul Rekhes continued to own the house until 1908 when I. Rekhes became the owner. Khana and Rasya may or may not have been among this household and their immediate family may or may not have remained in Odessa. Rekhes was probably an uncommon name and they may have all been related.

In the American records, there were only a few families called Rykis or Reikes and there was one Rykis from Odessa, William, born in 1886 according to most of his records, who emigrated in 1912. In 1915 he married Celia Kellner in New York, saying he was born in 1891 in Odessa.

 On his World War I registration William again mentions his birthplace of Odessa and says he is married and living in Manhattan. It was very difficult to find William in the records as his name was transliterated wrongly in 1920 and 1930 but eventually the picture emerged of William working in a laundry and having three children with Celia – Bessie, Louis, and Dorothy. They lived first in Manhattan on the Upper East side and, from 1930, in the Bronx.

In March 1927, when Dorothy was three years old, she appears in the records of the Hebrew Infant Home which was part of the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum, admitted by a court order. Could it be that the family was so poor or lived in such inadequate accommodation that it was felt the child was at risk? Or was it that her mother was working? On the 1925 census, the Rykis’ were living at 323 E 101th St.

Older houses on East 101 St

On 10 July 1928 Dorothy was discharged from the Infant Home to the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and on 18 July she was admitted to the Willard Parker Hospital for infectious diseases. So how much safer was the asylum than her own home?

She remained at the Willard Parker Hospital until the middle of August 1928, but in February 1929 she was admitted to Mount Sinai hospital where she remained until the end of January 1930. She must have developed a complication from the original infectious illness. The main illnesses treated at the Willard Parker Hospital were diphtheria, scarlet fever and measles. According to a report compiled about the years 1919-1923 at the Willard Parker Hospital, there were 3940 cases of scarlet fever, 8776 cases of diphtheria and 3720 cases of measles. The mortality over the five years was 8.1% for scarlet fever, 16.2% for diphtheria and 15.7% for measles. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1320416/)

The hospital was originally built in 1885 on 16th Street near the East River. By the early 1900s there were separate buildings for each of the major illnesses treated there plus buildings for research, disinfection, toxicology and vaccine research.

The Willard Parker Hospital E 16th St (GW Bromley and Co 1920)

Photograph of fire escapes E 16th St

By the census in 1930 the Rykis family was together in the Bronx, possibly having moved away from less hygienic housing in Manhattan, but by 1940 William was no longer living with the family. Celia was still in the Bronx with the three children but William does not appear on the 1940 census. On his World War II registration he is living in lower Manhattan and his contact/next-of-kin is his place of work. Celia was working in a textile factory, as she had done in 1930. The eldest daughter, Bessie, was also at the factory, Louis was an errand boy for the factory and Dorothy, at 16, was still at school. Louis joined the Air Corps in 1942 and married in 1955. There is a newspaper article from 1951 about the marriage of Dorothy Rykis to Joseph Robb, the son of a policeman, at a Catholic Church in Hewlett, Long Island, on the south shore. There is no mention of her father.

26 June 1951 Nassau Review Star

ROBB-RYKIS

Miss Dorothe Rykis, daughter of Mrs Cecilia Rykis of Manhattan was married Saturday to Joseph L. Robb of 1248 Waverly Street, Hewlett. The ceremony took place at St Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, Hewlett. A reception followed. The bride wore a nylon net gown with lace bodice and bouffant skirt. Her fingertip veil fell from a lace cap and she carried an old-fashioned bouquet.

Mrs George Capone of Manhattan was maid of honour. Ralph Robb of Valley Stream acted as best man for his nephew. Mr Robb is the son of the late Joseph L. Robb, retired New York City policeman. He is a veteran of World War 2 and served overseas with the Sixth Marine Division. After a trip to the Poconos, the couple will reside in Hewlett.

Neither William nor Celia had chosen Jewish names for themselves or their children so one presumes they had put aside their religion and possibly did not have a problem with Dorothy marrying into a Catholic family. William died in 1957 and Celia in 1962.

If William had in any way been connected with the Rekhes family affected by the pogrom, it was probably put well behind him, and his children may have known nothing about it or his life in Odessa. While he used Odessa as his birthplace in his marriage and  WW1 records, by  WW2 he says he was born in Jemnitz which is in central Ukraine. It may be that this was his birthplace but that he had previously used Odessa because he had spent his childhood there. One wonders if the Rekhes family in Odessa knew of the socialist meeting place across the road from them and whether they were in favour of such views or not. As the surnames of three members at the meeting were also names in the death records pogrom, one wonders if the police were taking the opportunity to target socialists and revolutionaries during the uproar. And were the young Chana and Rasya Rekhes just innocent bystanders or was their family also involved?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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