The Bubis family: from Moldavanka to the Lower East Side

Rifke Bubis was a widow of 43 when she travelled from Odessa to New York with her two daughters Malke, 17 and Ruchel, 15. They left from Hamburg on the SS Blucher on 31 October 1910. Her son, Michel, a tailor, had left earlier for New York in 1907, when he was 17, although stating he was 20. Michel had originally stayed with his sister and brother-in-law, Eli and Hanna Boxenbaum, and their little son Harry, in Brooklyn, who had come in 1906 and 1907. Later, when the Bubis’ were together, they settled in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I noted the Bubis family because Rifke was a widow of 43 and in the Odessa pogrom death records was a Gersh Peisakhovich Bubis, 46, from Uman. Probably not a very common name, there was a chance that Rifke was his widow. On the ship’s manifest, Rifke had listed her father, Abram Goldstein, 36 Gospitalnaya in Moldavanka, as her close contact and possibly her home before leaving Odessa. Gospitalnaya (now Bohdana Khmelnytskovo), centrally placed in Moldavanka, and in the heart of the pogrom area, was named after the Jewish hospital which takes up much of the street.

36 Gospitalnaya

36 Gospitalnaya (now Bohdana Khmelnytskovo), left

jewish hospital

Jewish hospital

She was on her way to her daughter, Hanna Boxenbaum, who lived at 85 Hopkins Street, Brooklyn. Hanna’s husband, Elias, was a truck driver. There was one Boxenbaum, Ios Berkovich, on the Jewish business list for 1895 at Bazarnaya St, but not in the 1904-5 directory. There were two Bubis families with Odessa businesses in 1911, one at Preobrazhenskaia 86 and one at Vneshniaia 92.

I did not find any of the Boxenbaum family on the ships’ lists so I looked again using the name closer to the Russian spelling, Boksenbaum, and I discovered Henie, age 20. She was travelling in June 1907, four months after her brother emigrated, to her husband Elias, with her baby daughter, Rive, four months old. Elias was living in Cherry Street in the heart of the Lower East Side. On the 1910 census, when Hanna, now Anna, Elias and Max were living in Brooklyn, there was only one baby, Harry, so I looked up the New York death records and found the death of a one-year-old boy called Reifert Bascenbaum, and realised this must have been the little girl, Rive or Rifke Boxenbaum. Their English must not have been understood by the person completing the death certificate. The Boxenbaums must have decided to move away from the crowded Lower East Side when they were expecting their next child, Harry. They then had another son and two daughters.

On the next census, in 1915, Rifke and the three children were living at 22 Mangin Street, a street overshadowed by the Williamsburg Bridge in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which now barely exists. It was known as a street of rough tenements, a street of crime and prostitution, like several adjoining streets in the area. Headlines from the New York Times mentioning the Mangin St area include LOST GIRL STRANGLED, BURNED BODY HIDDEN, BROKEN LIMBS IN FIREPLACE (1910) and CAFE OWNER SLAIN IN RAID BY ROBBERS, KNOCKS DOWN GUNMAN AS HE REACHES FOR DIAMOND AND IS SHOT TWICE (1923) and FIND TRUNKMAKER IN SACHS MURDER (1910).

From a memoir by Bella Spewack, a journalist brought up on nearby Goerck Street, who described her childhood in the Lower East Side as one where roaches and rats infested her home and the disturbance from the constant sounds of ferryboats and ships was relentless. (

There was a constant going and coming of moving vans and pushcarts – one family moved into one house and another moved out of the next. The houses formed a drably indifferent village that on rainy days looked like a row of washed-out, badly patched petticoats. They shared their submerging sorrows, small sufficient joys, and frequent fights. The majority of the families sprang from Galician sources; the rest were Hungarian and German Jews and a few Russians. The first half of the block was Jewish and the rest of it was Italian, with an invisible but definite line of demarcation.

mangin st 1946

Mangin Street 1946

orchard st 1926

Orchard Street 1926

tenements 1890s

Lower East Side tenements

Max and Mollie were working in clothing factories making men’s coats and Rose was making paper boxes, typical Lower East Side work. The noisy crowded streets and houses, the peddlers and markets, the nearby busy docks, the complex mix of nationalities and religions, must have seemed not much different from Moldavanka. Too old maps show incredible detail of the houses, businesses, schools, churches and synagogues in the area.

Manhatten 1903[title_uuid_s][]=Atlas%20108.%20Vol.%201,%20[1903?].||2f737a70-c5ff-012f-815c-58d385a7bc34&keywords=&layout=false#/?scroll=25

Manhatten 1922

mangin 1903

 Mangin St and the East River 1903

22 mangin 1922

Mangin St crossing Broome St 1922

By 1920 the family had moved a few streets over to 3 Willett Street, famous for the Bialystoker Synagogue at 7 Willett Street converted from a Methodist Church in 1905 when the huge influx of Jewish immigrants arrived in New York. Most families I have looked at began their life in America in the Lower East Side but eventually moved to other parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx or New Jersey.

bialystoker synagogue

Bialystoker Synagogue

3 willett st 1922

3 Willett Street 1922

There were many distinct areas that were predominantly Jewish in various parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as shown on these 1919 ethnic maps. These maps were designed by the police department to target groups of immigrants who might not be loyal to America and might have socialist, communist or anarchist beliefs. This was just after the Russian Revolution and Civil War. Russian Jews were bright red and scattered across both Manhattan and Brooklyn. There is nothing new in government surveillance of ethnic groups.

1919 manhatten ethnic

Manhatten ethnic map 1919

For some reason, possibly the Yiddish culture of the area, with its theatres, newspapers and markets, they stayed. By 1930, one of the younger daughters, Rose, had married and moved to the Bronx, but the other, Mollie, remained in the Lower East Side, on Henry Street, with her husband, a printer, their children, their mother as head of the family, and Max. Possibly her husband’s work kept them there.

150 henry st

150 Henry Street Lower East Side

Probably due to the Depression, Max was only working occasionally in a men’s clothing factory. In 1940, when Max and his sister’s family were living on Ludlow Street, there is no job listed for Max but it says that he worked for 30 weeks in the year and earned $450. His brother-in-law, the printer, had worked 50 weeks and made $520, so Max had not done badly from his unlisted job. But, in his 1942 World War II registration form, Max is categorised as unemployed.

140 ludlow st

Ludlow Street Lower East Side

In 1940, Rifke, or later Rebecca or Beckie, was living in Brooklyn with her elder daughter Anna, who is listed as a widow. In 1930 Anna , Elias and their children were living in Coney Island on West 25th Street, at the very bottom of the 1919 Brooklyn map.

1919 brooklyn ethnic

Brooklyn ethnic map 1919

coney island

Coney Island boardwalk

Elias, who owned a truck company, had had his driving licence briefly suspended for driving intoxicated, and in 1931, according to the Brooklyn Eagle, the business was in Annie’s name and one of their drivers was charged with homicide after killing a woman in the street. Their older son Harry married that year. In December 1932, Anna’s younger son, Abraham, then 20, appears in a newspaper article about a burglary – BAIL HOLDS SUSPECT ON BURGLARY CHARGE. He was caught running away from a house where jewellery was stolen. Her two daughters, Bessie and Esther, married in the mid-1930s. In the 1940 census, when Anna was living with her mother in Brownsville, Brooklyn (north of Coney Island, south of their original Brooklyn home, all Jewish areas), her husband, Elias, appears as a lodger with a woman, Ida, and her teenage children in Coney Island. Ida appears as Elias’ wife on his 1942 World War II registration. By 1940, Abraham had settled down, was living around the corner from his mother and grandmother, was married, had a small child and was working as a plumber’s helper. His older brother, Harry, was a licensed plumber. But on his 1942 World War II enlistment form, Abraham is listed as single with dependents. There is also a 1951 California death certificate for an Abraham Boxenbaum born in New York in January 1911, who must have only been 40. The informant did not know Abraham mother’s name so it is possible it is someone else. The World War II enlistment form does not have a birthdate, only the year, 1910. Elias died in 1946, age 60, in Coney Island, a junk collector rather than a truck driver, and his wife on the form is called Frieda.

Coney Island, 1940s, as it looked in my grandparent's time

Coney Island 1940s

Although most of the members of this family – Rebecca’s two daughters, Mollie and Rose, and Anna’s son Harry and her two daughters, Esther and Bessie – seemed to have done well in their new lives in America, others, like Max, Elias and Abraham had a harder time. It will never be known why Max remained unemployed, why Anna and Elias’ marriage broke down, or why Abraham died so young, if he did. How the mother and her eldest daughter, Rebecca and Anna, actually fared through all of this will also remain unknown. Was Rebecca being helped by her children or was she the rock they depended on? Had Elias been drinking for a long time or was it recent? Had he or Anna, having emigrated shortly after the Odessa pogrom, never felt comfortable in their new home, and were they unable to support each other? Having been through so much together what had finally broken the bonds in the 1930s? Looking through the New York Times archive, it is Harry’s family that produced a dynasty recorded in the New York Times obituaries. Some children seem to inherit their family’s problems and past traumas while others break free and are able to go their own way.

 w 19th st coney island

West 19th Street Coney Island

I followed the Bubis family in the records to find out if they were related to the Hersh Bubis in the Odessa pogrom death records, and, whether they were or not, how a widow and her children leaving Odessa from 1906-1910 for New York. The two younger daughters married in New York (one to an Odessan) and had families. One moved to the Bronx and the other stayed in the Lower East Side. The son, Max (Michel), who had arrived by himself in 1907, worked as a tailor but never married, living with one of his younger sisters. It was through the younger sisters’ marriage records that I discovered that they listed their father’s name as Abraham. If their father was Abraham, was he a brother of the Hersh who died in the pogrom? Could both men have died in the pogrom while only one was in the records? Could Abraham have simply died naturally, possibly sometime earlier? What was there no Abraham, only Hersh? Rifke Bubis was born in Odessa as were all of the children except the eldest , Anna, who, according to the ship’s list, was born in Uman, like Hersh Bubis, making it likely they were part of the same family. Another possibility, judging by the way the Feld family omitted writing the name of Nathan Feld’s mother’s name on his death certificate, could be that the Bubis family decided not to write the father’s name in the marriage records. Could they have chosen the name Abraham as it was Rifke’s father’s name? I thought again about the Scheindless brothers naming their first sons after their dead father and I looked at the names the Bubis children had used for their children. The eldest daughter, Anna Boxenbaum, had two sons, Harry and Abraham, born in New York in 1909 and 1911. Could Harry have been named after his father, Hersh, and Abraham, after his grandfather?


The Scheindless brothers

Searching the Ellis Island database for 1906 by the city name Odessa (, on one manifest there are three groups of people leaving from Hamburg on 15 August and going to the New York Industrial Removal Office. One of the groups is a teacher, Sarah Perlmann, from Odessa with four children from Ekaterinoslav, Rose Kogan and her siblings, a second group consists of a 20-year-old housemaid, Rivka Jurkowsky, and her 13 and 10-year-old siblings, and then there are two brothers, 9 and 7, from Odessa, Israel and Schiekel Scheindless, possibly sons of the couple, Mordko and Khaya, from Kherson,who were killed in Slobodka, and who may have had little extended family in the area. Scheindless (or Sheindles, Scheindlis, Scheindlass, Scheindels etc) was a rare name in Russia outside of the Sheindels in Vilna, and even less common in the United States where the name was soon changed to Shindle or Schindler. In the Yad Vashem Holocaust database, there are only two people with similar names, Sheindlis and Shendelis, from Odessa.

sheindels izrail 1903 army belarus

Israel Sheindels 1903

This photograph is part of a database of 1,222 names of Jewish conscripts from Vilna gubernia (Vilna province), Photographs of Conscripts to the Russian Army, 1900-1914, Lithuanian Archives of Image and Sound and is part of the Jewishgen collection. This is another Israel Sheindels, possibly a relation of the Odessa family. There are many photographs like this, in public archives, on documents, which may or may not be known to the person’s descendants. Some photographs have been deliberately placed online, such as those on the Yad Vashem website, to remember those who died. Others, like the one above may be unknown. There is no photograph of the Israel from Odessa who may or may not have ever talked about his childhood, and this photograph of another Israel Sheindels, is a reminder that we cannot know what the orphan Israel looked like. The two may have been cousins. They may have had a certain look in common, but probably not.

All of the group sponsored by the Industrial Removal Office, among many others, were detained at Ellis Island from 25 to 28 August as a possible LPC or ‘likely public charge’, people who might not have a sponsor or means of support. There must have been a tremendous fear of deportation as one entered Ellis Island and endlessly waited around to be inspected and re-inspected.

scheindless i s ship 1906

S.S. Amerika 1906 Scheindless brothers

From the website of the Industrial Removal Office records database, the office is described as: ‘created as part of the Jewish Agricultural Society to assimilate immigrants into American society, both economically and culturally. It worked to employ all Jewish immigrants.’ It was founded in 1901 and funded by the Baron de Hirsch fund in order to move Jews from the overcrowded cities of the east coast of America to smaller towns across the country, and give them training in a trade. There is no mention of the organisation actually bringing young orphans from Russia to the United States, but possibly this was especially arranged after the 1905 pogrom.

Only one of the boys, Israel, turns up on the database of the Industrial Removal Office. Just the bare facts. On 5 September 1906, a week after arriving in New York, Israel was sent to Pittston, Pennsylvania.

Name: Scheindless, Israel
Date: 9/5/1906
City: Pittston
State: PA
Box 9, Page 39, Entry 17535
Collection: I-91: Industrial Removal Office. Records, n.d., 1899-1922
In the 1906 online Jewish Encyclopaedia there is an entry for Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, where Jews had been settling from the 1830s.

‘The Jewish educational, philanthropic, and social activities of the city are entrusted to the following institutions: the religious and Hebrew schools, the Synagogue Industrial School, branch lodges of the leading Jewish orders, the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, the social and literary clubs, four aid societies, a free loan association, and the Executive Committee of Jewish Congregations (which aids the work of the Industrial Removal Office). With this equipment the community is an important center of Jewish activity in northeastern Pennsylvania, reaching out to Hazleton, Plymouth, Pittston, and the smaller towns in the vicinity. The Jews of Wilkesbarre now (1905) number about 1,800, or about 3 per cent of the total population.

Water_Street,_Pittston,_PA 1908

Water Street, Pittston, PA 1908

So this was the world that Israel found himself in towards the end of 1906. And he may have seen young boys his age coming home from the pits, like those below.

Breaker_boysS._Pittston,_Pa. 1911

Breaker boys, S. Pittston, 1911

The very brief record does not indicate whether, at the age of 9, Israel was simply fostered into a Jewish family or apprenticed to a tradesman. But, on 14 May 1907, eight months later, he entered the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum with a note in the record that ‘no information came from Russia at the time of the massacres’. So he was an orphan of the massacres, and the son of Mordko and Khaya in Slobodka. His age is listed as 12 (he may have been 10) and his term at the orphanage was expected to end in May 1911. There is a column on the form for whether the child was ‘committed or surrendered’. Almost all the other children at the orphanage had been placed there because they had lost one parent and the other needed to work, or there were serious problems in the family such as illness, alcoholism or unemployment. Most of these children had the name and address of a parent and were committed to the care of the orphanage. Israel was surrendered.

scheindlass israel orphan

Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York 1907

Two books have been written about experiences at the New York Hebrew Orphan Asylum during the depression years, An Orphan In New York City, Seymour Siegel (2000) and The Luckiest Orphans: A History of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York, Hyman Bogen (1992), but no book has explored experiences from the early 1900s, especially after the great influx of Russian immigrants in 1905. Forgetting Fathers: Untold Stories from an Orphaned Past, David Marshall (2015), yet to be published, is a look into the unknown story of the author’s grandfather at Hebrew Orphan Asylum, possibly in the early 1900s. The people whose stories of the orphanage in the 1920s and 1930s appear in these books had very varied and mixed reactions to their experiences. Some prefer to tell a positive story of having had more opportunities for an education, sport, and getting outside New York City to summer camps than was possible for many children from New York’s Lower East Side. Others felt angry that their parents or parent had not been able to keep their family together although they understood the problems their parents had. Most were able to admit suffering from a lack of love, although many made friends for life. Women could be more perceptive about the problems and insecurities of creating a home and family themselves when they had no idea of what this really involved.

The official history in the guide to the records of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York ( gives some indication of trends at the early part of the 1900s.
‘Unable to care for all of its residents, HOA began a boarding out program, in which families are paid to house residents. The exact year when this began cannot be confirmed, due to a gap in annual reports in the collection. However; the first mention of “boarding out for want of room” appears in the 1875 annual report. This program continued until 1893 and was reintroduced by Superintendent Solomon Lowenstein in 1906…

By the turn of the twentieth century, partly because of the influence of new theories of psychology and social work, the focus of child-care policy had gradually shifted to the psychological well-being of individual children. The succeeding superintendents began to liberate the orphanage from the rigid institutional policies set up previously. Baar’s successor, David Adler, relieved some of the regimentation; he added pockets to uniforms (according to Hyman Bogen “…the boys didn’t know what to make of it; few of them owned enough possessions to fill even one pocket”), took away the silence rule, allowed mail to be written and sent by the children, and increased the amount of outings. Most importantly, Adler abolished corporal punishment, mainly by hiring governors who were not graduates; however, since he kept the monitorial system, the beatings continued. Rudolph Coffee, a Jewish Theological Seminary rabbinical student and the next superintendent, worked to “deinstitutionalize” the orphanage. He “abolished” the uniform, silenced the rising bell, allowed hair to grow, and established the first publication created by the children titled “The Chronicle of the H.O.A.”’


hebrew orphan dormitory

Hebrew Orphan Asylum of the City of New York

What could life have been like sleeping in an iron bed in a great hall with a hundred other children without even a locker for personal belongings, knowing you were one of the only ones without any parent, grandparent or other family to possibly eventually return to? By 1901 children were allowed to speak during activities, and letters were allowed to and from home. In stories of the orphanage in the 1920s and 1930s, letters and visits to and from family were a crucial lifeline, which must have been especially difficult for those with no family. The last document for Israel from the Hebrew Orphan Asylum was his discharge in 1912. It was a form designed for a parent or guardian to withdraw their child, with a place for their signature, none of which was possible in Israel’s case. He had completed a trade school course in carpentry and had been boarded out with Mrs Eva Green at 948 Union Avenue in the Bronx with a job working for the property developers Bing & Bing.

scheindlass i orphanage discharge 1912

Israel Scheindless discharge 1912


South Bronx 1901

union ave bronx

Union Avenue, Bronx

The brothers Leo and Alexander Bing were property developers who set up a company in 1906 and built some of the best pre-war Manhattan apartment buildings and hotels.

903-park-avenue bing&bing 1912

903 Park Avenue, Bing&Bing 1912

Much later I discovered that Israel’s new life of independence, living outside the orphanage, working for a well-known property developer and construction company, did not last much more than a year. But at the time that I discovered the orphanage records all I could find about Israel after 1912 was an Israel Shindles, a baker from Russia, who was over 10 years older and living in Philadelphia in 1920.

Even though Joseph does not appear in the orphanage records, both Israel and Joseph Scheindlass are listed in the 1910 census as inmates at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum, age 14 and 13 (although in 1906 they were 9 and 7). There are no more Scheindless’ or Scheindlass’ in the US records. In the 1915 New York census I came upon a Joseph Schindle, age 18, an inmate at the New York State Reformatory in Elmira, New York. He was listed as a U.S. born cabinetmaker with a previous address of 1126 Willoughby Ave, Brooklyn. It may or may not have been Joseph.

The Elmira reformatory, founded by Zebulon Reed Brockway in 1876, was the first in the United States and was set up for young men from 16-30 with an emphasis on discipline, education and training. There were several hours of military drill a day, trade school and night classes in general education.

Elmira Reformatory - 1900

A few excerpts from the 1916 HAND BOOK of the New York State Reformatory At Elmira, Fred C. Allen ( give an idea of how the reformatory was run.

How the Prisoners are Boarded.
The prisoners take their meals in dining rooms, to which they are assigned according to grade. The food supplied to the three grades, is uniform in quality, but the ration of the first grades admits of a somewhat greater variety than does that issued to the second and third grades.
First grade prisoners who have been economical in their various expenditures, and have thus obtained a certain credit balance, showing a specific sum saved, occupy a separte dining room and are allowed a more extended dietary than their fellows, their accounts being duly debited with the cost of the additional items received. These prisoners are also permitted to converse while at table, another privilege not accorded to inmates using the other dining rooms.
The Rooms of the Prisoners.
The prisoners’ rooms are seven feet wide, eight feet long, and nine feet high, and each has its ventilator, opening at the roof of the institution. The walls are whitewashed and in each room is an iron bedstead, a wooden cupboard, table and chair, and an electric lamp. Closets and lavatories are at present installed in 176 of the rooms.
Inmates’ Daily Routine.
With the exceptions hereinafter noted, the various tasks and exercises occupying the reformatory day, are apportioned in the following manner:
During the morning hours, until about ten o’clock, a large number of the prisoners are occupied in cleaning the rooms and corridors, repairing buildings, apparatus, etc., while others, including all new arrivals, are being drilled in military exercises. There is also at this time, in the institutional gymnasium, a class in physical culture composed of prisoners thus assigned by the physician as being in especial need of gymnastic exercise and other treatment here given. A little after ten o’clock, general military exercises begin and these occupy the remainder of the morning are participated in by the major portion of the population.
The prisoners dine at noon. The first part of the afternoon is devoted to the trades school, and there is also an afternoon physical culture class in the gymnasium. These sessions last until about half-past three; from there the prisoners pass directly to their various classes in the school of letters, and receive instruction until five o’clock, when their labors for the day are concluded. After a half-hour for supper, the prisoners retire to their rooms to rest, read or study, until their bed-time, at nine o’clock.

The subjects taught in the school of letters are: arithmetic, bookkeeping, language, history, ethics, literature, civics, economics, and hygiene.
Trades school:
Barber, Bookbinder, brass smith, bricklayer, cabinetmaker, carpenter, clothing cutter, electrician, frescoer, hardwood finisher, horseshoer, housepainter, iron-forger, machine woodworker, machinist, moulder, paint-mixer, plasterer, plumber, printer, shoemaker, signpainter, steamfitter, stenographer and typewriter, tailor, tinsmith, upholsterer

The reformatory also had a farm, greenhouses and a recreation park. The 1916 Handbook ends with a long, detailed, idealised story, with photographs, of a fictional boy called Peter Luckey who is sent to the reformatory for stealing.


Peter Luckey 1916 Handbook

Joseph Schindle may not have been Joseph Scheindless except that there does not appear to be another Joseph Schindle born at that time from Russia or Brooklyn in the records, and Joseph Scheindless, who later probably became Joseph Schindler, from Odessa, did live most of his life in Brooklyn. Strangely, on the 1915 census, at the address 1126 Willoughby Avenue, a house with 7 families, there was a Schindler family with a 19-year-old son named Joseph.

The life and routine at Elmira was quite similar to that at the Hebrew Orphan Asylum so it is understandable that a child who may have spent his childhood from the age of seven at the orphanage, might have found it quite difficult as a teenager to move into the outside world boarding with a couple or family, and may have needed a few more years of strict, institutional life.

1126 willoughby brooklyn

1126 Willoughby Avenue, Brooklyn

Israel may also have had trouble adjusting to the outside world, as, in 1913, he joined the army when he was only 16, claiming to be 19 and born in the US. He had changed his name to Isidore Schiendles, Israel probably not being a helpful name in the army. Joseph may also have claimed to have been born in the US and older than he was, if he was thinking of joining the army. There is no World War I registration card for Joseph online so he may have still been in the reformatory in 1917 or he may have joined the army.

Israel’s army record and death certificate are online. He fought overseas from 1917 to 1918. When he died in 1963 in Philadelphia, he was buried in a veterans’ cemetery and the form shows that after his discharge from the Army he changed his name again to Sidney Schindler. It is clear from his death certificate that his son did not know the town where his father was born or the names of his father’s parents. It is also clear that being a veteran of World War I was very important to Israel and, however traumatic it may have been, his experiences may have cemented his identity as American and helped him to create a story other than that of an immigrant and orphan of the Odessa pogrom.

Schindler sidney veterans cem crop

Isadore Schiendles veteran burial card

Another person who came up in the records while searching for Israel, was an Israel Shindles, a Russian born baker in Philadelphia, who was over 10 years older than Israel Scheindless. Israel/Sidney also became a baker and it seemed a possibility that he had moved to Philadelphia, where he is living on the 1930 census, because he knew the other Israel. The other Israel is also similar in age to the young boy in the photograph who joined the army in Vilna in 1903. Israel/Sidney is not on the 1920 census when he first left the army, but Joseph does appear in Philadelphia as a boarder with a Russian family, working as a machinist, on the same street, West Moyamensing Avenue, as the older Israel. Joseph married in Philadelphia but then moved back to Brooklyn by 1930, not too far from Willoughby Avenue.

546 w moyamensing ave phil j schindler

546 West Moyamensing Avenue, Philadelphia (white house)

Joseph and Israel both named their eldest son Morton after their father, Mordko. Whatever they may or may not have told their families about their pasts, whatever stories they may have woven, they would have been reminded and wanted to be reminded of their father every day. And although, on the censuses, Joseph kept pushing his date of immigration back in time, first 1904 and then 1900, possibly trying to prove to himself or others that he had been too young to remember Russia, on the one census when he was asked what city he was from, he did say Odessa. My eldest aunt, born in 1901, 5 years old when she left Odessa in 1906, changed her birth date to 1903, and told her family she was too young to remember Russia. She never said where she had been born or had lived as a child. Israel, on the other hand, wrote his immigration year correctly as 1906 on the 1930 census, although to join the army he must have claimed to have been born in the US as, on his World War II registration, his birthplace is listed as Hartford, Connecticut. Why Hartford? Had he also been fostered out there at some point?

joseph schindler 1930 crop

Joseph Schindler, with wife Fannie and children Morton, Florence and Alberta, 1930, Brooklyn

One wonders how the two brothers were affected by the pogrom, the death of their parents and being uprooted from their home and country and taken to an orphanage in New York. Were they remote and silent like many men at that time, or quick to anger so that family felt they were walking on egg shells, or did they develop a lively, outgoing personality, in order to divert conversations from any mention of the past? Were they stern disciplinarians or easy-going and tolerant? Did they believe that their children needed the strict discipline they had had in the orphanage or did they want the opposite for their family? By 1940, both brothers had been married for nearly 20 years and Israel had 7 children while Joseph had 4. And how did the children feel? Possibly each one felt differently, depending on whether they knew anything or nothing of their father’s past, whether they sensed sadness, loss or simply the mystery of an unknown past. Research on second-generation Holocaust survivors has found that different children in a family have very different experiences, one child possibly feeling the parent’ s emotions more acutely and feeling more uncomfortable talking about the past, while another child may feel less emotionally affected and be more curious about the parent’s possibly untold story. The Schindler children may have felt the past was best forgotten, or may have been curious to understand why their father had been who he was. They may have felt confused and rootless without a past. They may not have cared. They may have been angry or disappointed not to have family stories or sympathetic, knowing that things had not been easy for their parents.

But could I have the wrong people? Did Israel and Joseph actually remain as carpenter and cabinetmaker or did Israel become a baker by working with a relation in Philadelphia, and did Joseph become a machinist and ironworker because he had learned the trade at the reformatory? Because Sidney Schindler had spelled his previous name as Schiendles on his World War I enlistment, and Joseph admitted to being from Odessa on the 1930 census, these are probably the children of Mordko and Khaya, from Slobodka. There was one other Scheindlis on the Hamburg ships’ manifests, a Moses Scheindlis, age 18, a locksmith from Odessa, travelling in October 1906, two months after Israel and Joseph. He may have been an elder brother, who had not been in a position to look after his younger brothers. Unfortunately I could not find him in any other records, trying endless possible name changes, so I do not know if he was able to help the younger children in any way.


Brownsville market, Brooklyn

Most people want to tell a hero story, a story of success and happiness, which is why pogrom stories were not told. The pogrom deaths were not success stories. There was a success in the survival and moving on of the families of those who died, but this success rested on so much pain and grief that they were not tellable stories. But now, a century after the pogrom, it seems to be time to tell the stories of those who died and the children and grandchildren who moved on, carrying the ghosts of the past with them.