Lost children – the Weitzmans, Chaits, and Schoichets

The Weitzman (Вейцман) family

Trawling through the family names in the pogrom death records again, this time I focused on children travelling with an older teenager or other family as these were more likely to be orphans from the families affected by the pogrom. Having discovered that these families were sometimes able to get onto ships leaving a few weeks after the pogrom, I started my search from November 1905, and because families often left at different times scattered over several years, I continued my search until 1912. Starting at the end of the alphabet on an Ellis Island search, first in English, then Russian, I quickly found a child of 11, Avrum Weitzman, blacksmith, travelling with his cousin Isaac Ostrovsky, 18, printer, to New York having left Hamburg 22 December 1905, just eight weeks after the pogrom.

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Avrum Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky ship 22 December 1905

They were both going to uncles in Boston, Isaac to Moshe Silberberg and Avrum to Pesach Weisberg. It seems strange that a boy of 11 was already being characterised as a blacksmith even if he had begun an apprenticeship at that age. However, neither boy, with many different spellings of their names, and variations on their age and different destinations, reappeared in the records. I tried using the names Weisberg and Silberberg. I could not find out whether the two boys were lurking somewhere, possibly with different names, or whether they had never entered America or left soon after. One of them, possibly Avrum, did have a note on the ship’s manifest saying that he had been seen by a doctor but I could not read the cause. The manifest had several pages of the names of people who were detained, many of whom were temporarily hospitalised, but the boys were not on any of the lists.

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The two uncles and the medical note

The Weitzman family were unique and well-known to the Odessa archives, in newspaper reports and the pogrom death records, as recorded in an earlier blog entry, The pogrom in Slobodka-Romanovka. Four members of the family, all from Balta, are in the records, an older man Avrum Moishe, 58, a middle-aged man of 35, Chaim-Chaikel Avrum-Zus, a young man of 20, Yaakov Abram, and a boy of 13, Naum. There were also two members of another family, the Varshavskys, who were related. The Weitzmans were a prominent family in the working class area of Slobodka. In The Odessa pogrom and self defence, 1906, the story of the Weitzman family is spelled out in more detail. Veitsman and his family wanted to hide at the Slobodka town hospital where he was acquainted with Dr Golovin (professor of ophthalmology); but they were not allowed at the hospital. The policemen Kolloli, Ivanov, Andreev and the coachman killed four of the Veitsman family and five died later in hospital.

In ‘Jewish History as Reflected in the Documents of the State Archives of Odessa Region’ Avotaynu The International Review of Jewish Genealogy.Vol XXIII; 3, Fall 2007. – P. 41-52), Deputy Director of the archive, Lilia Belousova, writes: ‘Materials on investigations of concrete pogrom cases are also in the Fond 634, Prosecutor of Odessa District Court (Prokuror Odesskogo okruzhnogo suda), 1870-1917. One of them is a case of Rosa Drutman, the victim of pogrom in Odessa in October, 1905. She served at the house of a rich Jewish family of Veizman-Varshavsky and became a witness of cruel massacre by the crowd of Christians against the Jews. Soldiers sent by the local authorities to prevent crimes, in fact marked the beginning of the drama using fire-arms against the Jews. 6 from 9 members of the family were killed. Rosa was wounded three times but survived after two months of treatment. Her witnesses, medicine card, materials of cross-examinations and protocols of court meetings let us to reconstruct the events in details.

In the 1904-5 directory, an A Veitsman owns 63 Gorodskaya, at the corner of Krivovalkovskaya in the Slobodka district.

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63b Gorodskaya

Could 11-year-old Avrum have been the grandson of the Avrum Weitzman who was killed in the pogrom? Could he have had an eye problem the doctor at Ellis Island noted, that had led his family to know the ophthalmologist who had not been able to save them? In the 1890s there were four Weitzman families in the list of Odessa Jewish small businesses in the heart of the Moldavanka area, where the pogrom was most active. However, the only property under the name Weitzman in the directory (therefore owned not rented) was the property in Slobodka. The Ostrovsky family or families also had four small businesses, three in the centre and one in Moldavanka. They owned many properties across Odessa, in the centre, Moldavanka and two in Slobodka. One was in Lavochnaya St, which can be seen in Google Streetview pictured below.

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Lavochnaya St

The sidestreets of Slobodka contrasted sharply with those in the centre like the Ostrovsky residence at 21 Bazarnaya.

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21 Bazarnaya

Although there were quite a few Weitzman and Ostrovsky families in Odessa and many in the Odessa birth records for the 1890s, there is no birth record for an Isaac Ostrovsky or Avrum or Abram Weitzman. This might relate to the fact that the population was changing so rapidly and many families may have only been in Odessa a few years. The ship’s manifest for 1906 does not state where people were born, only their last residence, making it difficult to trace them in the US records which occasionally state city of birth. There were no Abraham Weitzmans or Isaac Ostrovskys in Boston. There was one Abraham Weisberg but he was several years older and from the very north of Ukraine, not Odessa or Balta, where most of the family was born. The few Abraham Weitzmans and Isaac Ostrovskys in New York and Philadelphia had very few records and were either the wrong age or had the wrong emigration date, or in one case was someone who had arrived with his whole family. There was also a Weitzman family from Balta, with a son called Abraham of a similar age, who had emigrated to London in the early 1900s. Because the Weitzman family had such a detailed story of their experience in the pogrom, I particularly wanted to follow Avrum’s life in America, but every time I felt I was possibly finding him, he slipped through my fingers.

The Chait (Хаит) family

Another family of probable orphans were the Chaits, an older sister, Leie, 17, and two brothers, Pesach, 9 and Isser, 8, who arrived in New York in August 1907 en route to their aunt, Lily Fellman, in Detroit. They had been living with a relation in Odessa, Feiga Chait. The Chait in the pogrom death records was Shmuel Mordko, 40, from Yanov, who I later found out was not a direct relation of the children. According to one marriage record their father was called Frederick, which may have been a translation of a name like Fishel. There is an F. Chait in the 1904-5 Odessa directory who owned several properties in the centre.

At first I could find no trace of the Chait children, but then I found the two boys as Peter and Oscar Chayte, in a huge Jewish orphan asylum in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1907, when the Chait children had arrived in the US, their aunt, age 25, who was married with a seven-year-old son, had only been in the country a year. Maybe she did not feel she could take on her two nephews or thought the orphanage would give them a better chance at a livelihood.

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Cleveland Jewish Orphan Asylum

Both boys did appear to do well in life and returned to Detroit, one living with his aunt after he married and had a child. By 1921, when Oscar married, they had changed their names to Clayton. Peter sold advertising for a newspaper and Oscar worked as a chemist for a paint company. On the 1930 census, Peter wrote that he was from Odessa in Russia as were his parents, but by 1940 the brothers wrote that they were born in Ohio. The 1940 census was the first census that did not ask where parents were born and was more preoccupied with work and income. The brothers may have decided to avoid their background on an official document because of the rise of fascism, the war and memories of the pogrom and anti-Semitism in their childhood, or they may have decided that they now felt more American and could put the past behind them. Or it was simply easier. On Oscar’s marriage record his parents first names are Frederick and Pauline, so I looked on the Odessa 1904-5 directory for F. Chait. One property was at 9 Raskidailovskaya in Moldavanka.

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9 Raskidailovskaya

The person I could not find at all was the 17-year-old sister who brought the two brothers to America, Leie Chait. There are marriage records for Michigan and Ohio but she does not appear. I tried the various surnames and any first name beginning with L – Leah, Lea, Lizzie, Lena. Had she returned to Odessa or simply disappeared through moving somewhere in the vast spaces of America and not filling out censuses?

The Schoichet (Шойхет ) and Janco (Янко) families

Two more brothers, Jacob, 10, and Isser Schoichet, 7, were travelling with Meier, 30, Sofia, 25, and Rose, 4, Janco from Odessa to New York in August 1912. Their address in Odessa was the Janco’s friend, Ester Schoichet, at 11 Gospitalnaya, one of the streets most affected by the pogrom in the heart of Moldavanka, possibly the boys’ aunt or grandmother.

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11 Gospitalnaya

This was already five years after the pogrom but both families probably lost a relation in the pogrom, a young man, age 31, from Odessa, Moidel Israel Janco, and a 42-year-old from Tuchin, Yankel Duvid Schoichet. Meier Janco had left Odessa in 1903 and married Sophie Jacobs, also from Odessa, in New York, and they were returning to Odessa for a visit. The brothers were on their way to their father who had emigrated to Philadelphia and changed his name to Miller. It was difficult to read the initial of the father’s first name – a straight line with a loop at the top which could have been an I, S, L, or J. I couldn’t find any family in 1920 with two sons called Jacob and Isadore or Irving or another name with an I. There was one family with no mother and a father called Louis who had a son of the right age called Jacob which was a possibility. On the other hand, there may have been a mother and the two sons had stayed in Odessa longer for health reasons. Or the father may have married again. I did find a 1945 California naturalisation form for an Irving Eddie Miller, formerly Itzchok Schoichet. He was 43, so was born in 1902 and would have been 10 instead of 7 in 1912, if his age is correct. I also found the marriage record of his daughter, Constance, in 1952, which included the name of his wife, Lillian Kleinberg, from Hungary. There is also a World War I registration record for Jacob Miller, a carpenter in Philadelphia, the son of Louis Miller, but there are no more records for him which might clarify whether this was the Schoichet family from Odessa and no record of what happened to him after 1917.

The Janco family do appear in many records. Meier Janco received a US passport for himself, his wife and daughter for their trip to Odessa in 1912. He states that he was born in Odessa in 1882 and was a brass moulder. In 1914, Meier got another passport in his name alone and he says he was born in Botoshan, Romania. His profession is still brass moulder and he gives no reason for travelling abroad.

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Botosani 1900

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Botosani main square

Botosani, or in Yiddish,  Botochan, in north-east Romania, is the capital of a county and has an impressive main square, of which this photograph is only a small corner, flanked by 19th-century balconied houses similar to those in Odessa. In 1917 Meier received another passport in order to travel to Canada for his work as a salesman for a metal film box manufacturer. There is a supporting letter from someone at the Impco Indestructible Metal Products Company. In 1920 he was again applying for a passport, this time to travel to Poland, Italy and Switzerland en route to Romania in search of his parents. He has a letter of support from a friend who says that Meier has not heard from his parents, two brothers or any other relations since the beginning of the war and will be looking for them in Poland and Romania. In the 1920 census, Meier’s wife and daughter appear as lodgers at a house in Brooklyn. The couple may have separated as long ago as 1914 when Meier first applied for his own passport. In 1921, Meier had moved to the Bronx and in the move lost his passport. He explains this in a letter attached to his new application for a passport to travel for business purposes to Czechoslovakia, Romania and Switzerland and states that he has lived outside the United States, in Romania, Germany and France, for two periods of several months in 1920 and 1921. He appears on a ship’s manifest in March 1921 travelling from France to the United States saying that his last permanent residence was Paris and his nearest relative in the country from which he came is his mother who lives in Podonliloia, Romania, where he says he was born. On the 1921 passport, he declares that his father, Israel Janco, is deceased.

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Meier Janco

By the 1930 census, the daughter has married and her mother is living with the couple, using her maiden name, Sophie Jacobs. The last piece of the complex jigsaw of Meier’s life is a ship’s manifest from 22 December 1905, a month after the pogrom, on which Meier, age 22, was travelling with his sister Esther, 23 and his mother, Channe, 48, who must have returned to Odessa or Romania. The victim of the pogrom in the death records was Moidel Israelevich Janco, who could have been Meier’s older brother. On all of his passports Meier states that he emigrated to America in 1903 and had remained in America consistently since then until he was naturalised in 1912. He did emigrate in 1903 by himself to a brother in New York, but must have returned at some point between 1903 and 1905. Meier seems to have had a very complex relationship with both Russia and his home country of Romania, and possibly with the deaths of his brother and father, who he said he was looking for after the war but who had not emigrated with the family in 1905. He seems to have spent the years when he might have been concentrating on his family and creating a home with them, travelling and living throughout Europe possibly in a bid to find or recreate a lost family. As I wrote the date that Meier and his family left Odessa, 22 December 1905, I realised that they were on the same ship as the two lost boys, Abraham Weitzman and Isaac Ostrovsky. There were a dozen or so people from Odessa on the ship, but among hundreds of immigrants, these young people probably passed by each other on the decks like ships in the night, never knowing they had suffered and lost family in the same pogrom a few weeks before. Meier died in 1931 at the age of 44 having moved back to Brooklyn. His birthplace is listed as Russia.

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The Scheindless brothers

Searching the Ellis Island database for 1906 by the city name Odessa (http://stevemorse.org/ellis2/ellisgold.html), 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 (http://findingaids.cjh.org/?pID=250011) 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.”’

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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.

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Israel Scheindless discharge 1912

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South Bronx 1901

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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.

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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 (http://www.joycetice.com/booksc/1916ref3.htm) 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.