by Sandra Gross
My great-great grandfather, Harry Katzman, traveled to America in 1905. He escaped poverty in Russia, but was forced to leave his wife and four children behind. In America he worked as a house painter for six years until he could afford to send for his family. The day his wife, Hannah (Kunick) Katzman, and children, Samual, Nathan, Joseph, and Abraham, were departing the Russian-Polish border, they were forced to leave behind one member.
Joseph Katzmen, barely six, had a rash or skin condition that could have meant illness. He was not permitted to board the ship with the rest of his brothers. Joseph stayed with reletives for almost a year before he was allowed to join his family in America.
Harry and Hannah Katzman settled in New York, where they had another child, a daugfhter this time, named Grace. The family of seven lived in an apartment house and always invited immagrants to stay with them until the newcomers had gotten established.
Harry Katzman died of cancer a few years later. It may have been because he used lead paint on the houses. (I wonder what happened to the house owners). Hannah was eighty when she traveled to Israel to see where other relatives had settled. They had left Russia in the years before the Holocaust. These relatives still live there today.
My grandmother often visited Hannah in New York, and she remembers that Hannah made wine and mead in her basement during prohibition and Lorraine, my grandmother, helped with the delivery. The liquor bottles were stored in a baby carriage, under a blanket, and Lorraine and Hannah stopped at houses to drop them off.
Hannah is described by my grandmother as "a remarkable woman." She is said to have always been doing something for somebody. I laugh at this description because it could also apply to my grandmother. Hannah also raised five children, and all grew up to be successful. Joseph became an accountant. Abraham was first a lawyer and later became a city councilman. Grace was a housewife. Samuel became a clothing factory owner. Nathan was also a clothing factory owner, and he married Sarah Rosenbloom.
Sarah's parents were Ida and Nachman-Hersh Rosenbloom. They came from the Russian-Polish border. Their name was changed from Shuster. Shuster means cobbler; the family had been shoe-makers in Russia. Nathan and Sarah had a daughter named Lorraine, my grandmother.
On the other side of my mother's family, Ruben Kapulsky needed to get to America. He was a young man, and he did not want to be picked to fight in World War I. In order to leave Russia, he had to be married. He wed Rebecca Solcus, who had just enough money to pay for their voyage to the United States. At Ellis Island, their name was changed from Kapulsky to Kaplan, because Kaplan was easier to spell and pronounce. They moved to Fall River becasuse they had another relative living there. In Fall River, Rebecca and Ruben had five children: Hyman, Jacob, Rose, Bella. and Samuel. Samuel was a factory manager in a textile mill. He married Lorraine. Samuel and Lorraine lived in Fall River, where they had Jerry, Robin, Alan, and Priscilla. Robin Kaplan became a social worker and married Richard Gross. These are my parents.
Rose Marcus left Russia in 1896 to find a better life in America. She was eighteen, a barmaid, and had nothing to lose. In America, she met Jacob Hill. He had come from Lithuania the year before and had started a rigging (machine moving) company. They married in 1904 and had five children: Beatrice, Harold, Nathan, Sadye, and Marion. Marion Hill became a teacher and married Joseph Gross.
Pearl Ukrania moved from the Ukraine to Russia when she married Abraham Krissik. They had two boys named Albert and Yankel. Albert and Yankel came to the United States, where Albert met Sarah Raymond. Sarah's family were sailors and were also from Russia. Albert and Sarah married in 1911 and started a clothing business. Albert helped many immigrants find jobs at his clothing factories. The couple had four boys: Jacob, Joseph, Raymond, and Israel. My father told me that one day Israel was pressing his shirt, and a labor investigator saw him. The investigator fined Albert for using child labor in his clothing factory, before Israel could explain that he was ironing his own shirt. Sarah Raymond died and Albert remarried Rose Dluget. This couple had Selma and Samuel. Joseph Gross, my grandfather, inherited his father's clothing business and married Marion Hill. They had three children: Samuel, Richard, and Cynthia. My grandfather (Zadye) was in World War II, and so there are seven years between Samuel and Richard. My grandmother (Bubbe) taught second and then fourth grade.
Richard Gross became a doctor (an internist) and married Robin Kaplan. They met at college in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1978, they settled in Massachusetts to be nearer their families. It is a Jewish tradition to name the new generation after someone who has passed away. In 1979, Richard and Robin Gross had Samantha. She was named after Samuel Kaplan, my maternal grandfather, who died in 1976. Then in 1982 Sarah Arielle Gross was born. She was named after my maternal great-grandmother, Sarah Katzman. In 1985 I came along. Named after a Russian relative, Rifkah. Rifhah is my Hebrew name. In 1988, Seth was born. He is also named after his maternal grandfather, Samuel Kaplan.
Every person just described, who is part of my family, is Jewish. This is because, in the past, it wasn't acceptable for people of one religion to marry people of another. My father Uncle Raymond did marry a non-Jewish woman. He died last year and that was the first time I have ever heard of him.
Jews in Europe suffered from pogroms, or organized massacres. "Every night, they were chasing us, to kill everyone," said a Jewish immigrant girl. Her father finally agreed, "We're going to get out ... I want my entire family alive." The time frame of these quotes was from 1866 to 1915. My entire family left Europe between those years.
American immigrants were often poor, and couldn't afford to move from the cities where they had landed. Because of this, by 1900, Manhattan, New York, was the most crowded area in the world. Immigrants usually found jobs through friends and relatives. Jewish immigrants from eastern Europe took jobs in New York City's garment district. Part of my family stayed in New York and most of my family members worked in the clothing buisness.
In writing this report I found that not only am I Russian, I'm also Lithuanian and Ukrainian. I found all this information interesting. By preparng this report, I feel more connected to not only my parents, but my grandparents as well. While doing this research, I met many members of my family that I didn't even know existed. I am proud that I am able to research my family up so far.