Sunday, February 8, 2009

David Berger

I don't think I ever met David Berger, my grandma Bessie's older brother. He only lived in the US for a short while in the early 1930s before moving to Israel. He died in 1974 when I was 10 years old. Thanks to some photos my grandmother saved and a researcher in Israel, I now know a little about him. I also know from these photos that he did visit the US in 1949 but I don't think he visited again.

David, pictured center, was born David Bergzon in Lozdzieje/Lazdijai, Lithuania in 1908/1909 to Jeruchim and Dobrusza (nee Jablon). He and my grandmother Peshe/Bessie, his younger sister, were very close in age and I have many pictures of them during their teenage years participating in drama club and Zionist sporting activities. See link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4, link 5. I don't know for sure but I think the fact that David and Peshe were still in school until what appears to be a normal high school graduation age today and had time for extracuricular activities means that the family was financially comfortable. If the family was strapped for money, the teenagers would have had to drop out of school to work.

His father Jeruchim (Rubin in the US) first came to the US in 1904. After returning home for several years and a couple of babies, Jeruchim returned to the US again in 1911 with oldest child Louis (Zalman Leib). Louis was much older than David, born in 1896, and at the age of 15 might have been moved to the US because he was approaching the age for conscription into the Russian army. It appears that Jeruchim returned to Lithuania after getting Louis settled.

Lozdzieje is in southwest Lithuania and during WWI, was in a area that was constantly changing hands back and forth between the Germans and Russians. In 1915, the family, including 7 year-old David, was evacuated east to Mogilev. The family appears in Jews Evicted From Suwalki Gubernia in the Summer of 1915 published by Landsmen Press. There's probably no way to know if they actually got on the trains provided by the Russians or if they made their own travel arrangements. I do know they went to Mogilev because my cousin Jason told me that his father Jerry (Zalman?), David's younger brother was born there in 1917. He told me this before I even mentioned the evacuation.

David and Peshe traveled to the US in 1929. I don't know how long David stayed in the US. I do know from this charicature that he was in Warsaw, Poland in 1934. The notation reads "on his way to the country 1934". This is a reference to Palestine. The picture was made by Binyamin Rozenboim. As you will see later, the nose is only slightly embelished. According to a "Register of the Departed" which was prepared when he died, he arrived in Palestine on November 12, 1934 and entered the Ein Hashofet kibbutz on the same date. He lived on the kibbutz until he died almost 40 years later. Prior to arriving at the kibbutz, David had training as a carpenter. He continued this work at the kibbutz in addition to teaching Hebrew to new arrivals. Here is an undated picture of him teaching a class.










This picture of David helped my researcher in Israel determine which kibbutz he lived on. He showed it to the "old timers" as he calls them. Apparently David was well liked and respected both within and outside the kibbutz.


Some other things I know about David:

-he fought in the War of Independence in 1948.
-at some point, I don't know when, he was imprisoned for allegedly shooting a Palestinian. The family in the US arranged his release.
-he married later in life, to Yehudit (from a neighboring kibbutz).

1 comment:

Sweetwater Sherry said...

Very interesting and different for most of us! Nice posting.